Imitate to become you

I hear a lot of talk these days that goes something like this, “Just be who you are.”

I’ll be honest with you, if I stay who I am I’ll never be who I want to be.

The more I read and hear the stories of people, and the more I look at my own life the more I realize that who we are is a consequence of who we model ourselves after.

For instance…

Sam Walton’s retail philosophy was largely shaped by J.C. Penney, his employer for several years as a youth. Penny referred to his employees as “Associates.” Guess how Wal-Mart refers to their employees? Associates. J.C. Penny forbid his employees to date one another… Wal-Mart does too. J.C. Penny found their strength in small towns and smaller cities… Wal-Mart does too. In fact, Vance H. Trimble writes in his biography of Walton that, “[Walton] would borrow John Cash Penny’s whole concept of how to succeed by putting customer satisfaction ahead of profit.” The bottom line is that if Walton had not been exposed to and modeled after J.C. Penny there may never have been a Wal-Mart.

Recently I heard Brian Tome, the pastor of Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, give a fresh spin on this that has really captured my attention. He says that the leadership process unfolds like this:

  • You notice something you like (in Walton’s case it was retail)
  • You copy someone who is doing what you like in a way that you like (in Walton’s case it was J.C. Penny)
  • You start to innovate

In other words, it’s not a bad thing to model your life, leadership approach, business strategy, parenting philosophy, etc. after someone you admire who is doing what you want to do. The great thing is that as you start imitating them you will become comfortable and begin innovating and soon you will have your own style, look, philosophy, strategy, etc.

So what’s the point of this post? The point is this, you are most likely to find your style or your “way of doing things” when you:

  • Imitate someone who is doing what you want to do
  • Innovate along the way making adjustments to reflect your strengths, weaknesses, and ideas
  • Initiate a new way of doing things after a series of trials and errors called innovation

So there it is! Go start your personal evolution by finding someone to imitate!

2 thoughts on “Imitate to become you

  1. I think I heard one these kinds of phrases a long time ago:
    God meets you where you are but loves you too much to let you stay there.

  2. Thanks Paul!!
    Who am I hanging with? Who am I learning from? Who is building into my life? They’re the very real questions that’ve also been cooking away in my brain lately…
    Your post also brings to mind Pauls charge to us all:
    “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.
    I don’t want to just believe Pauline doctrine, I pray that more and more each day I might live like Paul!! A life that could never be said to be uneventful, unfocused or without fruit!!
    Imagine a church full of men and women committed to believing and living out the gospel like Paul, that’s a vision worth following.

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