All the gurus always talk about what makes you different. Different is good, in fact, different is great. But, it’s not the be-all and end-all. Just because someone has zigged doesn’t mean you should zag. There’s no need to continually go against the grain. Yes, there are points in your business where you need to differentiate. But there is value to be found in imitation. 

When you are just starting there will be people in the world that do what you do in some way shape or form, or do very similar. They will be people that are much further ahead, they have already tried and tested many different things and they have found things that work for them.

There is never a one size fits all solution

However, you can look to those people, and you can learn from them. People often talk about how they don’t want to be copied. But if something works for them then, why shouldn’t they be copied? I’m not talking about the theft of someone’s ideas and methodologies. I’m talking about learning from them and the experiences that they’ve had. Learning from them so that you can create your own methodologies and have your own experiences that work for you.

There is a great deal of value to be found in imitation. When we have children after our babies are born there’s a stage of discovery, self-discovery, where they’re discovering their body and their surroundings and so on. After that comes a stage of imitation. They look at the people around them, usually the parents, and they imitate their behaviour, they imitate the noises they make, and they imitate the way they move. 

That is how they learn. They learn a great deal from that. In fact, at that point in your life, you learn at a rate faster and more effectively than you are ever able to do so at any other time in your life. And they do so through imitation. 

Imitation is not a bad thing

People talk about being a copycat as a bad thing, but it’s not. Not at all. When you take the lessons that are learned through the experiences of other people and you apply them to your own life, you imitate them. Just lie when you read a book on a topic and you are reading through the knowledge that someone else has put together to then put into action, you are imitating. When you study a course and then do an exam, you are imitating and being tested on your ability to imitate. 

There is value to be found in imitation. And there is also, for the person who is being imitated, an element of flattery involved in that. There is no higher form of flattery. When people look to you, want to learn from you, want to take on board all the information that you have put out in the world, they want to recreate as best they can some of the experiences that you’ve had. That is the ultimate flattery and is further validation of those experiences and the knowledge you gained from them. 

Imitation creates feelings of validation 

As human beings, we all require some element of validation. All of those people that say they’re annoyed by it are not really. If they are secure in their position, then they should be (and will be) flattered.

Imitation is a valuable tool, and it’s something that should be deployed on a regular basis. There are, of course, nuances to that. So, if a person creates a business, they have the marketing message and they put that out in the world. If you do a blatant copy and paste of that person’s message and services then that’s not okay. In fact, it is beyond rude and is heading into criminal territory. 

Imitation is not quite the same as outright copying

Aside from the rude and criminal nature of such a theft, it’s also unlikely that you’re going to learn anything from it because you’re not taking their information and turning it inwards to create something of value for your own life. You are just straight-up stealing. Also, you are having to force your personality to match theirs. And that is unsustainable, difficult, and unnecessary. 

When you imitate, to do so in a way that is actually useful it cannot be straight up replication. It has to be more subtle. You have to take their knowledge, their experiences, and inject your personality to make it fit into your life. Only then will it be an effective tool for learning, be useful, and something that will help propel you forwards. 

Imitation is an incredibly useful and valuable tool 

It is something that is highly underrated.

When I ran my web development business I had a competitor copy my branding, the written copy on my website, and basically, they tried to be me.

Initially, I was very annoyed about that but as I was getting ready to sue them it occurred to me that maybe these people just need some help. Maybe they need some help finding their own originality. They’ve looked upon me and deemed me to be worthy of imitation. 

The fact they copied me so closely showed me that they needed some help

I reached out to them and I offered them some coaching. At that time I had started my coaching business but it was on the side. I offered to coach them to help them find their way. First of all, they were quite intimidated by that offer because they were aware, very aware, of the level of imitation that they had employed. 

I had a good chat with them and I found that they were really struggling. They hadn’t managed to get any customers, they’d spent lots of money on technology, and they hadn’t really achieved anything. They were scared. Scared that they would be out of business before they had even started and scared that I was going to decimate them in court. They were also scared of putting themselves out there, of showing the world who they are and what they stand for.

Their theft was driven by fear, imitation was their salvation

I helped them with a few different things. They changed their branding to make it more original and more representative of who they are. I also help them figure out why the written copy on my website was most successful so that they could write their own, I helped them to figure out their own marketing message, their own particular angle that they want to approach the market from, I even collaborated with them on a couple of projects. They were their projects, not mine but helped them to get them in the first place and get them off the ground. 

That business is now extremely successful. I don’t want to embarrass them so I won’t say who that was but, now they’re very successful and I couldn’t be more proud. They took on board the information because they valued what I had to say. They valued my input because they had seen my own successes, they already deemed me worthy of imitation, so I showed them how to imitate properly. 

Proper imitation is a skill that should be learned

I showed them how to take what I’d done, I’d learned, and turn it into something useful for them. Because straight-up imitation, in the way that they had initially done it hadn’t done them any favours. It hadn’t helped them in any way, shape, or form, because they missed the vital component of what made my business successful, which was me. 

Imitation has value, immense value, but it is nuanced. It does need to be adapted. You learn from those people but you adapt to your own life, your own message, your own goals, and your own needs. Then, and only then, does imitation become an invaluable, highly underrated tool in your arsenal.

The thing holding you back is you

The thing that most holds you back in business, and life itself, is you. Dreaming up scenarios and circumstances to use as excuses to not do what you need to do, leads you down the path towards theft of someone else’s work and identity is just plain stupid. It can’t be helped (some of the time) but it can be overcome. You just need to focus on the things that really matter. What are the things that will ensure that your business thrives? (I’ll give you a clue -> ) Figuring that out is a big step in the right direction. After that, you can find people who excel in those areas and learn from them.

An alternative to the passive study of the people that know the stuff that you need to learn is to get yourself some 1:1 mentoring. This is something I have done for hundreds of business owners and corporate executives with great effect. If you would like to talk about the possibility then head over to my company website and send me a message 

One final thing…

There will undoubtedly be people in your network that need to see this so it would be sincerely appreciated if you would share it through your social media channels and maybe even send it out to your email list. Thank you so much for taking the time to read.

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