Why You Cannot Imitate Success, You Must Reinvent It

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a top athlete or someone aiming to master any other area of life, chances are you will probably never learn success.

The most brilliant people, the most outstanding people, usually have a unifying factor: They’re not easily imitated. The actions that created their success, their unique path, were specific to their set of conditions. It’s very hard, maybe even impossible to deconstruct and copy them.

Mentoring and modeling are very important factors in business. I would be lying if I told you they’re not. Finding someone who already accomplished what you’re trying to accomplish and to model your behavior from theirs is a very enriching practice.

However, the point I want to make is that, despite our tendency to try and distill principles and systems that result in success so that they may be useful for people, most of your success will result from a unique context in which you apply your unique skills in a unique manner. It’s a very specific combination of circumstances and won't be garnered from the simplistic and generic guidelines that culminate in "success."

In Seth Godin’s book "Linchpin," a fantastic read that I would recommend to anyone, he analyzes the case of Marissa Mayer. He states that the job she performed did not have a job description. If the job she performed had a description, she wouldn’t be needed. Marissa Mayer's reason for shining at the helm of Yahoo! was that she was able to figure out everything that needed to be done in order to achieve greatness that wasn't already identified, part of a system or an existing rule. She created something out of nothing, which every top performer needs to do in his or her unique context.

Outstanding people are the ones who fill the holes. The ones who find the situations and circumstances not covered by existing principles and practices, and make something happen with those. Therefore, by definition, they cannot be imitated.

And by that same token, regardless of how many amazing role models and mentors you model yourself after, you will never be able to learn success. Because in order to create success, you need to find the unique situation in which you can apply your skills and your context. It’s a unique set of circumstances.

My personal policy, be it for creating a company or accomplishing any task with a high level of quality, is to disregard all of the rules in order to find the unique context in which I can create great work -- regardless of how many principles there are. And it changes every time.

You can never learn success because you have to keep reinventing it. And, every time, it changes. So in order to be outstanding, for every unique situation, find how you can shine and apply yourself to it. In a simple way, what you can learn is to have the same leverage and willpower as other top performers.

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