Why Copying Others Is How You Become An Expert. Sort of.

Have you ever judged someone for “copying” you or felt a little weird about repeating something that you’ve heard someone else say? (Don’t get awkward; I’ve been there too!)  Guess what? It feels that way because it’s likely TRUE.  If you’ve ever done anything new, you’ve probably copied what someone else taught, told or showed you. 

There are three “I’s” that you should know about in the progression of teaching that relate to you exactly where you are today. I learned about these in Yoga Teacher Training several years ago. 

1. Imitate
2. Integrate
3. Innovate

This concept always stuck with me, especially as I transitioned my career from working on the business side of fashion to becoming a business coach, workshop leader and speaker. 

What I’ve realized by working with hundreds of women entrepreneurs is this: The EXACT same progression exists in starting a new business. And truly, it’s precisely the same progression when starting anything new. 

This means that you can release a whole lot of the pressure that you’ve likely put on yourself to create the most innovative idea or business. It also means that you aren’t expected to be the best mom in the whole world when you have your first kid or to be the best teacher when you teach your first workshop. You’ll get there.

Anything that’s new takes time to learn. There is no way around it.

When we start something new, most of us simply copy what we were taught. The first time I teach a new class, I always teach it exactly as I was taught the information even it doesn’t feel quite right. This allows me to stay focused, build familiarity in what I’m teaching and to have an infrastructure to fall back on if I don’t understand something fully. Teaching someone else’s’ way is also how we learn what our own perspective and voice is. 

Once you’ve done something enough, you begin to integrate your own ideas as you find your comfort zone.  Often time, this happens slowly.  This is really important to know because it gives you the leeway to figure out where you want to take something and the grace to know you aren’t expected to be the best right away. Slow and steady. That’s what this phase is. 

THIS, my friend, is your zone of genius (not just your comfort zone.) This TAKES A LOT OF TIME and it’s when you become an expert at whatever you do. I’ve often heard that this status takes about 10,000 hours to achieve, but truly, I think that’s even low. That also equates to 833 12-hour days. So…that's approx. 2.5 years of working EVERY day, including weekends, for 12 hours. Or double that and work 6-hour days etc. You get the point. It takes A REALLY LONG TIME! 

So YES, in this crazy word of INNOVATION, DISRUPTION and GENIUS, you too will likely start off imitating some one’s work. It’s not only normal but also expected. The key is to use this phase as a stepping-stone but to eventually figure out what your own voice is and evolve into something that feels more like “you.” This takes time and the willingness to be imperfect. Show yourself grace as you evolve into the unicorn that you are destined to become. And know that you are not alone in the process.

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Emily Keith2 Comments