Why do we limit ourselves by what has come before us? Our icons and role models many times become the upper limits of our ambitions and desires. As if nothing above them will ever exist or be within our grasp.
And this type of thinking is a mistake.
When we start thinking like this we’ve already lost the game. As Steven Pressfield says, when we idolize others we almost always possess that quality ourselves but just haven’t embraced it. We have given up our self-sovereignty.
As a kid I dreamed of being an NBA player. Michael Jordan was like a god to me. The man is arguably the best player who ever lived, but why didn’t I dream of being better than him? Why had I put Jordan as my ceiling, not my floor? Needless to say I never became a professional NBA player, but maybe part of the reason was that I was too busy imitating his moves when I should’ve been focusing on perfecting my own natural style of basketball. This is just a theory but it is grounded in truth.
There is nothing wrong with emulating the pros, or seeking guidance from them, this is a great way to learn. What I’m arguing is that we shouldn’t let their story hold us back from creating one that is uniquely our own.
We are not them, some things will have come easier for them. But by the same token some things will come easier for us. It’s just the name of the game, we’re all different.
The fact that Steve Jobs never designed an airplane shouldn’t hold me back from attempting it myself. The same goes for Hemingway or Will Smith. Their careers shouldn’t limit the boundaries of my or your own career. Greatness might be waiting for us just outside the trail they blazed for us.