#Trust30 Day 11 – Imitation is what?

[To find out why I am writing all these #Trust30 posts, click here]

Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?” –Fabian Kruse (the Friendly Anarchist)


Emerson’s quote is a pretty absolute statement. By trying to be someone else, you lose yourself, and you might as well no longer be alive. The great ones know this. They are inimitable, with a style that sets them apart. As soon as Elvis opens his mouth to sing, you know who it is.

The concept reminds me of learning to play the guitar. At one time in my life, I aspired to be a musician. I spent hours trying to play songs in the same way that Eric Clapton and others did. I grew frustrated when I couldn’t reproduce the sounds I heard. My fingers moved too slowly, my tone was not clean enough and eventually I gave up trying.

Looking back, I would approach music very differently. I would make creating my own music a much higher priority, because trying to sound like someone else is not only futile, it is not being true to myself. Can you imagine me trying to sing like Roy Orbison or Amy Winehouse? No, neither can I. They have their own unique skills and sounds, and so do I. It’s fun to play someone else’s music, but it’s personal to play my own. That shows up in the music. It took me way too long to learn this lesson, but as they say, “it’s never too late…”

Outside of music, I’m not sure who or what I might be imitating at this point in my life. Other bloggers? Maybe. I’ve taken a few ideas from others like Seth Godin or Chris Guillebeau, but I haven’t really followed the same path they have.

You might say that I quit imitating a lot of people when I decided not to apply for a thousand jobs I didn’t want in the first place. I haven’t quit looking for a “normal” job, but I am not going to settle either. If you want to hire me, there’s going to have to be something about the position that makes it stand out from other jobs.

I suppose some of my friends and family are convinced I’m crazy. They have to be thinking “when are you going to get a real job?” No one would come out and say it, though, except for maybe my 92 year-old grandfather. He tells me almost every time I see him that he’s staying alive so that he can see what I’ll end up doing. I figure if I take my time, he’ll stick around for a while.

I aspire to be an artist in whatever I do, to create uniqueness and ship it (there’s a Seth Godin reference). We become artists when we develop our own unique voice that no one can duplicate, because they do not share our knowledge or experiences. I think I’m finding my voice in writing. Maybe someday it will be as recognizable as The King’s.