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Don’t Play Follow The Leader With Your Career

Why do so many people believe they can become successful simply by copying what successful people do? Identifying a role model and then playing follow the leader is an age-old habit of looking for “shortcuts” to success. Why? Are They Smarter?   Many people believe their role models are successful b

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
3 min read
follow the leader signage on a road
play follow the leader with your career can lead to a bad outcome

Why do so many people believe they can become successful simply by copying what successful people do? Identifying a role model and then playing follow the leader is an age-old habit of looking for “shortcuts” to success.


Are They Smarter?

Many people believe their role models are successful because they are smarter. Research shows that once you get beyond an I.Q. of about 120, which is slightly above average—intelligence, and success are not at all related. That means that you have the same potential to achieve success.

Have More Talent?

Does your role model have more natural talent? This is rarely the case. There are many successful people who did not start out with any natural talent or skills. The best way to build and improve your talent is through practice and dedication.

Just Lucky?

Studies have revealed that luck, something you cannot control, plays an important role in achieving success. For example, Mark Cuban sold for $5.6 billion in 1999 to Yahoo!. However, Yahoo! never actually used any of its assets. Mark’s sale during the dot-com era was lucky timing.

Some people do not believe in luck, and instead, attribute all success to hard work and intelligence. They believe that if you work hard enough, you will eventually be successful – regardless of any luck involved. While this may be partly true, it is undeniable that luck also plays a role in success.

Luck happens when one has done the hard work and preparation so that when it strikes, they can take advantage of the opportunity presented.

A role model’s success resulted from some amount of luck.

Luck is when an opportunity comes along and you're prepared for it.

Richard Branson

The Myth And Reality Of Success

Unfortunately, many who are successful perpetuate the belief that their success comes from their intelligence and natural talent—and therefore they possess the key secrets to success. They reinforce this perception by convincing their followers to buy their books, training courses, seminars, etc.

Success is not a sure thing after learning the “magic steps” from others! Success is about creating your own recipe for what works for you, not following the recipes of others.

Focus on yourself. Be your own leader and recognize that no one knows what they're doing. Your success will result from applying the wisdom of others to your vision, not any attempt to copy others’ success.

Seeking Advice

It is not wrong to secure advice and guidance from others. Who you surround yourself with will influence your success. Jim Rohn is quoted as saying, “You become like the five people you spend the most time with. Choose carefully.”

Who are the 5 people you are spending the most time with?

If you want your network of connections to influence your success, make sure you include these five types of people:

  1. Someone who challenges you – Most people are afraid to pursue advice from those who challenge them because they don't want to feel uncomfortable or be wrong. But if you really want to improve and become successful, you need to overcome this fear and seek advice from those who will push you to be your best.
  2. Mentor or coach – There are many people who claim to be mentors or coaches, but few of them have the skills and knowledge that they profess. It is important for you to do your homework. Look into their credentials and direct experience.
  3. A role model – Search out someone who has experienced what you are going through–and who was successful. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your ideal role model! A simple email or phone call could lead to an amazing relationship that changes your life forever.
  4. An expert – Getting feedback from an expert is always a smart idea when you want to make sure that you're doing everything possible to accomplish your goals.
  5. Someone who provides emotional support for your goals – This person offers encouragement and advice and can help keep you on track when things get tough. It's important to find someone who you trust and who will be there for you when you need them.

The old saying, “it takes a village to raise a child,” is true for your career as well. No matter how talented you are, success will be more likely if you build connections with people who can help you achieve it.

Don't follow the leader, follow your dreams!

You will not find success by blindly following your role model. It takes hard work, dedication, and perseverance.

I have no problem with having role models, but we need to remember that they don't know everything. It’s okay to make different choices in order to achieve our personal goals and dreams.

Follow your own path. Don't rely on the promised shortcuts offered by your role models, because you'll end up far from where you want to be. Your individual path is the one place you truly learn about yourself and discover your true potential.

Don't play follow the leader. Be the leader of your own path.

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Phil McKinney Twitter

Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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