When we’re learning it’s rare that we ask other people who are also just starting out for advice, and instead we look straight to the experts and our heroes. Initially it comes off as the right approach, other professionals that we look up to have more experience and knowledge, right? Well yes, but despite the amount of valuable information your heroes may be able to deliver, following in their footsteps isn’t as straightforward as it sounds.
Everyone is different, and our values evolve over time. The hard part is though that it can be difficult to recognize that we aren’t necessarily the same person as our idols. It’s especially difficult to spot the differences when we only want to see similarities. What creates a distinct separation between ourselves and those we look up to is experience. Regardless of how close your values, attitude, or aspirations may align with your idols their values and perspective on life are the result of their experiences. While others success and motivation is developed over time you’re essentially attempting to fast forward through learning about yourself by getting caught up in tracing the footsteps of your heroes. Are you chasing your own idea of success or fixating over an image of what you think success is through the comparison of those you look up to?
Remembering stories means forgetting details
You cannot expect to receive business advice from someone who achieved their success 5 or 10 years ago. Everything is progressing so fast that things just a few years old can now be considered outdated. Technology and the culture that is shaping/being shaped by it is in a constant state of evolution—things don’t sit still any more—so you need to be having conversations with those who are experiencing the change first hand.
Not to mention, as you learn more and do more your timeline starts to condense, and then you have to sacrifice remembering details in order to maintain sequence and remember significant events. Your heroes may be in a place you eventually want to be, but you can’t count on them to remember their every move or even their crucial mistakes.
Everything is easier in retrospect
Once you’ve done something looking back is the easy part because you’ve already done it. The hard part is over and so having done it changes your initial perspective. When you’re standing on top of the hill you think of how great it is to be up there, and forget just how difficult it was trying to get up. I’ve got a few years of running under my belt, and now just going out for a run is easy. However, in the beginning it wasn’t that way, and quite honestly I can’t recall just how difficult it was. (You see, I’m already forgetting details.) With that being said, I always feel tempted to tell people to just go out and run, but it’s not that simple. Because of my experience I now have a biased and skewed perspective regardless if I even recognize that because I’ll never truly be able to revisit that stage of learning.
The romantic struggle
Not everyone will look back and say it was easy getting to where they are now, but it’s likely that they’ll romanticize the struggles they went through. Just keep in mind one thing, their struggle was only worth it because they made it. Would they praise their struggles or failures if they never reached success? Everything is relative, and so the bad is outweighed in the end by the good. Be weary of people romanticising the struggle because you must recognize that success and a happily ever after ending is not guaranteed. It’s easy to get caught up in other people painting their low points as life changing events, but they’ll likely forget to tell you the raw truth and feelings from in those moments: it was damn scary, and it absolutely sucked. Hearing from people as they are actually going through their struggles gives you the opportunity to learn about what may occur and how to prepare for those times when everything seems to be working against you. The only real time you can learn from and second-hand experience the struggle is when you’re willing to listen to those who are currently going through it.
They’re probably busy
If you’re interested in reaching out to some people you look up to then by all means do so, but first recognize that they’re likely busier than you may expect and they don’t owe you a response. Don’t get snappy because they haven’t replied to you yet, and don’t change your perspective of them because of that experience. You are in no position to judge them because you don’t know what their inbox looks like or what their schedule is like. On the other hand, reaching out to other people who are also coming up or learning will typically yield a response because their schedule tends to be more open. Never underestimate the amount of value someone a little less known is able to offer.
Be a beginner
Share what you are learning and what you are going through. Document your journey even if you no one is following along right now because you never know what kind of impact it may have down the road. There is no pressure to be right when you’re a beginner, and those in a similar place as you will look to you for advice as you grow. Your heroes don’t view themselves as heroes, they’re still beginners because learning isn’t a task you get to check off, it’s a constant pursuit.