Let yourself be inspired by others, but never imitate them.
Maybe I watched too much Mr. Rogers when I was young, but somehow that oft repeated notion that each of us is fundamentally special and irreplaceably unique has found its way into the very depths of my psyche. For whatever reason, I believe that every being is brought into this world with something singular to share. It is our duty to discover what that is and to give it expression. Anything less would impoverish the world in some way. It is because of this that I believe that one should never imitate anyone: to do so only creates wasteful redundancy, depriving the world of something new and fresh, of something that hasn’t been realized before.
As human beings we cannot learn if we are not inspired by others. We cannot develop if we do not allow ourselves to be influenced by others. We cannot do our best unless we work within reasonable artistic or other paradigms or constraints. However, we must always be acutely cautious not to try to be, sound like, or appear like someone else—or attempt to achieve their fame, their wealth, or their position in life or in history. Within the boundaries of an ethical life, we must strive to be the best we can uniquely be—always—no matter what the end result. Our present culture would have us think otherwise. It would have us worshipping “heroes”, coveting that corner office, and dressing like our favorite movie stars. Don’t fall prey to any of this nonsense. Look inward as much as outward, and you will never feel inadequate.
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