THE CREATIVE POWER OF IMITATION vs. The ‘Be Unique’ and ‘You Be You’ Myth

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I know I may be tackling one of the most sacrosanct cows of life transformation, business coaching and self-development. Here is what I found instead when face to face with the creative power of imitation.

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The Be Unique, You Do You mandate sounds like such a liberating promise. And it is but it can also be a trap.

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The ‘You Do You’ mandate eliminates a vital step and without it most feel lost and on unsure footing.

I still remember distinctly a high school friend Beate whose fantastic doodling left me baffled and intrigued to try to recreate her burst of creativity right in the middle of a calculus problem.

While the math teacher droned on I watched her create amazing mandalas on paper that could rival any Disney fantasy. I tried to match my scribbling skills with her, tried to imitate the curls of her flowers and panache of her feather, but nothing I tried remotely resembled her astounding pieces.

In all honesty, the experience left me a but frustrated and down on myself and my creative abilities. In reality, I was learning an important life lesson that I disregarded at that time. Not until years later did I look back and realize by imitating her, I started finding my own voice, my own expression. My own doodling cam by imitating hers! Uniqueness only came through the act of imitation itself.

A painting teacher may tells her students to draw a tree and even put up an image of a tree and tell everyone to draw that tree on display. Everyone in the room is trying to imitate that tree. And yet the result will be as many different and unique trees as there are students in the class.

On a larger level, universities, political movements, and even film studios and corporations take that same approach of imitation. They develop a method, an approach and creative way of solving a problem and everyone in that movement is imitating and working under that same idea. That’s how you develop top notch talent. Not be re-inventing the wheel but by imitating, your uniqueness come to the fore and finds it’s highest expression.

We learn from each other. We hone and develop our own uniqueness primarily in relation to others. The culture we live in stands on Imitation. We learn from and imitate those who came before us. Imitation is necessary for us to bloom and let our uniqueness shine.

Our own uniqueness is  the gorgeous blossom on top of a long stem and root system anchored in those who have come before us. Without the roots there would be no blossom. We are connected to others engaged in similar endeavors. It gives us the juice to step into the fullest expression of our own.

Let your Uniqueness be shaped by imitation. That’s the motto that allows for the greatest creative expression.

Next time, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and twist ourselves into a pretzel to be ‘unique’ let your uniqueness shape itself by imitation. And watch what happens.



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