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Weekly 3: See other people as mirrors

Summary: You can use other people as mirrors to see yourself more clearly. This Weekly 3 issue explor

Idea Journal Weekly 3

October 11 · Issue #160 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: You can use other people as mirrors to see yourself more clearly. This Weekly 3 issue explores a few of these “mirrors,” including the people you envy and your heroes.
(~3 min read)

#1. Use your envy as a guide
Author and lecturer Susan Cain says in an interview that you can use an ugly emotion like envy as a guide to identify your genuine interests.
As she puts it: “It’s the things you envy that point you in the direction of what you really want for yourself.”
Cain tells the story of how envy helped to illuminate her own career path.
Before she wrote her book Quiet and became a well-known speaker, Cain worked as a corporate lawyer. When she met up with fellow lawyers, they would often talk about some colleague who just got to argue a brief before the Supreme Court, or had received some other legal accolade.
While the other lawyers were clearly envious of their successful colleague, Cain didn’t feel any envy – she was genuinely happy for the person.
At first, she congratulated herself for being so generous and not feeling envious, but she eventually realized that this wasn’t the right interpretation: “It’s just that I don’t want these things myself.”
It’s not that Cain was free of envy. At the time, the people she envied were those who were doing what she herself is doing now: writing and giving lectures about issues that are important to her.
When you find yourself obsessed with a person, that obsession is often coming from the same place.
“I think you become obsessed with a person when that person has things that you wish to have in your life and you don’t have.”
#2. How are you different from your heroes?
Artist and author Austin Kleon writes in his book Steal Like an Artist that it’s important to study and imitate your heroes as you develop your own skills. 
But a convenient flaw of human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies: “Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives.”
For Kleon, a key part of identifying and developing your unique talents is imitating your heroes, examining where you fall short, then amplifying and transforming the difference into your own work.
He offers the following examples: 
Basketball player Kobe Bryant has acknowledged that all of his moves were stolen from watching tapes of his heroes. As Bryant puts it, “There isn’t a move that’s a new move.”
But when Bryant initially stole a lot of the moves, he realized he couldn’t replicate them exactly because he didn’t have the same body type. He had to adapt the moves and make them his own.
Conan O’Brien has acknowledged the same phenomenon among fellow comedians. Johnny Carson tried to be Jack Benny, but ended up as Johnny Carson. David Letterman tried to copy Johnny Carson, but ended up as David Letterman. And O’Brien himself tried to emulate David Letterman, but ended up as a different and better version of Conan O’Brien.
As O'Brien observes, each case shares a common lesson: “It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.”
#3. Other people reveal your acting skills
Author Robert Greene writes in his book The Laws of Human Nature that we’re all consummate actors.
For example, you wear one face when you’re trying to impress someone, and another face if the other person is familiar and you can let your guard down.
Paying attention to how you act with different people can reveal just how many masks you wear.
The next time you interact with family members or with colleagues at work, reflect on the differences.
As Greene puts it: “You will see yourself subtly change what you say, your tone of voice, your mannerisms, your whole body language, to suit each individual and situation.”
Quote of the week
“You can escape competition through authenticity, when you realize that no one can compete with you on being you.”
- Entrepreneur and investor Naval Ravikant on Twitter
Idea Journal
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