Modeling Success vs. Following Your Own Path

modeling success vs following your own path

There’s a fine line between modeling and inspiring. And the distinction is an important one.

I spent many years as a business coach/consultant. One very common piece of advice espoused by many was that to become successful you have to model a successful person.

I learned the hard way that modeling success most certainly does not guarantee success.

I don’t advocate modeling.

I’ve shared my doubts about modeling success in the past on my blog, and in my book, Breaking The Spell. I even recorded a video way back in 2012 explaining why I don’t believe modeling is the way to create success

Yes, I’ve been talking about this for EIGHT years!

So it should come as no surprise that I absolutely do not want to put myself out there as someone to model. I also don’t want to be put in the same bucket as the “sell the dream” lifestyle marketers. I fell for that years ago and later saw the behind-the-scenes reality for some big names marketing those dreams, and they weren’t pretty.

That’s when I knew that no one, and I mean NO ONE, has it ALL FIGURED OUT.

The best anyone who is teaching others can do is impart knowledge they’ve collected, through their own education and experience.

I’ve figured out a lot of things about being successful in business over the past 20+ years, but I’m also still continuing to figure them out. In my experience, that’s the way life is.

Success in business, and life, requires being nimble. It requires being open to change. And, it requires being willing to adapt to whatever may be happening that’s outside of your control.

Which, in case you haven’t figured out yet, is just about everything!

I don’t have all the answers and I don’t want to pretend I do.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been working on a new online course based on an idea that’s been percolating in my brain for three or four years. It’s been on the back burner because quite honestly I didn’t feel I was ready to teach it. I felt I still had more to learn and experience.

But something someone said to me a few weeks ago changed that. She said something along the lines of “you’ve really done it all.”

She was referring to the fact that I’ve reinvented not just my business, but also my life, by learning to let go of the shoulds, and to instead follow my gut. By following what I refer to as inspired ideas, I’ve taken bold steps; steps not everyone takes.

I took her comment as validation. I looked back on my life and thought, you know what, I really have done a lot of things other people haven’t. That thought should have raised a red flag. Why? Because it implies “look at me… look at what I’ve done… I can teach you how to do it, too.” But no flag was raised and I started working on the course.

Until this uncomfortable feeling arose.

The red flag was waving in my face. That little voice was whispering. Reminding me of my strong distaste for “look at me marketing.” I began to worry I may be treading a little too close to the line between modeling and educating/inspiring/motivating.

That little a-ha was followed by a few more reminders.

People from my past showing up online and reminding me of the clarity I gained in 2009 about who I wanted to be, and more importantly who I didn’t want to be.

I don’t want my work to be about me.

I want it to be about the concepts I teach.

And I want what I teach to be focused on YOU.

Yes, I share my personal experience in my writing and online courses, but my intention is to illustrate the concepts I’m sharing. I also think stories are more interesting and engaging, and I believe they’re a more powerful way to inspire and motivate.

But my intention is not, nor has it ever been, to imply that anyone should aim to be like me. To do what I’ve done. To model my actions.

The decisions I’ve made in my life and my business have been my decisions, driven by my gut… by the inspired ideas that have come to me.

Your decisions should be driven by your inspired ideas.

Toward that end, my intention is to help people tap into their own internal GPS more effectively. To help others discover how they can best serve, what makes them happy, how to find work (in a job or in their own business) that makes the most of their unique gifts and talents. And, to follow a path that leads them into a more fulfilling life.

That path is different for everyone.

Your path may look nothing like my path. In fact, odds are, it won’t look anything like mine. And that’s where the distinction between inspiring and modeling really comes to light:

Modeling means, do what I’ve done to get where I’ve gotten.

Inspiring means, let what I’ve done motivate you to take the steps that are speaking to you.

Unraveling this dilemma.

As I was pondering why I was finding myself in this dilemma, I was trying to figure out if it was a sign I shouldn’t create the online course, or if it was just a reminder to be aware of the line and to walk on the right side of it.

As I was sharing this internal struggle with my husband, he thoughtfully reminded me of my own advice:

“Trust your gut,” he said.

He reminded me I was overthinking, which I was. And, he played back the words I’ve written and said so many times:

“Do what you feel inspired to do, and know that will be the right thing.”

Listening to those words made me realize something.

He wasn’t telling me WHAT to do.

He was telling me WHAT TO LISTEN TO, to find my own answers.

In parroting back my own advice, he helped me see I do not teach people to do what I do. I share insights and experience from learning how to follow my own gut, in the hopes it will help others follow theirs.

And that’s when I knew creating the course was okay, as long as stay on the inspiration side of the line.

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