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Positively Speaking: Those who came before

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By Toby Moore

For Capital Region Independent Media

Headshot of man named Toby Moore
Toby Moore

Take a trip down memory lane to when we were kids. Everything was fresh and new. We watched the world in awe as our older siblings, parents or other grown-ups seemingly defied gravity, strutting around on two feet while we were stuck crawling. How badly we wanted to walk.

We’d take a couple of steps, only to end up with a mouthful of carpet. But that desire? It fueled us; it made us dust ourselves off and try again. We were relentless, relentless in our pursuit to join the walking crew. And after countless tumbles and stumbles, we did it!

How did we do it? By watching others and then trying to do it like them.

As adults, we embark on new adventures and face new challenges. But guess what? The same strategy still applies. What could be more potent than observing and learning from those who came before us if we’re seeking success in a particular endeavor?

When I wanted to be a fast swimmer, I was obsessed with the world’s top swimmers and their routines. I studied their eating habits, workouts, cross-training and techniques. If I was to be as fast as they were, I had to do what they did.

My mindset was simple: Why waste time creating a new method when a successful one already exists?

Isaac Newton, the renowned physicist and mathematician, said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

What does it mean to stand on the shoulders of giants? No matter what we seek to achieve, there’s a high likelihood someone has already accomplished it or at least something similar. Their experiences, successes and even failures can provide insight to move you toward achieving your dreams faster.

Would you ever consider climbing Mount Everest without examining the routes and strategies of the climbers who have summited before? You’d be insane not to. I’d only attempt such a feat by doing the same thing other successful climbers have done to get up and down without killing themselves.

You can apply this same principle to anything you set out to accomplish.

Are you looking to write a novel? Identify an author whose style resonates with the type of book you’d like to write. Consider the length of their books and how many words they have. Get into the author’s routine: do they write every day? What does their writing schedule look like? Who is their publisher, and what is their submission process?

Want to be the best salesperson in your office? Identify the leading salesperson in your field. How do they generate leads? How many client meetings do they schedule daily? How do they utilize time during the workday? If possible, shadow them, ask questions, emulate their selling style and adopt their closing strategies.

Ambitious about changing the world or shaking up a particular industry? Seek wisdom from the pioneers. What challenges did they confront, and do those hurdles still stand? Study how they tackled challenges and incorporate their strategies into your approach.

You may want to do it your way, and you can. While that may be true, it’s always beneficial to learn from the mistakes of those who came before us. You can find someone comparable even if they didn’t do exactly what you’re doing.

Eleanor Roosevelt, the former First Lady of the United States, said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”

Emulating the habits of successful people is about something other than copying or being unoriginal. It’s about intelligent strategy and recognizing proven pathways to success.

Kobe Bryant, recognized as one of the greatest players in NBA history, actively studied and emulated Michael Jordan’s moves, mannerisms and speaking style.

Someone else has faced the same challenges, persevered and emerged victorious. How did they do it?

Here’s my challenge to you: Identify someone who has achieved what you’re striving for. Study them. Get to know their story. Understand their journey and, most importantly, draw lessons from their experiences.

Be open, be curious, and reach for the stars. After all, you’re just learning to walk again, this time in a new field.

Toby Moore is a columnist, the star of Emmy-nominated “A Separate Peace,” and the CEO of Cubestream Inc.

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