Imitation for Admiration

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… 

We’ve all heard variations of this quote by Oscar Wilde.  But did you know that there’s more to the full quote?

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness

Oscar Wilde


In my opinion, this means that when we imitate we’re thinking less of ourselves and more of whatever and whoever we are imitating.

This can be a good thing- when we’re younger we have idols we look up to and imitate.  But at some point, we find our own way.  We find what works for us and step into that.

This point came home to me this past week when I received several messages from someone online telling me that there was a person on Facebook that was using several of my pictures as their own.  Profile picture, pictures of my pets, pictures of my wife and I golfing, even pictures of me with my grandchildren.

After the anger subsided and I reported the impersonation to Facebook, I then had a moment of self deprecating humor- if this person had to resort to my likeness for whatever purposes they must be really ugly!!  

But my friend Darrell Amy (and my wife Sue (Susan) McCormick , MASI) gave me an entirely new perspective.  I can make the assumption that this person is using my pictures for this fake profile to try and deceive people in some way.  This means they chose my pictures as a face someone would trust.  They saw my likeness as trustworthy!  

The rub here is that as they strive to be trustworthy, their very actions are not worth trust because they are imitating someone else, they are operating in mediocrity.


When we try to become someone else, we’re ripping off ourselves and those around us, whether they be our family, our coworkers, our clients or our prospects.  Why? Because we will never be able to be the person we are imitating and with each attempt at trying to be someone else, we are resisting discovering who we really are.

Have you ever seen the movie “Multiplicity” starring Michael Keaton?  In short, he is an overworked dad and husband who, unable to create more hours in his day, clones himself.  The problem?  The more clones he creates, the farther from the original version of himself they are.

You will never be that person you look up to.  Sure, they have great attributes that you can learn from and even adopt, but you will never be them.

Part of our growth process is taking admirable qualities of people we admire and rather than imitating them, adopting them as our own and fitting them into our personalities and lives.  

This is how stay authentic to who we are and we can even take qualities from others and make them better when we live them out through our unique lives.



I have always thought the song “Who Are You?” was sung by a very appropriate group- The Who.

But it’s a very valid question.  If we don’t know who we are, it becomes easy to grab hold of how others act and imitate them, doing a disservice to both ourselves and those we imitate.

How do you discover who you really are?  

My friend Larry Levine in his great book “Selling From the Heart” puts this so succinctly:

“I’ve seen so many salespeople hindered from achieving success because they’re trying to be someone they aren’t.  Have you ever tracked the path of individuals who became successful and tried to mirror what they did, only to achieve lackluster results?”  

He’s speaking to salespeople here, but we’ve all done this, no matter our industry or business sector.

He goes on to write that being brutally honest with yourself is the only way to truly discover who you really are.  He quotes Aristotle “Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”


So in the true spirit of All Selling Is Social, who or what are you imitating when it comes to how you sell?  Are you locked into imitating a sales training guru who says that their way is the only way?  

Not only do you rip off yourself and those around you, but you’re missing out on the biggest distinct competitive advantage you have- you.

Larry writes:

“If you’re your authentic self, there is no competition.”

At the end of the day, you don’t really sell your product or service, you sell you.

When you’re not being your authentic self, when you’re imitating someone else, you’re selling a forgery or a knock-off.  

You also risk your clients discovering this truth at a later time when your actions don’t align with their experiences with you or the service they’ve been delivered and then suddenly they go radio silent or become distant.

It’s ok to look up to people, we all need mentors and we need to mentor others.

But there’s a difference between imitating because we admire someone, and imitating them because we’re comparing ourselves to them.

“The fastest way to kill something special is to compare it to something else.” Craig Groeschel


Imitation from Admiration not Comparison

When we imitate someone to the point where we’re comparing ourselves to them, we are discounting who we’ve been created to be.  

Each of you are created as an original.  You’re not made to be anyone else but you and when you try and compare yourself to your sales manager, or to the top account rep or to whoever you compare yourself to.

It’s ok to admire someone and even take what is working for them in whatever area of life we’re talking about and use that in some way.  What’s not ok is to compare yourself to them and try to be them.

You are unique, don’t rob your family, your friends, your coworkers, your clients or your prospects from that gift.  


Give them what only you can give them…


Give them you!

Originally published on Bill McCormick’s LinkedIn

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