Copy your way to success — here’s how...

The right way to copy the people or companies you idolize.

Most things we do in life aren’t really new. More than likely, they are an improvement on a previous idea or thought. As such, the best way to make progress on something that’s already been done before is to copy (or model) those that have come before you.

A great example is building a company. To get from where you are now to where you want to go, you find someone that’s done it before and piece together the puzzle to model what they did and how they did it.

Simple enough, right? But the devil here is in the detail. You need to model someone who is 1–2 steps ahead of you, not 1,000. Let’s say you’re building a social network for moms. There will be a lot of similarities to Facebook, so you decide to model what Mark Zuckerberg is doing today with Facebook, not what he did at the very beginning.

Wrong approach and pretty much destined to keep you spinning your wheels and trying to do a thousand things at once. Instead, the right approach would be to model what Mark did way back in 2004–2007 and look for the key points that got “The Facebook” as it was called, some of its initial traction — which were:

  • A hyper focus on a small audience (Harvard students only)
  • The feeling that you were part of an exclusive club
  • A community of like-minded people

You can then take those founding principles and apply them to your social network for moms. This is a basic example, but I’m sure you get the idea.

When it comes to modeling someone that’s done what you want to do, make sure you pick apart how they did it when they were at the same stage or state you are in right now.

If you have a 3-person company, model the company you idolize when they also had 3 people, not the 1,000 employees they have today. You don’t model a billionaire if you have $100 in your pocket. You model the guy that had $100 in his pocket last year and now has $100,000.

Don’t forget to factor in time as well — what they did back then might not be applicable today, for example, so look at the principles of what they did more than specifically how they did it.

Success leaves clues, but don’t go hunting for clues that are worthless to where you are right now. Sure you want to copy the best, but remember they didn’t go from nothing to massive success overnight. Most likely they had an incremental path to an outcome and ticked off a lot of milestones along the way. Find your next milestone, figure out how they got to that milestone and start there.

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