My uncle comes in from the United Kingdom a couple times each year. He has been a role model and a constant measuring stick for years. He is Mr. Everything: he was a student body president in high school, graduated with his bachelor’s and MBA, long time DJ, friends with everybody under the sun, awarded Esquire’s best dressed man, extremely successful in his career, and a catalog of beautiful women to boot.
Every time he is in town, I’m like a pupil starving for face time with his mentor, that is the dynamic I have with my uncle. There are few African-Americans I can turn to, for his level of insight and intellect on things. He was recently in town because his father (my grandfather) recently had surgery. I came by and we talked about the recent events of cops killing African-Americans, socioeconomic trends, books by Max Brooks and Dan Brown (he recommended World War Z, Inferno, and Digital Fortress respectively), sports, child-rearing, etc.
We spoke on the subject of success, first in sports but it expanded to success in general, and I remember him saying something very profound that lead to the very creation of this post: He stated that he never understood why people seem to frown upon the fact that being successful may entail a great deal of copying. It’s stupid, because if someone or multiple people have already paved a lane in a particular field, why would you not follow it?
I countered stating that the sense of identity is a very important thing for mankind. Often times we want to have a sense of originality, to be trailblazers in whatever endeavor it is, that we decided to undertake.
My uncle replied, “well that’s two different things”, if you are taking a path that no one has undertaken, that requires originality, then that is understood; however, one must decide if originality is most important or success.
I was floored by this conversation, this seems like such an obvious concept but for someone like me, I was prideful and tried to be original in my path to success. My uncle was my role model, and I wanted to be successful like him but, I also wanted to put my focus on having a wife and a family as well. Ultimately, I ended up making a lot of mistakes that set me back for years, instead of copying the format already laid out by my uncle.
The takeaway from this conversation that I would have with anyone in their 20s or early 30s, is to not try to reinvent the wheel, if the end goal doesn’t call for it. Don’t be prideful. If success in a particular field has been reached multiple times, it’s only natural to follow the format already laid down. Research, follow someone who has had great success in that field.
I have such a renewed appreciation for freedom and financial independence. To a man, this is more vital than anything else.
Weather Your Storm, Maintain Inner Reign –E