"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines. With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall." - Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self Reliance"
I had a nice visit to UWM last week to teach a 2-day class on the basics of business analysis. It's always a fun little get-away, and it allowed me to get in a visit with good friend Ellen Winters and catch up with her (and wish her a happy birthday in person).
The trip up and back is virtually all interstate, so my cruise control gets a nice workout. It's a pretty comfortable drive, and I enjoy the opportunity for some think time. My biggest automotive traveling pet peeve is when another driver (who either does not have cruise control or is too inept to use it) decides that s/he would like to use me as his/her personal pace car. I pass; they pass. I slow down; they slow down. I speed up... well, you get the idea. Sometimes I will slam on the brakes or otherwise slow way down to the point where following me becomes too much of a hassle; then they move on to some other conscientious driver to annoy.
In the office, I see a lot of "pace car tailgaters" trying to emulate others' accomplishments. Instead of developing a personal brand of their own, they try to emulate those whom they admire... usually with disastrous results. Don't get me wrong: using the best practices of others is a great learning tool. I wouldn't be where I am if I hadn't had some wonderful mentors who shared some of their secrets with me. If I hadn't been able to observe the good (and bad) behaviors of others, I wouldn't have learned what works and what doesn't.
Here's the catch: I watched. I listened. I observed. I learned. THEN I DECIDED. I didn't unilaterally attempt to take on the identity of those around me, mirroring their speed and driving habits exactly. I set my own pace and created my own style and technique. Sometimes things didn't work, or other things didn't feel comfortable. Then it was my decision to change.
I can honestly say that I feel comfortable in my own skin. In the classroom or on the project team, I'm the one setting cruise control. And I encourage those around me to set theirs. We'll all reach our destinations eventually... in our own time... following our own path. That's what makes our accomplishments identifiably our own.