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We all have things that we’re good at. We have talents, and we have goals we want to achieve with them. And one of the most frustrating things is watching someone with similar talents and goals be successful, while we are not. What makes them so different from us? What are we doing wrong?

Then we become a little bit obsessed, and we try to figure out exactly what that person is doing different in an effort to glean some knowledge that might help us to become successful too. You know what I mean? For me it can be something like a particular guitar sound that someone gets. I just can’t wrap my mind around how they achieved that. Or with songwriting. Instead of enjoying a killer song, I find myself jealous at how good a songwriter that person is and wonder why I can’t write something that good.

You know what I’m talking about?

In our quest to answer the question of why this other person is seeing success, we tend to start with the easiest, most obvious questions to try to explain it. We think “if I just knew what guitar pedals and settings they’re using, I’ll be able to figure this out”. Or, if I ask this person how exactly how they came up with this song, I’ll be able to figure out how to write a song just as good. And sometimes we get the guts to actually ask these questions, and we might even get an answer.

But you know what I’ve found? Even when we get the answer to these questions, it rarely helps. We gain some knowledge on how this person is successful, but not why. And in the long run, this doesn’t really help us. It might actually hurt us, because we end up doing a lot of copying instead of innovating.

What we fail to realize is that this person’s success is likely not rooted in something simple or easily identifiable. Learning about pedal settings or songwriting styles is interesting and can help inform some of our decisions, but there’s likely some subtletly and LOTS of experience and experimenting that we’re missing.

So do you want to be successful? If yes, then think carefully about the questions you ask about other people’s success. There’s nothing wrong with asking the easy questions and gaining some knowledge that way, but combine that with deep study of this person’s success with the goal of obtaining some wisdom, or understanding of why something someone does works for them. Learning this will ultimately be the thing that can propel you to success, because you’ll be able to apply it to yourself without being a direct copy.

So seek wisdom. Dig deeper. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking the key to success is in the answer to a surface level question! Look for those lessons that get at the why instead of the how. It might take some more work and some time experimenting, but it will serve you well!

Have you found this to be true? What questions have you asked that you thought would satisfy you and solve a problem, but ultimately did not?

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  • http://www.sheepdressedlikewolves.com/ Andy Mort

    Amen. Great post, Andy. Thanks. I am guilty as charged. I have also been on the receiving end of such questions, especially regarding looping pedals. I once even had someone ask me what I used and it turned out they had the same pedal but they were convinced I must be using something different. It was just that I used it in a different way. I told them to develop their own style and to have fun with it. Nothing to do with the tools but we can get so distracted by them. ‘If only I had x then I would be better’ = Biggest fallacy!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jbox86 Jonathan Shields

    Thanks for this Andy!

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