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Hero Worship

5 min read

This is a story about admiration...

Black Box

Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery, we're told. I'm sure it's also a way to make somebody feel self conscious as hell, and maybe even feel great pressure to live up to expectations. People looking to you for inspiration, guidance and direction in their lives: it's a lot of responsibility. Thankfully I don't have that problem, being a complete loser.

While I haven't lifted a life plan straight out of any of my friends' lives, I've certainly borrowed parts of their life that I admire. The easiest thing to do is try and clone something of their digital persona. If they write a blog, you write a blog. If they tweet, you tweet. You read what they read, and try to understand where they're coming from when they make certain intellectual and emotional points: you try and empathise.

If you spend a bunch of time with a person, at school, at work, online, you start to get a sense of who they are, superficially. If you're a relatively sponge-like character like I am, you soak up mannerisms, certain phrases and even accents and colloquialisms. In a way, if you speak like a person, you start to think like them.

Well that got real creepy real quick, didn't it?

I was supposed to be writing a blog post to reassure some of my friends that they're not responsible for me. I was supposed to be writing to say that I'm sorry if it was all a bit too personal, when I alluded to how important your influence has been in helping me discover some of the pieces that make up my personality. However, it's all come out a bit like: I wanna be like you.

If you don't have any role models, how are you supposed to figure out what you want to be and who you want to be? I think you can admire somebody and want to be like certain aspects of their personality and do things like they do, but you're still very much yourself.

When I think about the things that an admired friend has done, built, written, I don't think "I've got to do that too". Instead I think about what was good and interesting and useful and inspiring about what they did, and I try to emulate their passion and industriousness, by reverse-engineering what I imagine to be the process that led them to arrive at their achievements.

Friends who are musically talented have not led me to learning the piano or the guitar. Instead I've looked at their passion for music and tried to understand how the pursuit of music became a passion, and not a skill simply to be acquired through practice and repetition. Sure, you can become good at something purely by imitating somebody. You can learn to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, including imitations of all his mistakes, but do you really feel the way that Hendrix felt when you play, or are you merely miming the actions?

There's no point in turning yourself into a best-guess clone of somebody, just because you like and admire them. There's no happiness or salvation to be found in learning to look and act like somebody, unless you wanted to be a professional impersonator. Instead, if you think somebody looks passionate and fulfilled by something, you've gotta understand the dynamic that's driving that.

Life can also throw some weird curveballs. Like, I didn't get the whole social networking thing. When I heard an old schoolfriend was developing a social networking platform, I was like "what's the point?". Then I got into kitesurfing, and through kitesurfing I got into discussion forums, and discussion forums are mostly built on phpBB, which is a social networking platform. Social networking inadvertently changed my life for the better, but if I'd tried to involve myself in the world that my friend was passionate about it, I would have been lost until I saw the value through my own experiences.

Now, when somebody tells me their social business model is like an existing business model, but social, I'm like "so you have a comments section and people can click a button to tweet your shit, right?" and they're like, no, it's also a community, and I'm like "so you have a popup that asks you to fill in your email address so you can spam them?" and they're like, yeah, pretty much that.

Through the clouds of the bullshitters who don't really get it. Through all the swarms of "me too" idiots who are trying to hit all the buzzwords, it's passion and a depth of experience and knowledge that really shines through. I can be cynical as hell with my friends, but I know that I simply don't get the things that they're passionate about, until I do, and then I neatly slot them into my worldview.

It might look like I'm patchwork quilt of stolen ideas, borrowed personality traits and copycat behaviours, but I still make everything my own because I too have grown to see the value in the things that my friends have opened my eyes to.

I apologise if the hero worship is an unwanted pressure, or makes you feel uncomfortable. I'm sorry about where our worlds collide and I might directly or indirectly make reference to your influence on me and the stuff I'm doing. For sure I'm doing a bunch of figuring out who the hell I am and what makes me tick, and that's meant revisiting everything since childhood. It might be a bit cringeworthy, but maybe I'll get somewhere.

Anyway, I hope I don't make you feel too self conscious, and I hope that your involvement in my story has not been unwanted.