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Fan to imitator to original

What are you good at? Writing? Creating music? Playing football? Writing code? Creating design?

And how did you get good at it?

Irrespective of what the activity itself is, the path to getting good at something is always the same.

First, you become a fan of someone good at what you want to do. This is generally how one gets the interest to do something in the first place. Kids growing up learning to play football have their role models in Messi or Ronaldo and love to watch them play. When you're a fan of someone good, you've found yourself a role model.

The process of becoming a fan does two important things - one, it gets you really interested in and passionate about the activity, and two, it helps you visualize how good you can be if you dedicate yourself to it.

Which brings you to taking the next step. Imitation.

Many are just happy to sit back and watch and be a consumer. These are fans too. But these are not creators. Those who have the inclination to be creators, begin to imitate what they see.

So if read something you like, don't be afraid to write it in your own words. If you watch a dribbling trick, don't be afraid to try it out when you play with your friends. If you hear music that you like, don't be afraid to try to play it on your guitar.

When you start imitating someone, you are taking the next step to becoming good.

Many people are happy just imitating. These are less creators and more mimics. However, imitating is only a stepping stone to creating original work. Stopping at imitating is like being a cover band. While these are good, these don't create anything new. And the demand for imitators is always less than the demand for creators. Especially in an age when anything created by anyone can be recorded and preserved for eternity.

Once you get comfortable imitating, you will stop doing it blindly. You will start noticing why your role model does certain things in certain ways and you will start tinkering. As you begin to understand not just the end work which is the manifestation, but also the underlying preparation work and the process of creation, you will cut down on elements that don't suit you and introduce elements that you prefer.

And over time, you will be a creator.

Occasionally, you might be able to skip the second step - which is imitation, and still be a great creator, but never by skipping the first step, which is to become a fan.

Yet, all the emphasis in school (it could be a music school or a sports school or an academic school) is on teaching kids to imitate, to rigorously learn what has come before, and not on turning kids into fans.

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