Imitation is Suicide

Imitation is Suicide. Insist on yourself; never imitate. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Write down in which areas of your life you have to overcome these suicidal tendencies of imitation, and how you can transform them into a newborn you – one that doesn’t hide its uniqueness, but thrives on it. There is a “divine idea which each of us represents” – which is yours?

(Author: Fabian Kruse)

Twenty years ago I had an opportunity to work for an individual who I can only describe as having one of the biggest impacts on my life. Jim was a social worker first and a businessman second.

I was lucky to have known Jim and to have had the opportunity to have been supervised by him over several years of my early social work career. I recall a meeting I had with Jim in 1992, two years before his very unfortunate and untimely death.

Jim took a chance when he hired me. I was young and insecure. I hadn’t completed my degree. Jim saw things in me that I didn’t see or perhaps I was afraid to see. Jim met with me bi-weekly for supervision sessions. I didn’t know this at the time but they were much more than supervision sessions, they were actually supervision sessions disguised as my own therapy sessions.

During one particularly insightful supervision session Jim asked me to complete an assignment. The assignment entailed me identifying who I thought were the ten most powerful individuals within the agency. Brown-nosing aside, I responded to Jim’s query. I had no idea this was only half of the assignment. The second half entailed me identifying what I thought those individuals had thought of me. Again, brown-nosing aside I responded to this query with more difficulty than the first. As I responded to the first two individuals with some relative ease, I began to notice a rhythm which I didn’t like. When I arrived at person number four I looked at Jim and sheepishly smiled. My smile rapidly faded and my eyes immediately went to the floor. I was afraid to look at Jim because I know he would see the tears which I was fighting back.

Jim allowed me to sit with these uncomfortable feelings for several minutes before asking me why I struggled to respond to the remaining questions. I explained the remaining answers would be the same as the first three. I’ll never forget what Jim next said to me. Jim’s feet remained where they always were during these meetings, on his desk. His hands remained behind his head and his fingers were laced tightly together; an almost sarcastic, “I know the answer” smile on his face. His lips pursed. Jim discussed the importance of identifying the strengths I saw in other managers, especially those whom I had identified as mentors. Jim reminded me of the importance of finding my own strengths and allowing those to define me and my managerial style. Jim said, “Identify what you respect in others but don’t ever imitate those things. This is sure death. You have the skills and the desire you need to be successful but do that on your own terms.”

Thank you Jim for all you did and for helping me to see who I am and develop those skills. You helped me to be the social worker and business owner I am today. For that I am eternally grateful.

Rest in Peace Jim.



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2 thoughts on “Imitation is Suicide

  1. Thank you for sharing that thread from your life tapestry. I could feel what you were going through via the power of your words and that is high praise. Namaste.

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