Become a Student of Others

Adrian S. Potter
2 min readFeb 14, 2019

Oscar Wilde Masters the Art of Imitation (The Secondhand Inspiration Project)

Photo by Maddi Bazzocco on Unsplash

The Secondhand Inspiration Project begins with a motivational quote and ventures wherever the creative path meanders.

“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” -Oscar Wilde

Humans are master copycats. People — sometimes consciously, often unintentionally — duplicate the behaviors and actions of others. You believe you’re original in how you do things or the decisions you make, but the only thing special about you is your unique blend of influences.

Whoa. It all makes the concept of identity feel fragile, flimsy, and fake. All the features that make you you — your choices, ideas, desires, style, mannerisms, etc. — are just a slopped-together mash-up of things you’ve picked up from the questionable characters who drift into and out of your life.

It’s not bad. It’s a social adaptation to an antisocial world. A survival mechanism to cope with a paradox. We’re in Rome doing Roman things, trying to stand out without drawing too much attention.

Humans are hardwired to be imitative. And since you’ll inevitably mirror those around you, it’s worth thinking about. Mindful mimicry can be advantageous. Unconscious mimicry can be hazardous.

In the office, do you impersonate the curmudgeon who complains or emulate the go-getter who exudes positivity? On the basketball court, do you copy the flashy antics of show-offs or the gritty work ethic of the players who get to the gym early to master their craft? At school, do you hang out with slackers or study with honor students?

You might not be able to control your instinct to mimic, but you can select who you imitate. Choose wisely.

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Adrian S. Potter

Antisocial Extrovert · Writer and Poet, Engineer, Consultant, Public Speaker · Writing about self-improvement, gratitude, and creativity · www.adrianspotter.com