“I was a pretty good imitator of Roy Acuff, but then I found out they already had a Roy Acuff, so I started singin’ like myself.”
— Hank Williams
There are a few dimensions to this one, so buckle up…
Let’s get this out there on the table first: the world needs you to be you, not somebody else. Unless you’re an actor, I guess; then you should go be somebody else.
Failing a career in the dramatic arts, it’s up to you to “find your voice” and make your own unique contribution to the world.
But also, the world wants to categorize you. They need to do it because our brains have to conserve as much energy as it can. So there’s always a relational role at play. You’re going to be thought of as “one of those,” but it’s up to you to let them subtly know which role you’re going to play.
As an expert of some sort, people want to know if you’re functioning as an investigative reporter, as an advocate of a tactic or system, a disrupter, or as a parental figure (either loving or stern). There are a few other choices, but you get the idea. This is how people are going to relate to you, so choose wisely.
This is not the same as being unoriginal. This is you telling your audience what gear it needs to be in so they can deal with you.
On a higher level, we also have the issue of an Authority Archetype, and the waters get a little murkier for some folks…
I’ve become sort of known for helping experts find a figure from history that they can emulate. This does not mean that I teach people how to “copy” someone else and think that they will get the same results. Not at all.
You can take someone else’s strategies, make them your own, and create something completely different. Much like there are only seven basic plots that all stories are built upon, there are a handful of archetypes that represent the basic strategies for building authority.
Don’t steal, but don’t reinvent the wheel, either.