Ask a kid what they want to be when they grow up, and you’ll hear a lot of “I want to sing like Taylor Swift!” and “I want to play football like Tom Brady!” or “I want to go to outer space like Elon Musk!”
It’s good to have a goal, and I want these kids to reach for the stars – as long as they remember what they bring to the table.
Taylor Swift, for example, is an alto. Tom Brady is a quarterback. And Elon Musk has lots of billions of dollars.
If the child is a soprano, she will never sing like Taylor Swift. Only one human in the world can be Taylor Swift. Anyone who tries to sing like Taylor Swift will inevitably fail.
The same is true for the aspiring quarterback who is also an excellent sprinter and would, in fact, make a great running back. And while you don't need billions of dollars to succeed as an entrepreneur and travel to outer space just for fun, the path might look different.
Lest you think I’m the anti-hero, keep this in mind: A child who wants to be a famous singer should use their own unique, beautiful voice. A child who wants to be a professional football player should play lots of football and figure out which position suits their natural talents. And an aspiring entrepreneur should spend their formative years learning which of their unique talents are most likely to translate into a successful business venture.
Cover bands don’t get record deals.
It’s good to have role models and to look elsewhere for inspiration. But what we bring to the table comes from within, that uniqueness, should not be underestimated.
A new Compliance Officer inheriting a decades-old compliance program from an experienced predecessor should soak up the lessons that are handed down. But the new professional should not stop there. He or she should also look inward and ask: What do I bring to this job? What ideas and strengths do I have that will make this program into something new?
New eyes often provide a fresh perspective. What can you change for the better?