How to Model Successful People without Copying Them

You’ve heard it said that to achieve success in any area, all you must do is find somebody who has already achieved success and follow the proven path they’ve taken. I believe this is, for the most part, true. Naturally, achieving anything in life will be easier with somebody to guide you who has already done what you’d like to do.

But following a proven path is one thing. Copying somebody is another.

When sitting down to write a sales letter, many people will borrow concepts and ideas from sales letters that have been proven to work in the past. For lack of a better word, this is called “swiping.”

Swiping is perfectly acceptable so long as it doesn’t become plagiarism. Plagiarism is copying verbatim. It is taking another person’s words and calling them your own. According to some definitions, plagiarism also includes the use of another person’s ideas without giving credit to the author of those ideas.

While plagiarism may be a faster way to “success,” it will only hurt you in the long run. For one, you will look like a copycat. When you are seen this way, it will be that much harder to achieve lasting success. Secondly, the person who is innovating will always out-maneuver the person who is merely copying. The innovator will always be one or two steps ahead.

So how does this apply to you?

When you want to find success in a new area (for instance, building a business), study what successful people have done. But don’t copy them outright. Rather, adapt their ideas for your own use. Take what successful people have done and put your own spin on it.

After all, you cannot be somebody else. You are you. So become good at being you.

Take this blog, for instance. As you might already know, I am one of James Brausch’s Magic Email students. He has succeeded in an area I would like to succeed in. That’s why I chose him to mentor me.

You’ll notice some aspects of this blog are similar to James’s blog. But I’ve put my own spin on what he has done. I did not use the same WordPress theme. I spent some time investigating and found a theme I liked that I have not seen anybody else use. This is different from what other people have done. Have you noticed how many of James’s students use the Very Plain Text theme? A lot of them do.

Here’s the problem: Anything that becomes ubiquitous will eventually become ordinary and lose its impact.

(This is why I believe there is more money to be made in keeping secrets than sharing them. Share too many secrets and they aren’t secrets anymore. Worse, they can become commonplace.)

By adapting proven ideas, concepts, and methods, you benefit yourself and others. You strengthen your own position while differentiating yourself in the market. This is what you want. You want a proven path (because it is faster and there is less risk), but you also want to add the one unique element nobody else can copy: you.

-Ryan M. Healy

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Ryan Healy

Ryan Healy is a freelance copywriter, list manager, and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like,, and

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