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How to Find Your Own Success Without Idolizing People in Your Industry

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Is there anyone in your industry you really admire? Anyone you follow intensely on social media? Blogs you read religiously?

If only you could be more like them, your career would be better. If only you could design like them, you could be popular too – maybe even famous.

When people ask who’s my favorite designer, what the best conference to attend is, what blogs I read, where I get my inspiration, or what I think about the latest trend in X, I never have a good answer.

In the past, that left me feeling distant from everyone else – like I’m just a lonely freelancer living in some corner of New York that doesn’t look up to anyone.

How uncool.

I don’t have any favorite designers or blogs I read regularly. I don’t actively invest time into keeping up with industry trends. Yet, somehow I’ve managed to build a really successful freelance career in just a few years. Why?

I’m completely focused on myself and my business.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t have references, notice industry trends inspiration, or gather inspiration. There are people I respect and I do plenty of reading.

When necessary, I’ll go rummaging around the web to get what I need like some kind of pirate.

Some places I look to more often than others. Some people I follow more closely than others. But I don’t waste time wishing I was them. They’re just references.

How does this look in practice?

Instead of idols, have bookmarks. Start widening your searches. Visit new websites or follow a wider variety of people. When you find something valuable, bookmark it. If you start bookmarking things from one source, follow that source or subscribe to the content. When you need it, go back and reference it.

But don’t concern yourself with the success of others, how many followers they have, how many subscribers they have, how long they’ve been freelancing, or how awesome their design style is. That’s not important.

The market is competitive, but it’s not a competition.

You can’t get to where you want to be by focusing on other people.  Focus on improving yourself and your business at your own pace. Focus on creating the lifestyle you want to live. Don’t waste time trying to find someone else’s success, but don’t be afraid to learn from it either.

When we focus too much on others, we lose focus on ourselves. Let others influence you, but make your own decisions. When you do, you’ll find happiness in your own success – even if that looks different than everyone else.

These thoughts were first shared with my private email list. Be the first to get them next time by signing up for my newsletter.

About Matt Olpinski
Matt runs his own web design and development company Matthew’s Design Co. and teaches thousands of freelancers how to succeed through his personal blog, newsletter, and community for freelancers — The Freelance Institute.
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