When Daniel Coyle was researching “The Talent Code”, he noticed a peculiar behavior among athletes training in the world’s best camps. Students had inspirations and idols, just as most of us do, but they also took things a step further. They studied their idols with borderline fanaticism: before practice, after practice, every day of the week. They watched tapes of their performances. Students mimicked the habits of their idols and replicated their movements.
When your view out onto the world is filled with world class examples of who you want to become, it changes the way you approach your practice. And even a minor association with a role model can improve the amount of effort you devote to a task. In one study, subjects who believed they shared a birthday with a mathematician worked 62% longer on a difficult mathematics task.
Role models are more than just inspiration. One of the best ways to improve as an artist is to steal from your idols. That’s why comedians will study the exact length of the pause before a Mitch Hedberg punchline. It’s why chess players will re-play classic games by the grandmasters. It’s why some novelists type paragraphs by their favorite authors before settling down to write for the day. Your role models are a gold mine of information as you improve.