Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old; seek what they sought. - Basho
One of the dangers of following a hero is the temptation to emulate them too much instead of walking our own path.
A friend mine quit his job and started his own company when he was twenty-four years old. Five years later he sold out for millions of dollars.
We want to be like him so we try the same thing and go broke. What happened? Is the universe against us? No. We just got confused about the difference between learning from a hero and trying to walk his path.
The path of my friend may have led him to start a company; your path may also lead you on that course, just not at the same time in your life.
We can still learn much from our heroes and the people we admire. Just be aware that their path and time frame may be different from ours. When the time comes for you to start that business, learn a new skill, enter into a relationship, or whatever you’re hoping to do, the experience will be there.
The experience will be ready for you when you’re ready for it. Your timing may be different from everyone else’s.
I know people who got married after knowing each other for only two weeks and then stayed mostly happily married for more than thirty years.
I know people who date each other for years and still can’t decide if they’re ready to commit. My friend made the transition from living in the Midwest to living in New York in months. We each have our own stride and path. And while many of our lessons are similar, each of us is unique.
If we spend our time trying to emulate a person rather than an idea, we’ll at best be an inferior version of our teacher and at worst will never discover our own path.
Their stride will be too long or too short for us, and we won’t learn the true lesson, which is to trust our inner guide. Gautama Buddha found enlightenment while sitting under a banyan tree; Milarepa found it while living as a hermit in a Himalayan cave.
Gaining enlightenment isn’t an exercise in following a person; it’s an exercise in following your heart.