Trying Things on for Size

Playing Dress-Up

When you’re playing dress-up, you don’t need a fully-stocked toolbox to decide whether or not you want to be a carpenter. How can these roleplaying games of our childhood help us build better, stronger, more successful businesses?

Bliss for Business

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Playing Dress-Up

Do you remember playing dress-up? High heels, breastplate from a plastic suit of armor, an old flannel shirt, a hammer, a tutu? (Or was that just me?) When you’re a kid, putting on those clothes is more than just a game; it’s a way to “try on” different personas, to for a moment be a superhero, a princess, a teacher, a ballerina/knight/carpenter…an *adult*. Somebody doing something that you might want to do someday. Or at least for the next few minutes, anyway.

Like many of the wonders of childhood, playing dress-up falls by the wayside in adulthood. Well, unless you’re into theatre or cosplay, I suppose. I don’t believe we need a literal trunk of clothes to try things on for size, but there’s a definite freedom in the kind of free-form, safe exploration that comes with childhood games. I think we could all do with some of that every now and again.

There are lots of states of “stuckness” in the entrepreneurial journey, but one of the most dangerous is what I call the “modeling model”. It works like this: you see someone that you perceive as successful, and you think, “ooh! I want that!” (“That” being a level of income, or popularity, or what have you.) So you look at what they’re doing *right now*, and you do your best to replicate those exact actions – because those things made that person successful, right?

There are two key things missing from the modeling model, though. First and foremost, they are not you. Their wants and desires, their background, their offerings, their “big why”, their definition of success – none of that is the same for them as it is for you. I guarantee it. Which means that what works for them (or doesn’t) isn’t going to necessarily do anything for you.

More importantly, though, is that they didn’t get to where they are now by doing what they’re doing now. They got to where they are now by doing things they did before. Leonie Dawson, for example, might be on track for a $500,000 year, but she’s been blogging, building an audience, trying different techniques, for eight years. Eight years. Danielle LaPorte has been open about her failed-in-a-big-way business-with-investors that happened a few years before where she is now. I walked away from five years of blood, sweat, and tears in a company I founded to chase something different, and have been able to use what I learned there to springboard my own new successes. But none of us are doing today what we were doing a year ago, or five years ago, or a decade ago.

It’s bad to model your actions on someone else’s outright. Your actions need to be your own, based in your own goals and dreams and motivations. But there’s no better way to learn than to dive on in…so where’s the happy medium?

Go find a big blue hat and play along. (Yes, that really is me in that big blue hat above.)

Go explore. Find people whose successes and actions you admire, and study what they’re doing. Take away pieces from that, and put their social media tone or their newsletter format or their catchy jungle into your box of dress-up clothes. Take it out, piece by piece, and try it on for size. How does it feel? Does it need alterations to suit you, your dreams, your message? Get out the glitter pens and safety scissors and make ’em happen. Play with these things in small pieces, in safe spaces, to see what works for you, and then try them out as they feel good and right to you.

After all, you don’t need a fully stocked toolbox to decide if you want to be a carpenter.

And maybe, just maybe, you’re better off as a ballerina/knight/carpenter anyway. 🙂

Danielle NelsonHi! I’m Dani. I’m a writer, teacher, business coach, and signal-booster, and I’m on a mission to help you make your business more awesome, more successful, and more you. (With tea. Tea is always good.)

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