Re-reading The Magic of Thinking Big by Dr. David J. Schwartz and one of the chapters is called “you are what you think you are”. Although I think it’s worth reading through the book yourself, the chapter in short talks about how how the image you have of yourself in your mind is the person that you become. If you think you are a slob, unhealthy, and someone that does not treat their family well then chances are you are a slob, unhealthy, and you don’t treat your family well. On the other hand, if you think you dress confidently, lead an active lifestyle, and prioritize family time, you will act the way you think.

The Avatar Strategy

David recommends identifying someone successful in your life. It’s not enough to identify that successful person (or for a lot of us, the successful people), but rather, to embody their values, mindset, and life. For example, if you want to be more active, you might think of your Fitness Instructor friend who seems to eat as much as she likes but always seem lean and muscular. Or if you want to move up in your company, you think of your friend who is currently CEO of her company.

The Avatar Strategy is simple: every time you have a choice to make, think of the avatar or role model in your life that is best suited for the choice, and then make whatever choice you think they would make.

Examples of this:

  • You have a choice of different meals for lunch. You think of your fitness instructor friend and know that they would choose high protein low carb meals. Therefore, you decide on the same type of meal.
  • Your boss calls you into their office and tells you they have ‘extra work’ she wants done and is looking for some help from her employees. She says that everyone seems to be at capacity, but would you be willing to do the work? You think of your CEO friend (or that entrepreneur friend) and realize this is a great opportunity to take on more responsibility.

Breaking down the Avatar Strategy into specific tactics

The strategy sounds simple, just do what more successful people do, but a careful look at the tactics is needed here as you may have the following questions when applying the strategy to your life:

  • Who should I use as my role model? (I don’t know anyone or I don’t know anyone successful)
  • Can I change my role model? When?
  • Can I use role models that aren’t in my immediate circle?
  • How do I know I am deciding in the same way as my role model?
  • Can I do exactly the same thing as my role model and be successful? When does it make sense to decide differently?

Note: before using the avatar strategy, you will need to define what success looks like for you in a particular area or field. The definition of success is different for everyone and so a role model for you might not be the same role model for your friend.

Who should I use as my role model?

  • The best way to use the avatar strategy is to identify the people in your network that are immensely successful (again, whatever that definition looks like for you) and if you have a good relationship with them, you can abandon the avatar strategy completely and instead develop a mentor-mentee relationship where you can ask for their advice, feedback and guidance directly.
  • If there are people in your network that aren’t tremendously more successful than you, that’s okay. You can use those individuals as a starting point.
  • If you have no-one in your network that you consider more successful, look outside your network. Consider the use of biographies or autobiographies as a way of tapping into expertise that you normally wouldn’t have access to.

Can I change my role model? When?

  • Yes, you can. And you should change your avatar when your avatar is no longer a north star for you and pointing in the direction you want to grow and develop in.
  • One factor to consider: all individuals have their own path to success – the more unconventional the path, the more likely it is you’ll be successful too because others haven’t copied the same path as you with more conventional (or well-known) success paths.

Can I use role models that aren’t in my immediate circle?

  • Absolutely. In fact, I do this with thinkers and leaders that just aren’t accessible to me right now. Think Tim Ferriss (entrepreneurship) or Seth Godin (marketing). An easy way to find the best thinkers is to look through Amazon or your local bookstore and search for books on topic ‘X’ – check out the names of those authors and see if they have newsletters or a blog online you can read before making them your avatar.
  • Books aren’t the only way to tap into individuals not in your network – podcasts, interviews, YouTube clips, their blog or newsletter, online courses, etc. – there are many ways to get access to your desired role model’s way of thinking.

How do I know I am deciding in the same way as my role model?

  • Short answer, you don’t. The avatar strategy is a North Star but just because you follow the North Star doesn’t mean you will go exactly north, instead, it is a guide to help you go in a northerly direction. The avatars help you develop and grow in the direction you desire by helping you make decisions that align with those individuals and their values and mindset (which you desire for yourself).

Can I do the same thing as my role model and be successful? When does it make sense to decide differently?

  • You can, to a point. I read once about a Medium writer who used the same title and article structure as another successful Medium writer to become successful themselves. At some point though, you do have to venture on your own to carve your own path.
  • When does it make sense to carve your own path? You will sense when you start becoming a little too close to your avatar or you find your sense of growth and improvement is not as great as before when you first started.

Tony Robbins says “success leaves clues”. Seems like a simple statement but there’s a powerful lesson in the quote: identify who is successful around you, look at what they do, copy their specific tactics, adapt what works, learn from your mistakes, and you too will be successful.