I remember as a young boy learning the word imitation and it's various uses, both negative and positive. At that time, at least to me, the word seemed mostly negative. I would hear, "That is just a cheap imitation." I attached a negative meaning to that expression as well as from seeing the quality of the items that were being referred to. Then one of my brothers was teasing a younger one who complained to mother by saying, "Mom, he is imitating me!" To me, both of those meanings were negative and I don't believe I came to know the positive aspects of imitations or imitating until many years later. I was told that during WW II natural products were often substituted by some type of synthetic substance. For example, tires for civilian vehicles were made out of a synthetic or imitation rubber so that the better and more reliable tires made from real rubber would be available for military vehicles used in the war effort.
Margarine became a very poor substitute or imitation for butter. It came in a white one pound bar with a little package of reddish/orange coloring. The package of coloring had to be mixed into the white margarine until it was supposed to look yellowish like butter but it never did look or taste like butter. The fat in the butter was used to make explosives; at least that is what I had heard. Instead of nylon stockings women had to wear stockings made out of some type of synthetic imitation or use the painted on stocking effect. The synthetic nylons developed runs very easily and so it was not unusual to see at least one run in a woman's stocking. I remember seeing mother putting a little fingernail polish on the beginning of a run, which was supposed to stop it from continuing to run. The real nylon material had to be used in making parachutes, etc. There were many more examples of cheap imitations but those imitations got our nation through the war without too much deprivation.
Many of the imitations today, however, look as good if not better than the genuine product. They say that the average person can't tell the difference between a real Rolex watch, for example, and the imitation. There are a lot of imitations, even in the world of art. There are artists who specialize in creating almost perfect imitations of original and very valuable pieces of art. There are even people who try to imitate other people. Some have become enamored with someone famous and find themselves imitating their behavior. For example, there are many who try to imitate Elvis Presley. Sadly, there are people that try to imitate infamous figures from history that were evil and destructive.
Francesco Guicciardini stated that, "He who imitates what is evil always goes beyond the example that is set; on the contrary, he who imitates what is good always falls short." The young of the human family as well as the young in the animal kingdom learn and grow by imitating their parents and others who are older. Being able to observe the process of imitation is both wondrous and often humorous. I was watching a short video of a small puppy learning how to come down a set of stairs. Obviously the puppy was scared to take the first step. So his mother went up to the top and showed or demonstrated for the puppy how to do it. The puppy would start to follow but then hesitate so the mother went back up to the top and demonstrated again and she actually had to show the puppy about six or seven times before the puppy gained enough confidence to imitate its mother and took its first step down the stairs.
From the alleged quotes of Confucius we find the following: "By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter." If the easiest way to gain wisdom is by imitating others then imitation should be recognized and professed as the primary method of learning throughout the land. The Preacher in Leviticus said that: 'There is nothing new under the Sun,' meaning that no matter what we say or do, it has already been said or done somewhere, at some time in this world. If that is true then we are all, unwittingly, imitators.
Imitation has also been said to be one of the sincerest forms of flattery. That, however, would only be true if we were aware of the person we were imitating beforehand. Imitation then, like many other things 'under the Sun', has both a positive and a negative value or side to it. On the positive side we can gain wisdom by imitation and we can often become better people by emulating or imitating those whom we know are good. The best and the 'easiest' way to become a successful insurance and financial advisor is to sit down next to those who are already good advisors and to begin to imitate what they do. To think that you can just start at home and become successfully involved in this relatively complex profession is probably the wrong approach. Virtually everything we have accomplished in life, whether in part or in whole, we owe to the art of imitation. I have heard people tell about starting on their own, over and over, and then giving up because they just didn't know how or what they were doing. They were like the puppy at the top of the stairs without the mother nearby to show them how. Imitating knowledgeable insurance and financial advisors either within your agency or within NAIFA is the very best way to become experienced and successful. You have learned via imitation all your life, don't stop now, nor feel embarrassed about it. The work is a good work and a work that may be more important than any other that you will ever be involved in. It is the work of this noble profession. Do your work so that others will want to imitate you.
Richard Ek, LUTCF
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