I think knowing what other people have done is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, understanding strategic moves and even what mistakes a role model has made is valuable. But I think it's valuable more so as a motivation and maybe as a positive "it's okay if you stumble" reminder. The value is not in a detailed roadmap of how you can duplicate her success. Knowing what someone has done to reach whatever kind of "success" they've accomplished can be tempting to recreate.
Everyone's success is a result of different choices and unique decisions. These choices and decisions are rooted in their personality and their circumstances. I think it's even more important to remember that there are an infinite number of paths to success. In fact, the very definition of success can vary greatly from person to person. Reaching a specific goal, or earning money, or traveling around the world, winning an award, getting into a university, having a loving family.... it's up to the person to decide.
I talk a lot, and think about, the importance of following my own path. Sometimes, I admit, I look at what others have done and I'm tempted to do the exact same thing. If I can move to that city, and work in a similar company, and follow the same timeline as she did.... then I can be just like her. But that's not the way it works, of course!!
Instead of looking at what she did, take a closer look at what she did. I know, that sounds completely wrong. I mean this, don't tally the detailed events but instead look at the root of the decision.
She started a small photography business on the side because she was always snapping pictures at her sister's soccer games. What do you always do for fun that people respect and value?
She took an internship at a fashion company because she wanted to learn more about the industry. What do you want to know more about?
See the difference? If you look within yourself and choose your path based on your own passions, interests, and desires.... you'll be one step closer to finding your own success. (Oh, it's also really important to define what success is for you, not necessarily what someone else thinks it should be!)
For me personally, I did so many things that a lot of people looked at and labeled as crazy. While they were absolutely different than what most were doing, it was absolutely what was right for me. And, I have to say that I have definitely reached what I would consider success and I'm on my way to continuing to reach my future success. I'm even criticized now because I didn't get traditional internships and shouldn't have the job or live in the city that I do... I think it's because I didn't do the traditional route that I found myself where I am!
What makes me different?
Where do I spend most of my free time?
My top three strengths are... and my weaknesses are...
When I close my eyes, how do I see myself in 5, 10, or 15 years?
If I could do anything, I'd want to...
I love learning about...
When you have to make decisions (which city should I move to, what school should I apply to, is this the right internship for me), refer back to the answers you have! I find it much easier to answer the questions when there's no pressure of a looming decision. And then when you have to make a decision, the answers are already composed for you to look back to.
This quotation from a recent interview with Mickey Drexler and I love it. Don't be predictable. Do "you."