I remember a few years ago, I was watching D get his ears candled.

Shahnaz, our wonderful esthetician, mentioned that I could do it, and I thought, “Hmmm, sure looks simple enough.” But as I sat there and watched, I had this thought: Emulating is one thing, knowing is another.

I certainly could do it. But I’d be emulating what I saw Shahnaz do. The gentle back massage, the pressure applied along the underside of the cheek-bone… all easy enough to do. But I wouldn’t have a clue about what I was really doing, or why.

Shahnaz, trained in anatomy and physiology, as well as being specifically trained to do candling, knows what she’s doing. As a result, she’s more effective and efficient, and D’s result would have to be better than it would have been if I did it, emulating only what I’d seen Shahnaz do.

In life, there are many things we learn to do by emulation, and some of it is perfectly fine; emulation often helps us find what matters to us, and how we want things to be for us. But when it comes to professional skills, we can fall for thinking that emulation looks good because it gives the sense that it’s a faster (and often far less expensive) path to the desired end result. In reality, it’s not good, because there are far more things to figure out on the back end to make what’s being emulated look good/right/appropriate/professional.

Emulating what you see another doing isn't the same as knowing what YOU are doing

In reality, emulation is a very backwards approach for getting to a desired end point. When you emulate, instead of feeling confident, there’s likely to be a piece of you that will always feel like a fraud.

Nobody wants that.

Additionally, when you know what you’re doing, there’s a shortened learning curve, potholes and roadblocks are more easily moved out of your way, and you see more success, more quickly. Moreover, the people you do it for will have a better experience of it, be happier, overall, and the value you create will be higher, and more valuable.