How to fast track your success using modelling

NLP had its roots in observing why some people are such effective communicators. It is this premise that we can achieve success through observation that is why modelling is so important in NLP. Modelling offers a very powerful thought: if you can find someone who already has success at what you want to achieve and you model their approach and learn how they do something then you can achieve what they have achieved. This means not only replicating their physical actions but also their emotions and mentality.

In NLP Modelling is the ability to replicate completely the desirable competence of another person and by a process of getting into the unconscious behaviours underneath that skill. The NLP practitioner is able to code those behaviours into a model that they could then teach to other people so they can replicate that skill.Traditionally when you wanted to learn a new skill you could do so by going to a class or reading to a book, or listening to CD’s or watching television. Modelling provides a way to fast track your ability to absorb a skill.

When starting out on your modelling project you need to identify specific underlying patterns in the way that your exemplar (the person you are modelling) operates. Things that you should be looking out for are their beliefs and their values. The model that you will create will be a thing that stands apart from the exemplar. You will be able to take this template and teach other people and they in turn will be able to replicate the exemplars skills.

Modelling is the search to actually give an answer to the question “How do they do that?” We have heroes and other people that we look up to. But for the most part we can only look on with admiration. Imagine instead learning how to replicate their achievements. That is the essence of modelling. The most important thing is that you have a sense of curiosity. You must have the belief that replicating someone success is a problem that you need to solve.

Trying to learn how to replicate someone who is highly successful will probably be overwhelming at first. Say for example we wanted to achieve the same outcomes in our life as Barack Obama. We might want to look at first how to model his ability to give a speech. Obama is an excellent and highly effective public speaker and this is a skill if we could model successfully would be of great benefit to us.

This may sound difficult but it actually a very natural process. As humans most of our behaviour has in fact been modelled on someone else. Look for example at the way you may laugh in the same manner as your mother. Modelling is just breaking this unconscious replication down so that it is repeatable. You probably learnt for example how to ride a bicycle from someone such as your father. You noticed what they did and then you replicated that behaviour. If you want to learn how to be a champion bike racer you will need to find someone else to model.

When you choose to model someone you have to look beyond just the surface appearance. If for example we wanted to replicate Donald Trump’s success we might think acting like a pomposity is a great way to achieve financial wealth. But the way Trump acts on television is probably mostly act. He presents himself as larger as life because that is what works for the camera. His success though is probably more down to factors such his personal drive, his persistence, his skill in negation and mental strategies which accustom him to success.

How do we decide then whether vanity for example is a good predictor of success? One way would be to look at two other successful businessmen and look for commonalities. Is vanity a feature common to all three businessmen? If not what do these three all have in common. If we can discover this then we have found something worth modelling.

The key stages in modelling can be broken down as follows.

Step One: Know Your Outcome

If you don’t know what your desired outcome is at the outset then there is no way of knowing whether you have achieved that outcome. This can be thought of as knowing when to stop.

Step Two: Identifying an exemplar

Next find someone or sometimes a few people who are already achieving the success that you would like to achieve in a similar context to yourself. These exemplars maybe unconsciously competent at whatever they do so this means that they have reached such a high level of skill that they are no longer aware exactly how they do what they do. If you ask them how they do something they might just answer “I just do it.” Modelling is a process of investigation and so you will need to dig a little deeper.


It is generally easier to model an exemplar the closer they are to you. A public figure is often very difficult to model for two reasons. First you do not have easy access to that person on a regular basis making them difficult to model. Secondly they often have a “public persona” which makes modelling the true traits a little more difficult.

Step Three: Find a modelling method you can work with

Modelling at its deepest level is about finding out how an exemplar experiences their world so that they are able to do whatever they do to such proficiency. You cannot just replicate their physical actions but also the way they think, they feel and the way that they behave at any point in time. As someone starting out you will probably want to have some framework or a hypothesis in advance of starting your modelling project.

Look at the following factors when examine your exemplar. Look at their environment, who they spend time with, and what they do. Look at their capabilities. What skills do these people have? What are their behaviours? What are their habits or strategies? What are their beliefs and values? What is important to these people? Who do they see themselves? And what is there purpose? How does what they do fit in with their bigger picture?

Step Three: Gather your data

There are different ways of gathering your data. One is the unconscious uptake approach where you just spend as much time as you can with the person. You can gain an intuitive understanding of that person if you follow this approach. Try not to bring any preconceived notions with you instead merely emulate what they do. This will includeeverything from breathing to the way they carry themselves. Try to feel what is like to be that person and observe what they observe

Another approach is analytical information gathering. This is a much more structured approach which involves gathering data. This is sometimes a more useful approach if you don’t have personal access to your exemplar.

Step Four: Building Your Model

Once you have your data, you will need to build a model which exhibits the patterns you have found in your exemplar. This template is a description of the patterns that would be needed if someone else wanted to replicate the exemplars outcome.

Step Five: Test the Prototype

Once you have your model you are not finished yet. You need to test your model and look at how the model can be improved. Want to find out if it works? Teach it to someone else and see if they achieve the outcomes the exemplar achieved.

Step Six: Refine for Simplicity

You need to find out if an aspect of exemplars behaviour is an essential element of their success. You should look for three occasions where this behaviour has been present in a successful outcome. You may need to look at multiple exemplars so that you can observe three separate occasions.

Of course a successful modelling project does not mean that you will necessarily be able to play golf as well as tiger woods. But by modelling him you can massively improve your own performance and thus your outcomes. Not only this by opening yourself up to successful people and spending time with them you will not be able to help being successful yourself.

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