I was just writing a couple of chapters for my book and I’m filling in some sections about entrepreneurs. One of the chapters I came across was on stealing. The Pablo Picasso quote that I have for the first line of this chapter is:
Great artists steal.
Here’s a self portrait of the world-renowned thief. 😉
Stealing generally carries a negative connotation around it, but I actually don’t think it’s that bad. Everything that you see around you is basically an iteration. By that I mean, people iterating on or improving the inventions and services of people who came before them.
Steve Jobs used the same Picasso quote when he went to Xerox and basically took a bunch of their ideas (like the mouse). Sugar coat it all you want, but that’s effectively stealing. He just didn’t get sued for it.
When I used to game a lot in high school and college, I spent a ton of time playing this game called “EverQuest.” It was essentially the first real MMORPG (think World of Warcraft), and it often hosted competitions between the best players. I was a druid and I was competing to be the best druid on my server. I really had no strategy in the beginning, but realized there was this German druid that had this really cool strategy.
Basically, I just copied her. No shame about it. I had been losing all the time before that, but in the first tournament I played after learning her methods, I ended up winning the whole thing. In fact, I used that person’s strategy against her. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I think it would be pretty crazy to not copy what someone else is doing if it’s effective.
When I think about everyone I’ve interviewed on Growth Everywhere, 99% of them haven’t really come up with anything groundbreaking or novel. They’ve all made really fantastic iterations on what’s already out there. Granted, there are some notable exceptions.
For example, Ron Klein created the magnetic credit card stripe. But people like Ron are the exception, not the rule, to success.
Or let’s look at Backlinko, Brian Dean’s company, which he started that with his popular SEO blog. Keep in mind, when he started this blog in 2013 or 2014, it wasn’t sexy to start an SEO blog anymore, yet his business pulls in over seven figures a year. His blog gets six-figure visitor counts each month, too. It’s not like he came up with something really novel; he just made little tweaks to existing SEO blogs.
We’re trying to do the same thing at Single Grain, my digital marketing agency, where we run three experiments every week. We use a tool called “Growth Harvest Projects,” which helps us see which marketing experiments other businesses are running.
I think if you want to be successful for the long-term with business (or anything else), you have to steal from everywhere around you. The people who are always trying to be original all the time and come up with their own ideas are restricting themselves needlessly.
There are so many great blog posts out there. There are so many podcasts out there, so many great books out there. So don’t try to make all the mistakes on your own. You can sidestep nearly all of them by learning from somebody else’s experience.
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This post was adapted from Eric’s Facebook Live videos: Growth 90 – DAILY live broadcasts with Eric Siu on marketing and entrepreneurship. Watch the video version of this post: