They say when someone copies you, that you should take it as a sign of success. Like you’ve been building your career only to let it be judged by the emulation of others.
It doesn’t make the fact any easier to accept.
As an artist, as an entrepreneur, your ideas, your words, your creations are what make you who you are. You feel this burning desire to share them with the world, because you’re told that is the only way to make them real. But who stops them from being stolen?
Of course, it’s 2016. Is there such a thing as an original thought any longer? Of all the billion ideas circling the planet every day, who’s to say which ones belong to me?
The truth is, imitation is unavoidable.
And yes, they say you should be flattered, but it’s also frustrating as hell. When the painting you created with your own two hands is sold under someone else’s name. When the lyrics you sing are claimed by someone else’s voice.
When the words you read on another website sound just like your own.
I am an artist. Words are my currency. I definitely didn’t invent the English language, but I like to think I have my own way of stringing the letters of the alphabet together. I have a “voice,” shaped by my perspectives, my experiences. My beliefs about the world.
And yet that’s not to say it is unaffected by the influence of others; the writers whose books adorn my bookshelf, the entrepreneurs whose philosophies fill the space between my ears. The great ones I could only ever aspire to be.
My own words are only as unique as those I have read; my ideas only as original as the ones that have come before me.
When you reach a certain point in your business, you will have imitators. You will have competitors. You will even have idea squashers and coattail riders.
Entrepreneurship is a game; and there are going to be a lot of different people trying to play it.
You just have to remember: no one throws the ball exactly as you do.
They don’t have the hours of practice you spent playing catch with your dad on the front lawn of your childhood home. They don’t have the memories of getting lost with your mom while driving to New Brunswick for nationals.
They don’t have your older sister to compete with, or your younger brother to encourage. They don’t have the glove you wore for nine seasons straight, or the lucky socks with the holes in the toes that you refuse to throw away.
These experiences are what give your art—your ideas—life. They’re the compelling truths that resonate with others, not because they’ve heard them before but because they’re authentically you.
And if you really want people to believe in what you are putting out there—the art, the products, the services you are sharing with the world—then you have to make sure it’s truly yours to give.
Those who are busy imitating your work have not taken the time to discover their own truths yet. Try to give them that time. And rather than letting yourself be distracted by it, focus on the next big idea, product launch or blog post you can put together. And then make it all yours.
Because the truth is, the world needs a little more you in it.