I stole it

GNT #070: I stole it

business creativity May 16, 2024

read time: 2.5 minutes

"Good artists copy, great artists steal." - Picasso

For a very long time, I believed that original creativity and breakthrough ideas should magically appear, conjured from the ether.

Isn’t that how all great innovations happen?

In flashes of genius unique to brilliant minds?

But as it turns out... nothing comes from nowhere.

Artists, entrepreneurs, scientists, writers, all have been profoundly influenced by their predecessors and peers.

According to Austin Kleon, embracing the art of "stealing" can catalyze innovation and unleash creativity for anyone.

In today's newsletter, we dispel the myth of originality, explore how you can draw inspiration from your heroes, and reveal how you can use the ideas of others to spark your own breakthrough ideas.

Embracing Influence: The Myth of Originality

Innovation is Recombination

“Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of one or more previous ideas.” — Austin Kleon

A study from the Stanford University suggests that the most transformative ideas are not wholly original but rather clever recombinations of existing knowledge.

The iPhone, for instance, wasn’t the first smartphone, but it was the first to combine a phone, an iPod, and the internet into one device.

Learning from the Masters

Truth = Great thinkers and creators are voracious learners.

They absorb knowledge from their field and beyond, and they aren’t shy about using that accumulated wisdom to fuel their innovations.

Like the Wright Brothers, who applied knowledge from bicycling to solve flight control.


How to 'Steal' Like an Artist

1. Collect and Curate Ideas

Keep an idea journal or Notion page. Scribble down thoughts, doodle, link articles, and jot notes on what you’re reading and observing.

This turns your journal or notes into a personal idea warehouse, where you can combine the knowledge in new and interesting ways.

This method helped me develop my first client growth framework and consistently inspires these newsletters.

(Surprise—they're not entirely original!)

2. Study Your Favorites

Who inspires you?

In 2022, I was obsessed with Justin Welsh's newsletters and even lightly modeled my website's layout after his.

Who are the leaders in your industry? What about outside your industry? How did they succeed/fail? 

Breaking down and understanding their journey can spark ideas for your own path.

3. Remix and Combine

Connecting things.

Take two unrelated ideas and find a way to combine them. 

Steve Jobs combined calligraphy with computers which led to the revolutionary typesetting of the Macintosh.

4. Make It Your Own

When you borrow an idea, add your unique twist or solve a problem in a new way.

This customization is what transforms simple imitation into a tribute.

Remember to credit your sources and acknowledge those who inspire you.



So let's shift that original creativity expectation to one of clever curator.

Being curious and listening to your heart for what lights your fire and what brings you joy.

"Start copying what you love. Copy copy copy copy. At the end of the copy, you will find yourself." —Yohji Yamamoto

See you next week.

p.s. to grab Austin Kleon's book "Steal Like an Artist," click here.



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