I Am A Plagiarist
I admit it. Most of my best ideas are taken from someone else.
Plagiarism: the process of taking another person’s work, ideas, or words, and using them as if they were your own. Someone who does this is called a plagiarist.
I frequently read about the habits and ideas of others and then adopt them as my own.
I guess that makes me a plagiarist.
Let me give you an example.
I am a long-suffering Texas Longhorns fan. Back when we had a good football team we had a quarterback named Colt McCoy (who is still in the NFL by the way). Colt was the ultimate winner at Texas. An all-American kid who said and did all the right things, the quarterback of a winning football team, a good-looking kid who loved hunting, fishing, and his momma. He did well in school and his teachers liked him. Colt is the son every aspiring dad hopes for.
I remember listening to an interview when Colt was still at Texas. He told the story of his dad dropping him off at school or practice every day. Every time Colt got out of the car his dad told him “Be a leader.” He heard that phrase every day of his life until he went off to college. He formed his identity around it.
When I heard him tell that story, I said to myself. “I would love for my kids to be a leader like Colt. I’m going to do that.” And I have. Every morning, I tell each of my five kids “Be a leader. Encourage someone today.”
It’s a blatant rip-off from Brad McCoy and textbook plagiarism according to the definition above.
I am non-discriminatory in my plagiarism.
I do it all the time. Ben Horowitz is a frequent target of mine. So is Simon Sinek. I recently read Reed Hastings’s book on culture and plan on stealing a bunch of his stuff as we grow Tone. I really like Mike Weinberg and his sales strategies. If you watch me run a meeting, you will see his ideas everywhere in my delivery. I unapologetically plagiarize his work all of the time in coaching salespeople.
You should do it too. Look, I know it fits the technical definition of plagiarism, but it does not actually match the spirit of intent. It’s really just copycatting, and it is exactly what the author of the idea intended when putting it out into the public forum.
I’m not the only one doing it. Former Secretary of Defense General Mattis is also a fan of the approach:
“By reading, you learn through others’ experiences, generally a better way to do business, especially in our line of work where the consequences of incompetence are so final for young men. Thanks to my reading, I have never been caught flat-footed by any situation, never at a loss for how any problem has been addressed (successfully or unsuccessfully) before. It doesn’t give me all the answers, but it lights what is often a dark path ahead.” — James N. Mattis
The reason we read and follow accomplished people is to learn from them, gain wisdom. We don’t have to figure it out for ourselves. Someone else already has. It’s a wonderful shortcut.
Don’t overthink it. Take their ideas and apply them directly, preferably as soon as possible. Don’t be so scared of being a derivative thinker or in such a rush to get on to the next book. You will miss the opportunity to gain AND APPLY wisdom.
Look! I am doing it right now!
Right now I am reading Pete Kazanjy’s book “Founding Sales.” Pete was a non-technical co-founder at TalentBin. He was tremendously successful as an early sales guy and eventually sales leader at his company TalentBin. He wrote a book about his experience. I happen to be a non-technical co-founder with a focus on sales. Sounds useful. Thanks, Pete!
I am reading Pete’s book slowly because I am using it as a guide for my early efforts. I take notes and assign myself homework in every chapter. I can’t go on until I do what Pete suggests. It’s been tremendously helpful. I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. I need to experiment with Pete’s approach and figure out what works for Tone. I am through chapter 8, but I am on hold until I can find success implementing and proving out what I have learned to date. (I need to sell more phone systems!)
This isn’t a new idea either.
Rewind a couple of thousand years. Thought by many to be the wisest person who ever lived, Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 10:11: If the snake bites before it is charmed, then there is no advantage for the charmer.
Translation: What good is knowing how to charm a snake if you don’t use that knowledge and get yourself bit?
The point of acquiring knowledge is to put it to use.
So be curious. Be a learner. Read as much as you can. Pay attention to people making a big impact in their community, in their company, in the world. Find people who have successfully done what you are trying to do. (Hey Pete!) Listen to what they say. Try to figure out what makes them successful. What tactics do they use? What habits have they developed?
THEN DO THOSE THINGS!
Don’t overthink it. Pick out the things that might work for you and try them. Make adjustments if you need to, but don’t be afraid to plagiarize them directly. Often the best place to start is doing it exactly the same way first. Then you can evolve and refine your approach to fit you and your environment.
I am a curious person, and I am decent at acquiring knowledge. I am a world-class plagiarist. You should try it.