The Death of the Copycat

You don’t have to run your business the same way, do your art in the same style, know the same people or have the same amount of social media popularity as someone else to get the same (or better) results as them.

Like a xerox copy, as you reproduce an original over time, the picture becomes distorted and blurred until it’s barely legible. Sure, you can mimic someone else and you might even get good results at first. But your work masquerading as a dull emulation of theirs will never be as strong as your own work standing alone, even if yours isn’t as “technically” sound yet.

It is helpful to learn from the people who are already doing what you want to do. No denying that. You should steal little hints of greatness from everything that inspires you.

In the beginning stages, learning to model the work of others will be vital to your development as a creative. Austin Kleon writes about this process in one of my favorite books, “Steal Like an Artist.”

But you have to know when it’s time to shed the protective layer of protegé and summon the courage to take a shot at becoming a master of your craft. The courage to stand alone with your work, good or bad.

You can’t simply redraw the same picture as someone else with a different color crayon and call it “original” work. You have to add something useful. Or subtract something unnecessary.

Try to add a new perspective that’s only visible through your eyes. Work until you create something that makes people pause, tilt their head ever so slightly to the side and wonder how they’d missed that detail before.

If we don’t create truly original work, we will always be reaching without grasping.

When you spend all your creative energy following others, you’ll never get a chance to fully develop your unique perspective. You’ve based your entire understanding of creativity on dutifully taking notes and now, you’re two steps behind the real change makers.

That’s a bad place to be.

Daniel DiPiazza

Daniel is the founder and CEO of Rich20Something. A millennial business mastermind, he has successfully started three consecutive freelance businesses and scaled them to over $100K in revenue with zero startup capital. His work is regularly featured in Time Magazine, Fortune, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, Fox News, and Yahoo! Business. His debut book, Rich20Something, publishes on May 2, 2017.