By Alisa Nelson
What’s the difference between copying an idea and stealing it?
I was taught by a math professor but the deeper concept holds true across the board. The difference between copying someone’s idea and stealing it is that stealing involves your own creativity and voice as you adapt the idea into your specific context. When we are copying, we are trying to fit the pieces of someone else's life into our own. The result is commonly to give up or lose momentum and I believe it happens for two reasons:
1. Since it wasn’t your goal or vision to begin with, you don’t really know why you’re going after it so when the road gets a bit bumpy, you don’t have that deep soul drive that helps you keep going and you don’t know what you’re supposed to do next. It's like following step-by-step instructions that don't account for your specific situation.
2. You get a little ways down this new path and realize you lost your own voice. Creativity stalls because you aren’t speaking (or living) in a way that shows who you are.
It’s difficult to be vulnerable when they aren’t your words and as Brené Brown has shown us, vulnerability is crucial for creativity and innovation. Copying someone else’s vulnerability - even if they are a close match - will leave you feeling dried up in the end.
I write on this from the perspective of a newer online entrepreneur who struggles to stay focused on my own brand as I try to reach my own audience. Maybe you can relate? Our own uniqueness means that we can do similar things and yet speak from a totally different perspective. But we like lists. We want someone to come alongside us and tell us how to turn who we are into a business - or at least a cohesive message. Remember what I said about vulnerability? Bringing who you are, including your need for growth and maturation of your brand, is the best way to spark your creativity and this allows you to actually reach the people you want to reach and influence their lives. From experience, simply copying how other people use Instagram or their writing style won’t get you their results.
So how do you go about staying focused on your brand amidst the overstimulation of the online business world?
1. Write a clear and specific mission statement that includes your target audience and what you are trying to inspire them to do
2. Filter every new idea - blog post, product, social media theme, etc - through that mission statement.
3. Look for the principles behind the success of your online peers - rather than copying their method, identify the bigger ideas that fuel their success. Do they have killer headlines? Do they share personal stories? What kind of value do they offer to their audience? Once you spot the bigger concept, seek to grow your own capability in that area so you can apply it to your brand without losing what makes you unique.
4. Go back to your personal WHY. Why did you start your blog? Why do you love what you do? Remind yourself frequently and let your creativity flow from your confidence in the message you are standing behind.
These steps can seem silly when you’re “on” - you know, when you’re motivated, brainstorming, and getting tons of engagement from your audience. The advantage to having a written out mission statement is for the moments when you aren’t getting engagement. When ideas aren’t coming and you feel like you’re floundering for inspiration. Rather than reaching for social media and looking at what everyone else is doing, dare to take a step back. Go outside, let your mind wander, and get back in touch with your WHY. For me, that has occasionally meant dropping the direction I had been moving in so I can do a course correction. Other times, it’s just staying quiet on social media for a brief period as I refocus. In the end, consistency is only valuable if it is bringing you closer to your desired outcome.
What do you do when you start to lose vision? What habits do you use to stay consistent while maintaining your voice and personal creativity? Share in the comments below.
An original version of this article appeared on Blog Society.