alignment

Copycats

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Many entrepreneurs, creatives, and makers who have been at their craft for awhile have had the experience of finding their work, their products, or their content repackaged, duplicated, or plagiarized by others at some point in time. Sometimes, it’s a newer entrepreneur or artist taking “inspiration seeking” to a whole new level. Other times, it’s a massive corporation or brand that has used the work of an independent artist without permission.

Most entrepreneurs and makers I work with deeply value creativity and originality - meaning that it can be difficult to look around and find that someone else has seemingly copied our idea, our product, our content, or in some cases, our entire brand. (A dear friend and client found her entire business - the name, the logo, the website, and even the social media images - plagiarized and up and running as its own business in Asia).

On the flip side, when working with new entrepreneurs and coaches, one of the most common things I hear as an intended early step is “I’m going to go out to [insert name of someone I want to be like]’s site and see how she did it.”

While seeking inspiration can be helpful, the greatest inspiration often comes from looking within - or looking around out in the world - versus looking at other people’s websites or products, especially if those people are in the same industry as we are.

Below, some thoughts on what to do if you feel like you might fall on either side of this equation.

If You Think You Might Be the Copycat:

Have a heart to heart with yourself.

Ask yourself: are you seeking inspiration, or have you moved into imitation? Signs that you might have moved beyond the “inspiration” point: repackaging phrases, content, other people’s wording, descriptions, products or programs; visiting certain websites regularly for inspiration; becoming a bit of a cyber stalker of your favorite entrepreneurs or brands.

Seek inspiration from outside of your industry.

Find inspiring people who do distinctly different work than you do. Get curious about cool things happening in other industries. Ask yourself if it serves you to follow the people who you’re following in your own industry. 

Stop looking around and start looking within.

Take the time you’ve been spending on other people’s websites and LinkedIn pages and Instagram accounts and blogs and redirect that time into reflection and quiet space. Meditate. Go for a walk in the woods. Take time to find your own voice, your own style, and your own way of thinking about and speaking about things. 

Consider: what could be possible if you trusted yourself enough to create your own content and tune into your own ideas, rather than pulling from other people’s?

And what’s currently getting in the way of doing so? Is it a lack of confidence? A lack of trust in yourself? Not being able to find your own voice or your own perspective? Get quiet, spend some time tuning inward, and see what you discover. 

As Marie Forleo, who is often imitated but will never be replicated, says:

“The world needs that special gift that only you have.”

If you think you might have a copycat:

Pause. Take a deep breath. 

In talking with entrepreneurial soul sisters about this topic, I’ve discovered that this can be one of the most hurtful and most triggering things that we encounter as entrepreneurs. We pour ourselves into our businesses, and to find our content recreated, oftentimes by people we historically have trusted, can be a particularly awful experience. First things first - we need to pause and take a deep breath. 

Ask: Is it True? 

Take a page from Byron Katie’s book. When we feel that parts of our business have been repackaged or recreated by someone else, we can ask:

“Is it true?”

And, “can we be absolutely certain that it’s true?”

Oftentimes, the answer - especially to the second question - is no. We cannot be absolutely certain that it wasn’t just a very intriguing coincidence. These questions can help us to move out of a place of unhelpful inner dialogue, and into a place of calm acceptance. 

Remember that it is inevitable. 

If we put our content out into the world, it will be available not only to our communities and our clients, but also, of course, to our competitors. As Seth Godin says, “The easiest products in the world to develop, option, license and get to market are copycat products. They are beyond reproach. They feel safe.”

The truth is that many people want what is easy and what is safe. As a result, copycats will not go away anytime soon. That said, copycat products are rarely as good as the originals. Often the originals are creating more than a product or service; they are disrupting an entire industry and forging a whole new path that others will want to follow.


This is part of the package, and how awful would it be for us to hold back on our content or ideas, for fear of others stealing them? This would be a modern day version of The Miser and The Gold - tragic for everyone involved.

Take a page from my friend Mike’s book. 

A few months back, I asked him how he felt about the number of people who have openly expressed a desire to create an exact replica of the organization that Mike has created. His response? “Good luck! It’s a lot of f$#king work.”

I can’t help but smile to myself each time I think of his response.

Take Oprah’s advice.

“How far you are from the center - from the diveness of yourself, your source energy, that which created you - is how out of sync you are with your life. When you are aligned with this, nobody can touch you.”

Focus on aligning with your center. Put your head down. Make something awesome. Keep creating. And remember that no matter how many words or phrases or pieces of content others might take and repackage, they will never be you. 

Additional Resources, Reading, and Watching:

Inspiration versus Imitation

inspiration vs imitation

Inspiration versus Imitation. It’s a blurred line in our world today, where it’s easy to take other people’s stuff, repackage it into a lovely little black and white quote, repost it, and take credit for it as our own.

I’ve seen this even with incredibly high profile and successful individuals - for example, a leading researcher and author recently being credited for inventing an “amazing new term” in 2019, when in fact I learned this term five years ago from a friend in Vancouver who learned it from someone else before that. Neither my friend nor her friend were cited by this renowned researcher and author, of course. Or another best selling author being credited with all sorts of concepts on interviews and podcasts and reposts that were actually taken verbatim from others, but that are being repackaged in a snappy way on Instagram and in books and being marketed to women across the US with wild success.


”There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.” - Mark Twain

I believe in Mark Twain’s perspective on ideas. I believe that many ideas are a rebirth of some sort of idea that came before. I believe in the myth of the ah ha and the fact that slow hunches are formed gradually - often by bringing together a number of ideas that came before. I believe that ideas are formed from hundreds and sometimes millions of data points - many of which are not even recognized by our conscious mind.

And, I believe that if we are reposting or sharing or recreating something that was explicitly created by someone else, we need to be transparent about this. That the right thing to do is to cite authors and researchers and sources. That if we are reposting a pretty black and white quote of a concept that was created by someone else, that we need to clearly disclose that we are the messenger versus the creator.


In my courses and retreats and workshops and events, I aim to do this by including sources and references for anything I share that is not uniquely mine. Online, I aim to do this by never reposting a pretty black and white quote of a concept that I did not create. And in conversations, I aim to do this by mentioning the source (or at least what I believe to be the source) of concepts that I mention that come from somewhere else.

Some questions we may consider include:

  • If I am sharing something that explicitly came from someone else, am I crediting this person appropriately?

  • If I am inspired by something that explicitly came from someone else, is my version unique and original in some way?

  • Am I regularly creating time to connect to my own inspiration - the inspiration that only lives within me, versus on other people’s websites or social media feeds?

What about you? How do you find the place of inspiration versus imitation? And what are your thoughts about this blurred line between the two, in our current time?

Image Credit: Ben Weber

Building a Personal Board of Directors

personal board of directors

Do you have a personal board of directors?

Just like a company often turns to a board for input on strategy, key priorities, and big decisions, we have an opportunity to create a board of directors in our own lives. This is a small, highly curated group of people who can provide us with expertise, input, advice, deep listening, support, guidance, and outside perspective.

Here is a list of people you might consider for your board.

A Financial Adviser

I started working with a financial advisor in 2008. My only regret is that I didn’t start working with her several years earlier, when I first started working in the corporate world. I have met with her regularly since 2008, and she has helped me not only make smart decisions with my money, but also hold the vision for the life I most want to create.

When I put in my notice at my job, she was the second phone call I made, after calling my family.

A good financial adviser will help you to uncover your priorities and make smart financial decisions accordingly.

I hear many people complain about the fees that financial advisors charge. My perspective is that I pay professionals for most important things in my life; I pay a dentist to clean my teeth, I pay technicians to service my car; I pay lawyers for their legal expertise, and I pay my financial adviser for her expertise and guidance. That said, for those who are uncomfortable with the traditional financial advising payment structure, there are also fee-only advisors who are paid only for their advice and do not earn commissions.

I also hear people say that they need to first prepare on their own or have more savings to be ready to talk to a financial advisor. I lovingly disagree. A good financial advisor can help with this preparation by recommending small, tangible actions to take now, in service of where you want to be in the future.

Not quite ready to talk to a financial advisor, but want to take a baby step? The So Money podcast is a great place to start.

A Coach and/or Therapist

Do you have someone in your life who is helping you work through the most important challenges, opportunities, and decisions before you? Someone who listens attentively, provides a neutral third party perspective, and who lovingly pushes you in toward your highest purpose in the world?

I believe that almost anyone can benefit greatly from working with a coach and/or therapist. One of my earliest coaches once said to me, “you can do things alone - but it will be much harder and take way longer.” I very much agree with this sentiment.

While there are some similarities and also a number of differences between coaching and therapy, here are a few:

What’s Similar:

  • Both a good coach and a good therapist will listen deeply and will be able to hear not only what you say - but also what you don’t say.

  • A good coach and a good therapist will ask you powerful questions that will lead to greater awareness, insight, and often personal transformation.

  • A good coach and a good therapist will hold you, the client, at the center of the process and will honor your goals throughout.

  • Many coaches and therapists have specializations - for example, types of people they specialize in working with, or topics of deep expertise. If either a potential coach or a potential therapist says they work with everyone/anyone, I would personally consider this to be a red flag.

What’s Different:

  • Generally speaking, coaching is more forward-focused (where do you want to go, and how can we work together to get there?) while therapy is oftentimes more past-focused (looking at patterns that have developed over time, family of origin, and events in our past).

  • Therapy may involve a diagnosis or referral from a medical provider. Coaching does not involve any sort of diagnosis or medical treatment plan.

  • Coaching is often a bit more active - with homework, reflection exercises, and/or concrete take-aways and things to try or implement between sessions.

  • Many coaches I know (I’m in this category as well) offer to share their notes with clients after sessions; this is not a practice I’ve seen in the world of therapy.

  • Many companies will cover coaching as part of professional development. Several of my clients use their professional development funds to cover all or part of their 1:1 coaching investment.

  • Some therapy is covered by some insurance providers. Coaching is not.

Of course, these are generalizations, and the specifics will depend on the individual coach or the individual therapist. The important thing is to do your research and find someone you connect with, that you respect, and that feels like a good fit. Referrals from trusted friends or colleagues can be incredibly helpful, because there are lots of coaches and lots of therapists out there - and not all of them are good.

A Mastermind-Type Group

This might be an official mastermind, or it might look like a group of colleagues getting together regularly for a cup of coffee or to discuss a book. The difference between a mastermind-type group and simply meeting up for coffee is that there’s often a specific goal, intention, or topic for the meeting beyond just “getting together” or “catching up.”

I’ve found that some of my favorite mastermind-type groups have a shared purpose and intention, but have some diversity in the backgrounds and perspectives of the members (versus masterminds that, for example, are made up of all people from within my own industry).

Friends and Family

Of course, these people get to play a role on our personal board of directors if we want them to! Our friends and family can provide support, encouragement, and input. While our friends and family members often play an incredibly important role in our board of directors, it can be helpful to remember that their perspective is often not necessarily neutral, since we know each other well!

This is why, in addition to these dear ones in our lives, it can be helpful to round out our board with some of the above individuals.

Questions to Ask

As you consider who to include on your board, you might ask yourself the following questions.

  • who are the people who inspire me?

  • who are the people who help me be my best self?

  • who are the people who help me to feel big and expansive?

  • who are the best listeners I know?

  • who are my role models?

  • who are people I'd like to see more of in my life?

  • who are the people who help me think bigger/see what's possible?

  • who are the people who have my back?

You want people on your board who help you to be your best. This doesn’t meant that they can’t push you or challenge you - but this criticism and pushing needs to be rooted in a place of having your best interest in mind.

In Conclusion

A personal board of directors can be a powerful source of support, advice, encouragement, and expertise and can help us move toward our most important goals.

Do you have a personal board of directors in your life? If not, what’s one small step you could take to begin to create one?

Expanding Our Definition of Self-Care

self-care

The best definition of self-care I've heard goes something like "creating a life that you don't need to escape from."


So yes. Buy yourself flowers. Book a spa day if you can. Sink deeply into the bath tub (you'll find me there most nights during the winter) and light all of the candles. Eat the chocolate. Jump on the bandwagon for Treat Yourself Tuesday.


And also - be courageous enough to look at the things that you might be trying to escape from.

Get quiet.

Tune in.

Go for a walk in the woods, alone with your thoughts - free of podcasts and music and photo sessions for Instagram.

Bust out your journal (any old notebook will do) and a favorite pen.

Write down whatever comes up.

Hire a coach (I know some people).

Find a good therapist (it can be hard but they exist).

Have the tough conversation with your co-founder or mom or sister or friend.

Dare to take a good, hard look at the big stuff, the messy stuff, the things that it can feel easier to try to escape from.

This - doing the hard work, having the tough conversation, looking deep within, and being willing to face what we uncover - is perhaps the most loving and impactful act of self care that we can do.

What Part of This is Also True For Me?

“What part of this is also true for me?”

communication, truth, alignment

I appreciated this question, posed in a workshop that I recently attended.

Rather than jump to ‘do I agree or disagree?’ Or ‘is this right or wrong?,’ an invitation to ponder instead what part - even if a tiny one - in what’s being said, shared, or expressed, might also be true for me?

We can use this in work contexts, in relationships, in meetings, and in heated (or not so heated) conversations to step out of a place of judgment and into a place of curiosity and exploration. It fascinates me to imagine what might be possible if some of our current leaders tried this question on for size, as well.

 

A few questions you might experiment with include:

  • What part of this is also true for me?

  • Even if I disagree, what is the truth that I might be able to see in this?

  • What is the small part of this that resonantes for me?

  • How can I step out of my own perspective in order to really see and hear what’s being said?

  • If I step out of my own position, where are the areas where we’re actually aligned?