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Copy Cats Are Boring. Why Is It Better To Be Original?

Copy Cats Are Boring. Why Is It Better To Be Original?

Plagiarism is rampant on the internet. It’s so easy for people to copy, paste, and claim an idea as their own. Unfortunately, lots of people get away with it. Some even thrive on the labors of others. They may be able to skate by, but what are they really getting out of copying someone else’s work?

The simple fact is, you can’t learn and grow if you don’t put in the effort.

We’re all on a quest for originality

Everyone wants to be unique. Originality showcases talent, and it gives you a competitive edge. People don’t want to buy an idea that has been repackaged. New ideas sell.

The pressure to be creative in a world in which everyone is creating and sharing all the time is enormous. To complicate matters, modern life doesn’t often allow us to have the time and focus that we need to innovate. When this happens, many people have a hard time coming up with new ideas and ways to solve problems.

At the first sign of a creative blockage, people may turn to the work of others for inspiration. Sometimes this is enough to get them on track, but they may also be tempted to copy someone else’s idea so that they can get their product out on time.

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Over time, a person can develop a habit of repackaging someone else’s work instead of coming up with fresh ideas. Operating in this fashion may provide short-term relief, but it’s a formula for failure.

    Plagiarism is like skipping levels in a video game

    Imagine you’re playing a game, and you get to a challenging level. Your friend is an expert at this game, so you hand the controller off to him. He easily completes the level, but when he returns the controller to you, you find the new level almost impossible to play.

    Video games, like life, are designed so that you can only advance when you get the skills that you need. Until you are ready to move on, you won’t be able to beat the level.

    Copying is like handing off the controller. You never actually learn how to do what you need to do because someone else did all the legwork. You miss out on developing any real understanding of whatever you’re trying to do when you just copy, paste, and make a few minor adjustments.

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    Just like you won’t have the skills to make it to the next level if you let someone else do the hard work in the game, you won’t have the knowledge to carry out future assignments if you don’t put in the time on the one in front of you. You’ll be stuck living in the shadows of others’ greatness. When you’re in over your head, you’ll be more tempted to continue plagiarizing in the future.

    You can’t copy the spirit of originality

    When someone comes up with something entirely new, there’s this beautiful process that brings it into being. Their experiences combined with their skillsets produce this innovation. This is an invisible but ever-present force in new ideas.

    A copycat won’t be able to give an idea new life because they don’t have the spark. They don’t understand why a material behaves the way it does, or why this model will work for their customers better than that other one.

    The depth of understanding that comes with going through the process of discovery just isn’t there. There’s no substance, and there’s no way to grow. It’s like trying to grow a tree by starting with the trunk instead of beginning with a seed and a root system.

    Copycats can never be first in anything, either. Someone who copies has to wait for somebody else to come up with the original idea before they can remix it for themselves. No matter what you make, it’s always going to be one step behind. It’s the knockoff– the less desirable version of the original. It’s a miserable way to live.

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      Accept nothing less than your personal best

      In The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life, Twyla Tharp states:[1]

      “Our ability to grow is directly proportional to an ability to entertain the uncomfortable.”

      Instead of panicking and copying someone else’s work, embrace your discomfort and be original! It’s fine to be inspired by others’ works, but you don’t have to plagiarize. You have to believe that you can come up with your own one-of-a-kind idea.

      From the outside, there can be a fine line between being inspired by someone and copying, but if you’re the one completing the project, it’s easy to tell if you’re copying. If someone else is doing most of the work, your idea isn’t original.

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      Finding inspiration without resorting to plagiarism is not difficult. Diversifying the places from which you draw inspiration helps. Talk to others working in your field, read lots of books, and continue to consume content related to your work. This builds your frame of reference so that you can create something different.

      Becoming this well-informed is time-consuming, but it’s what will make you an authority in your field. As you learn more, you can learn to ask the right kinds of questions. Knowing what to ask leads you to come up with your own ideas.

      Plagiarism is a cop-out

      You are capable of doing profound things, but you have to give yourself a chance. No matter how tough it seems, keep striving to be an original. In the end, you’ll hold your head high knowing you’ve done something nobody has done before.

      Featured photo credit: Fancy Crave/ Minimography.com via fancycrave.com

      Reference

      More by this author

      Leon Ho

      Founder & CEO of Lifehack

      How Setting Personal Goals Makes You a Greater Achiever The Lifehack Show: Overcoming Anxiety Through Personal Agency with Dr. Paul Napper How to Delegate Tasks Effectively (Step-By-Step Guide) What Is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide) When You Never Stop Learning, These 5 Amazing Things Happen

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      Last Updated on December 3, 2019

      7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

      7 Powerful Steps to Achieve Career Success

      I often hear people say, “I want to be successful but don’t know where to start” or “I’ve achieved career success yet I’m not happy.” And then I ask, “what does career success mean to you?” And many have a hard time articulating their response with much conviction.

      It’s common that people lack clarity, focus, and direction. And when you layer on thoughts and actions that are misaligned with your values, this only adds to your misdirected quest to achieve your career success.

      A word of caution. It’s going to take some time for you to think about and work on your own path for career success. You need to set aside time and be intentional about the steps you take to achieve career success. In my opinion, this step-by-step guide is apart of your life philosophy.

      1. Define Career Success for Yourself

      Pause. Give yourself time and space for self-reflection.

      What does career success mean to you?

      This is about defining your career success:

      • Not what you think you ‘should’ do
      • Not what people may think of you
      • Not adjusting to friends and family’s judgements
      • Not taking actions based on societal or community norms

      “A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms” – Zen Shin

      When you strip away all your external influences and manage your inner critic, what are you left with? You need to define career success that best suits your life situation.

      There’s no fixed answer. Everyone is different. Your answer will evolve and be impacted by life events. Here are a few examples of career success:

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      • Work-life balance
      • Opportunities for growth and advancement
      • Feeling valued that my contributions had an impact

      Now even as you reflect on the examples above, the descriptions are not specific enough. You’ve got to take it deeper:

      • What do you mean by work-life balance?
      • What do you consider to be opportunities for growth and advancement?
      • How do you like to be recognized for your work? How do you know if your contributions have had an impact?

      Let’s take a look at some potential responses to the questions above:

      • I want more time with my family, and less stress at work
      • I want increased responsibilities, to manage a team, a higher income, and the prestige of working at a certain level in the company
      • I’d like my immediate leader to send me a thank-you note or take me out for coffee to genuinely express her or his gratitude. I’ll know I’ve made an impact if I get feedback from my coworkers, leaders and other stakeholders.

      Further questions to reflect on to help narrow the focus for the above responses:

      • What are some opportunities that can help you get traction on getting more time with your family? And decrease your stress at work?
      • What’s most important for you in the next 12 months?
      • What’s the significance of receiving others’ feedback?

      Now, I’m only scratching the surface with these examples. It takes time to do the inner work and build a solid foundation.

      Start this exercise by first asking what career success means to you and then ask yourself meaningful questions to help you dig deeper.

      What types of themes emerge from your responses? What keywords or phrases keep coming up for you?

      2. Know Your Values

      Values are the principles and beliefs that guide your decisions, behaviors and actions. When you’re not aligned with your values and act in a way that conflicts with your beliefs, it’ll feel like life is a struggle.

      There are simple value exercises that can help you quickly determine your core values. This one designed by Carnegie Mellon University can help you discover your top 5 values.[1]

      Once you have your top 5 values keep them visible. Your brain needs reminders that these are your top values. Here are some ways to make them stick:

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      • Write them on cue cards or notes and post it in your office
      • Take a picture of your values and use it as a screensaver on your phone
      • Put the words on your fridge
      • Add the words on your vision board

      Where will your value words be placed in your physical environment so that you have a constant reminder of them?

      3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Goals

      When writing your short-term and long term life goals, use the SMART framework – Specific Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Treat this as a brainstorming exercise. Your potential and possibilities are limitless.

      How you define short-term and long-term is entirely up to you. Short-term can be 30 days, 90 days, or 6 months. Maybe long-term goals are 4 months, 1 year, or 10 years.

      Here are a few self-reflection questions to help you write your goals:[2]

      • What would you want to do today if you had the power to make it the way you want?
      • If no hurdles are in the way, what would you like to achieve?
      • If you have the freedom to do whatever you want, what would it be?
      • What type of impact do you want to have on people?
      • Who are the people you most admire? What is it about them or what they have that you’d want for your life or career?
      • What activities energize you? What’s one activity you most love?

      Remember to revisit your core values as you refine yours goals:

      • Are your goals in or out of alignment with your core values?
      • What adjustments do you need to make to your goals? Maybe some of your goals can be deleted because they no longer align with your values.
      • How attainable are your goals? Breakdown your goals into digestible pieces.
      • Do your short-term goals move you towards attaining your long-term goals?

      Get very clear and specific about your goals. Think about an archer – a person who shoots with a bow and arrows at a target. This person is laser focused on the target – the center of the bullseye. The target is your goal.

      By focusing on one goal at a time and having that goal visible, you can behave and act in ways that will move you closer to your goal.

      4. Determine Your Top Talents

      What did you love doing as a kid? What made these moments fun? What did you have a knack for? What did you most cherish about these times? What are the common themes?

      What work feels effortless? What work do you do that doesn’t seem like work? Think about work you can lose track of time doing and you don’t even feel tired of it.[3]

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      What are your desires? Try it out. Experiment. Take action and start. How can you incorporate more of this type of work into your daily life?

      What themes emerge from your responses? How do your responses compare to your responses from the values exercise and your goals?

      What do you notice?

      5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience

      Do you have tendencies to use your head or heart to make decisions?

      I have a very strong tendency to make rational, practical, and fact-based decisions using my head. It’s very rare for me to make decisions using my emotions. I was forced to learn how to make more intuitive decisions by listening to my gut when I was struggling with pivotal life decisions. I was forced to feel and listen to my inner voice to make decisions that feel most natural to me. This was very unfamiliar to me, however, it expanded my identity.

      Review this list of Feeling Words. Use the same technique you use for the values exercise to narrow down how you want to feel.

      Keep these words visible too!

      Review your responses. What do you observe? What insights do you gain from these responses and those in the above steps?

      6. Be Willing to Sit with Discomfort

      Make career decisions aligned with your values, goals, talents and feelings. This is not for the faint hearted. It takes real work, courage and willingness to cut out the noise around you. You’ll need to sit with discomfort for a bit until you build up your muscle to hit the targets you want.

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      Surround yourself with a supportive network to help you through these times.

      “These pains you feel are messengers. Listen to them” – Rumi

      7. Manage Your Own Career

      Not to be cynical, but no one can make you happy but yourself. If you don’t take control of your career and manage it like your own business – no one will.

      Discern between things that you can control and what you can’t control. For example, you may not be able to control who gets a promotion. However, you can control how you react to it and what you’ve learned about yourself in that situation.

      Summing Up

      For many who have gone through a career change or been impacted by life events, these steps may seem very basic. However, it’s sometimes the basics that we forget to do. The simple things and moments can edge us closer to our larger vision for ourselves.

      Staying present and appreciating what you have today can sometimes help you achieve your long-term goals. For example, if you’re always talking about not having enough time and wanting work-life balance, think about what was good in your work day? Maybe you took a walk outside with your co-workers. This could be a small step to help you reframe how you can attain work-life balance.

      Remember to take time for yourself. Hit pause, notice, observe and reflect to achieve career success by getting deliberate and intentional:

      1. Define Career Success for Yourself
      2. Know Your Values
      3. Define Your Short-Term and Long-Term Life and Goals
      4. Determine Your Top Talents
      5. Identify ‘Feeling’ Words You Want to Experience
      6. Be Willing to sit with Discomfort
      7. Manage Your Own Career

      “When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.” – Lolly Daskal

      Good luck and best wishes always!

      More Tips on Advancing Your Career

      Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

      Reference

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