“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants” ~ Sir Isaac Newton
Almost thirty years ago I was told a horrible tale by a very bitter man. He was my student band teacher and a very famous musician. We’ll call him “Mr. L”. He had left the world of fame and fortune disillusioned and crushed.
Why? The producer for a mega-famous rock star rejected a song the talented Mr. L had submitted. Months later, on Mr. mega-famous Rock Star’s new album (yes, vinyl) was Mr. L’s song – new lyrics, same tune. Mr. mega-famous Rock Star’s lawyers were vicious. My band teacher gave up, not only on the law suit, but on his own talent.
When I told Mr. L that I wanted to write music for a living, his answer was quick and emotional “DON’T!”. Then more calmly “The world will steal what you have, chew you up and spit you out.” … not exactly the kind of inspiration you want when you are seventeen years old.
I took his words to heart, and did not send my music to producers for their clients to consider. I have always regretted that decision. My piano bench is full of nearly finished songs and great ideas that will never be heard.
Have you come up with brilliant, original ideas, creative works, speeches, stories, titles – and seen your work passed off by someone else as their own?
I have, which would make my band teacher right, but the times I stopped creating and sharing were the darkest, ugliest times of my life.
Speakers have told terrible tales of sitting in the audience and hearing their ideas, teachings, even their PERSONAL stories pawned off by another speaker as original. With masses of information, noise, internet clutter and desperate people struggling to reinvent how they make a living, the less-creative regularly steal ideas, some intentionally (and they know who they are) and some accidentally.
Does that mean you should hide your ideas away, not releasing them until you know they can be protected, prosecuting all who try to scoop them?
Instead of wasting energy hoarding your ideas, why not trade your energy upwards and pour your creativity into continuing to invent, spread your ideas, make a name for yourself, be respected … and copied … throughout the world? If you are trying to monetize every idea that pops out of your head, you must be willing to pay every source you gained your insight, inspiration and knowledge from.
The wisest man to ever live, King Solomon, once uttered “There is nothing new under then sun.” That was almost 3000 years ago. Today, even what we would call new and innovative, has all been done before. We are simply repackaging, in our own words and our own ways, the ideas of giants who came before us.
Look at the successes in your life. What advice did you receive along the way? What TED Talks did you watch? What documentaries inspired you as a child? What phrase lodged in your brain that resonated and has helped guide your path? Who mentored you – whether in person or as a distant role model? What books did you read? What conversations did your brain continue to munch on after parties and social gatherings?
We are heroes on our own journeys. In the heroes’ journey, the hero always receives help at the beginning, usually from someone older and wiser. So many have helped us reach the point we’re at today. So many will help us reach new heights tomorrow. Who can you help through your experiences, insights and ideas?
Rather than become smaller to protect our “intellectual property”, why not expand and be open and gracious, acknowledging that we, inadvertently, have “permanently borrowed” from those who have influenced us? I would trust a speaker who is willing to say “My greatest influences are (fill in the blank). Their wise words have helped me form the ideas I have today.” far more than one who says “I came up with this amazing idea!”
Let the thieves try to take credit for your work.They will be exposed. You will be respected and admired for continuing to create and share. Share as much as you can, every chance you have.
We can reach greater heights than our influences did, only because we are standing on their shoulders. Aren’t you glad they did not choose to stay small and keep their ideas to themselves?
To inspire you in your speech writing, here’s a quick video summary by Matthew Winkler, of the “Heroes Journey”. Enjoy!