Imitation is the highest form of flattery. Unless you're a speaker.
Imagine my surprise when I opened up an article to see my content written by someone else. Not just a tagline or a word, but a series of points, using the same words I do, making the same points I make. Okay, so you switched the order. Clever move Einstein.
My first instinct? To throw a hissy fit. My second instinct? To throw another hissy fit. But when I gave it some more thought, I realized it's really no big deal. Some of you speakers out there are gasping in horror because you cherish your intellectual property. I get it. But here's the way I look at it when our competitors use our stuff.
1. It's not always our stuff. Just because I feel like I said it first, doesn't mean somebody else didn't say it before me. Might not be my stuff after all. And perhaps someone is raging at me for taking their content.
2. The fact that they said it, doesn't mean I have to stop saying it. It's still my truth. It's what I believe. I will continue to teach it. Even if that speaker spoke right before me. I'm convinced I could still pull it off.
3. It doesn't affect my brand, reputation, or ability to get business. Not in the least. This business isn't as small as we try to make it. You don't get to claim "customer service" as your own topic. We're not dogs peeing on trees to claim our points. Yes, there are some things that we do to protect and trademark and nobody has the right to steal them. Let's just make sure we know the difference.
4. I've already given people permission to use this – in every audience I've ever taught this message to. If I'm teaching it, why wouldn't people use it? Hello! When we teach, we expect them to use the information we gave them. How can I call this mine when I just told a thousand people yesterday to go out and start using this concept? If I'm shouting it from the rooftops, then eventually my students (if they learned) will be shouting it too.
5. Speakers can always steal content – but they can't steal the experience. And that's what this really comes down to. If my only differentiating factor is the point I'm making, then my career will be short lived. Let people take my material. Let them steal my stories. Let them take my concepts and take ownership of the space I hold. It will keep me on my toes. It will force me to make sure that I'm doing something NOBODY can steal because NOBODY can do it like this. So in a weird way, this was actually a gift for me. The gift of forcing me to become even better. And make more money. And REALLY stand out.
To end on the words of Larry Wingate that are still branded on my brain, "If somebody else can do your material, you're not unique."
(PS It's still not a wise move to take someone else's content. And it's a stupid move to tell their stories and share their original works. You will get burned for that in a big way. Find your own material. Write your own stuff. Be you, not somebody else.)
(PPS Need some help crafting your own original material? Check out my Pink Zebra Playbook which walks you through the three stories you must be able to tell from stage to have the highest level of influence and impact. Click on the button below to check it out!)