I remember when I was a fresh-faced designer, just dipping my toes in the turbulent waters of the business world. At a casual coffee catch-up, a seasoned veteran in the industry – let’s call him Frank, looked me in the eye, and with a playful smirk said, “Kid, if you want to make it in this game, you’ve got to learn to steal.”

I remember nearly spitting out my espresso. Steal? Was this guy serious? But Frank, with his casual cool and a devilish twinkle in his eye, repeated himself, “Not lift a wallet, no – I’m talking about ideas. Steal like an artist.”

Those words stuck with me, resonated, gnawed at my mind. It felt like a dirty secret, an unspoken rule of the game, and I was intrigued. What the heck did he mean by “steal like an artist”?

Well, folks, fasten your seat belts, because we’re about to dive into the rabbit hole that is creativity and originality.

We’ve all heard it – the phrase that makes every creative’s blood run cold: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Picasso said it, Steve Jobs made it famous, and it’s become the controversial mantra of the modern creative era. You’re probably thinking, ‘That’s straight-up bonkers! Real creativity is all about originality, right?’

Well, hold on to your assumptions, ’cause we’re about to flip them on their head. We’re not talking about swiping someone’s work and slapping your name on it. No, that’s for losers. We’re talking about taking an idea, twisting it, reshaping it, adding your unique spin, and transforming it into something distinctly your own. That’s what Frank meant. And that, my friends, is the essence of ‘stealing like an artist.’

Whether it’s your favorite band, acclaimed directors like Quentin Tarantino, or even good old Steve Jobs, they all have one thing in common – they stole. They stole, but not in a way that would land them in a courtroom; they took their influences, combined them, reimagined them, and made something that was uniquely their own.

The key takeaway? Don’t be afraid to steal. Embrace influences, remix them, make them your own. It’s not a crime scene; it’s a buffet. So grab a plate and start filling it with stuff that ignites a fire in your creative belly.

Your unique blend of influences, experiences, and perceptions – that’s your superpower. That’s your originality. It’s time to rethink what it means to be original. It’s not about creating in a vacuum; it’s about taking what exists, remixing it, and making it scream your name.

Get ready to embrace the art of stealing. After all, you’re not a pickpocket; you’re an artist.

Unpacking the Concept: Copy vs. Steal

Let’s dig a little deeper here, shall we? The saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal” may have left you scratching your head. I mean, isn’t stealing bad?

That’s where we hit our first roadblock. See, in the wild, wonderful world of creativity, we’re not talking about pickpocketing or heists. Instead, when we say ‘steal’, we mean soaking up inspiration from the world around you, mulling it over, and then using it as a stepping stone to create something distinctly your own. It’s about interpreting, not replicating.

But then, you might ask, isn’t that just copying? Well, not quite. Here’s the thing, copying and stealing, in this context, are as different as chalk and cheese.

Copying, in the world of art and creativity, means just replicating what someone else has done. It’s like tracing a drawing line for line, color for color, without adding anything of your own. Sure, you might learn a technique or two, but you’re not creating anything new or original. You’re not contributing to the creative dialogue; you’re just parroting.

Stealing, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. When you ‘steal’, you’re not just blindly copying. You’re absorbing, internalizing, and then reshaping in a way that reflects your unique perspective. You’re engaging with the material, having a conversation with it, and then adding your voice to that conversation.

And that brings us to the million-dollar question: where’s the line between inspiration and plagiarism? That’s a tricky one. Plagiarism, at its core, is about passing off someone else’s work as your own without giving credit. It’s about deception. Stealing ideas or being inspired by them, on the other hand, is about engaging with the work, crediting the original, and then building upon it to create something new.

So, to put it simply, good artists copy – they replicate without adding their own spin. Great artists, however, they steal. They take ideas, wrestle with them, and then put them out into the world transformed and reborn. They create a mosaic of their influences and experiences that is entirely their own.

The takeaway here is that creativity isn’t born in a vacuum. It’s a dialogue, a constantly evolving conversation with the world around us. It’s about seeing, interpreting, and reshaping. So, don’t be afraid to steal. Just make sure you’re adding your voice to the conversation.

The Art of Stealing in Music

Now, let’s turn the dial and tune into the world of music. You may not realize it, but the songs that make you tap your foot, nod your head, or even shred some wicked air guitar, are often the result of artists stealing like pros.

Think about your favorite bands. You’ve probably noticed that their music is influenced by certain genres, periods, or even specific artists. These influences are not a sign of a lack of originality but rather an essential part of the band’s identity. Why? Because they’re not just copying these influences; they’re stealing them.

Take The Beatles, for example. One of the most successful and influential bands in the history of popular music. They started off playing covers of Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley. But as they grew, they absorbed these influences, tweaked them, and transformed them into something uniquely Beatles.

And that’s how it usually goes. Musicians listen to other musicians, they steal ideas, and then they twist and mold those ideas to fit their own voice. They use their influences as a foundation, a sort of launchpad to take off and explore new creative spaces.

This is especially true in the era of remix culture. Remixing is, at its core, a form of creative theft. It’s about taking an existing piece of music and reworking it to create something new. Remixes can change the tone, the tempo, even the genre of the original, producing something unique and fresh. They embody the spirit of ‘stealing like an artist’, taking someone else’s creative output, and building upon it.

So the next time you’re listening to your favorite song, remember that it’s probably the product of a whole lot of ‘stealing’. And that’s not a bad thing. In fact, it’s a testament to the artist’s ability to take their influences, however disparate, and create something that’s uniquely theirs.

Remember, great art isn’t created in a vacuum. It’s a conversation, a dance of influences and ideas. So don’t be afraid to steal, to remix, to reinvent. After all, in the world of creativity, stealing isn’t just accepted; it’s celebrated.

The Genius of Stealing in Film

Switching gears, let’s set our sights on the big screen. If you’re a movie buff, you’ll understand that the art of stealing shines bright in the world of film. And one of the most brilliant thieves in Hollywood is none other than Quentin Tarantino.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Tarantino, a thief? The guy’s a genius! And you’re right. But part of his genius lies in his ability to steal like an artist. His films are jam-packed with references and homages to other movies, comics, music – you name it.

Take his classic, “Pulp Fiction”. This cinematic masterpiece is a cocktail of references, from the obvious to the obscure. The golden briefcase, the dancing scene, the iconic Royale with Cheese conversation – each is a ‘stolen’ piece, a homage to something else, something that inspired Tarantino.

But here’s where Tarantino’s genius truly shines. He doesn’t just copy-paste these references into his movies. No, he remixes them. He weaves them together into a unique tapestry that’s undeniably his. He takes the familiar and transforms it into something fresh, something unexpected, something that screams ‘Tarantino’.

This process of remixing influences is not exclusive to Tarantino. It’s common in the world of film. Directors pay homage to their predecessors or contemporaries, incorporate their influences into their work, and create something that, while standing on the shoulders of giants, is uniquely their own.

So, the next time you watch a film, try to spot the influences, the references, the ‘stolen’ pieces. And remember, these are not signs of a lack of originality. On the contrary, they’re a testament to the director’s ability to ‘steal like an artist’ and create something truly original.

Don’t let anyone tell you that stealing is always wrong. In the world of creativity, stealing is an art form. And the real crime? Not stealing at all.

Embracing the Art of Stealing

Let’s get one thing straight here. When I’m encouraging you to ‘steal’, I’m not endorsing intellectual property theft. Let’s not go down that rabbit hole. What I am advocating for is a shift in your mindset. Embrace the influences around you. Don’t be afraid to ‘steal’ the good stuff.

Now, you might be thinking, “But isn’t that just stealing someone else’s hard work? Isn’t that contrary to being original?” Nope. Remember what we discussed about copying vs stealing? It’s all about how you use these influences. Stealing, in this context, isn’t about duplicating. It’s about digesting, remixing, and transforming these influences into something that’s uniquely yours.

Consider this: We’re all products of our environment. We’re shaped by the books we read, the movies we watch, the music we listen to, and the people we interact with. This ‘stealing’ is essentially absorbing these influences and letting them inspire us, inform us, shape us.

But the key here is transformation. You don’t just take these influences and slap them onto your work. That’s plagiarism. Instead, you take these influences and let them marinate in your mind. You add your own flavor, your own perspective, your own ideas. You transform these influences into something that’s uniquely yours.

In this era of remix culture, where everything seems to have been done before, your unique spin on things is what sets you apart. And that’s where the art of stealing comes into play.

So, don’t shy away from stealing. Embrace it. Embrace the influences around you. Use them to fuel your creativity and inspire your work. After all, every idea is a remix of what came before. The key is making that remix your own.

You’re an Artist, Not a Pickpocket

Let’s make something clear: When we talk about ‘stealing’ in the context of creativity, you’re not a pickpocket. Far from it. You’re an artist. You’re a remix artist. Your canvas isn’t just blank, it’s filled with the splashes of colors from the influences you’ve absorbed throughout your life.

Each one of us is unique. We’ve all lived different lives, had different experiences, been influenced by different things. This combination of influences, of experiences, is unique to each of us. This unique combination defines you as an artist.

And it’s this unique combination that gives you your superpower: the ability to take these influences and transform them into something uniquely yours. When you ‘steal’, you’re not just taking someone else’s idea. You’re taking that idea and remixing it with your own experiences, your own perspective, your own flair. You’re creating something new, something original.

So, here’s your call to action: embrace your inner remix artist. Don’t shy away from stealing. Take those influences and use them to fuel your creativity. Be a sponge. Absorb everything. Then let it all out in your own unique way.

Use this ‘stealing’ as a tool to explore new ideas, to challenge the status quo, to create something that’s uniquely yours. After all, in this era of remix culture, your originality doesn’t stem from creating something entirely new. It stems from how you remix the old to create something new.

In the end, it’s not about being a pickpocket. It’s about being an artist. So, go ahead. Steal like an artist. Your canvas is waiting.


As we wrap up, let’s circle back to the crux of our discussion. We’ve talked about the whole concept of stealing like an artist and debunked some misunderstandings. We’ve realized that, hey, it’s not plagiarism or blind copying we’re advocating for, but inspiration and creative remixing.

We took a deep dive into the music industry, where the practice of taking inspiration, of ‘stealing’, is not only common but celebrated. We then jumped into the world of film, where the great Quentin Tarantino has made a career out of skilfully and unapologetically remixing his vast array of influences into something that is entirely his own.

We talked about the importance of embracing this art of stealing, of not being afraid of our influences, and of using them as the fuel for our creativity. And remember, when we say ‘steal’, we’re not talking about being a pickpocket. No, we’re talking about being an artist.

You’re an artist who has a unique combination of influences and experiences, and it’s this unique combination that gives you your superpower. Your originality doesn’t stem from creating something entirely new out of thin air. It stems from how you take these influences and remix them into something that is uniquely yours.

So, my final thoughts? Embrace this. Don’t shy away from stealing. Use it as a tool to fuel your creativity. Be a sponge. Absorb everything. Then let it all out in your own unique way.

I’ll leave you with this: Go ahead. Steal like an artist. Your canvas is waiting. Let’s see what masterpiece you create.

About the Author: Geoffrey Byers
Geoffrey is one of the world's foremost Designers. He is also a Serial Entrepreneur, Author, Speaker, and Mad Scientist. Hypothesis-Driven experimentation is his love language.