It was my first real job right out of college, and man, was I jazzed. An actual paycheck for doing what I loved? Sign me up! Then, my boss threw me a curveball. “Hey, buddy,” he drawled, leaning over my workstation. “Just take a gander at what our competition is doing and, you know, make it look a bit like that.” I looked at him, and he winked, thinking he’d imparted some kind of eternal business wisdom.

Did I listen? Well, I peeked. After all, isn’t knowledge power? But was I going to clone their stuff? Hell no. My gut (and a hefty dose of youthful arrogance) told me there had to be a better way. Because let me drop a truth bomb on you: simply copying? That’s a first-class ticket to “Been There, Done That” town. Population: everyone.

Now, I get the allure. The internet’s a goldmine of ideas. Pinterest boards are brimming with ‘inspo’ and Instagram? Hell, it’s a veritable buffet of visual delight. But here’s where the problem lies: when everyone’s pinning, reposting, and hashtagging the same damn thing, originality starts to die a slow, pixelated death. Before you know it, everything begins to look like everything else. It’s like going to an all-you-can-eat joint and realizing every dish is just a variation of chicken nuggets. I mean, come on! Where’s the spice? Where’s the flair?

Let’s be real for a second. You know those times when you’re mindlessly scrolling, and you stumble upon a design or a concept that makes you go, “Damn, that’s cool!” But then, two swipes later, there’s another one just like it, and the magic? It fizzles out faster than a poorly shaken soda can. That’s the universe telling you something: the same-old, same-old doesn’t cut it anymore.

We’re all on this crazy hunt for originality. But the world’s got a twisted sense of what that means. Some think it’s about being the loudest in a room, others think it’s about shocking value, and then there are those who believe it’s just about being different. But here’s the rub: it’s not about any of that. It’s about being true to who you are, understanding your strengths, and having the cojones to step away from the hoard. Because, dear reader, being a sheep might be cozy, but it sure as hell isn’t groundbreaking.

I’m here to set the stage for you. Let’s delve deep into what it means to create in today’s age. It’s not just about being different, it’s about being transformative. I want you to imagine a world where your inspirations are as diverse as your Spotify playlists. A place where the quest for originality doesn’t involve a tired trudge through the well-trodden paths but rather an exhilarating exploration of the unbeaten trails.

Why Straight-up Copying is a Dead-End

I mean, sure, we’ve all been there. You’re scrolling through your feed, and BAM! Inspiration smacks you right between the eyes. And it’s so damn tempting, right? Just take that idea, change a few bits, and voila – instant success. But here’s the cold, hard truth, folks: Straight-up copying? It’s the equivalent of reheating last night’s takeout. Sure, it fills you up, but does it really hit the spot? Not by a long shot.

Think about the last award show or industry event you attended. How many times did you see a work and think, “Hey, haven’t I seen this before?” Probably a lot. And why? Because when we copy, we’re merely repeating what’s been done. There’s no accolade for parroting. No one celebrates the echo; it’s the original shout that resonates. By copying, you’re just adding another indistinct voice to an already loud and confusing cacophony.

The thing about copying is, it puts you in a box, and not the cool, innovatively-designed, ergonomic kind. Nope, it’s the drab, suffocating kind where creativity goes to die. When you mimic another’s work, you’re saying, “This is the extent of my capabilities.” That’s it. End of story. No plot twists, no sequels. Just a one-off that doesn’t let you explore your full potential. And believe me, you’ve got more in you than a Xerox machine.

Here’s a little secret: the industry is small. Smaller than you think. Word gets around, and in the age of screenshots and DMs, news travels faster than hot gossip in a high school hallway. Copy blatantly, and your brand – both personal and professional – will take a hit. Why? Because integrity matters. Authenticity is currency. And if you’re just repurposing content, it’s like passing off counterfeit bills. Sooner or later, you’re gonna get called out.

I’m not just throwing shade here for the fun of it. This is some real talk. Because while copying might give you a quick win, it’s not sustainable. You’re building your house on borrowed land, and buddy, that’s no foundation for success. Every time you take the easy way out, you’re forgoing an opportunity to grow, to learn, to truly innovate. And let’s not even get started on the legal quagmires you could find yourself in. Copyright, intellectual property, lawsuits – it’s a messy business, and nobody needs that drama.

Look, I get the appeal of shortcuts. But if there’s one thing my two decades in this game have taught me, it’s this: the scenic route is where the magic happens. That winding, unpredictable path where you stumble, get lost, find yourself, and then, discover something truly groundbreaking? That’s where you want to be. So ditch the map someone else drew and start charting your own territory.

Steal and Transform: The Genius Behind It

Now, hold up! Before you go labeling me a hypocrite, let’s get one thing straight. When I talk about “stealing”, I’m not talking about that CTRL+C and CTRL+V kind of thievery. What I’m diving into is a more sophisticated, refined kind of “stealing” that legends are made of: Steal and Transform.

First things first. ‘Steal & Transform’. Sounds swanky, right? But what does it mean? It’s all about taking inspiration, not replication. It’s looking at something and asking, “How can I remix this? How can I elevate it? How can I spin it in a way that’s never been done before?” So, while you’re taking something from somewhere, by the time you’re done with it, it’s transformed into something so unique, so distinctively you, that it’s hard to trace back to its origin.

Ever wondered why some of the most memorable tunes are remixes of classics? Or why that movie reboot resonated so well? It’s because our brains dig familiarity. But when you present that familiar thing in a fresh, unexpected way, our gray matter goes bonkers—in a good way. It’s like, “Hey, I recognize this, but whoa, what a twist!” That surprise element, that novelty, it triggers a delightful cocktail of brain chemicals making your work unforgettable.

The real beauty of this approach? It encourages you to venture outside your usual circle. Remember the time you watched that random documentary on fungi and thought, “Damn, nature’s wild!”? That’s the kind of wild you want. Tangential inspiration. It’s about plucking ideas from the most unexpected places and weaving them into your work. And trust me, the results can be straight-up mind-blowing.

By now, some of you might be thinking, “Sounds cool, Geoffre, but is this just a fancy way to justify taking shortcuts?” Let me stop you right there. This isn’t about cutting corners; it’s about expanding boundaries. It’s about daring to see things from a fresh perspective and having the audacity to blend, mix, mash, and sculpt until you’ve birthed something magnificent.

The magic isn’t in the act of “stealing”. Nope. The magic is in the act of transformation. Because, let’s face it, in today’s hyper-connected, always-on world, pure, untouched inspiration is a rarity. But what isn’t rare? Our individual experiences, our quirks, our personalities—that’s the secret sauce, my friends. So, use that. Fuse it with what inspires you. And watch as you craft not just another piece, but a masterpiece.

There you have it. ‘Steal & Transform’ is more than just a fancy term; it’s a philosophy, a mantra if you will. A call to action for every creative soul itching to leave their mark.

The ‘Chef’ Analogy: Curate to Create

Let’s chow down on one of my favorite analogies: the world of culinary arts. Ever watch one of those fancy chef shows on TV? The ones where they whip out bizarre ingredients, and you’re there wondering if they’ve lost their marbles? And then, BOOM! They plate up a dish that’s so visually stunning, you’d think it was painted by Da Vinci, and so mouthwateringly delicious, it could make a grown man cry. Now, that right there? That’s the essence of ‘Curate to Create.’

What’s the first thing a chef does? They find the finest ingredients. But here’s the twist: they don’t invent the ingredients. Tomatoes have been tomatoes since, well, forever. But a gazpacho, a tomato bisque, or a sun-dried tomato pesto? That’s the magic. Ingredients are just the tools; the innovation is in how you use them. Inspiration is everywhere. It’s how you cook it up, that counts.

Ever notice how some of the best dishes have a symphony of contrasting flavors? A pinch of salt in your cookie dough, or a sprinkle of chili in your chocolate. It’s these contrasts, these unexpected combinations, that make the dish pop. Similarly, in any creative endeavor, it’s about finding that harmony. It’s about taking two seemingly unrelated inspirations and finding a way they dance together in glorious unison.

Those traditional recipes passed down from grandma? Gold. But sometimes, adding a little twist, a personal touch, gives it a zesty modern flair. It’s not about disrespecting the classics. It’s about honoring them, while also making them relevant to the here and now. The world’s constantly evolving, and if we just stick to the age-old, we risk becoming a dusty relic on the shelf.

Now, some might argue, “Hey Geoffrey, why fix what isn’t broke?” And to that, I say, it’s not about fixing; it’s about elevating. Picasso once remarked, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” And while that may seem paradoxical given our culinary analogy, the heart of the message rings true. It’s not about the act of taking; it’s about what you do once you’ve taken. The transformation. The evolution. The revolution.

So, next time you find yourself in a creative rut, think like a chef. Source your ingredients. Maybe it’s a tune you heard, a pattern you saw, a scent that evoked a memory. And then ask yourself, “How can I whip this into a gourmet feast for the senses?” Because remember, while the ingredients might be universal, the recipe is all you, my friend.

How Different Fields Can Cross-Pollinate Ideas

Okay, let’s dive into one of the most exhilarating parts of the creative process: cross-pollination. Sounds fancy, right? But hang tight, it’s more familiar than you think. Ever seen one of those killer mashups at a concert, where they blend classical with rock, or jazz with pop? That’s the essence of cross-pollination—blending different realms to birth something refreshingly unique.

Writers, let’s chat. It’s easy to get trapped in a labyrinth of words, constantly seeking the perfect sentence. But sometimes, it isn’t about the words—it’s about the vibe. Dive into photography or painting. Let those visual narratives seep into your cortex. You’d be surprised how a single image can inspire an entire novel or a stanza that sticks. Remember, every picture has a story yearning to be penned.

On the flip side, if you’re more into brushes than ballpoints, why not turn to literature? Perhaps a powerful line from a book can translate into a stroke on your canvas. A poignant poem might morph into a color palette that you never imagined. Literature is teeming with emotions, conflicts, resolutions—visualize them, internalize them, and then, splash them onto your canvas. Let your artworks not just be seen, but felt.

Digital designers, I see you. In a world dominated by pixels and wireframes, why not switch things up a bit? Remember those old-school board games, or how about intricate clock mechanisms? There’s so much UX brilliance in these analog solutions. Maybe a childhood toy holds the key to your next app’s navigation. Or perhaps the tactile sensation of flipping a book page can inspire a new UI animation. It’s all about juxtaposing the digital with the tangible.

It’s a wonderful, chaotic dance between disciplines. Think of it as a cocktail party where jazz musicians, poets, sculptors, and chefs are all vibing together. Some conversations might seem random. Some combinations, downright absurd. But amidst that chaos, amidst those unexpected dialogues, genius ideas are birthed.

And hey, if you’re worried about stepping out of your comfort zone, don’t be. Here’s the secret sauce: creativity thrives in discomfort. That initial awkwardness, that feeling of being out of depth—it’s not a pitfall; it’s a launchpad. The more alien the field, the fresher the perspective you gain.

So, next time you feel stuck, remember to mingle, to cross-pollinate. Because as rad as it is to be an expert in your niche, sometimes the magic happens when you blur those lines, when you let different worlds collide and create a universe uniquely yours.

The Myth of the ‘Original Idea’

Alright, you mavericks, let’s bust a myth wide open: the fabled “Original Idea.” Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. That notion that somewhere out there, in the vast cosmos of thoughts, there’s this pristine, untouched, never-before-thought-of concept just waiting for you to pluck it. Spoiler alert: It’s a mirage.

First off, let’s get real. Humanity has been around for a hot minute. Think about all the thoughts, the tales, the trials, the tribulations… You really think, in this millennia-long game of cerebral bingo, no one’s hit your number before? Newsflash: There’s nothing new under the sun, but damn, there’s a bazillion ways to cast that light.

Think of your favorite song remix. The base tune’s familiar, but those added beats, those twists and turns—it’s a whole new auditory experience. Creativity, my friends, works the same darn way. It’s not about churning out something from scratch—it’s about reimagining, restructuring, and representing in a way only you can.

Here’s where the gold lies. Merging opposing ideas can birth some wildly innovative concepts. It’s like peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Joker, or yin and yang. On their own? Solid. Together? Iconic. When you contrast and blend different ideas, it not only showcases your unique voice but also underlines the nuanced understanding you have of both worlds.

Now, I get it. There’s this seductive allure to being “the first,” the pioneer. But ask yourself: Is it about being first, or being memorable? Because history’s littered with folks who did it first but got overshadowed by those who did it differently and did it damn well.

Remember, your unique life experiences, your quirks, your passions, your screw-ups (yeah, those too) shape your creative lens. So, while the idea might have been explored before, your interpretation of it is what counts. It’s like cooking: give ten chefs the same ingredients, and I bet my bottom dollar you’ll get ten distinct dishes.

So the next time that pesky inner voice whispers, “It’s been done before,” sass back with, “But not by me.” Your twist, your touch, your flair—that’s the real game-changer.

Time to let go of that chase for the untouched idea, and focus on what really matters: adding your unique flavor to the mix. As the greats say, originality is nothing but judicious imitation.

Practical Steps to ‘Steal & Transform’

Alright, rockstars, now that we’ve banished myths and embraced contrasts, it’s time to dive into the how-tos. ‘Cause let’s face it, while theories are dope, action is where it’s at. Here’s your roadmap to mastering the art of “Steal & Transform.”

Dabbling is cool and all, but if you want those juicy insights, those gold nuggets of inspiration, you gotta go deep. Like, Mariana Trench deep. Delving beyond the surface of a new field, be it music, architecture, or underwater basket weaving (hey, to each their own), unveils nuances and details that the casual observer might miss. And it’s in these details that true inspiration lurks.

Got a random idea while waiting in line for your morning caffeine fix? Scribble that bad boy down. Overheard an interesting conversation on the bus? Jot it. Witnessed a beautiful sunset that sparked a new color palette idea? You get the drill. This isn’t just a diary; it’s your treasure chest of raw, unfiltered thoughts and observations. When you’re feeling stuck, crack this open for an instant boost of inspo.

The path to genius isn’t a straight line; it’s a squiggly mess full of dead ends, detours, and delightful surprises. Picasso didn’t nail cubism on his first go; the dude made his fair share of messes before he stumbled upon brilliance. So give yourself the permission to screw up, to play around, to throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.

Surrounding yourself with fellow creative warriors is more than just networking. It’s about building a tribe that challenges, critiques, and cheers for you. People from diverse backgrounds bring different viewpoints, stretching and enriching your own understanding. Plus, there’s nothing like a healthy dose of competition to get those creative juices flowing.

Ever observed a toddler? Those tiny humans are insatiable. Everything is a wonder, an adventure. Channel that inner child. Ask questions. Challenge norms. Tear things apart just to see how they fit back together (metaphorically, please, I’m not advocating for actual destruction here). A curious mind is an inspired mind.

Just like that massive burrito you devoured needs time to settle, so do your ideas. Allocate regular intervals where you just…chill. Let your brain mull over, dissect, and rearrange the information you’ve fed it. Sometimes, stepping back is the quickest way forward.

In the grand symphony of creativity, don’t let your tune be a mere echo. By actively seeking diverse inspirations and fearlessly experimenting, you can craft a melody that’s unmistakably yours. Remember, it’s not about being first; it’s about being unforgettable.


We’ve covered a lot, smashed some myths, explored some new territories, and gathered some kickass tools for our creativity toolbox. But what’s the big takeaway? It’s this: don’t just be another face in the crowd. Be that face that turns heads. That face that’s remembered long after the party’s over.

At the beginning, I mentioned my first job out of college. That pivotal moment when I chose to not just be another cog in the machine but to take a chance, to dare to be different. It wasn’t always easy. There were bumps, setbacks, even facepalms. But hell, it was worth it. Not just because it set me apart, but because it set my soul on fire. And that, my friends, is the essence of creativity.

Ditch the copy-paste mindset. Why? Because while copying might get you that instant gratification, that brief moment in the spotlight, it’s fleeting. Like candy, it gives you a rush, but soon you’re back at square one, looking for the next quick fix. Instead, channel that energy into crafting something that’s authentically you. Something that doesn’t just fade away but stands the test of time. It’s not about reinventing the wheel, but about putting your unique spin on it.

Platforms like Pinterest and Instagram? Sure, they’re a gold mine for inspiration, but don’t let them dictate your entire narrative. Dive into them, frolic in their vast oceans of content, but then surface with your own tales to tell. Tales that resonate, that echo with authenticity, and most importantly, tales that are unabashedly YOU.

Think about it. In a world bursting with content, with everyone screaming for attention, what’s gonna make you stand out? It’s not your ability to mimic. It’s your flair, your twist, your personal touch. It’s the spice you bring to the table, that unique flavor that no one can replicate.

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.