Two weeks ago I wrote about Beware the Prodigy Myth, Tip #11 from Daniel Coyle’s The Little Book of Talent: 52 Tips for Improving Your Skills. Tip #3 is Steal Without Apology. In the tip Coyle quotes Pablo Picasso who said, “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal.” He also quotes Linda Septien, founder of Septien School of Contemporary Music, which he describes as, “a hotbed near Dallas that has produced millions of dollars of pop music talent.” Septien says, “Sweetheart, you gotta steal like crazy. Look at every performer better than you and see what they got that you can use. Then make it your own.” Coyle suggests, “When you steal, focus on specifics, not general impressions. Capture concrete facts.” He recommends that you ask yourself, “What exactly are the critical moves here? How do they perform those moves differently than I do?”
The author Austin Kleon encourages fellow artists (like trainers) to “Steal Like An Artist”. In fact he wrote a book titled Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. Kleon says that when you steal like an artist the end product is an original, not a forgery. He talks about the difference between Good Theft and Bad Theft.
Good Theft Bad Theft
Steal From Many Steal From One
Remix Rip Off
If you want to become a better trainer you would be wise to follow the advice from Coyle, Picasso, Septien and Kleon’s. In doing so pay attention to Kleon’s list of Good Theft and Bad Theft. This is not about plagiarizing or ripping off other people’s work. This is not about mimicking or imitating other trainers and trying to be them. It is about studying and learning from others to become a better version of you.
You need to study what the best speakers, storytellers and trainers do. Read about them, interview them and find out about how they prepare and why they do things the way they do. Pay attention to how they engage the audience, ask questions, answer questions, tell stories and use visual aides like PowerPoint. Read books and study great speakers outside of law enforcement. Watch TED and TEDx talks to see how speakers effectively deliver information in short time blocks. When you attened conferences like ILEETA pay attention to how great trainers do what they do. Offer to buy them a coffee, a drink, lunch or dinner and pick their brain about the process for preparation.
If you use something you get from another trainer, give them credit. Do not just rip off other trainer’s slides and content. Use their material and delivery as inspiration and find a way to transform and remix by creating your own slides, finding new quotes to make the same point and find, developing and telling new stories, your stories.
I believe there has not been an original thought for over 200 years, maybe longer. We all use other people’s research and material in some form. We draw inspiration from books, podcasts, interviews and talks. What is original is how artists (yes, trainers are artists) take existing information and interpret it, connect the dots between various disciplines and present the material in a way that challenges their audience to think, train, lead, and live differently.
Honor, study, steal from many, give credit, remix and transform yourself into an even better original.
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