Derek Sivers

from the book “”:

Imitate. We are imperfect mirrors.


You know that song you love, that you wish you wrote? Copy it.

You know that existing business, that you wish you had thought of? Copy it.

Why? Because we are imperfect mirrors.

Like a funhouse mirror that distorts what it reflects, even if you try to imitate something, it will turn out much different than the original. Maybe better.

When a musician covers someone else’s song, they reveal their own warped perspective, since we know what the original sounds like. Because of this, a cover song is actually a great way to define who you are as an artist.

When a musician writes a new song, imitating someone else’s song, almost nobody will notice the similarity. People don’t make the connection unless you tell them of its inspiration.

So an entrepreneur can imitate someone else’s business, and still be adding a great service to the world.

I used to feel that everything I did had to be 100% original. My old company had a competitor that offered credit card machines for musicians. Customers would tell me how much they loved that service, and even told me they wish we had it too. But copying the competitor seemed out of the question. It took me a long time to swallow my pride and realize I’d be doing my clients a favor if I imitated that idea. So I copied it, and it was one of the most successful things I ever did. Those little credit card machines made over $8 million for thousands of musicians.

So look around at those existing ideas in the world. You can imitate them and still be offering something unique and valuable to the world.