Jogging by the river in Singapore last week, I stumbled upon the statue of the ‘founder’ of Singapore Sir Stamford Raffles, being freshly painted. It reminded me of something I stole from him once- and something I want you to steal from me. Seriously. Here it is. Take it.
Some dispute that Sir (Thomas) Stamford Raffles actually founded Singapore, but it’s a moot point. He had a vision for what this small fishing port could become, set the path, and went on to achieve much in his short life. He died aged 46.
But here’s the thing- most of Raffles’ ideas were not his own. Neither, according to the recent biography “Raffles and The Golden Opportunity”, were his ‘discoveries and his enthusiasms.’ You see- Raffles had a crystal ball apparently, and could see what built the success of both Pablo Picasso and Steve Jobs. Quite simply, Raffles built his success on one critical habit.
He became a great thief.
He stole ideas.
Picasso described this habit this way: “A good artist copies. A great artist steals.” Steve Jobs went a step further. “ I am shameless about stealing great ideas.”
Raffles ‘adopted’ the ideas of others. From his biography: “He picked them up and ran, either carrying them forward himself….. or enabling those with the necessary qualities (to do so). He had a mind like a magnet, drawing in what caught his imagination and taking it further.”
So that’s what I stole from Raffles….a magnet mind. Actually, I must have had a crystal ball too, because I stole his approach 30 years before I read about it.
All my career I have grabbed great ideas, concepts and points of view, taken them home, polished and evolved them, and then built them into my professional toolkit. I have created presentations, training programs, elevator pitches, products, thought leadership insights, themed events, titled speeches, built major launch ideas, and the list goes on and on- all from stuff I have read, seen or heard of elsewhere, and have stolen.
And I still do it. Every day. I am always alert to what I see, with a firm eye on what I can take and use. Often I tell people exactly that: ” Hey- that’s great. I am going to steal that.” They laugh. I steal it.
Usually I attribute the source when I do roll the content out, but over time, I convince myself it was my idea in the first place and it all blurs.
And that’s life. That’s business and that’s the power of creativity. That’s what ideas are all about. Take them. Embrace. Sharpen. Evolve. Use. Attribute. Don’t attribute. Go as hard as you can. And never, ever stop looking for more great stuff you can steal, make better, make yours, share.
Jobs did it. Picasso sure as hell did. And quiet achiever Sir Stamford did it too. It’s a great club. Want to join? I sure as heck am in the queue in my little world.