Why David Bowie tells you to stop being so damn original

… and start stealing like an artist (Austin Kleon)


Hi there!

Last week I attended the Creativity World Forum#cwf14 in Kortrijk. Together with about 3000 other people, I was immersed in this wonderful creative environment.

A lot of top speakers like Tom Kelley, Ricardo Semler, Steven Levitt, Guy Kawasaki,.. came to talk about innovation and creativity. And luckily (for me, I guess) it was not about big data, high tech or nuclear physics.

On the contrary, the leitmotif of most of these speakers wasempathy, working together, synergy and … stealing like an artist

Which brings me to another speaker of that event: Austin Kleon. He’s the author of the book “Steal like an artist”, a book I read the first time about a year ago. And I just love that book. I was thrilled that he was one of the (last minute booked) speakers! Yiehaa! 🙂

He (among others) tells us that nothing is original. So forget about being original, start to open yourself for influences out there instead of trying to make something new from nothing.

And don’t worry about thinking you’re a thief or fake & phony, there’s a difference you know..

Stealing like an artist,is also something I advice my clients reguarly. When developing your Personal Brand, you need to be creative, unique, authentic, … but you do not have to come up with a totally original concept, blog, product or service. Because 1/ people won’t buy it; 2/ there’s no such thing as original. Be creative.


Well, you could start by reading Kleon’s book and learn the 10 things nobody tells you about creativity. You’ll be inspired. I’m sure.

Here’s a small summary of the book with quotes from Kleon, and my Personal Branding flavor on top of it:

1. Steal like an artist: When you develop your Personal Brand, study your “heroes” in depth. You don’t want to look like your heroes, you want to see like your heroes. You collect good ideas. The more good ideas you collect, the more you can choose from to be influenced by. Look at this YouTube video on how Steve Jobs describes it.

2. Don’t wait until you know who you are to start making things: Don’t wait for years and years to claim your expertise, your authority, your Personal Brand. Pretend to be something you’re not until you are – fake it until you’re successful, until everybody sees you the way you want them.

3. Write the book you want to read: Make the things you want to make. Work with the clients you want to work with. Offer services you want to offer. Be the Personal Brand you want to be.

4. Use your hands: Computers have robbed us of the feeling that we’re actually making things. Involve your full body, and not just your brains. As John Cleese said: “we don’t know where our ideas come from. We do know that we do not get them from our laptops.”

5. Side projects are important: It’s important to have a hobby. A hobby is something creative that’s just for you. You don’t try to make money or get famous off it, you just do it because it makes you happy. A hobby is something that gives but doesn’t take. I see too many small business owners with a burn-out just because they forgot to take time off, don’t be that person.

6. Do good work and put it where people can see it: Sharing your work and even your thoughts about what you like help you get good feedback and more ideas. Sharing is caring, is what I always say. And it’s a win-win, for you as well as your target audience. “Don’t worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you’ll have to ram them down people’s throats” – Howard Aiken.

7. Geography is no longer our master: Travel makes the world look new, and when the world looks new, our brains work harder. So don’t get stuck in your office inventing new services or programs. Get out there and test it. Get out there and learn. Get out there and enjoy the influences.

8. Be nice (the world is a small town.): People buy from people. People buy from people they know, like & trust. So be friendly, give compliments, make friends.

9. Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done.): You can’t be creative all the time, so set a routine – as Gustave Flaubert said: “Be regular and orderly in your life, so you can be violent and original in your work” (ok let’s change the word original by innovative or creative :-))

10. Creativity is subtraction Focus Focus Focus. “Nothing is more paralyzing than the idea of limitless possibilities. The best way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself,” Kleon says – in Personal Branding: choose your niche!


How about you? What secrets do you have to boost your creativity?

Tell us! 🙂

3 thoughts on “Why David Bowie tells you to stop being so damn original”

  1. Greet,
    Knap geschreven.

love to hear your thoughts, questions, worries, ideas… contact me +32.478.39.02.69 or leave a reply below

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.