Lately we have seen a few photographers getting blasted for plagiarism. There are some things not being said that I would like to share because quite frankly, I don’t necessarily see it as plagiarism. Hey, as a photographer I hate the thought of my images being stolen as much as anyone else. But as a coach encouraging personal growth in individuals and changes in our world, I struggle to agree with some of these accusations. Let’s make an important distinction first. We live in an information age. It is pretty new issue to deal with the “stealing of content” to this degree. One comment on a blog recently called the actions of a teacher accused of stealing content like, “stealing someone’s photo and re-matting it”. That’s not what it’s like at all. A photograph is a tangible, easily recognizable item. Stealing a photograph is black and white. The prove is there or it’s not. “Stealing” content is full of shades of gray. Is it verbatim or the essence of what was said? Haven’t you ever heard someone say out loud EXACTLY what you were thinking or believe? I know I have– many times. Finding people who believe what you believe is an exciting thing! No thought is ever original. Whatever stroke of brilliance you think you might be having, there are thousands of people who have had that thought or are thinking the same thing. There’s a business lesson here too. That’s the whole point of a successful business. To call forward the people who believe what you do and are excited to share what you believe and share it together. That’s why 250,000 people showed up to hear Martin Luther King give a speech. He shared what he believed and people showed up in masses to say, “I believe that too”. That’s how you have a successful business.
Humans have been story-telling and passing on content since the beginning of time. It’s critical to establishing history and it is CRITICAL to cultures moving forward. If you are inspired by someone’s words or beliefs and share it, is it plagiarism? If that’s the case, what becomes of the role of teacher and student?
A few months ago, I reached out to my coach who I have worked extensively with for the past few years. We have created amazing growth in my life during this time. I reached out to him to express my concern that I have learned so much from him and have developed so much content myself in a relatively short period of time, that I am no longer clear which thoughts are his and which are mine. I’m not even sure what words are my own. Being the gracious man he is, he thanked me for the compliment. As he saw it, he had done his work as a teacher so well that I, as his student, had internalized all that he offered to such a degree I could no longer distinguish which were my original thoughts. He went on to say that should I use any of the written content that he has created without his permission that would be a problem. But the sharing of what I learned from him to pass on to others was a beautiful thing. He called it The Positive Escalator. He teaches me, I learn, I pass it on to others, they learn, they pass it on….etc. A positive escalator where we are all advancing and raising the collective consciousness of the world we live in.
I hate to think that we live in a time where we can’t allow the inspiration that we receive from others as a teaching tool. That we stop telling stories and passing on information because we might be accused of plagiarism. This is how we grow. This is how we add to the collective consciousness of the world. This is the ride of the positive escalator.
I understand it’s a fine line. And we live in a different time when content has value and people are paid for what they think more than what they do. These are issues we will have to work out as a society. I thank some of those that are taking the heat on this issue right now. Let’s sort these things out together in the spirit of understanding instead of setting up witch hunts and destroying careers and lives. What could be lost is far greater than the satisfaction of “calling someone out”.