Imitate, then Innovate - David Perell - Deepstash

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Imitate, then Innovate - David Perell

Imitate, then Innovate - David Perell


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The originality disease

To improve any skill, imitate, then innovate. The more we imitate others, the quicker we can discover our own unique style.

But modern creators refuse to imitate others and insist on originality even when it comes at the expense of quality. They feel scared to imitate other...

Conan O’Brien

It is our failure to become our perceived ideal that ultimately defines us and makes us unique.

Creators are intentional in what they consume. Consuming art is a product work for them.

For example, film directors watch movies to see how they're made, then borrow and build upon them in their own work. When George Lucas created Star Wars, he consulted the teachings of J...

The cause of originality disease

  • Misunderstanding inspiration. Many people think inspiration comes from nowhere and think that studying other people's work may contaminate their originality.
  • Fetishising originality. People do study those before them, but only so they can do somethin...

Innovation without imitation is a fool's strategy.

Einstein studied classical physicists for decades which enabled him to invent general relativity. Most original musicians spent hours practising scales to pick up on the creative powers of musicians they admire. Hunter S. T...


Most imitation happened through apprenticeships.

Leonardo da Vinci had almost no formal schooling but got his first apprenticeship at 14. He then studied math, anatomy, drawing techniques and geometry. One of his master's most famous sculptures was of David. Later, da Vinci...

Skills best trained through imitation

Any skill that is difficult to put the core knowledge into works is a skill that should be developed through imitative learning. These skills have many subtleties that are best learned in conversation with a master or through watching them—for example, cooking. Following a recipe...

  • Near imitation is when you imitate people who do similar work to you. It's what musicians do when they practice scales.
  • Far imitation is when you transfer ideas from one domain to another. Sigmund Freud used many of the ideas of Nietzche to create

The surest sign of an amateur is someone who values originality as their ultimate goal. Instead, they should value quality. They won't become original by getting the Originality Disease because pursuing originality too directly can lead to the opposite.

In the words of C.S....

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