I had a heated conversation with someone recently about competition.
‘Can you believe it’, she said. ‘Person X is completely copying everything person Y is doing. Same Instagram posts, same Facebook feed - same everything.’
I had to admit, the similarities were pretty uncanny.
‘I mean, how do you stop someone from completely copying you’, she asked.
I scrunched up my nose. ‘Does it really matter? I’m sure person Y is slaying and doesn’t really have time to think about what someone with zero imagination is up to?’
She disagreed. ‘It’s crossing a line. She’s copying literally everything.’
A few days later, an audience member at an event asked a similar question. ‘How much of your idea should you share with others before you launch? And how do you stop people from copying your idea?’
My fellow panelist responded, ‘it’s all in the execution. No one can copy your execution. Share your ideas, get feedback and execute differently’.
I agreed. After all, only you can deliver the product the way you envisage.
But what about when you offer a service, and your brain is your product? How do you differentiate yourself to others who are offering the same thing?
A number of months ago, a client and I parted ways.
It wasn’t working and I could never really put my finger on why.
I got paid during the gig; but it always felt weird. Odd behaviour. Problems created when there were none. Strange passive aggressive conversations. Feeling frazzled after interactions and not really sure why.
Shortly after we stopped working together, I started to see their name crop up on my feeds. Much of the language I had used in the past to market myself I saw mirrored back at me on the computer screen.
I laughed in that sort of shocked way.
‘Aaaah. This makes so much sense’, I thought.
The passive aggressive conversations. The backhanded compliments. The rambling explanations about issues unrelated to work.
They hadn't seen me as a consultant who worked for them. They saw me as competition.
Competition tells you there’s a market for what you do.
But, my god, it can bring out the worst in people.
On one hand, copying is a form of flattery, if not a little Single White Female. But on the other, when you’ve worked so hard for something, what do you do if someone else copies your every move?
You give less fucks, as Catherine Deveny or Mark Manson would say.
You also reflect on why you’re doing what you are doing.
You ask yourself what makes you stay up until 3am finalising proposals, rescheduling flights for ten minutes with a potential client, spending your entire wages on a fancy looking website, doing your make up in the loo before a major meeting before work.
You reflect on the network of people who love you for being you. Clients who want to give you money to be you in their workplace to inspire others. Friends who want to invite you onto panels to inspire other young women to create change. Organisations who want to work with you to amplify your message to inspire change.
Yes, people pay you for a service. But ultimately what they’re buying is the perspective only you can bring.
Your unique combination of personal and professional experience, expertise on an issue, point of view and ultimately: taste. All the ways you present yourself, dress, act, speak, laugh, the quality of your experiences in person and online, the look and feel of you.
They are buying what you represent.
Competition makes things better.
Competition forces us to innovate, be different, own our voices, our perspective and skill sets. It challenges us to grow, get better, be smarter, be kinder, deliver more value to people who need our service. Something only we can deliver.
When distracted by what everyone else is doing there's only thing you need to be thinking about: your customers. Not your ego and certainly not what someone else is doing.
Since meeting others in a shared industry and sharing what I do and how I do it, I've been invited to tour Australia on panels, meet with major brands and fly to New York.
So, if you’re ever feeling uneasy about an interaction or unsure whether to share your big bold goal, ask yourself:
If I want to achieve what I want to, do I really have time to be worrying what everyone else is doing?
If, I mean, when Marie Forleo, Tony Robbins, Beyonce and 2 Dope Queens invite me to lunch in NYC, is giving a fuck about what everyone else is going to help me achieve my goal - or hinder me?
And if I do have time - am I in this for the right reasons?