How to Steal Like an Artist

quote-good-artists-copy-great-artists-steal-pablo-picasso-145463“Good artists borrow. Great artists steal” ~ Pablo Picasso

It’s okay to steal.

If you want to build a skill, you almost have to steal.

While society has taught us that it is virtuous to figure things out for ourselves, I have found that most people who have done something great in their lives were thieves.  They are constantly on the hunt for new ideas and methods.  They steal from the best and weave the knowledge into their own craft.

This is also the basis of Austin Kleon’s book Steal Like An Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative.  In it, he discusses how to slowly and systematically learn a discipline by stealing from the masters.

He recommends that a learner  “chew on one thinker — writer, artist, activist, role model — you really love.” Since learning everything about a discipline is overwhelming, Kleon suggests picking one person and learning everything you can about them. From there, you find three people that person loved and learn everything you can about them. Repeat the process, and you have created a beautiful journey!

Kleon relates this to building a family tree, “a creative lineage,” which will remind you that, as you’re creating, you’re not alone. Kleon keeps pictures of his favorite artists in his studio. “I can almost feel them pushing me forward as I’m hunched over my desk,” he writes.

When I was getting out of debt, I started reading Dave Ramsey.  He recognized books that shaped his life all the time, so I looked into them.  This snowballed into a library that I treasure (and it’s still growing!).

So here are a few ideas (yep…I stole them!) that the rest of us can use to steal great ideas.  When attempting to learn something or do anything great, we must create the habit of constantly eyeing greatness, and seeking to steal something useful that we can use for ourselves.

The YouTube Method

Spend 5 daily minutes watching someone do something great. Reading a how-to book is fine — but actually watching a great musician perform or a Zig Ziglar speech —  allows our brain’s innate ability to learn by mimicry work it’s magic.


Steal one good idea each day. Write it down so you can keep track of what works and what doesn’t.  Make notes often.

Ask Questions

If you’re in a position to make a connection and ask someone about their methods and techniques, do it! People love to talk about their talents, and great people love to share and help.  Interview as many great people as you can, whenever you can.

Steal specific and critical information, ask yourself how the person you are stealing from does what they do better than you, then work to weave the skill into your life.  Have fun stealing!

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