Good Artists Borrow, But Great Artists Steal


Good artists borrow, but great artists steal.”

A half-assed Google search told me Picasso was the original orator of that quote, but I remember it from a Steve Jobs interview I read back in college — and it stuck with me.

I don’t believe in original ideas. I don’t believe any of us truly have a genuine original idea. I only believe in newer, better versions of current, less efficient ideas. Before Facebook there was MySpace and Friendster. Before UBER there was Magic Cab. Before CrossFit, there was resistance training followed by cyclical cardio.

We are all just piggybacking our “latest and greatest” idea off an earlier model that has become obsolete. And it’s with this mindset that I want to address the Affiliate community as a whole:

Nothing you are doing within your business is intrinsically special. There’s nothing that any of us are doing — our programming, the decor in our lobby, our retail, etc. — that is inherently unique. What is special, however, isn’t WHAT we are doing, it’s HOW and WHY we are doing it.

In a recent conversation with a gym owner, he informed me another local Affiliate has been copying his programming and marketing efforts. This perplexed him to a high level of frustration and resentment. As we continued our conversation it became abundantly clear to me that none of his ideas were unique; I’ve seen other gyms perform the same strategies 100 times over. However, to him they were his intellectual property, completely created in-house.

And my first thought was to the opening quote, “Good artists borrow, but great artists steal.” 

With that in mind, I want to remind everyone how we got here. Don’t forget that Glassman chartered this concept by supplying it on the internet for the world to consume for free. He knew he was not the creator of the pull-up or Power Clean, no more than the Beatles created the C or G chord. But when the appropriate elements were aligned together, their brilliance was unavoidable.

Remember, CrossFit is more like a blueberry muffin recipe than it is a piece of software. As an Affiliate owner, you don’t own the combination of 21-15-9 kettlebell swings and box jumps. There’s no trademark on your programming. It’s not special, in and of itself. But WHY you program the workouts in that manner and HOW you logistically service these workouts is very special.

So next time a local gym copies your workouts, re-creates your exact Facebook ad or whatever else you deem to be “stealing,” keep this in mind: We are all stealing from somebody. There’s no shame in it. But if the WHAT is something easily “stolen,” then you need to look beyond the surface and realize putting out your own brand of HOW and WHY is what will differentiate the winners and the losers in this marketplace.

Stuart Brauer is a 15-year student of strength and conditioning, and he was fortunate to find CrossFit in 2006. Since then he's dedicated his life to building a fitness business simply based on the pursuit of excellence. From humble beginnings making three figures and running park workouts to owning a million dollar gym, he's now ventured into business consulting for gym owners looking to chase their dream. You can find his content on Facebook and Instagram @wtfgymtalk.