Thursday, March 24, 2016

Those Who Know: Create; Those Who Know Not: Copy!

The very first time I felt innately gullible was when I was a senior in High School. I was enrolled in an AP Language and Composition English class and had a remarkable teacher that everyone in our school adored. Mrs. C. had been diagnosed with lung cancer and we all knew that one day, the cancer would take over and she would no longer be with us. Oddly enough, even during high school - I was an extremely shy student around my peers and the only time that I shined was in the classroom, engaging in rhetoric with my classmates. Occasionally I would study with my more congenial friends and talk about happenings during the week and socializing.

I remember the event like it was yesterday. I brought over my AP US Government Project to work on with my so-called "friend" and we took a brief break from our assignment. As I walked over to grab my bottle of water to take a sip she asked me a question about our AP Lang and Comp teacher. Vulnerable and in a state of heightened lucidity, I gave her the answer that would haunt me forever. "If I, Christine, were  to describe Mrs. C. in one word it would be: free. Mrs. C is free in mind, free in soul, free in spirit." The opportunity for me to voice my opinion and express my ideas did not come as easily as others and I gladly shared my innermost thoughts with my so called, "best-mate".

Four weeks later, I was sitting on a chair in the second row during graduation. I did not graduate at the very top of the class, but I was pretty close in our senior class of 1100. Somewhere between the top 2nd and 3rd percent of students is where I proudly sat and enthusiastically listened to my more socially experienced peers. I remember cheering on my best mate and she proudly took to the dais and was chosen to give a short dedication to Mrs. C, my teacher who had been suffering with cancer. As she started her speech, I was happy to hear what ideas she had compiled about the teacher that we all grew to love so much.

She started her speech with, "If" and then the words that followed were stolen right from my mouth: "I were to describe Mrs. C. in one word, it would be free. Free in mind, free in soul, free in spirit." I felt that even though she was footsteps away, she had punched me in the stomach and committed the very first act of plagiarism that I ever witnessed firsthand. I sat there, motionless and listened to her speech and all the words that were left in her speech was a whisper compared to the roar that resounded my statement of who my teacher was.

Later that evening I shared that peculiar, life changing experience with my mother. She shook her head and told me the only thing that a parent, defunct in any legal background could tell me: "Child, you will never run out of great ideas. Don't ever let all of them out at the same time." Bewildered by her statement, I could never figure out how anyone could steal my ideas, words or even creativity, but it broke my heart and until today, keeps me from trusting people who are not close to me.

To this day, my mother's words could not be so true. As I work on business plans, products, strategies and tactics to help those who need guidance in the field of Educational Consulting, I've found that there is no shortage of thieves. There is a competitor who finds the need to infiltrate my system and has impersonated a parent (multiple times) to gather information on her "kindergartner" who was actually a fifteen year old. Another competitor decided to diversify her product offerings (even though she is clearly an English Teacher) and added math - a subject she told me she has no talent in. I've had people call me and try to gather intelligence on how my modest business has become to what it is today and the only thing I can say is: "If you really love what you want to do, you'll never want anyone else to dictate what you should do for others." I've loved various parts of my life that have shaped who I am and what our business is today and some of that can't be learned from a case study in some textbook or observing a Corporate Ladder Climber scheme their way to the top. It's through those misfirings that give us the opportunity to define who you are and essentially, who you never want to be. In other words, competitors who feel the need to copy clearly have no sense of direction in their business and I truly feel sorry for those whom they serve.

I don't know why I'm sharing this - I guess for me there is nothing that has become more hurtful than stealing someone's ideas. It's creativity and heart that makes ideas valuable in life. I spoke with the checkout lady at the grocery store and shared with her, "I've misplaced purses and wallets filled with my monthly salary and they have always been returned. However, my ideas have been stolen, and will continue to be stolen. I guess they are worth more than the money that I make."

If your child is one that is gifted with a creative mind, teach them the following two words: "Intellectual Property". It will help them to grow up and value their insight more than those who do not.

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