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The Art of Shameless Cloning

At times I feel stuck. Stuck in life, in my job, on a current project, or heck, in this house after continued variants of Covid. Do you ever feel this way? This feeling of being stuck seems to introduce itself not when something is in my way, but more likely when I do not know the path forward. We often know where we want to be, and if we don't I would argue that may be a great place to start. However, when we do but still feel stuck then this is the time that I would recommend a form of plagiarism called 'shameless cloning.'

The term shameless cloning admittedly doesn't come from me. Actually, I don't feel like I have to 'admit' to anything in the context that makes it sound like I am a bit embarrassed to share this fact with you. The term comes from, as far as I know, Mohnish Pabrai. Mr. Pabrai was once an owner of a successful IT firm and now is a successful investor. He once said, "As I repeatedly kept looking at cloning, what I discovered is that there is a small sliver of humans, maybe 2-3%, who have quirky wiring, who are aggressive about cloning, and probably 95-97% don’t care about it."

Let's clear the air a bit before going forward. The word plagiarism is closely connected to this idea and, for good reason, it is a word that is not held in high regard. Stealing other people's work and passing it as your own is not good, nor am I promoting this. However, cloning is simply observing what is around you (including other's ideas) and then sorting through them and using the ones that you like. Mr. Pabrai gives us an example, "What I had been doing in my IT firm is, I remember one time, I got a piece of mail from a law firm. I love the way their envelope for this really nice thick envelope, and the label was really large, it all looked really nice, okay. And I cloned it, and from then till now, always, all my stuff has been like that. It came from a different industry, it was a very small thing. But anytime I noticed someone doing something, one time I spoke at a conference in Canada, and they sent me a really nice cross pen as a thank you. I really liked the pen, and I liked the way the logo was done. I cloned the pen, I put my logo on it, I gave it to all my investors and all of that. What I realized is that with cloning, you pick up these small things, and sometimes you pick up big things, and it works."

Now why do only 2-3% of people clone? Well, as we stated before, this idea of copying people is not popular in American society. We feel like phonies. We assume that all our ideas must come from solely ourselves. Well here is a newsflash, we are incapable of randomly coming up with new ideas if they are not prompted by ideas or events that we have witnessed in the past. All people who are doing the thing that you want to do all had teachers, idols, and mentors that helped them get to where they are today. These figures are simply a form of a person that help's you clone what they know or what they do.

I argue that we should all actively seek out a way to be a shameless cloner as often as we can. Many smart and talented people have come before us and already completed the hard work of blazing the trail. Not only will this make our journey faster and easier, I believe we can lean on this method of cloning to get us past the point that we are today if we too feel like we are stuck. Today I am going to challenge myself to do two things; 1) I am going to identify something in my like that I feel like is important but I have felt stuck in, and 2) I am going to try to find someone I idolize or an expert in that field and try to clone them. If I have to, I will put myself outside of my comfort zone. I will pick up the phone and call an expert that I don't know or send an email. This, to me, is the first step in the journey that ultimately ends up with me arriving to where I want to be.

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