August 6, 2017

A Mother’s Journey: The sincerest form of thievery

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Giselle Rivera-Flores / For Worcester Sun

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery -- until it rises (or sinks) to the level of stealing.

Editor’s note: Since September 2015, Worcester Sun has chronicled the trials and triumphs of Sun contributor Giselle Rivera-Flores as she explores ways to help her daughter and other Worcester families find affordable educational support and assistance. We used to describe her as an aspiring business owner; now, she’s an inspiring one. During her journey to establish and grow her nonprofit tutoring collaborative she has, you could say, stepped beyond the walls of her dream.

Giselle Rivera-Flores

“There is no such thing as a new idea,” Mark Twain famously wrote in his 1907 autobiography. “It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.”

He couldn’t have said it better.

Originality is an ambiguous concept, it seems, leading many of us to believe the thoughts and ideas we create are somehow impartial, uninfluenced by the world around us. It leads us to believe creativity is somehow only sparked from within and not an element molded by the experiences and lessons from life.

The world around us is a bottomless pit of discovery, with every new encounter leaving us a new impression and a fresh outlook. Yet, entrepreneurs and business owners tend to forget that their “creative spark” was ignited by their environment — by the people and conversations around them — and not from some untouched segment of their brain.

Read Giselle’s previous chapter, The inner-city detour, or scroll down to explore more of her story.

Creativity is inspiration. It is the constant growth of perspective. It is built from everyday encounters, past experiences, and our ability to consistently practice our talents and study the works of greats like Twain.

Creativity without an outlet is a lonely and useless tool, though, and as I grow as an entrepreneur, I notice the community that surrounds me appears to be expanding its creative palette. Yet my connection with these people continues to shrink.

Imitating your creative heroes and entrepreneurs is hard not to do. It is most often the influence of others that sparks our own inner conversations about what is important to us as entrepreneurs and business owners. At some point, though, imitating turns into downright stealing.

Over the course of a year and a half, I have met my fair share of challenges — funding, location, and finding the right niche, to name a few — but the one challenge that seems impossible to overcome is that of other people, businesses and organizations stealing my ideas.

I am like any other creative type. The world is my muse and I am at its mercy, but one difference between me and many of the people I encounter in this entrepreneurial world, is that I don’t steal the work and ideas of others for personal gain.

If collaborators influence me and give me a new outlook on a business approach, I am fully aware that I must mention my source of inspiration and I must give credit to those who help color my decisions.

Author Austin Kleon writes, “A wonderful flaw about human beings is that we’re incapable of making perfect copies. Our failure to copy our heroes is where we discover where our own thing lives. That is how we evolve.” And while his statement rings true, some people just don’t want to evolve and discover their own thing.

Some people live in a world of comfort where stealing the ideas of others and regurgitating them as their own is simply their way of life. It is the effortless way out and while some may find success hidden in their dark lives of theft, it is but a matter of time before their ability to copy brings about failure.

More recent entries from Giselle:

I have stopped participating on several boards and committees to protect my ideas — and to find a better balance between the authentic people who want to collaborate and succeed together and those who merely showcase a slithering need to soak up ideas and use them as their own.

While I am naturally a collaborator – constantly figuring out how small businesses and entrepreneurs can benefit from a mutual relationship – I have started to more carefully curate who I collaborate with. Being naive to the cynical side of entrepreneurship, I embraced open collaboration with wide swaths of people with open arms, but now I will examine the potential relationship from afar until I can better understand the mutual benefit.

My mom raised me to believe that we are all on Earth to help each other. As optimistic as that sounds, I believe it to this day and embed it into all aspects of my life.

I host workshops and mastermind meetings to help others feed off of each other’s creativity, and the one rule I have is that people in our groups, workshops and meetings do not steal the ideas of others.

The concept is to work together. To build a better world, a better business, a better brand through positive collaboration. Stealing the ideas of others might be imitation, but it is never sincere or flattering.

Follow Giselle’s inspiring story from the beginning:

Part 1 — The Brooklyn trip

Part 2 — The playbook

Part 3 — The space race

Part 4 — The unsettling score

Part 5 — The point of no return

Part 6 — The poetry of motion

Part 7 — The keys to success

Part 8 — The stumbling block

Part 9 — The Learning Hubby

Part 10 — The next breath

Part 11 — The imperfect storm

Part 12 — The defining moment

Part 13 — The balancing act

Part 14 — The right turn on Pleasant?

Part 15 — The exploration within

Part 16 — The long way home

Part 17 — The road to empowerment

Part 18 — The new direction

Part 19 — The social club

Part 20 — The way forward

Part 21 — The momentum conundrum

Part 22 — The Pleasant Street exit

Part 23 — The stemming of the tide

Part 24 — The starting line, finally

Part 25 — The full head of steam

Part 26 — The kernels of wisdom

Part 27 — The Book of Hub

Part 28 — The great debate

Part 29 The girls are all right

Part 30 — The movement keeps moving

Part 31 — The picture of serenity?

Part 32 — The network effect

Part 33 — The original Woopreneur

Part 34 — The gift of reflection

Part 35 — The resolution revolution

Part 36 — The model students

Part 37 — The growing pains

Part 38 — The time trials

Part 39 — The parent trap

Part 40 — The stress test

Part 41 — The place to start?

Part 42 — The accidental perspective

Part 43 — The road less traveled

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