What To Do When They Copy You

***This was my response to an email from Coach B. Coach B read a love letter from me last week called “Keeping Wolves Fat”, and responded with his own story. You’ve heard it before, and if you’re an innovator, you’ve probably been through this: you have a great idea. Another local gym copies it verbatim. You’re frustrated. What can you do? This is what I told him.***
Hey B, I read this on Friday and thought about it since then.

The reason I repeat the message “Don’t worry about being copied” so often is that I get copied a LOT. And it drives me nuts.
Right now, three different companies are giving away  “Intramural Open Guides” as clickbait. Of course, the Intramural Open started at Catalyst from something I learned in 1989 at my high school. I don’t want credit for it, I just want people to stop ripping off Affiliates using my idea as bait. And I hear this all the time from high-tier gyms: “We start something, it’s awesome, and then everyone copies it.”
And that, my friend, is the nature of being a leader.
You have good ideas. They have your ideas. Because you’re a leader, and they’re in second place.
Mel Siff once told me, “As soon as you plant a flag, people will start shooting.” He was mostly right. First they’ll criticize you, then they’ll copy you, and then they’ll claim your idea was so self-evident that anyone could have come up with it on their own. Arthur Jones made this defense when he was accused of stealing his machine designs from their Swedish inventor, Ling.
It’s frustrating. But here’s the good news:
1. You’ll never run out of good ideas.
2. They already have.
3. People are smart. They know where good ideas come from, or they’ll learn, eventually. And people will graduate up to your service, just as they graduate up to TwoBrain from other “consultants”.
4. You don’t have to sue them. You just have to wait.
5. Toys mean zero, except to people who are more attracted to novelty than to progress. And you don’t want those people as clients. They’re filtering for fickleness, and doing you a favor. I also know it’s tough to see that now.
6. We’re in a war of attrition. 3 years from now, they’ll be gone.
One of the best things I heard, as a new affiliate, came from my friend [name withheld], who owned CrossFit [name withheld]. A new affiliate opened in his town, and of course they went all-in on reverse hypers and ski ergs and toys. I asked him if he was worried. He said:
“Nah, I can’t WAIT to buy all that stuff from them at 50% off next year!” That’s a great perspective.
You’re already outsmarting them. You just have to outlast them. Keep going!

One more thing!

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