Inspiration or Shameless Plagiarism?

Inspiration or Shameless Plagiarism?

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Inspiration or Shameless Plagiarism?

What is plagiarism in business?

And what would you do if it happened to you?

Read on for a REAL example…..

Sarah Cordiner

So I woke up yesterday morning, fed and dressed my tiny humans, then sat at my desk with a luke-warm coffee in hand.


Facebook opened up, and the first post atop my screen caught my eye.

Posted by one of my students, for some reason I ‘felt’ it.

It pulled me in.

The words on my screen read “The ONE Thing That Separates Successful and Unsuccessful People”.

A funny feeling in my stomach.

Maybe it was gas.

I kept reading.

………“Success does NOT happen overnight, and it definitely isn’t easy”

My brain was trying to talk to me; trying to tell me something that it knew.

But it was still early in the morning and I hadn’t finished my 3-hour-old cold coffee yet.

Shhhussh brain, wait a minute.

My finger scrolled a millimeter so that I could read some more..

…..”but if you just have dedication, I promise, you will get there”.

Why do I feel weird?

Something feels weird.

It was too early to deal with my emotions too, so I threw them in the corner with my now-screaming brain and carried on reading.

………“Unsuccessful people procrastinate and put the work off, because the thought of putting their face on camera is, too scary”.…..

My forehead unconsciously scrunches up in the middle.

.………..”The only thing between you and success, is getting through discomfort”…….

.………..”Be okay with being uncomfortable, be okay with being terrified – because absolutely every single one of us are afraid of something, myself included!”……….

My brain, now totally sick of being ignored, commanded a limbic battalion of blood flow to deliver the caffeine into my amygdala.


It finally hit me.

What in the actual tarnation….. these are MY words!!

“I TOLD YOU!!!!”, yelled my exasperated brain.

These are MY actual, exact words, that came out of my mouth, unscripted, in a LIVE training I delivered to my academy members 3 MONTHS ago!!

And just over a month ago, I’d clipped out a snippet from that live training, and used the transcript as a blog post – with the original training snippet embedded as a YouTube video.

I’ll just pop that here for reference before I continue……

Surely not? I questioned – always the one to give the benefit of the doubt.

I scrolled through the post from top to bottom, and sure enough, the entire post was a word-for-word copy-paste of what I’d said in my training in January, and later published on my blog in March…….

……. and there was absolutely NO attribution or reference to me as the author of those words.


My brain and emotions had now teamed up to get back at me for ignoring them; their revenge of choice? Biological warfare.

Adrenaline was now coursing through my nervous system, and I wasn’t sure if my heart was going to explode in my chest, or jump out of its cavity wielding a bazooka.

My hands were shaking so much from the shameless audacity I was witnessing, that I pressed all of the wrong buttons on my phone trying to screenshot the evidence, and accidentally took a bunch of unintended selfies…….


Yea, you win brain.

Just so that you are totally in on this case, Dear Jury, may I present to you “Exhibit A”…..

Exhibit A: An Analytical Comparison of MY Intellectual Property vs A Plagiarist’s Attempt To Pass It Off As Their Own

In the following images, you will see MY original content on the left, and screenshots of the CopyCat’s post on the right (yes instructions are needed, as it’s pretty hard to tell the difference... **sarcastic LOL**).

Time for a game, friends!


If you found the ONE difference where kitty-copy-cat had changed how many years I’d been in business, to how many they had; you are the winner and have won a cookie.

Well, that was fun.

Just like the Shiraz I’m considering pouring at 8:39am to calm my disbelief at such shamelessness.

I put my coffee back in the microwave instead, then followed our legal procedure, blah blah blah…..;

so let’s now talk about what we can learn from this ridiculousness.

Plagiarism and IP Theft is ILLEGAL.

I’m no lawyer, but they do teach most 4th graders at school that copying other people’s work is bad, and that you shouldn’t do it.

Do I really need to put in the definition of plagiarism here?

Well, just in case somebody reading this was smoking behind the bike shed with my CopyCat friend when that 4th-grade lesson was going on, here it is….

Definition of plagiarism:

According to Oxford Languages (see what I did there with the reference link thingy?); the definition of plagiarism is: “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own“.

For somebody who is very grown-up (in the demographic sense, not the moral sense), and has supposedly been in business for “11 years“, you’d have thought that they may have come across this information at some point in their lives.

So why still do it?

Interestingly there are said to be a number of psychological reasons why people plagiarise other people’s content.

If you don’t want to read the fancy research studies done by smart people, then here is a quick summary that has been simplified beautifully in this INC article by Tom Popomaronis (oh looky, another linky-reference-thingy to attribute someone’s work to them), with some of my own ideas thrown in:

  • The desire to live up to the expectations of others
  • The desire to be like, or BE somebody else
  • The desire to replicate the life, assets or perceived experiences of somebody else
  • They think they are doing good by sharing good information with others
  • There is anxiety or stress underlying a desperate need to succeed fast
  • They think they don’t apply to the rules
  • They think they won’t get caught
  • They have imposter syndrome and feel like they aren’t as good or competent as the people they are trying to emulate
  • They ARE incompetent, and want to cover it up
  • They are a newbie to the topic but want to feel like, or be seen as, a master
  • They want to skip the long, hard learning phases and practice that those they are copying have trudged through
  • They think cheating is fair game – as long as they gain from it, who cares

This person’s response to me was that “It was unintended” and they were “just so inspired by [my] post”.

Again, I am not a judge, jury or clever legal-person, but intentionally hovering your mouse over some text, intentionally pressing ‘right-click-copy’, intentionally pressing ‘right-click-paste’, intentionally changing ONE number to make it look like it was about you, then intentionally pressing publish without adding in any reference whatsoever to the ACTUAL author – kinda comes across as intentional.

And here’s thing – according to Wiki, even copying somebody ‘unintentionally’ can get you into a very big pile of the proverbial doggy doo-doo.

So how about we just don’t do it, kids?!

What To Do When You Are Inspired By Someone’s Work

Now this story could have been a wonderful one, filled with floating love hearts and a warm bowl of grandma’s soul-hugging chicken soup.

If this person had simply shared the link to my blog or video, and added in their own thoughts – that would have been AWESOME.

If they had written their own unique perspective on the topic, and tagged me as their inspiration for the post – that would have been awesome.

People who publish content WANT you to share their work!

We WANT you to be inspired by what we create!

We WANT you to feel so connected to what we produce that it ignites a fire in your belly to further contribute to the topic and the body of knowledge in the field….

BUT – we want you to do it in a way that either attributes that inspiration to the person that it came from; or do it in a completely original and unique format.

And ‘original’ means completely different words, different sentences and different paragraph structures.

If in doubt:

  • Always reference original content by explicitly naming the person you got ‘the idea’ from
  • Tag them if it is on social media
  • Share the original link to the blog, video, book, course, webinar, workshop or wherever you got it from
  • Put words that they used in quotations to show they are not yours
  • Contact the person you got the idea from and ASK THEM if you are unsure

Final Thought – and a question

Oscar Wilde once said that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness.”.

Any mentor would be flattered, delighted and encouraged to see their students get inspired by, and share their work – but remember, that there is a very distinct line between inspiration, and plagiarism.

One gets you fans and followers of your own, the other gets you a potential lawsuit (and a totally edu-taining blog post written about you **cough**)

Now, I’m off to finish my coffee before I have to microwave it again, but I’d LOVE to have your thoughts on this.

Do you think that what has happened to me above is plagiarism, or that I should be flattered by the imitation?

What would you do in this situation?

Much love for now,

Sarah x

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