It’s the early 1900s.
You’re in Paris.
Specifically, you’re in Gertrude Stein’s home at 27 Rue de Fleurus.
On the walls surrounding you are hung what will become some of the most important works of art ever to have existed.
But that’s all to come.
Right now, the talk around you concerns two specific artists.
Both have pictures hanging on Gertrude’s walls…
Both are considered geniuses…
And both are pushing the boundaries of art to a whole new level.
But their style and belief in what art should be couldn’t be more different.
And despite a grudging respect for one another’s work, these two blossoming masters are hugely jealous of each other. They’re incredibly competitive and each is determined to out-do the other.
Which is brilliant.
Because the rivalry between these two artists, the constant need to ‘beat’ the other and the never-ending sense of one-up-man-ship will result in some of the greatest paintings of the 20th century.
In fact, you could argue their rivalry changed the very course of art.
You see, I’m talking about Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse.
Whether you’re into art or not, chances are you’ve heard of these two.
I find there’s so much you can learn by studying the lives of such interesting characters, but what I want to discuss here is this idea of rivalry and how it can help you when it comes to being a successful copywriter.
Competition makes you stronger
You see, there are not many areas in life where there isn’t some form of competition…
There are bound to be one or two rivals in your lifetime who are going after the same clients.
I mean, I have numerous ‘competitors’ in the world of copywriting.
Does that worry me?
Not at all.
I love it.
Well, for a number of reasons.
For one, having people in constant competition forces me to raise my game. If I get lazy or complacent, they’ll pick up the slack.
I’ve seen it happen to others. They think they are ahead. They think they’re the best and then boom, complacency kicks in, their quality starts to drop, and their ideas seem stale.
When you know you’ve got good competition lurking, it motivates you to keep pushing forward.
Just like Picasso…
The paintings of his blue and rose periods started to sell very well to collectors in France and Germany in the early 1900s, but did he get complacent and stop bettering himself?
He pushed on with even more determination, developing a style of painting that had never been seen before (cubism) and would become one of the most lasting modern art movements of the 20th century.
But the fear of being overtaken isn’t the only advantage good competition can give you.
Seek out good competition
You see, you can learn from your competition.
If you hold them at arms-length, fear them and hide from them, you’ll get nowhere. Instead you should talk to them, study them, and try to understand them.
Examine what they do and how their approach differs to yours.
If you see they’re doing something in a better way, consider how you could improve your own approach. If you see them doing something badly, ensure you aren’t doing the same.
Picasso was considered a master draughtsman, yet he struggled with colour.
Matisse on the other hand was a master at manipulating colour but was found lacking when it came to drawing.
What’s interesting is that the two spoke about this.
They shared paintings and worked constantly to improve themselves using techniques they effectively stole from the other. Picasso was influenced by Matisse’s use of colour and Matisse by Picasso’s development of form.
So, don’t shy away from competition…
Don’t consider it a bad thing or use the success of a competitor as an excuse for your own struggles…
Embrace competition, welcome it and use it.
Talk to your competitors. Study them. Work out what makes them strong and adapt it. Work out what makes them weak and avoid it.
Help them. Encourage them. Share ideas with them.
Ultimately, your competition can be the very factor that pushes you to achieve greater success.
Would Picasso have painted some of his best works if it were not for the competitive influence of Matisse?
And vice versa, would Matisse without Picasso?
Chances are: no.
So, don’t be afraid of your competition – they could well be the very key to your success.
P.S. I’m a bit of a Picasso nut. I find his life and career really interesting, particularly his approach to creativity and ideas. If you’d like to read some more on the subject, he features in my book, The Art of the Click.