A topic that’s come up a few times this week, since I posted my latest LinkedIn video, is how can I be original in a world full of people saying the same thing but better?
There are two words I take issue with here:
- Original. Originality, like perfection, is a nebulous aim. What is original in one setting, is passé is another. You are chasing after the root of a rainbow.
- Better. What does ‘better’ mean in this context? Are they talking to the exact same audience as you are? Is their background a carbon copy of yours? Are they, in fact, your clone? If the latter, then yes, you have a problem. If not, then you are in luck because....
....No one else is you.
Perhaps there’s a small voice in your head telling you that being you is not a good thing. Imposter syndrome is a well-documented feeling, which my colleague James has written about before here. The good news is, ‘many of the most successful people in history’ have imposter syndrome. So if you are doubting yourself, your ability, your originality, then that is a sign that you are taking the task at hand seriously, and with due respect.
This is a good thing.
So let’s twist the question around – you should ask yourself instead What can I bring to well-worn topics? and the answer lies in the myriad of things that make you you. Your experiences, your taste, your hobbies, your writing style, your quirks, your research interests, your languages, your skills, your socio-economic background, and so on and so forth. These all give you a unique perspective.
No, you might not reinvent the wheel, but in reframing questions you will bring new perspectives to them.
Originality can be as simple as shifting the context. Transposing a concept from its habitual environment into another makes it appear alien and fresh all over again.
I cannot tell you how to be original, because I am not you.
But you can.