And in life.
This post is a little more personal than usual, but this topic has been in my mind a lot lately and I needed to write about it.
Maybe the same thing happens to you, and it’s that you find it difficult to stand out from the crowd because it seems that everything has been done, said and repeated and you want your business to be different.
These days there is a lot of talk about what it means to be original. There are many people who say that such a concept is overrated, since being totally original is impossible.
Every idea has arisen from another, the artists we admire have created their works with previous ones in mind. Did you know that Nirvana wrote Smells Like Teen Spirit based on the song More than a Feeling by Boston?
Picasso said, “A plagiarist is someone who steals from a person. A true artist steals from everyone”.
This is very true, it’s necessary to learn from others we admire to create our own work, whether it’s a painting, a novel or a business.
However, I do believe that artists who have succeeded with their work, as well as business ideas that have worked extraordinarily well, did so because they were original.
By this I don’t mean that these people woke up one day and created something incredible out of nothing that didn’t exist before, all great inventions have had their basis in several previous discoveries and are usually the result of many years of study and testing.
It’s obvious that everything has originated from something else as a base; observing what others have done previously can provide us with inspiration and good ideas.
A business idea or a novel has emerged from the study of other novels and other businesses that existed before but with the intention of improving them or at least creating something different.
And that’s where the true essence of what it means to be original lay, not in doing something so extraordinary and unheard of that people don’t understand and don’t need, but creating something different that works, helps others or people just like.
Because let’s be honest, being original without receiving public recognition makes artists’ biographies interesting, but in real life it usually leads to the person having to abandon his dream to get a job that pays the bills; so what we pursue is to be original and be able to live from it, either as a painter or as an entrepreneur.
The problem I see is that there is a fear of being original because it means taking risks, doing something different that we don’t know in principle if it’s going to work.
This can lead a lot of people to copy more than they’d like and therefore get undesired results, because if an idea doesn’t stand out from all the others it will be more difficult to attract attention.
In this post we are going to focus mainly on how you can be original when starting and promoting a business, since this is what my blog is all about and how I would like to help my readers.
What I propose to you here is that we see together some ideas to be more original, or if you prefer, to be different, so your voice can be heard among the constant noise of the Internet and, in particular, of social media.
First things first.
Choose very well who you follow
As we’ve seen, Picasso and Nirvana were also inspired by other people.
I still remember when at 12 I won a creative writing contest in my city with a story inspired by a film I had watched that had left its mark on me. It was To Kill a Mockingbird, with Gregory Peck.
In my story there was also a person with a mental handicap but the storyline was different, I can’t remember exactly how.
Another kid criticised me saying that my story wasn’t original and I felt like a fraud. That didn’t stop me from continuing my writing, but I was obsessed afterwards with not copying anything, I wanted to be truly original.
Eventually I came to the same conclusion that the painter from Malaga (and many others) had already arrived before me: that nothing emerges from nothing and that great works and talented people are there to inspire us.
In Internet era it’s very easy to feel overwhelmed by all the information we share; we all follow hundreds of people on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube and we seem to spend a lot of time trying to listen/read them all.
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If you follow people who don’t provide you anything, at least choose them because they make you laugh.
In the end, the day has 24 hours and although following what others we admire do is very important to inspire us and to learn, we don’t have the time to read and watch everything that comes our way.
You have to make a sieve. Choose carefully the people you follow and ask yourself why you follow them. Does that person provide you with something valuable? Do you learn and get good ideas from her posts/articles? If so, follow her, but you have to rationalise the number of people or brands you follow, this way you will have time to read their posts or watch their videos so their teachings serve you on your own path.
The list of people you follow doesn’t have to be fixed, it could be that at some point in your life a person is giving you a lot to develop your own ideas and after a while you might think that she doesn’t give you anything anymore. You can replace that person with someone else so this way the number of people you follow won’t grow.
I try to receive a maximum of 5 newsletters a week and I control the time I’m on social media.
A part of your day needs to be dedicated to study others but without wasting time.
You have to be aware of any procrastination tendencies, those moments when instead of doing the activity you set out to do (write a post for the blog, create an infographic, create a webinar) you spend silly hours on Facebook.
You need to control these impulses and really evaluate if the time you spend on social media is valuable or is just providing you with shallow distraction.
The Internet is a window to the world and can be very useful, but at the same time it can be a double-edged sword and make you waste a very valuable amount of time.
It’s your choice.
Read almost anything that falls into your hands
We are hooked all day to our mobiles, tablets and computers and very few people read books anymore.
Reading books is very different from reading articles or blogs, first because your eyes can rest from the screen and second because ideas flow differently.
I find that reading a book is even more relaxing than it used to be because I can disconnect from everything and focus only on what the writer wants to tell me and how I imagine the story or how I can apply those ideas to my life and to my work.
Have you noticed that there are more and more ads on the Internet?
Of course, that’s what it was all about. Internet was originally created as a means to send and receive information faster and cheaper, but then the commercial part played in and businesses realised that it was a perfect way to sell products. It makes sense, since nothing is free in this world, but it can also be exhausting.
When reading an article you have on both sides of the margins several ads trying to grab your attention and even if you make an effort not to look at them and concentrate on reading, they are still there and a part of your brain is processing the information even if you don’t realise.
That’s why reading a book (even if it’s an eBook, although I recommend reading paper books from time to time) is so relaxing. Your brain is not receiving all those other fillips and you can concentrate on processing the information that you are reading better.
By reading you learn a great deal, I would say that everything you want to know is in the books, rather than on YouTube channels.
People who read books will be more noticeable, because by reading you not only learn concepts but you also learn to express yourself better, something essential to relate to others. What’s the use of knowing a lot about a subject if you don’t know how to explain it to others?
Eloquence is increasingly valued at work, since, if you can speak and express yourself very well, you will have more opportunities to convince others that your idea is great.
Read as much as you can, if you find it difficult to make time in your busy day to read, allocate some time in your calendar for it, even if it’s only 30 minutes a day, that’s better than nothing.
Maybe what you can do is to read on the subway to get to work instead of reading nonsense on Twitter, or before going to bed.
Some studies warn that looking at your phone before going to sleep may cause sleep problems due to all those fillips we talked about earlier. However, reading a book relaxes you and gets you ready to enjoy a deep sleep.
It’s all a matter of creating a reading habit.
Test your strategies
Another problem I see around me is that people who have a business try thousands of promotion and marketing strategies but don’t test them long enough to determine if they are working or not.
Ana has chosen to follow a promotion strategy by writing a post every week and publishing it on LinkedIn and Facebook. She has just started her coaching business and for the moment her website doesn’t receive much organic traffic.
Then a person whom she follows on LinkedIn writes a post saying that what brings more results now are Instagram stories.
Ana sets out to do an Instagram story every day, but then she no longer has time to write a blog article every week and starts to neglect her blog.
After a month, the traffic has somewhat increased but not as much as she expected with the Instagram stories, so she reads in a post on Instagram about the amount of traffic you can generate with Facebook Live’s.
Ana then decides to do a Facebook Live every week, but she no longer has time to write, and stops writing on her blog completely and creates fewer Instagram stories so the traffic doesn’t increase.
This is a very common mistake of people who start a business, they don’t question what people say but follow trends.
Strategies have to be tested for a while, at least 6 months, in order to be sure if they are really working.
So you don’t have to change strategy every time something new becomes a trend. Being original also means following your instinct and doing things according to your personality. That doesn’t mean that if you really think YouTube videos is what’s going to help you grow your business, you end up not doing it out of fear.
Sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone to grow and take on new challenges, but I don’t advise you to do something that is light years away from your comfort zone, go step by step, always challenging yourself a little and trying new things when the old ones don’t work anymore, but always with the evidence behind you and never just to follow a trend.
Thank and ignore
When a person inspires you with his work, because he gives you new ideas and you learn from the content he shares, it’s nice to thank him. We all like to get positive feedback and to know that our work helps others.
On the other hand, thanking is something that enriches the spirit, provides serenity and puts us in our place.
Copying what someone literally said without citing the source is very unethical. It may be that you ever think of something without knowing that someone else has expressed it before, this is very possible, but still we find a lot of people copying around.
It can happen that when you publish something, ideas come to your mind and you may not remember where you read it or who said it, then it will not be plagiarism, since you will explain the same idea with your own words and from your own vision.
And this is one of the most genuine ways to be original, it’s very difficult to have completely new ideas but what you can do is develop an existing one giving it a new nuance.
Perhaps a person who already knew this concept can understand it and apply it better to her life and work when she reads it from you, because you have simply explained it better or because your point of view seems more valid to her than the previous one.
This also applies to a business idea or a product, even if you have created something that is already in the market your way of doing things is different and that is what you must show.
But, what do we do with those people who are so fashionable these days, our dear haters?
There will always be people who criticize your work or your way of thinking, do you remember what your mother told you when you were little? It’s impossible to please everyone.
Seeking approval is human but it isn’t the impulse on which we should base all our creative energy because there will be occasions when we’ll receive cruel criticism.
With the negative comments of some people the first thing you should do is to analyse if there is something you can use. Sometimes, by reading with an open heart, we can transform a cruel comment into constructive feedback from which we can learn something revealing.
If you decide that there is nothing to gain from that comment, then there are two things you can do:
– Use it to your advantage to give you publicity as Netflix masterfully does.
– Or just ignore them and keep working.
The first thing writer Austin Kleon used to do when he woke up was to read comments on Twitter and Facebook which already put him in a bad mood and urged him to immediately reply to all of them. Then one day his wife shouted from the other room “Stop choosing your battles and start creating something!” He thought she was damn right. From that moment on, he uses that fury to work energetically.
Your mother was right, it’s impossible to please everyone, so just do things to please yourself, enjoy the process of doing them and if people like them, then wicked.
Don’t be afraid to be different
Fear is one of the most powerful forces in the world, it can paralyse you or make you do things half-heartedly.
Too often we are afraid to be ourselves because we don’t want to be too different. Already at school we wanted to be chameleonized with the mass, not to stand out too much, so this way we would avoid being the target of other children’s jokes.
We didn’t want to be the smartest or the least intelligent person in the class, we just wanted to merge with the group.
But if you don’t stand out in any way, how can you squeeze your full potential and show what you’re capable of? Being different is good because it makes you special, don’t be afraid to show your opinion and believe in your values.
In this Internet era, fashions are even stronger than when we used to live in an analogue world, because the pressure of the media and advertising is very strong, especially for the younger ones.
But it also has its positive side, through connectivity we can learn about important initiatives, people who are doing things differently in the world and living according to their values. We have more sources of inspiration and resources to work on what we really believe in.
So why not use them?
Today even if you live in a small town where you can’t interact with many people who inspire you, you can connect with people all over the world through the Internet. It will never be the same as real contact but it can be very fruitful.
In order to grow you have to surround yourself with people who know more than you do and who can teach you things, obviously also with people you can help, but if it’s always you who knows more than the others, you will not grow further.
Now we constantly hear that we should surround ourselves only with positive people but I don’t agree with that.
I’ll tell you why.
There are people who aren’t a ray of sunshine but who have taught me a great deal and inspired me to do things. Just because a person doesn’t always see the glass full doesn’t mean it’s cursed, life is a roller coaster and there are times when we’re up and others when we’re down and it’s especially when we’re down that we need to know there’s someone by our side.
I rather think that we have to get away from selfish people who do nothing but ask without giving anything in return. I believe that these people are the ones who don’t provide you anything good and wear you out, and it’s very possible that they have a permanent smile on their face.
These people have served me, if anything, to inspire me to create characters for my stories. That’s all.
In order to be different, you have to know how to choose and say No, and thus live your own life and not someone else’s. You need to choose what makes you happy and what doesn’t; many people are happy earning a lot of money or going skiing; but you may not like skiing at all and prefer a less demanding job and have more free time and less worries even if it means eating out less.
Be different in your own way, listen to your inner voice and don’t let anyone choose for you.
I write web copy and engaging content for businesses without borders. I live in the Netherlands, I write everywhere. I love arthouse films and books that make me think. Tolstoy and Chekhov are my life coaches.