It’s Our Stories, NOT Our Ideas, That Make Us Original

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As a TV Host, I’m usually telling other people’s stories--how they reached success, what inspired them, obstacles in their way, etc. It’s fun and inspiring. But, I’ve always felt I’ve had my own stories to tell too. Stories about overcoming self-doubt, taking risks, and confidently pursuing my dreams. What sometimes stops me from sharing my stories is the fear of being unoriginal. Somebody else has had a similar experience and has already shared their version after all. So why would people care about mine?

It’s a common, unproductive way of thinking. This post it to remind myself and you that this fear is unoriginal--not our stories.

I’ll get into why we are original in a second, but first I have to explain why our ideas are not. I promise it comes full circle with a feel good ending.

I’ve been reading a lot lately about how there is no such thing as a new idea. Think about it… Everything you’ve learned (good and bad), you’ve learned from someone else. Your political, religious and social beliefs all stem from an education and environment you’ve received from other people. What you wear, how you talk, even your interests, are heavily influenced by your family, friends and society.

And next time you fear being unoriginal, uninteresting or un-something-silly, realize you learned this fear from someone else too… who learned this fear from yet someone else.

Mark Twain said it well:

“There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations.”

Perhaps this reality is refreshing to hear, making you feel inspired to give old ideas “new and curious combinations”. Or perhaps it’s kind of depressing to think you may not be as brilliant as you think you are ;).

Here’s where the feel good ending I promised you comes in…. Our ideas may not be original, but our perspectives and personal stories ARE! And a new take on an old (good) idea will always be welcome, by someone, somewhere.

Music is a great example of this. Mark Ronson (Uptown Funk) dives into how new music builds from old music in NPR's TED Radio Hour. He says,

“You'd be really hard-pressed to listen to something today and not be able to at least find four bars of it that's completely derivative of something else.”

He then goes on to justify it, saying:

“...But I think that if you're taking something and building on it, like the way that the Stones and The Beatles and Eric Clapton did with the Delta blues to make their own music, and it's truly become something that can enrich somebody's experience in a different way.”

That’s where the question lies for us, regardless of our industry… How can we build on a good idea and make it our own to enrich someone's experience in a different way?

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