Bad artists copy. Great artists steal. –Pablo Picasso
“There’s nothing new under the sun,” is a saying I’m sure you’re familiar with. Yet how is it that we’re dazzled daily by the exciting and unique perspectives of emerging new voices?
The truth is, outside of cutting-edge theoretical science, there is nothing new. And even then, one might argue that scientists are merely discovering relationships amongst things already known.
And that’s the key to stealing great content ideas—discovering a relationship between your subject matter expertise and things already known. Don’t worry… it’s not really stealing, but the instant improvement in your content is almost like cheating.
Understand first that a unique perspective simply means you see a connection that others do not. So, you can still cite your sources and yet speak in a truly new voice, because the connection makes all the difference.
Henry Makes Some Money
It’s not plagiarism — I’m recycling words, as any good environmentally conscious writer would do. –Uniek Swain
Henry is a businessman who takes a tour of a meat-packing plant in Chicago, and is keenly interested in the established practice of dividing up the entire process into small specialized tasks. While this is common in the meat-packing field, no one does this in Henry’s industry. Henry Ford goes on to make a lot of money.
A guy named Gutenberg alters the course of human history by looking intently at a coin maker’s stamp and the way wine makers squeeze juice from grapes. His observations result in the printing press, and the Chinese, who at the time are the world technology leaders, are only now starting to catch up after that massive boost the Western world received.
Seth updated the 60-year-old unique selling proposition and the age-old practice of referral marketing by calling it a “purple cow” (a term borrowed from a poem) because he realized that in an inter-networked world, other people could sell remarkable stuff better than the seller could. And yet the fundamentals of uniqueness remain the same.
Your “New” Idea Most Likely Isn’t
All my best thoughts were stolen by the ancients. –Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s often a shock to the thinking person when they find that their revolutionary new idea is not new at all. Most likely, someone in a robe thought of it thousands of years ago.
No worries, it just means you’re on the path to greatness. For a shortcut, read the ideas of smart people throughout history—from Socrates and Jesus to Anne Frank and Dorothy Parker.
You’ll never run out of inspiration.
Goofing Off to be Great
Loafing is the most productive part of a writer’s life. –James Norman Hall
You don’t need to hear it from me that you must read everything relevant to your niche to be an expert. Of course you do.
But will that make you great? Will it make you someone that people listen to and respect?
Not necessarily, and most likely no.
What makes you great is what you learn outside of your area of expertise, because that’s where the connections are made. Good luck comes to those who work hard, and part of working hard is paying attention when you’re not working.
I’ve found inspiration in novels, magazines, good television, bad movies, walks in the park, nights at the bar, the laughter in my children’s eyes and even something my mother-in-law once said.
Always look in the unlikely places.
A Unique Perspective Does Not Fear Attribution
It is the little writer rather than the great writer who seems never to quote, and the reason is that he is never really doing anything else. –Havelock Ellis
I ran across that Henry Ford story in Roy William’s book, The Wizard of Ads. I’d heard the Gutenberg story before, but it’s also in Roy’s book. The Seth story is my own observation, but I’m sure plenty of people realized the same thing long ago.
The point is that this article is simply a mishmash of things I’ve read, and things I’ve lived, and things I’ve thought. But I’m standing on the shoulders of giants every step of the way.
Umm … Sir Isaac Newton said that “shoulders of giants” thing long before me, and he
ripped off borrowed it from some other guy who no one remembers. 😉