People say there’s nothing new under the sun. But considering the sun is eight hundred and sixty four thousand miles in diameter, if you can’t find something new under it, you’re not very creative. Again, your greatest currency in this world is your originality. Now, to be fair, sustaining originality of voice is no easy task. Especially over the long haul of a career. In fact, even some of the world’s most successful creators struggle with this issue. The question is, in a world where the major scale has only seven notes, what, exactly, are these musicians doing that’s so innovative and interesting and different? And how do they stay so original for so long? For starters, the notes are only the beginning. Even if you’re not a musician.
Focusing on and differentiating your work through the little worlds you investigate to a great, high level, something that fascinates and ignites you
Whatever your medium is, the process of collecting, crafting and communicating your ideas isn’t just about content, it’s also about context. Like my statistics professor used to joke, it’s not what the data says, it’s what the data points to. And so, our job as prolific creators and communicators isn’t just to pick up ideas, but to pull them apart and point out how they represent a beautiful reminder of what could be. Not just to take pictures of interesting moments or found objects, but to ponder those experiences and wonder if they point to a more general principle. Not just to identify solutions, but to differentiate through our diagnosis of the problem. And not just to observe things, but to choreograph people’s attention to the thing behind the thing. One method for doing so is through hyperfocused expression. Finding the small part of the world that you can touch and setting it free.
I’ll never forget when The New York Times wrote a fascinating profile piece about Jerry Seinfeld. When they spoke about his unequaled analytical gifts, the reporter claimed that the billionaire comedian could describe a bouncing ball in a way that could change the way people looked at bouncing balls forever. He a master of arranging life’s messy confusions, shrewdly and immaculately, into a bouquet of trivial irritants. Who knew that nothing could be the inspiration for everything? For me, it’s my nametag. Wearing one all day, everyday for the past fourteen years has been my passport to interestingness, my mechanism for making sense of my existence and the source against which I bounce everything I see. And as long as I’m wearing it and people are engaging around it, the nametag services as an endless source of material, a contextual reservoir that will never run dry. And yet, nobody cares about nametags. But I do. Probably more than anyone on the planet. In fact, caring is an understatement. Nametags are an obsession. A religion. An addiction. A pathological psychosis. At least that’s what my therapist says. But if you’re not sure what the source of your hyperfocused expression is, consider trying the following exercise: Everything I need to know, I learned from my blank. Whatever little world you investigate to a great, high level, is a surefire path to prolificacy. Don’t be afraid to mine that vein.
People become successful because there’s something about this world that fascinates them and ignites them and they’ve spent years scratching that itch. What’s interesting is, the word “context” derives from the term contextus, which literally means, “to weave together.” That’s where originality and prolificacy are born. Whatever you’re creating, always take time to look for original facets and angles and refractions of light that create a context adjacent to the content. And you’ll find there are plenty of new ideas under the sun. How will you sustain originality of voice?
Create an unreplicatable inspiration pool
Consistently output work over long arc
Never run out of things to say
Build a unique inspiration framework