Why Originality is Less Important Than You Think


If you’re anything like most aspiring mega-entrepreneurs, you probably spend a lot of time agonizing over content.

You have things you want to say and lessons you want to share that you feel can legitimately help other people to live happier, more successful lives.

But somewhere in the process of creating, it happens: The Doubt Monster rears its ugly head and plants the thought…

Someone wrote a book about this 5 years ago.


You know so-and-so just wrote a post about a similar topic last month, right?

And unless you’re an unashamed plagiarist, you start second guessing yourself.

Maybe you shouldn’t write about Topic X  because someone did something similar recently.

Maybe you shouldn’t create a Product Y  because there are at least a dozen books on the subject.

It seems like everything has already been said, taught, written about, and turned into a product. Why even bother to share your boring, old take on the same subject?

There’s a Reason Your Thinkin’ is Stinkin’

Once the second-guessing starts, it takes on a life of its own. “Who am I to say ‘me too’ and write about this?” You feel like you pale in comparison to the other people who have created similar content.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. We’ve all been there.

But you know what? It’s not even a valid worry. It’s merely a case of what Zig Ziglar would call stinkin’ thinkin’.

The reason your thinkin’ is stinkin’ actually comes from a good place: your integrity.

People who don’t mind knocking off other people’s ideas don’t have anxiety over the ethics of copying. They just do it.

But you and your integrity stew over it. It makes you feel almost as if you’re stealing.

How to Make Old Ideas New Again

Let me take that burden off your shoulders with one simple fact: There is nothing new under the sun.

With very rare exceptions, brand new, 100% original ideas are largely fictitious. New concepts are spun off of old concepts. Different perspectives and different experiences add new dimensions to existing thought.

In other words – you’re not stealing if you’re adding your own unique and sincere angle on a topic.

No one owns the subjects of sales, relationships, parenting, or fitness – and yet there have been thousands of articles, books, blogs, and products launched off of the backs of those topics.

It’s not because writing about sales, for example, is original. It’s because adding one’s own life experiences and perspectives to that “old” topic creates a brand new take on it. It allows people who didn’t get it before to finally have the concept make sense to them because it was finally delivered in a way that makes sense to them.

New and interesting perspectives on existing ideas are just as valuable as brand new ideas. Maybe even more valuable.

Why One Man’s Mind Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

If you’ve had experience in a particular area of life, then you have perspectives and thoughts on the subject that no one else has.

We all have a tendency to discount how valuable our experiences are.

For instance, I have a friend who’s a CEO. Not long ago, we were at a football game together and I mentioned a sales term in passing that I thought literally everyone in business knew. He stopped me mid-sentence and asked, “Wait – what does that mean?

As I explained the concept behind the term, he lit up. He got visibly excited about it and said, “Man! My Sales manager needs to hear about this. This would really help us with our prospecting!Originality

And here I thought that little morsel was mundane and boring. I was wrong. It wasn’t mundane to him.

I had something inside me that could help his business – and I had totally discounted its worth. If I hadn’t accidentally thrown that term out in our conversation that day that knowledge would have never helped his business.

Inside of you are thousands (maybe millions) of thoughts and experiences that you think don’t have any value. I’m here to tell you that they do have value. Probably much more than you realize.

Not everyone knows what you know, and literally no one else has lived in your shoes.

Why YOU Are Your Own Best-Selling Product

In business, people don’t always want ‘new’ or ‘original’ or ‘cutting edge.’ More often than not, they’re looking for useful, helpful, effective, and sincere. They want to feel confident. They want to trust and rely on someone. They want you.

That’s why your unique take on an already existing topic is important. There are people in this world (more than you realize) who may never understand that topic unless they hear it from your point of view.

This means not only is it ok for you to share your unique take on the world… but it is your duty to do so. If you have the opportunity to enrich the lives of others and choose not to, you’re doing the world a disservice.

As long as you’re shining the light of your topic through your own lens, shine it brightly and unapologetically. Someone out there needs that light in order to see.

The Genuine Enthusiasm of Derek Halpern

The best example I can think of someone who has mastered this is Derek Halpern of Social Triggers. The guy has built a tremendously successful business and a hugely loyal following because of his unique take on what makes people tick psychologically – and how to use that information to succeed in business.

Sure, Derek uses information from his own experiences, but he also gets a lot of his principles from best-selling authors, professors, researchers, and other experts. That doesn’t make him a plagiarist. Far from it.

Derek condenses the complex and shares a simple, concise message to his followers in an energetic and entertaining way that no one else can deliver.

Hundreds of thousands of people have chosen to follow Derek because of his unique take on all those topics. Think about it – would you like to read a 400 page psychology book written by a professor, or listen to Derek conduct a fun, informative interview with that professor on a podcast – and then relate the message to online marketing for you?

It’s a no-brainer. Thousands upon thousands have decided that they’d rather hear it from Derek.

How I Found My Voice in the Very Last Place I Looked

Jeff Goins of Goins Writer totally changed my mind on a topic that I’d written off as “fluff” a while back – and my work has been better for it ever since.

If you asked me back then what I thought about “finding your voice”, I’d have scoffed and said it was something people used as an excuse not to move forward. In fact, I even wrote this in a guest post on a very prominent blog

finding your voice

Shortly thereafter, I ran across Jeff’s explanation of finding your voice, and everything changed for me.

A hundred other people’s explanations of voice left me cold and unconvinced. But for some reason when I heard it from Jeff’s perspective it all made sense. I was so floored I wrote a post that week about my change of heart.

If Jeff had chosen not to put content out there about a supposedly tired, old topic – I’d have never had that revelation. I needed that understanding and for some reason I needed to hear it from him for it to make sense.

The World Needs Your VoiceOriginality

Somewhere out there is a group of people struggling to make sense of something you already know, but consider old news.

To worry about re-hashing the topic or to dismiss it as common knowledge is to deprive those people of understanding and mastering something that could improve their lives.

The way you word your message, your past experiences, your personality, your age… your voice: They all add a dimension to your topic that no one else is capable of delivering.

Do me a favor. Take an inventory of all those things you know. Take a fresh look at all those ideas that you discarded because you feel like they’ve been done to death.

What can you add to them? What experience have you had that others haven’t?

There’s something you can add to the story.

So go add it.

Time to fess up…
How many times have you chosen not to put  “your angle” out there because you thought it wasn’t original? Share your thoughts in the comments!


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About Gary Korisko

Gary is a battle-tested sales and marketing pro, copywriter, coach, and business strategist who teaches how to create worthwhile work on Reboot Authentic. Connect with Gary on Google+ and Twitter.

33 Replies

  1. I’m really glad you wrote about this, Gary. It’s really true that most of us can get too lost in our own heads – we assume our experience is everyone else’s, too – and we end up not sharing our own unique and valuable perspective. In a way, it’s a bit egocentric to think that everyone must know what we know, but it’s also very natural. I say, “Put it out there, baby!”

    1. Yeah, this is a tough one, Bobbi.

      I think pretty much everyone struggles with this at some point. I know I have in the past. Your comment about it being a bit egocentric is interesting. I suppose to a degree that’s true. Good point & glad you enjoyed the post!

  2. MaryJaksch

    This such a good post that I’ve struggled through the process of being ALLOWED to comment on your blog after Disqus didn’t accept any of the passwords I threw at it …. oh, how I hate that Disqus thing.

    Anyway, back to this post. You make a very important point, Gary. Actually, I had an interesting experience a short while ago. I was on a Skype call with Bobbi Emel (who wrote the first comment) and Vinita Zutshi. We were talking about energy or lack thereof. I explained what I learned about energy in my martial art training: that you have to give energy away with both hands. You have to give all your have – then energy comes flooding back.

    I explained it a bit more – and then there was a pregnant pause. Finally Bobbi said, “You should write a post about that.” Now, I didn’t think I said anything particularly interesting, but I had discounted my personal experience of living with high energy.

    1. Ah, the eternal struggle between Mary and Disqus.

      As to the rest of your comment – That’s a perfect example. You’re a ridiculously successful content creator and even you have the tendency to discount valuable insights. This should remind us all to be actively aware of this little bit of human nature that can hold us back.

      Thanks, Mary!

    2. Sophie Lizard

      I would like to read that post, Mary. I’m not sure how to “give energy away with both hands”, but the idea of pouring energy out to create a vacuum that draws more back in makes a lot of sense to me. Zen physics!

  3. Ronnie Turla

    This article was very helpful for me as I write a blog post. It made me think that we do have our individual voices that we can share and being original is overrated. Good insights from this post.

    1. Thank you, Ronnie! I’m glad the post helped 🙂

  4. Thanks for writing about this, Gary (even though I’ve seen this topic 100x before). Just kidding! 🙂

    Seriously, though, I struggle with The Doubt Monster constantly when coming up with new topics to write about. I have the precise internal dialogue that you mention in your post above.

    But as you say, you just have to keep reminding yourself that you have a fresh perspective and a unique way of saying things … and know that at least some people are going to find that valuable.

    So thanks for that reminder, Gary. Great post.

    1. Hi Mark!

      Another thing that has helped me is this: Sometimes when you feel like a topic has been done well before – it’s good to go read what those others wrote. Not for the purpose of copying, but for the purpose of studying what they *didn’t* do that you could. That way you can avoid saying the same things as they do – and maybe get some fresh ideas.

      In other words read it thinking, “What did they leave out about this topic?” “What would the exact opposite view of this topic look like?” or “What’s an offshoot topic from this one?”

      Thanks for jumping in here, Mark. Good to see you.

  5. Sophie Lizard

    And *that’s* why you can’t copyright an idea – only its expression. It’s also why I just stole this topic and added it to my list of things to blog about in the coming year. Thanks, Gary!

    P.S. Can I have the 400 page psychology book AND Derek Halpern? It’s almost Christmas,after all… 😉

    1. Ha! And I’ll bet you a 400 page psychology book that you’ll have an angle on it I didn’t think of. And that’s the beauty of it, right?

      Thanks, Sophie. It’s always good to see my favorite upside-down avatar in my comments!

  6. I go through this time and time again when I research a topic I want to write about that I know would provide some insight to my audience and help people, but then I don’t go through with it because I see that someone wrote on the topic the previous month. And even if it did get alot of views and shares, if I came out with it, it would look like plagiarism or something. So I never published it.

    Well after your post here, it all makes sense. Even if someone else came out with that topic they wrote it in their voice … just like what I wrote will be in my own voice. My own thoughts. My own opinion. The only thing that’s the same is the topic.

    Very good post and I’m going into my drafts folder and digging out all those post I never wrote and schedule to publish them. Because there are so many topics on starting a blog, making money on a blog, starting a business and just about every topic you could think of … but each of those are each individual authors own thoughts.

    1. Great idea, Andrew. A trip through the old drafts with a fresh perspective can be productive. I’m glad the post got you thinking!

  7. Some things are so damn important to say they can’t be said enough. 🙂

    Thanks for being so thoughtful and spot on in your posts, Gary.

    I think the concern about originality is also the fear of sounding repetitive. I got some great advice on the subject, that really hits home for bloggers: “When you are sick of saying it is when your audience has heard it for the first time.” So that’s a challenge.

    Also, it’s a great idea to try to replicate all the work that speaks to you. Because that’s exactly what the creators of all the world’s great work did. When I got my music degree, I learned that every great composer that amounted to anything ripped off Bach, and probably Beethoven too, if they got the chance. And in fact, reverse-engineering Bach was what we did in the first day of music composition.

    So as a blogger, it’s YOUR JOB to rip off as many great bloggers as possible. (And I tell my readers that if they see any ideas they like on my blog, they should take them).

    “Steal Like an Artist” is THE book on this topic, and an easy and fun read, with pictures. (But without Gary’s blog post, I wouldn’t be able to share this…right?)

    1. Well, I don’t know about stealing… but certainly there’s value to adding to an idea or putting a twist on it. I think you use the existing “base” of information as a foundation and build your own thing on top of it. I’m pretty sure we’re saying the same thing 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your take on this, Aaron.

      1. Techinplain English

        Thanks for saying that the world needs my voice. It’s really a cool thing to hear to start off the week.

        1. You bet! We all need to share that stuff bouncing around in our grey matter 🙂

  8. Dean Brightman

    Yep, guilty of this, too. I’ve lost track of the times I’ve run across a post or a tweet and thought, “well, so much for writing about THAT.” Gotta stop doing that.

    Regarding finding a voice, and this may be just me, but it’s about being genuine. For me, there’s no substitute for natural enthusiasm. If you’re really, really, really, really into what you’re writing about, that enthusiasm will naturally come out and your voice will find itself. You won’t have to struggle with what to say — it’ll just come out of you.

    Great work as always, Gary.

    1. We’ve all done it, Dean. It’s a matter of recognizing it as false & moving on anyway.

      Based on your comment about “voice” – you should go listen to Jeff explain it. It’s linked to above. I think you’ll appreciate it.

  9. If originality was critical, we wouldn’t have 65,323 make money online websites out there! Nice post Gary!

    1. True, Mike. Good to see you here in the comments!

  10. scott moore


    I am glad I found your blog. You are right with the idea behind the post and the fact that each individual is unique and still needs to put content out based on individual experience. I will visit your blog more often.

    1. Thanks very much, Scott. It’s great to have you here. If you haven’t already subscribed, you might want to consider it so you can get notified of all new posts and updates. I’m glad you got something from the post – and that you joined us here in the comments. Hope to see you here again soon.

  11. Techinplain English

    re: the fess up question, if I had $100 for every time I kept a comment to myself, I’d have a room full of cash. I listen more than I speak. I read more than I post. Alex @ggsolutions on Twitter

    1. I don’t think you’re alone there at all. Listening more than you speak is a good thing! But there’s a line between that and letting it keep you from stretching. Humble is a good quality. Thanks for the comment!

  12. Great artists steal, right?

    The interesting thing is if you copy and steal from enough sources of inspiration, you start to create work that people call “interesting” and authentic. And it kind of is.

    And you thought you were just copying…

    1. Hey, Jeff.

      Good to see you here. No one has written more to make me re-think my own views on originality and creativity than you have.

      While the word “steal” still makes me feel a bit twitchy, if we all sat around waiting for the next revelation akin to the wheel or the light bulb to come to us, where would we be? What did George Burns say? There are really only 7 jokes. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping in, Jeff!

  13. I hear you – especially the example you gave about Jeff Goins and the lesson you learned. I look at other copywriters and think ‘they’ve written about this beffoooorrreee! I wanna write something neeewwww!!!’. But in fact, a lot of what I’ve written HAS been done before.

    Apart from the posts that contain personal stories. Those gems are mine. (and yes, I did just refer to my own work as ‘gems’. YIkes).

    How about not being original, but stating the opposite? As long as you are doing this authentically? For example, Jon Morrow says focus on building an email list of 1000 before you move onto other other platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc). I say – build your email list PLUS one other platform, if your audience are more likely to be present on both email and social media.

    But who am *I* to disagree with what someone with the achievements of Jon Morrow says??!!

    – Razwana

    1. Hi Razwana.

      Glad you liked the post. As for the “Who am I to…” comment, I’d say your opinion is as valid as anyone’s. Jon knows his stuff, no doubt. But how we get from point A to point B can vary from person to person.

      That’s part of why we all need to hear the same thing from different angles, right?

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  15. Gary,

    You are the life saver for me. You have taken a lot off burden off my shoulders, I just started writing on my blog last month but again the fear of rehashing took over me. I think all day and not able to deliver. I have been thinking about the topics since last weekend and when I do a quick google search, I find the Pro’s have delivered it quite well and I lose my enthusiasm. But, as you mentioned that my experience and way of looking things or my age can make a significant difference to someone’s life, it has brought back my enthusiasm. I will be free of this fear now. I am saving this article in my notepad and everytime I feel paralyzed about original content, I will just read it. Thanks a ton buddy

  16. The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those who sang the best.
    ” John James Audubon ”
    So many before you may have come and said the same thing over and over again and may have even made a ton of difference in so many lives, but it was to be YOU with your experience, words, muse and reasoning that has finally DONE it for me. You lit up one more candle today and have essentially, yet again, given back to life what you gained from Jeff Goin’s inspiration. A small part of universe will sing a song for you, I hope you feel the vibes. A cog has been set in motion which had screeched to an agonizing halt while crushed under the weight of comparison ……. From here on , these words are my armor and by Lord I am ready

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