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Everything’s Already Been Said. Now What?

This guest post is by Stephen Guise of Deep Existence.

Over the course of human history, nearly everything has already been written about extensively. Despite this, more people are writing than ever before.

It’s because there will always be more to say.

It is very challenging to write completely original content. Quite often, the best we can do is present known content in a new way or combine it with another idea. There is no limit to the number of ways you can say something, and yet some approaches are vastly superior to others.

Consider the following sentences that carry the same basic message (hint: one of them isn’t any good).

  • I want to have good sentences.
  • I want to convey information in a manner that is enjoyable to read and accurate to my intent.

Teach an old idea new tricks

A recent 50-word article from the brilliant Seth Godin laid out a single concept: you can’t have success without being willing to fail. I can prove this isn’t new. My second post was titled, “Are You Willing To Fail? It Is The Key To Success,” and you’ll find about 100 more posts like these via a quick Google search.

What Seth did to make his article unique was tie in the concept of innovation. He replaced “success” with “innovation” in the formula, and people loved it. They hadn’t thought about how innovation and failure relate to each other, even though it’s a simple derivation from the failure/success concept.

As soon as you say, “failure is not an option,” you’ve just said, “innovation is not an option.”
—Seth Godin

Overwritten, tired topics can be re-energized with a fresh perspective and choice words. Seth’s post was 90% recycled information, but the 10% of new material changed it as a whole. A nasty analogy is that of adding a few drops of gasoline to a gallon of water—it has a dramatic effect!

One way to say something old in a new way is to leverage yourself. Great writers are cherished for their unique style. Every single person on this planet is unique (an amazing fact of reality). In an effort to write “correctly,” we may miss out on opportunities to be our more interesting selves.

Here’s an example. The personal development niche is one filled with serious writing. Changing lives is serious business! This observation and some incorrect assumptions about how a personal development blogger should write were stifling my creativity. Namely, I wasn’t injecting steroids humor into my posts like I naturally would.

Imitation = Limitation?

How about imitating the greatest writers? Most articles and books I’ve read recommend this. There are some things that you absolutely should imitate, but be careful about taking it too far. If you’re unique in some way, it could be a mistake to disguise that with imitative writing (unless your unique writing attributes are poor). Blogging is a medium that allows for wild creativity and individuality.

I believe that Steve Pavlina is currently the best in personal development blogging. He “gets it.” However, I’m not going to try to be a clone of him. Steve Pavlina is the best Steve Pavlina out there. I may pick up some great ideas or techniques from him, but I’ll be incorporating them into Stephen Guise’s writing style and ideas.

I want to be the best and most innovative voice in personal development and believe I have that potential. What if I fall way short of that? No problem, I’m willing to fail in order to succeed and innovate! You can’t become the best or anywhere close to it believing that 45th best is your upper limit. Do not put a ceiling on your ambition. Imitate great writers on this point—they don’t believe in ceilings unless it is raining outside.

Your ceiling is too low

When you put a ceiling on your potential before you’re exhausted from trying to reach it, you artificially ruin your chances. Like a nervous fan walking up to Jay Z, you’ll be timid about what you’re saying, thinking that successful people have magical powers. In your posts, maybe you’ll throw in some power words to feign confidence. Unfortunately, when the problem is underlying, it will bleed through to the actual content of your writing. You can’t hide it. You’ll play it safe and lose to those who are going all out … like me!

The answer, as I mentioned before, is to leverage yourself and your voice. Nobody can be you better than you. Darren Rowse can’t. Seth Godin can’t. Steve Pavlina might be able to. Their voices are different (and awesome, to their credit). Bonus: If your unique voice is terrible, you’ll find out sooner by trying really hard.

This has been said before

Oops! I’ve just rehashed a couple of cliches in this post.

  1. “Believe in yourself.”
  2. “Reach for the moon, and if you fall short, you might land on a star.” Side note: How did this catch on? The moon is closer to us than any star is….

Those are very common sayings. A possible reason you’re still reading this post is that maybe I’ve found a better or more interesting way to say those things (in just a few more words). Do you think I am audacious to invite comparison of my writing to a couple of the most well-known phrases? Me too, but it’s because I refuse to have a ceiling. I will never rule myself out before the umpire makes the call—and neither should you.

Maybe this post did fall short of those popular sayings and it will be forgotten tomorrow. I accept that as a possibility.

But maybe my perspective of this topic connected with you. Maybe my unique construction of words and ideas had an impact on you. That’s what I hope for. That personal connection is what makes blogging beautiful. That’s why we do it.

Stephen Guise lives happily outside of the box and enjoys sharing his ideas for positive life change. At Deep Existence, you’ll find an irresistible combination of critical thinking, creativity, and humor. Say hello to Stephen on twitter!

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Comments

  1. Great post Stephen!, I think that’s the reason why my business is moving quicker now, because I’m learning to fail a bit faster. Everything up until now I’ve mastered so I’m always looking to fail in new areas. ;]

  2. Mushfique says:

    Great post!
    I have to admit there are some posts which I totally write by myself after reading it from another source, like Seth did ! These posts are normally like recent news occurring in the world. Of course I wont be able to know what’s happening in the world before CNN and BBC does. Its just as you said, adding a few drops of gasoline in water would really create a good effect!
    Thanks for the marvellous tips :)

  3. Hey Stephen!

    I just recently started this whole blogging thing (although I have been researching and building websites for a while) and I have found that while I am writing articles I am usually stuck thinking that people have heard this before.

    So that is why I take time to try and make my posts unique, add a little personality and just have fun writing them. People can tell when you are genuine or when you are just rehashing old content.

    “Do not put a ceiling on your ambition.” – The best quote in the article!

    Thanks!

    -Stephen

    • Graham Lutz says:

      Yeah – great quote! I love how Tim Ferriss talks about how little competition there is for big goals.

    • That’s great Stephen! If you’re having fun, it probably means you aren’t copying someone else. I’m glad you liked that quote – feel free to quote me on it. :-)

  4. Jovie Onyema says:

    seriously, so much has already been said. I’m also at a loss sometimes on how to bring out new stuff cos when i think about something to say or write, i already see that its been said elsewhere.

    One of those topics that are quickly becoming annoying is all those “Secrets to …..” especially online money. There’s no more secrets!!!

    anyhow, really insightful article

    • Haha, I think the only secrets that remain are the ones that are worth keeping secret. The real secrets to making money online might be the ones we never hear about.

  5. A great post and one that I really needed to read (I’m sure many others as well).

    It can be especially daunting to think about this when visualizing a new product, I’m sure many people have shot their own ideas down because they felt that the market is too saturated, when in reality if they had spent a little more time on their angle of this new offering, they could have come up with something that was needed: even if it did contain recycled information.

    That’s the great thing about blogging really, there is so little restriction of writing style and really anything else, and given these loose boundaries you probably will be able to give an old offering a new coat and still be able to attract readers who want a new twist on things they have already experienced.

    You also have new readers, and as more and more people use the internet, you’ll definitely find a larger audience for styles you might not have dreamed could be successful before.

    • Gregory,

      I also love the freedom in blogging. As long as the readers can enjoy it, you can write whatever you want in whatever way you want! Good point about the expansion of internet users. Many people see the internet as old, but has less than a 30% penetration rate worldwide.

  6. Bella Q says:

    Oh you can be sure I’m going to be reposting this! Yeah, you probably said what I’ve heard before, but I like how YOU said it. It fits into my ears nicely, I get it. I like what you said in the way you put it. Perhaps because it validates something I’ve felt in my bones my whole life: the way I see things and the way I convey them is what I have to offer the world. I’ve taken writing classes before, and always felt a bit clipped by the teachers that ties to round out my edges. And I whole heartedly agree that success comes with the price of risking failure. Thank you for the reminder, put in a way I will remember.

    • Thanks so much Bella. I can tell that you were on the same page as me as you read the article. As for writing classes, I felt the same way about school in general (but that is another discussion altogether). Your perspective and personality are definitely a huge part of what you can offer the world!

  7. Tatiana says:

    Whenever I think of writing new content I always think of novels and cinematic adaptations. An adaptation is supposed to be a re-telling of the same story in a new way, while Harry Potter the movies is similar to the books, they’re not the same thing. Maybe this is how blogging is as well – no two bloggers are the same, their approaches, style, and voice are very different. It’s how you can have a bunch of lifestyle blogs, a bunch of blogs about feminism, and a bunch of blogs about careers – because each person’s experience and relationship with that idea is radically different.

    Like, for example, because of Beyonce’s video, there were a lot of responses on feminist and black blogs about her latest song and its relevance. Everyone was talking about the same thing, and some people even had the same opinion, yet people continued to read different takes on this idea.

    So when it comes to re-telling same stories, just tell them, because your voice will be different anyway specifically because it’s yours.

    • Tatiana,

      That’s true that everyone’s take on the same story will come out different. You brought up a great idea with the movie adaptations. They are made with a movie audience in mind, and in the same way we can craft posts with our specific audience in mind. As you said, our own style will also come through. Good stuff!

  8. Thanks for the great post Guise,
    I believe that “When ever I fall I am finding a way to win” . I failed with my blogs many time. I even think about stop blogging. Now I Know that “failing is a way to success”.
    Regards
    Chris

    • You called me by my last name, which is what people call me when I play basketball. :-) Failing is the way to success because you learn what not to do and try something else until you succeed! Thanks for the thoughts, Chris.

    • Indeed, failure is the best teacher. Failure is not really easy to take really but it makes us stronger and leads us to a better path.

  9. “All truly wise thoughts have been thought already thousands of times; but to make them truly ours, we must think them over again honestly, till they take root in our personal experience.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 – 1832)

    • Awesome quote – the most relevant one possible for this article. I didn’t know about it, but I essentially restated his quote using the advice in it. Cool! Thanks for sharing that Kent.

      • That’s an interesting point, Stephen: You wrote a post stating that “everything’s already been said,” but even that has been said! On a similar note, I like the Taoist idea that trying to be “original” is not original; trying to be unique makes one like everyone else. It is best to be comfortable being “nobody.”

        “You spent the first half of your life becoming somebody. Now you can work on becoming nobody, which is really somebody. For when you become nobody there is no tension, no pretense, no one trying to be anyone or anything. The natural state of the mind shines through unobstructed — and the natural state of the mind is pure love.” Ram Dass

        • I want to be a nobody. Sign me up. Yeah, I think that when you have the goal of being different, you try doing the things that other people do when they have the same idea. Being yourself is living from your completely unique mindset – so you don’t have to try to be different. Great ideas.

          By the way, I have a degree in Finance and I consider myself a philosopher. That must be why we get along so well. :-)

  10. Stephen,

    Great post, but I don’t agree. I don’t think everything has already been said. As Brendon Buchard has said “it might have been said, but NOT in your voice”.

    We all have our unique voice and we should not shy away from the fact that other have spoken before us.

    We have something valuable to put out in the word and we do have the power to touch other people with our words even if those words have been spoken a thousand times before.

    Take books for example. If everything was already said, then no one would ever write a book.

    I do agree with the “low ceiling” concept. I know I deal with this daily in my business.

    I interview super successful women + top business coaches. In many cases, I interview millionaires and women running multi-million dollar companies.

    I’m not there yet (am a millionaire in the making) and when I interview someone earning 7-figures and I know I’m not quite there, I have to strip the money away and get down to the essence of the person and remember that “she” wasn’t born rich, “she” had to become someone who had the power to create that sort of wealth and my job is to learn from her and share her learnings with my audience!

    Thanks for starting this great discussion!

    Krizia

    • “I don’t think everything has already been said. As Brendon Buchard has said “it might have been said, but NOT in your voice.”

      I’m sure this is a matter of semantics, because It seems like you disagreed with me an agreed with me immediately afterwards with that quote. In the article I said that there will always still be more to say because of our unique voices.

      I can write about the stock market in my own voice and perspective, but it has still already been written about. So the content is new, but the topic is not. I think we agree but have different ways of saying the same thing (fitting for this article!).

      I love that you interview millionaires and such to learn from them and share. They are people we can learn a lot from. Thanks for your insightful response, Krizia!

    • Syed Farhan says:

      “I don’t think everything has already been said. As Brendon Buchard has said “it might have been said, but NOT in your voice.”

      I think this is a self contradictory statement.

  11. alls says:

    wonderfull post ang make me not alone with myblog. So thank your info

  12. Great guy, great innovation, great post. this is like serving a traditional African meal in a scottish style. Its all about utilising ones in-built dynamism. Keep the good job rowling stephen.

  13. You know, it’s funny that this post shows up today, it expands on a thought that I was tossing around yesterday, which is how to combat my writer’s block. Thank you for this post, its very helpful.

    • It is a lot easier to write when you realize your content does not have to be a completely original topic. Just pick a topic you like and make it new!

  14. John Gregory says:

    Greate David, that is really good news!

  15. Martyn says:

    I hadn’t read that blog post from Seth. It is ingenius. If he’d used the word “success” instead of “innovate” it wouldn’t have held the punch that it does. I wouldn’t have thought of that if you hadn’t pointed it out. Man. This is really deep. If we can figure out how to give a slightly different twist to an old idea, people will praise us for it and read what we have to say.

    This post is going to change the way I think about each of my new articles from now on. I owe YOU a cookie, Steven. :)

    An article of this magnitude can easily get on Copyblogger, by the way. Just be sure to have a great relationship with them first, and you’ll be off to the races. I’m speaking from experience.

    • You used a keyword – deep. As in deep existence! Validation!

      Anyways, it is one of the brilliant things I have seen from Seth. He is very smart (obviously). What’s the count now? You owe me half a dozen cookies? :-)

      Thanks for the Copyblogger comment. I think my content is worthy, so I’ll try to get to know them better.

  16. Syed Farhan says:

    Hi Stephen,

    I read your previous post on Problogger (though now I’ve forgotten what it was) and visited your site and subscribed to your e-mail newsletter. I knew then that you’ll make a good blogger.

    You’ve written about Steve Pavlina that ‘He “gets it.”’ The same I think about you.

    The best I like about you is that you are really very original. Though the thing that I didn’t like a bit about you in this article is your self praise.

    • Hi Syed,

      Thank you so much for that comment. I appreciate the compliments and especially the mention of my originality and that my self-praise bothered you. I love constructive criticism.

      I absolutely do not want to be conceited or come across as such, but I am a confident person. I believe that humility and confidence are tied together and that pride and arrogance are tied together. Of course, I want to be the former and not the latter. You can be sure that I will be thinking about this and if my mind is the in the right place.

      Thank you!

      • Syed Farhan says:

        “….and if my mind is the in the right place.”

        Couldn’t get you here.

        • I mean if I’m thinking arrogantly vs. a confident humility. Or in the case of this post, if I was using my confidence and ambition just as an example or if I was just being conceited. In other words, I’ll be paying attention to my mindset to make sure I have the right motives and perspective.

          • Syed Farhan says:

            Oh I think you meant “..if my mind is in the right place.” instead of “…if my mind is THE in the right place.”

            Anyways thanks for clarifying.

          • Syed Farhan says:

            and ya one more thing. When I wrote

            “I read your previous post on Problogger (though now I’ve forgotten what it was)”

            I meant I’ve forgotten what it was about. I didn’t mean I’ve forgotten the content. Actually there are so many posts here (more than 4000) so I usually forget which was written by whom.

            Just thought to clarify.

          • Oops, I completely missed that typo. The previous post I wrote on here was “2 Blogging Myths: Traffic Measures Success and Content Is King”

            Thanks for clarifying!

  17. Amy says:

    Hi Stephen,

    It’s so fun to see you here! You know I love your blog!
    I struggled with this for a really long time. I’ve finally started to realize that, as you said, I can only be me, and nobody can be me better than I can.
    I like the Jay-Z analogy. We often go into a situation feeling insecure and less-than, which then plays itself out.
    Great post!

    • Hey Amy!

      Yes, and I value your participation at my blog very highly. I like the unique perspective that you bring (like your husband paraphrasing criticism to you, lol). I have another post here in four days, so come back and read it too. :-)

      Yeah, the Jay-Z analogy is big because it holds so many people back in life. Once you realize that successful people are those who believe in themselves the most and take risks, you can do it too. Also, Jay-Z is not a copycat – he is himself. I don’t even like his music much, but I respect his confidence.

  18. Brandon says:

    Lol… I was just thinking about this earlier today. Part of the challenge for me has been to find “new” things to say, when really I can interpret existing ideas in new ways. This post made my life easier, thank you.

  19. Daniel says:

    Nice Article(Post), Stephen.

    I have visited Seth’s Blog from time to time.

    I have Steve Pavlina’s book ” Personal Development for smart People” It’s well written(I must get around to giving it another read).

    In life in general, there are so many amazing quotes to inspire.
    Within the area of motivation alone(Inspirational, Positive thinking, Success, etc) there are just so many incredible quotes.

    I literally have thousands of these on tap(In my Conscience) .

    One I really like is ” The greatest fear is not that we set our goals too high but that we set them too low and reach them” by Michelangelo (This has also been reworked through the ages).

    Trying to emulate(Or exceed) other peoples success is fine(Life is about goals . Even if you choose not to have any goals that still is your goal).
    Trying to actually BE the other person, is not(That individual would lose their true self in the process, or it could be that they already suffer from some form of lose of self identity, and are trying to fill the void(Of self worth or ontological security) with the attainment of goals.

    Even though it is quite difficult for many people to achieve this, It is far easier to accept oneself, than to spend your whole life trying to convince the other 6.8 Billion People to accept you.

    One statement by the Incredible Maxwell Maltz (Psycho
    - Cybernetics) where he compares his Medical prowess to a number of famous people in their respective fields.

    He says(My very loose re-quote) ” I can not perform anywhere near the level of these particular people, and they can not perform surgery as I do.”

    “Yet, I am quite certain neither I nor they, feel any lesser as people(Human beings)
    because of this.”

    Self acceptance is the key.

    This needs to be the REAL SELF(As a person you are not better or worse than anybody else. You just are).

    I had better stop writing now or I may cause Mr. Rowse’s Blog(Site) to go into meltdown under the weight of this post comment.

    • I was hoping you’d keep going, because I really enjoyed it! You almost wrote a blog post as a comment (cool idea?). Great thoughts and great quotes Daniel.

  20. Debra Taylor says:

    Great post! Thanks for taking the time to help re-educated people and give such encouragement!

  21. Jacqueline says:

    That’s funny, I actually have a draft of a post similar to this one sitting in wordpress right now. When I started blogging I thought there wouldn’t be much of a point to writing something unless it was completely original, but that is nearly impossible now. I agree that the key is to put a new spin on it- that and just be an excellent writer and include useful resources when you can.

    • Jacqueline,

      That is funny. Since we both thought of this, wasn’t it a great post idea? :-P

      I checked out your blog and really liked it. Travel is amazing. Have you seen Nathan from nonstopawesomeness.me? He is a nomad traveler and a really cool guy.

  22. Adarsh says:

    Nice “re hashed post”…

    Jokes apart, nice post!!!

    You really remind me of the re hashed contrents available online as guru courses. It’s true that almost all things have been said.

    If you look at problogger archives, you will see a ton of articles of the same idea, written in different perspectives.

    As you said, adding a bit of unique ideas can give an old idea, new life. Well said!!!

  23. I was just thinking about this earlier today. Part of the challenge for me has been to find “new” things to say, when really I can interpret existing ideas in new ways. This post made my life easier, thank you.

  24. Harrison Li says:

    You’ve surely put a great deep thought into this! You’re probably going to become the next Seth Godin! Maybe. I also like that other site called social triggers, have you heard about it, he writes stuff similar to yours!

    • I’m very different from Mr. Godin, but I love his work and would love to be as influential as he is someday. Yeah, I like social triggers by Derek Halpern. He does great research to support his ideas. Thank you Harrison.

  25. Archan Mehta says:

    Stephen,

    Thank you for sharing your ideas. We, your readers, appreciate your point of view.

    I am not sure about “success” and “failure.” I don’t want to be trapped in a prison of semantics. I would like to imagine that a creative person would be so deeply involved in the process of creation that such words or ideas would cease to matter. And there are creative people like that in our world, by the way.

    Moreover, yes: there are a lot of people out there who are copycats. There are also people who want to be on page 3, are name droppers, and want me to father their love child like Arnold S. Just kidding.

    My point is, however, that there are originals too. That’s why I like to read PG Wodehouse: his brand of humour makes me laugh and I freqently have to be escorted out of the library for disturbing the peace.
    These are the sort of icons who don’t have to change success into innovation and play word games.

    I would rather read a writer with a fertile imagination than a writer who just wants to copy others because he wants to sell a product or a service and make money. Inevitably, such people end up not being taken too seriously by those who really appreciate creativity or originality. Not everybody can be Einstein, but it is fun to try to be the best you can be–in your own, quirky way. Why even try to ape others? Cheerio.

    • Hey Archan,

      I wrote an article about “The Success Mindset” that talks about success being a state of mind where you’re confident in yourself and believe you’ll succeed in whatever way you define success. This frees us from worrying about success as a benchmark and allows us to pursue our goals and dreams with great creativity like you were talking about.

      I think the problem with success and failure is the focus on a monetary goal instead of focus on freeing yourself of doubts and hindrances that will lead you to success.

      Haha, maybe you shouldn’t read his material in the library (unless you enjoy being escorted?).

      I think that Seth Godin is very innovative. I wouldn’t say he plays word games as much as he understands what reaches a human mind. He finds ways to say things in a way that connects well with people. Thanks for your very thoughtful response (which I’ve seen is common from you)!

  26. Thanks Good Idea i Like your work as a good blogger… and you are respectfully invited to my blog for guest posting

  27. Roechelle says:

    Great post! I do feel like everything I want to say has already been said before and this gave me the inspiration that I need.

  28. Sarah Arrow says:

    Hi Stephen, lovely post. I love your comment about the moon and stars, I often get told off for correcting people about that. The last time I did it the person’s eyes glazed over real swift so I whispered in their ear “If you are not going to get basic Astronomy right, how can people trust what you say about other stuff?” and that they did understand. One down, the rest of the world to convert – should be faster now there are two fo us at it ;)

    Perhaps being original means using your voice to speak to your audience?

    • Haha, what if our life goal was to discredit this saying? That’d be a waste, but it would be funny. This is weird, but I love your last name and wish it was mine. It might be because I’m obsessed with bows & arrows.

      Often times, I believe that is what it means to be original. It helps to take a different perspective or add/subtract elements from the common viewpoints too.

  29. Syed Farhan says:

    I thought to share the following small incident in Richard Feynman’s life. He was a Nobel Laureate of Physics (1965) and is considered by many as the best brain since Einstein.

    Once when Richard was a kid he was taking a walk in a forest with his dad. There he saw a bird which he had never seen before. He asked his dad about that bird and his dad told him the name of that bird in many different languages. Then his dad said; “Richard, I can tell you the name of this bird in all the different languages of this world but when I’m finished, you will know absolutely nothing about the bird itself. This means that there is a difference between knowing the name of something and actually knowing something.”

    You see? This is just a better way to say – “Don’t learn things without understanding them.”

  30. Bob Marconi says:

    Of course much has been said already, about everything – but not in the way you would say it! Remember, your viewpoint on any topic is ‘Unique’!

  31. Loved this post Stephen. Every time I hit publish and think “this was the perfect post” or “that was the best idea” life gives me a stiff kick in the ass, as it should because there is always something more that can be said or done. But when I write from the confused, crazy, confident inner me the positive feedback is always surprising. It’s just getting the guts to go all out.

  32. Totally different perspective I have now. Never fails, each time I read a new post on here I learn and get new ideas. This sight has been so helpful and all your ideas as well. Thanks so much.

  33. Denys Yeo says:

    Has almost everything that can be written about been written about and mostly writing is about finding new ways to say what has already been said? I think this may be so for some topics, but not all. For example, I think in the area of science writing opportunities for producing new material exist, because in the past we had not discovered some of the things we can now write about. What is even more exciting in this area is that we can blend this new material with old ideas, and produce material that is both original and progresses how we, as people, think about ourselves and the world.

    • I agree Denys. I had something written about that in this post but I edited it out because I couldn’t address it fully to my satisfaction. New science and technology are definitely new material to write about. Those are still just a small percentage of everything that can and will be written about.

  34. Travel Haji says:

    thanks for the informatin,the posting is good

  35. Like earlier response, I to am learning from my mistakes and getting better with each and every post. This sight has been so helpful for me and I am so thankful.