Originality Is So Overrated: Create a Successful Business by Copying the Best

What is up with parents giving their kids the strangest names? And double what’s up for people getting pissed off when you mispronounce their unique names? I could understand their frustration if you mispronounced “Jennifer” or “Benjamin.” But when the name is Thanapolsk, you deserve some slack.

A unique name results in more headache than a common one. (And no, naming your kid “Unique” is not unique.)

The same applies to business. Unique & special lose out to tried & true.

I came across a rant / advice about blogging from Chris (of Good Looking Loser). His main point?

Copycat sites will fail.

Many new blogs in the realm of men’s self-improvement mimic the Good Looking Loser site and other well-known sites. They have similar domain names, appearances, content, and writing style.

And to succeed, the new blogs have to be different — they have to be unique. You should have your own style and rely on your own creativity when generating content.

(When you get the chance, check out the article because it contains solid advice about creating a thriving and profitable website.)

I think Chris means well when he wrote the article. He wants to equip his readers with the best chance of winning. I doubt he is quaking in his boots that someone will out-compete him.

I agree with his argument … with a twist. The long-term game requires you to be different. That doesn’t mean for you to be Thanapolsk-level weird, but you will need to add your own personal flair to your work.

However, the best move during the short-term game will require you to copy. To be fair, Chris does say that the article “doesn’t pertain to ‘ALL’ not-yet-established first or second year self-improvement blogs.” He realizes that when you first start out, you can’t help but copy what you know. But the copying sometimes goes beyond two years.

Why I Advocate Copying

First, I copy too. I don’t copy the domain name, WordPress theme, or content. Instead, to become a master wordsmith, I copy the writing style.

I based the writing style of one of my earliest articles on Gary Halbert’s.

For the style of one of my other articles from more than half a year later, I took inspiration from Victor Pride of Bold and Determined.

My early articles weren’t bad. They weren’t great either. But they were … necessary. I had to experiment with different voices to find my own. These days, I don’t write as if we are chummy (i.e. Gary Halbert style) and I don’t write to inspire (i.e. Victor Pride style). I write how I speak. I write in my own voice.

Second, lots of winners copied what works. For example, many people are making good money by posting their performance of pop songs.

Like this guy, who has almost 33 million views from just one video.

Erika Mitchell wrote Fifty Shades of Grey under the pen name E. L. James. The book started out as a fan fiction of a famous romance series, Twilight. As of June 2015, the Fifty Shades series sold over 125 million copies worldwide and was adapted to the big screen. I never read the trash, but I respect the results.

John Carlton, a wildly successful and legendary copywriter, worked under Gary Halbert and adopted many of his mentor’s writing quirks, such as using the phrase “greed glands” and ellipses (…) for pauses and emphasis.

The Japanese built up its automobile industry by borrowing (i.e. copying) the existing designs, and tweaking them until the kinks were gone. According to this article:

Japan replaced Britain’s flaky electrical systems with solid, well-engineered products from suppliers such as Nippondenso. Japan studied Germany’s superb mechanical designs and installed them in cars that the average consumer could afford. And Japan borrowed the best parts of Detroit marketing – such as a tiered model system that encouraged buyers to spend more for essentially the same car – but lowered production costs by limiting the range of choices. In the mid-1960s, a Detroit order sheet could run to a dozens pages or more, creating a logistical nightmare for factories that had to build cars that could be ordered with a nearly infinite mix of colours and options. Japanese manufacturers fixed the problem by offering two or three preset option packages and restricting colour choices.

Why Copying Works

Copying isn’t bad. In fact, it is a necessary step for you to progress from beginner to journeyman to master. When you copy, you practice your craft at a basic-to-intermediate level. You build up your skills.

In any endeavor, you have to start at the beginning. That means retracing the steps that were taken before you. You must discover the wheel for yourself. Learn the basics established long ago.

When creating art that impacts the world, you must take one step at a time. A-B-C, not A-B-Z.

That is why a physicist starts with Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. Knowledge as old as dust. Then he can move onto Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. After understanding what has been done, finally he can make his contributions to the field.

An engineer must start with addition & subtraction. Then he moves onto multiplication & division. Next geometry, trigonometry, and finally calculus. With a relative proficiency in math, he can build awesome wonders.

Only after reaching a certain level of skills, then you can start branching out and creating work with your own stamp on it. You will create something different — naturally.

So back to the business of blogging, copy at first. Copy for a while. Establish the basic writing skills. Flatter your heroes by imitating them. Once you stick around long enough and consistently create content, your own style will naturally seep through. You will end up with a site that naturally differs from your inspiration. Since you are not Chris, your blog in the long-term will differ from Good Looking Loser, without even trying.

If you stick around long enough in the game of business …

If you don’t throw in the towel when things get tough …

If you keep a craftsman’s mentality and produce constantly …

You will amass your f-you money. It is only a matter of time.

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