Have you ever noticed that you can always tell whether a child’s drawing was actually drawn by a child or an adult? Advertisements, signage, or product packaging will sometimes convey a childlike quality by including some elements supposedly drawn by a child. Much of the time, the drawing is done by a grown-up mimicking a child’s drawing. And you can tell it’s a fake.
Why is that?
It’s because the grown-up is trying to be something he or she is not. A real child’s drawing contains the bold, uninhibited and unconventional expressiveness of that certain child. An adult can try to copy that spirit, but it is a fool’s game. The adult is burdened with too many pre-conceived notions: what color something is supposed to be, what shape something is, and how big it should be in relation to the other objects. Even though a grown-up may try to ignore those learned observations — by making the sun green or the house a triangle — she might not even consider the idea of making the trees float, which may be an obvious choice for a particular child. Usually, the grown-up ends up with an image that looks kind of like something a child would draw, but it’s always just a bit off, making it glaringly inauthentic.
Nothing beats an original.
We run into the same problem when we imitate someone else instead of just being ourselves. When we try to fit into a career that doesn’t suit us, mirror the journey of a personal hero, or follow in our father’s footsteps, no matter how well we do it, something will always be just a bit off. People can tell, and more importantly, we can feel it. Ironically, the reason we can’t pull it off is that too much of “us” gets the way.
Like a child with a blackboard and a fat piece of chalk, what we need to do is open the floodgates and let the “us” run free. It is only when we boldly go in our own direction, tap into our own mix of unique talents, and embrace our own wonderful idiosyncrasies that we can fashion a life that is a truly authentic and inspiring work of art. It’s always better to be a first-rate you than a second-rate somebody else.
As my friend Scott says, “Cover bands never make it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”
There is magic in your originality. That’s what we want to see. And it’s exactly what the world needs.