Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Does Originality Exist in a Modern World?

The idea for today's topic came to me after an interesting situation presented itself to me this morning. First, a brief history - I am a strength and conditioning coach at All Star Sports Academy in Toms River, NJ. We do a lot of youth athlete training at our facility and this includes team training where an entire hockey team or basketball team will come in to train with us one night a week. A few weeks ago, while I was coaching a group of young teen male hockey players, one of the owners of the gym was observing. The players were about as bad as my 14-year old daughter with their gossip and slacking off when they were supposed to be pushing through a conditioning session. The owner said to them at one point, "Somewhere there is a team getting their work done. You'll know them when you meet them."

I printed a couple of flyers, featuring last year's local high school hockey regional champions with the words "Are You All In", and left them on his desk, hoping he might actually post them somewhere to help motivate the kids. These kids pictured obviously got their work done and it paid off big time. He told me he saw them and liked them, but that was the last I heard about it. They weren't posted anywhere or mentioned again.

Yesterday, I heard him throwing the phrase "Are you all in?" around in regards to something he had read. Ok, I know I didn't invent the phrase, but this was weird. Then, today, he posted a video on facebook asking fitness professionals if they are "all in" for their clients. Ok, good application of an awesome idea; I'm down with that. But, initially, it bothered me that it seemed like he took my motivational slogan and made it his. But then I thought about it. I obviously didn't invent the phrase - gamblers have been saying it for centuries in who knows how many languages and fitness professionals have no doubt been using it forever. I came to the conclusion that, if it was never mine in the first place, it can't be stolen.

So what is an original idea and, more importantly, do they even exist anymore? I mean, Nike didn't invent the phrase "Just Do It," but they picked a font and an application and made it their brand.

To give credit where credit is due, I only came up with the idea to use that phrase after my boss made that comment to the team during my session. I simply took it one step further in my mind. I have no idea where it came from. I read a lot of blogs and watch a lot of television and live sports. I could have heard it weeks or even months ago and it was just sitting around in my subconscious waiting for me to find an application in which I could use it that would be meaningful to me.

In essence, I arrived at the idea of athletes being "All In" because of what he had said (that combined with the new "One More" Gatorade commercial that's been on all of the time). He said he got to the idea of fitness professionals being "All In" from various reading he's done and listening to others over the past few months. For him the concept application crystalized not when he saw my flyer, but when read something by another fitness professional.

Regardless of how either of us came to our respective points, does that make the "Are You All in?" idea his or mine? Or both? Or neither? And, perhaps most importantly, does it even matter? I say no, it doesn't matter, especially if the idea continues to evolve and feed other ideas like this one most certainly has.

Which brings me to the main point of this ramble. What does it mean to be original? Do you have to come up with an idea, a product, a phrase, a song so completely new that no one anywhere has ever thought about it? Is that even possible? Or, do you just have to find a new way to arrange the words or the pieces or even invent a new use for it?

Marketing and advertising are all collaboration - just like the creation of music. There's not a single recording artist out there today that doesn't have another's "sound" threaded through his/her "original" works. Inspiration surrounds us every day - it is the blending of the sights, sounds, smells and feelings all around us, continually weaving the very fabric of our lives. In fact, each and every training session at our facility is founded on science of the body and of movement that came from other very smart people long before our turf floor was installed. This science blended with each trainer's personal style and favorite movements and methods has helped us to create something unique in our area. Just because it's a remix of sorts doesn't make us any less effective as coaches. Quite the opposite, actually. Some food for thought.

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