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Thoughts and perspective on the importance of staying true to yourself in creative pursuits.

At DNA, we say, “Different Wins.” This isn’t just a catchphrase; it’s our guiding principle. It’s not about being different for the sake of it, or original just to be novel. It’s about discovering, embracing and expressing our authentic truths. But what does that mean for our creative process? How is “Different Wins” a true brand ethos and not just jargon-y branding fluff?

Specifically regarding our creative work, it’s about feeling more and thinking less, and allowing our truth to be the guiding light that leads us to fresh, interesting, insightful, unique solutions that can truly connect with our audience. However, in the creative process, the pursuit of something that’s never been done can feel paradoxical. Is anything truly original? If so, does that even matter? Where do I start if this is to be believed? Being stuck in the grips of that paradox is exhausting and can feel paralyzing.

Legendary indie film hero Jim Jarmusch muses: “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic.”

I couldn’t agree more. Jarmusch’s notion of authenticity (and it being the worthier pursuit) really strikes a chord in me. It invites a rethinking of how we approach our creative endeavors. It’s not about the source of our inspirations but where we take them that matters most. I’ve realized that all my favorite art, regardless of medium, is viscerally authentic. I can FEEL it without thinking, and it connects with me on a deep level. Not because I think to myself, “I don’t think this has ever been done,” but “Holy shit, I can feel this, and nothing else matters” (not a Metallica reference, but I do love that song).

After all, authenticity in creativity comes naturally from a personal curation of influences and life experience. It’s a mosaic of moments and emotions and epiphanies and hardships that speak to our unique, 1-human-in-8,110,682,515 (as of 5/22/2024) perspective. When we select what to “steal,” we’re not merely borrowing; we’re engaging with the world around us, regardless of time and space or artistic medium. Each “stolen” piece nestled neatly in our hippocampus (and perhaps other places! admittedly, I’m not a neuroscientist) ready to be dusted off and re-contextualized in infinite configurations.

Jarmusch’s assertion that “originality is non-existent” challenges the myth of the lone genius, with a unique gift, creating in isolation. Of course, none of us truly work in a vacuum, be it a landscape painter sitting in nature or a copywriter in an ad agency office. Creativity is always a collaborative process whether in a team or alone with a lifetime of unspoken influences. By acknowledging this, we free ourselves from the impossible task of creating something entirely new from nothing. We embrace the richness of our influences, understanding that our authenticity is what transforms these borrowed elements into something uniquely ours.

To approach things differently and “make different,” we must first dismantle “original.” Creativity is not about inventing something new out of thin air but about flipping the familiar on its head in ways that can connect with somebody or solve a problem in a unique way. It’s about seeing the ordinary through an extraordinary lens. If the authenticity of our work is a testament to our unique, diverse perspectives, let’s be more of ourselves. Bring our full selves to work, turn down the ‘think’ and turn up the ‘feel.’ Then when we apply this to pairs, groups, teams, agencies, and companies, we can multiply this magical effect. That’s “Different Wins.”

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