About two weeks ago I heard a saying that I have not been able to get out of my head. My friend, Paul Atkinson, said this in a meeting, “When everyone has a cookie, no one has a cookie.” I LOVE it. I have used it probably 50 times in the last two weeks. In the context of the conversation Paul was saying that if we give everyone something special all the time, special becomes the new normal and it is no longer special. As the weeks progress I began to think about what this phrase means in regards to relevancy. “Relevant” is a scary word. Within the circles I run, the fight for relevancy is a primary concern. It bothers me. I always feel that the idea of being relevant would only be discussed in an environment where relevancy has already been lost. Saying that you want to be relevant is tantamount to saying “I am no longer relevant.” In an effort to attain relevance we start measuring ourselves against others whom we perceive to be relevant. Then we start taking steps to emulate them. Now we are convinced that we will finally be relevant. The truth is that the best we will ever achieve is the status quo. It follows that at some point the current relevant will become irrelevant.
Don’t try so hard to be relevant that you become irrelevant.
But what is relevant? Is it “new” or “fresh” or “edgy”? Is relevance in style or in philosophy? Is relevance in age? I argue that real relevance is found in a combination of variables. Variables that are arranged just right for the surrounding society and it’s response of culture to jive in perfect harmony. The most important component of this chemical mixture is, wait for it, originality. That’s right, folks. If you want to be relevant in whatever endeavor you are undertaking you must be original. Don’t think that you can gobble up a bunch of different sources and their previously executed ideas, let ‘em rumble around in your creative intestines and proceed to poop out a gem. We have all tried it. We’ve all created things that were complete regurgitations of someone else’ good idea.
The best way to be relevant is to be original.
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to be the cookie that everybody else is already eating. Be the flavor that comes to you naturally. Granted there are other variables that make the flavor of your cookie the one that everyone wants at the moment, but what is more important; being real or being popular? We must face the facts and realize that much of what we call “relevant” is really just a discussion of what’s hot, hip, cool, now, fresh or whatever you want to call it. But popular isn’t in anyone’s control. Don’t try for popular. Try for real. Try for original. The only way to be original is to be authentic and genuine. Try for authentic. Here is a thought progression to contemplate: Authenticity begets originality begets relevance. Scripture shows us exactly how to think on this topic. Read it:
6 let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.
If you preach, just preach God’s Message, nothing else;7 if you help, just help, don’t take over; if you teach, stick to your teaching;8 if you give encouraging guidance, be careful that you don’t get bossy; if you’re put in charge, don’t manipulate; if you’re called to give aid to people in distress, keep your eyes open and be quick to respond; if you work with the disadvantaged, don’t let yourself get irritated with them or depressed by them. Keep a smile on your face.9 Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good.10 Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master,12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder.13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.14 Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath.15 Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down.16 Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.17 Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone.18 If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody.19 Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”20 Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness.
I am loving this passage. It tells me exactly how I should be living and how to treat others. Moreover, It shows me how to be responsible in regards to the talents and skills with which I've been entrusted. These are just my random thoughts on relevance, creativity and the inherent dangers in pursuing creativity for a specified outcome other than just to create. I hope it starts or continues a great communal conversation. TMF