During an average day, reading newspapers, watching the news, hearing commentators, watching films or surfing the net you come across one cliché after another. One definition is that a cliché is a phrase, piece or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
The funny thing is that for (small) kids there are no cliché’s. For them everything is new, everything is original. They don’t yet know how we portray the typical Mafioso, how a greedy business executive acts, how a sports coach responds after a loss or how to recognise a tacky pick-up line.
So that begs the question: When does something become a cliché? When is something overused?
As we all are exposed differently to what goes around, what is a cliché to one might be a creative insight for another. So it will often be difficult to establish objectively what is really original. I’m talking about most things that you’ll encounter in a week, not the new ideas like E=MC2 or the scary ideas that Darwin came up with in his time.
The fact that something is a cliché doesn’t mean that you heed its message. Spending too much time staring into your phone is bad for you, such a cliché…….It might even be the overexposure itself which makes you immune to the message.
Cliché’s can be contradictory: ‘The first shall be the last’ versus ‘A good start is half the work’. Clearly demonstrating that wise lessons, supposed to help you navigate through life, can contradict one another.
A cliché in one context can make a difference in another. Imagine that the doorbell rings just before dinner and you expect to be asked either to donate to some charity or to try a new energy supplier, because those are the clichés you’ve become used to; but instead there are two men and a woman beautifully dressed with a beautiful folder and a film on a huge tablet, trying to sell you the newest Ferrari. Whether it will be successful, I don’t know, but it is definitely not a cliché.
Combining two cliché’s might offer a new insight. I think that the modern strategy in Silicon Valley of ‘Fail Fast’ comes from the combination of Murphy’s law: "Anything that can go wrong will go wrong" and the conviction that ‘persistence wins’. Quickly flush out all the things that will go wrong anyway, but keep at it, you might have a winner at your hands.
It took me a while to set myself to writing The Fearless Monkey. I was afraid to add my two cents to the vast amount of cliché’s. Hasn’t everything already been written? Then somebody told me ‘Yes, but some people need to hear it from you’. I leaped and through a combination of the things I wrote above and maybe even a truly unprecedented thought, something creative came out of it. So, be fearless, be the next Einstein or create your own mix of cliché’s.