Remember when we were kids and we thought our parents were so out of touch with the world? They were so uncool that they weren’t even relevant enough to qualify for the icky old title of ‘fuddy duddy’ (That’s the family friendly version of the term).
Well, now that I have a little perspective (not too much perspective, though, I mean I’m not some sort of ‘fuddy duddy’ myself) I see that we are constantly mining the past for our modern day entertainment, sales pitches, well, for a lot of things. It’s only when we’re too young to know what came before that we think everything we see and hear is new and wholly original.
Look at our favorite TV shows. The premises may be new, or a variation of something that came before, but if you watch individual episodes you’ll see storylines that you recognize from the TV shows that came before. And we can take these TV shows and movies and video games and group them into broader categories called ‘genres’. So then we have a frame of reference for them, i.e. romantic comedies.
In movies or TV shows we know that romantic comedy means a story where we will laugh as a couple is kept apart, only to (hopefully) come together, finally, at the end. This genre was not originated with Jennifer Aniston’s oeuvre. It goes back to the beginning of story telling and the birth of films (way back before they even had color!).
We do things this way because it’s easier for both the writer and the audience. It’s like a story telling shorthand. The writer doesn’t have to tell you a ton of backstory to get you caught up to the place where the story starts. You know that boy meets girl and they hate each other, ergo, by way of this being a romantic comedy, they will fall in love and live happily ever after. Just like in a horror movie you know that the girl who takes her clothes off is going to die, the only question is, how will the killer do it and how much blood will soak the screen?
That brings me to sales. You know the saying: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Right?
Just recently my dad was regaling us with the tale of how he got his first job in a frigid winter-numbed Alaska when he only had a few dollars left in his pocket. He walked into a car dealership and asked for a job. To prove himself worthy of employment he walked out to the intersection and approached a car waiting at a stop light. After convincing the driver to open his window he told the man that he had a customer who wanted to buy a car just like the man’s and would he be willing to sell it to the dealership?
Well, my dad was charming and attractive, but I think it was the idea of making a few bucks off the bucket he was driving that enticed the man to sell his car to my dad and then, needing new wheels, he had to buy a new car from the dealership. My dad made his first sale before he’d even been hired. He went on to be very very successful in sales for his entire career.
Yesterday in the mail I got a letter from Robertson Honda, where I bought a new Civic back in 2004. That car is long gone, but the good folks at Robertson don’t know that. They wrote to me saying that they have a drastic need to acquire 2004 Civics and they are hoping, hoping, praying that I might consider selling them mine. In return for my kindness they offered to make me an incredible deal on any 2010 Honda in the store!!
I laughed and thought immediately of my dad.
There are no new ideas under the sun, only our own interpretations of them. With this in mind, we should respect the creative minds who’ve come before and do our best not to discount those fuddy duddies for daring to continue to exist on our planet. Thanks, Dad!