I had a really great conversation the other night with a few creative friends about the whole concept of “trying to be original.” To be original means to be unique, to be different and to be the source from which something that did not exist previously arises.
Whenever we set out to do something in art, in our work and in life, one of the primary driving desires is to be acknowledged for our originality. We all want to feel special. We all want to know that we matter and that what we have to offer is worth something. This experience reinforces the belief that we have some inherent value, and that we are enough.
What’s so interesting to me is that the moment you try to be anything, even original, you are missing one very important point.
YOU are original. You are the one and only you and nobody else sings, dances, writes, paints, draws, takes pictures, speaks, walks, talks, looks, or even loves like you do.
So you don’t have to TRY to be original. You simply have to be yourself.
The more authentically you can express your quirks and eccentricities, the more freedom you can give yourself to show who you really are in your art, in your work, in your relationships and everything in between, the more your inherent originality will come through. When you create, live and take action from this place, your unique one of a kind nature will be undeniable.
Think about anyone who truly inspires you, the most successful people in their respective fields, and those that are managing to cut through all the noise of our time. One common factor is that they are unapologetically being who they are. Whether we’re talking about Lady Gaga, Oprah, Tony Robbins, Ellen. Love them or hate them, they’re all being true to themselves with courage and audacity.
I have been spending the past month in LA going deeper into the inquiry of who I am as an artist. When I started playing music a little over a decade ago, my creative flame was ignited by a few specific influences. Above all others, Ben Harper’s music really spoke to my heart and soul. I could see a reflection of myself in it and it inspired me to embark on my own musical journey. So much so that I starting by diving into the study of his music, learning to sing and play his songs as close to the original recordings as possible, note for note, emulating Ben’s vocal approach and guitar playing.
We all have our influences. We all tend to learn initially by imitation. Eventually, there comes a time when we must stand on the shoulders of those we have learned from and let our own voice be heard.
Learning Ben’s music so attentively served me well at the time, but as I’ve grown and evolved, my desire to go deeper into my own artistry has required me to shed old skin. For me, that has meant going beyond my early influences and stepping into my own shoes as a songwriter, as a singer and as an individual.
For a long time, I was feeling a disconnect between the person I am in life and the way people respond to me personally versus my experience of who I am as an artist and the response I get when I perform. In the past month, I’ve really examined the place within me that I write, sing and perform from and I discovered the root of the disconnect.
Without realizing it, I’ve been trying to be something that I’m not. I’ve been doing my best impression of my influences, all the while believing that I’m doing my own thing. Thanks to a few of my mentors and teachers, as well as a Divinely-timed encounter with Ben Harper himself, I’ve come to see that I haven’t been giving myself permission to just be myself and allow my true nature to come through in the way that I share my music.
This may sound so obvious and simple but it has been a revelation for me.
I love Ben Harper’s music and I’ve learned so much from it, but I am not Ben Harper nor do I want to be (anymore). I am the one and only Chris Assaad and there is nobody else like me.
The more I’ve been able to put this into perspective and truly let go of my attachment to being like Ben or anyone else, the more I’ve found the freedom that comes with truly being myself. And what’s amazing is that it has made a profound difference in my experience of creating music and sharing it with others.
The connection I’ve felt in the few performances I’ve had since this discovery have been unlike any other I’ve had previously. For the first time ever, I’ve experienced what it’s like to be able to fully share what’s in my heart when I sing and play and I’ve clearly seen the impact this has had on my audience. The best part is that after performing from this place, I haven’t needed anyone’s validation or feedback in the way I might have sought it in the past. I felt so good just knowing I was being me and doing what I love with heart and soul.
I’m sharing this with you in the hopes that it will remind you of the truth of who you really are. There’s nobody else like you and the best thing you can do is give yourself full permission to be you. You don’t have to try to be anything other than exactly what you are. That is the path to success, greatness and most of all, full self-expression and fulfillment.
YOU are original.
Chris Assaad is a singer/songwriter and inspirational artist from Toronto who left a promising career in law several years ago to pursue his dream of a career in music. Since then, Chris has been actively using his voice to enCOURAGE others to follow their dreams, express their creativity and live life to the fullest.
Chris is also a member of the TDL Mentoring team. To learn more about the TDL Mentoring Program click here.