Always Be (At Least A Little) Different

Don’t copy.

Or, in 1986 speak, don’t be a biter.*

Seymore Cray, the electrical engineer often credited with the investigation of the supercomputing industry had this to say about always (ALWAYS) doing things just a bit differently. It applies to whatever work you are doing.

One of my guiding principles is don’t do anything that other people are doing. Always do something a little different if you can.

The concept is that if you do it a little differently there is a greater potential for reward than if you do the same thing that other people are doing.

I think that this kind of goal for one’s work, having obviously the maximum risk, would have the maximum reward no matter what the field may be.

h/t James Clear

*biting = bad, paying homage is OK. this differentiation matters because your own thing might be a subtle variant on someone else’s thing. While borrowing and stealing are useful, you still need to put your own spin on it. Here’s the philosopher Snoop Dogg on the topic via Complex,

When I came out as a rapper, everyone had their own style. If you sounded like someone else, that word was called biting. You biting my style, you biting my s***. If you paying tribute, like I did with ‘La Di Da Di’ with Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh—I paid n***as who I grew up loving. I’m gonna redo your song, get you paid all over again, and let everybody know it’s your shit, and put a twist on it for the new kids who don’t even know it exist. That’s a different way of showing love as opposed to everyone rapping the same style.

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