Almost a hundred years ago, world-acclaimed poet Robert Frost advocated taking the road less travelled in a rhythmic classic that left its mark in modern literature. But we will be having none of that, said youths of the 21st century.
Instead, adolescents are rebelliously embracing familiarity. From making the trivial decision of what to have for lunch at a popular Spanish restaurant to figuring out the answers to an essay-writing exam, we want only the tried-and-tested because they have been proven to work. Contrary to the defiant, prove-you-wrong image that adults have in their minds, many of us global youths today relish in adhering dutifully to former success stories, understanding them like they were imaginary instruction manuals, for they might represent our best chance to victory.
Our predecessors have been quick to label us a weak-willed generation that has been tamed by the many creature comforts found in urban societies. Our need for sure-fire methods, for dead-straight certainty in results – considered irresolute or even spineless – may have led us to a nadir in human history, they said. When we choose not to risk taking any chances, important qualities that are crucial to a society’s progress, notably innovation and efficiency, are lost.
But the idea of following in another’s footsteps is only unappealing because it has been vilified. Modern society has been hugely constructed and influenced by a group of phenomenal entrepreneurs; whenever these brilliant minds create, they change the way our world is run. Pokémon Go is only the latest novelty in an over-filled list of inventions that has altered the dynamics of human life, from social media platforms to wearable technology. It is within such context that innovation is glamorised, and familiarity frowned upon.
Mimicry is counterintuitively the cornerstone of creativity. Japanese goods are often known for their craft, but this adeptness is a result of Japan’s copying culture, not despite of it. Amateur Japanese craftsmen study their teachers’ methods rigorously, imitating them as closely as possible, and only when they have reached a high level of proficiency that they begin thinking about innovation. This makes a great deal of sense, because any critic who claims innovation is always the way to go forgets that thinking outside the box is a sizeably enormous task that can be difficult even for veterans. Hence, when greenhorns attempt to execute an advanced technique that requires a solid foundation to perform, usually the outcome is bad innovation – innovation that is poor, inadequate, or even worthless.
Successful paths are often travelled because they have been proven to work. Of course, we will have to modify these formulae as our surroundings change. Success can also never be replicated in its entirety, as that would be plagiarism, as that would be unoriginality. But some traits of success are universal, and some skills to make it big have to be carefully trained. What’s wrong with going the way the successful have gone then? I pray for the age of familiarity to last, for that will lead our generation to the heights our forebears have once scaled, and perhaps even beyond.