Repurpose the Proven
When we think of Romeo and Juliet, we think of Shakespeare. But Shakey didn’t create those characters. The source of Shakespeare’s 1594 play was a 3000-line poem by Arthur Brooke, Romeus and Juliet, published 32 years earlier in 1562.
But Romeo and Juliet didn’t originate with Arthur Brooke, either. He compiled it from a number of Italian Renaissance sources, the earliest of them going back to 1474, ninety years before Shakespeare was even born.
Brooke’s tedious treatment of Romeus and Juliet was a moralizing, cautionary tale of a young couple engaged in “lust and whoredom,” whereas Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is a sad misadventure in which heartbroken young lovers die needlessly.
Beginning in the 1660s, British productions of Shakespeare’s play allowed Romeo and Juliet to live on, or had Juliet wake up for a simultaneous death with Romeo. Some theatre troupes went so far as to offer the ‘tragic death’ and ‘happily-ever-after’ versions on alternating nights.
I’ll bet you didn’t know any of that. I certainly didn’t. I learned it from my friend, Steve King.
I spend a few minutes each day with Steve.
But I’ve never met him.
Steve publishes a daily newsletter called Today in Literature, “the naïve idea of an English teacher on leave from the classroom.”
The contact page of his website says, “It is pleasing to think that Today in Literature helps to keep the world of books alive for so many — especially those two subscribers on Bouvet Island in the Antarctic, whoever you may be. I also live on an island— Newfoundland, Canada— where I help raise two children, amuse my wife, and run this cottage industry. It is a one-man operation and it needs your support.”
This is me supporting my friend, Steve King. He has no idea I’m doing it.
Interestingly, Steve’s little history lesson about Romeo and Juliet contains a valuable business tip that can save you a lot of time and make you a lot of money. This is the tip: whenever possible, repurpose the proven. Streamline and accelerate something that has worked in the past.
EXAMPLE: Approach 10 people with fearless faces and ask each of them, “Can you name a movie directed by Oliver Stone in which Charlie Sheen plays a young man who follows a bad father figure, then turns to begin following a good father figure?” Half of them will say Platoon and the other half will say Wall Street.
Oliver Stone discovered a winning pattern and he stuck to it, moving the story of Platoon from the green jungle of Viet Nam to the concrete jungle of Wall Street. Each of the films was a towering success.
Repurpose the proven. Find a successful pattern and use it as a blueprint.
Henry Ford became the world’s first billionaire by turning the overhead disassembly line of Chicago meat packers upside down to create the Detroit assembly line of the Model T. He needed a quick assembly method because he had discovered the miracle question.
Sam Walton echoed the miracle question of Henry Ford, “At what price could I sell a huge number of these?” and like Henry, Sam became one of the richest men in the world.
Steve Jobs followed the lead of Nike Shoes. Instead of focusing his ads on his product, he turned his camera toward the kinds of people who would buy such a product. This little “mirroring” act made him 11 billion dollars.
Nike didn’t follow anybody’s lead. They just did it.
No, that’s not exactly true. Nike set out to create a fashion statement that indicated an athletic lifestyle, even if the purchaser had no intention of wearing the shoes for the purpose for which they were designed. According to Nike’s own estimate, 80% of that company’s $28 billion in sales this year will be made to people who don’t have an active lifestyle.
Abraham Maslow said the greatest unmet need of Americans was our need for a sense of belonging. We hunger for an identity. We buy what we buy to remind ourselves – and tell the world around us – who we are. And he chronicled that observation in 1943, 45 years before “Just Do It.”
But Maslow wasn’t the origin of that idea any more than Shakespeare was the origin of Romeo and Juliet. In the first chapter of the book of James, we read that a person who hears and understands but takes no action, “is like unto a man who sees his natural face in a mirror: he sees himself, and goes his way, and immediately forgets what manner of man he was.”
It appears that Solomon was right.
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.” – Ecclesiastes, chapter 1
Gene Fowler says, “The best way to become a successful writer is to read good writing, remember it, and then forget where you remember it from.”
Hey, it worked for Shakespeare.
Roy H. Williams
PS – The internet is a big place filled with tens of thousands of images of Romeo and Juliet. But the most accurate of them all is the one by Katerina Koukiotis at the top of today’s memo. – Indiana Beagle