There Are No New Ideas But Don’t Let It Hold You Back

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Girl, Stop Apologizing" by Rachel Hollis. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do you have an idea in mind but aren’t pursuing it because it’s already been realized? Is there even such a thing as a new idea?

There are almost no new ideas—it’s a hard truth that Rachel Hollis shares in her book Girl, Stop Apologizing. However, you shouldn’t let that fact hold you back. Just because an idea has been realized, it doesn’t mean that it’s been realized your way.

Here’s why it doesn’t matter if it’s already been done.

It Doesn’t Matter if It’s Already Been Done

As Hollis points out, women tend to believe that in order for a dream to be worth pursuing, it must be revolutionary—something that has never been done and will change the world. 

(Shortform note: If women place value on their dream’s capacity to better the world, perhaps this comes from the childhood conditioning that whatever they pursue, it must be in service to others.)

According to Hollis, there are three main reasons why women abandon their dream once they realize it isn’t unique:

  1. It is an easy way to get out of trying due to fear of failure.
  2. It keeps them from feeling arrogant (remember, they’ve been trained to be modest).
  3. It keeps them from feeling selfish and therefore not a “good woman.”

(Shortform note: It is worth considering that if a woman is going to face significant adversity and risk being ostracized for her goal, she probably wants a guarantee from the beginning that her dream is a) achievable and b) worth it. This line of thinking is dangerous in itself, as there are no guarantees in life, and it can keep her from even trying.) 

The Truth: The World Still Needs You

In response to the excuse that there are no new ideas and your dream isn’t unique, Hollis drops this truth bomb: Your dream isn’t unique—but that’s okay. 

Hollis urges you to acknowledge these truths about your dream:

  • Yes, it has been done before. Probably many times.
  • Yes, it has been mastered by people who might always be better at it than you.
  • Yes, it is still worth doing.

If the first two points are true, then why exactly is your dream still worth pursuing? Hollis provides four reasons: It is enjoyable; the world needs more than one; being the best isn’t necessary for success; and you will regret it if you don’t do it.

First, it is enjoyable. Hollis maintains you must be true to yourself, and part of that is enjoying what you spend most of your time doing. In other words, don’t underestimate the importance of joy in life. Consider the following examples of things that have been done before: Eating is done by everybody, but do you still like eating? Sex isn’t new, but can you imagine life without it? Have you ever chosen to watch a remake of a movie?

Joy Versus Pleasure

A dream should provide absolute joy to your life, but because of the sacrifices it takes to get there, it will be limited in pleasures.

At first glance, the words joy and pleasure appear to be synonyms. However, there’s a big difference between the two. Pleasure is a quick and cheap thrill; something that is easily attained, short-lived, and provided from an outside source. Pleasure is eating a piece of candy, soaking in a bathtub, or watching a great movie. Pleasure has its place, but it can be dangerous when overdone. For example, social media, drugs, and alcohol are all forms of pleasure that are highly addictive.

Joy, rather, comes from within. You can’t have it instantly just because you want it, and because of this, it lasts longer and is more fulfilling. Think of joy as connecting with your inner child. The joy you felt as a kid when you experienced something amazing for the first time and went home and dreamed about it is different from the pleasure you receive from a glass of wine.

Second, the world needs more than one. Hollis points out an obvious yet overlooked fact of life: The world couldn’t function with only one of everything. For example, imagine if the world had only one teacher, or one doctor. Or, imagine if nobody made music after The Beatles. Hollis tells us that “being first” shouldn’t factor into our dream’s value.

(Shortform note: Artists and scientists in particular build upon the work of their predecessors. For example, Copernicus and Galileo studied the stars over 600 years ago, and there have been countless astronomers since, each furthering the science of the one who came before him or her. Stephen Hawking wouldn’t be the Stephen Hawking we know without the work of predecessors to build on.)

Third, being the best isn’t necessary for success. Hollis acknowledges that we often fear that our dream is a “lesser” version of someone else’s, but she doesn’t want this to stop you. For example, some people might argue that Beyonce is the greatest living R&B singer. If we assume this to be true, does this keep Rihanna from being successful? Would you not want to be Rihanna?

(Shortform note: Mark Manson (author of The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck) contends that it’s a horrible goal to be mediocre, but that it is a perfectly fine result. He argues that to be exceptional you must take an area that you have natural talent in, and then work ridiculously hard to develop that skill to an extraordinary level. The likelihood that you have extreme natural talent and then also work hard enough to be the best at it is rare. So he recommends you shoot for the moon and land among the stars.)

Fourth, and finally, you will regret not pursuing your dream. Remember Hollis’s admonition about giving your soul what it’s asking for? Here it is. As Hollis points out, someone else accomplishing your dream doesn’t scratch your itch, does it? She wants you to accept that this dream has been nagging at you for a reason. It is your soul wanting to fly, and to deny it is to keep your soul in a cage.

(Shortform note: One study showed that the biggest regret experienced by people on their deathbed was not something that they did but something that they didn’t do. Inaction, or not trying, was most commonly cited.)

The Fix: Reframe Your Thinking

Hollis recommends you reframe your thinking: Instead of seeing someone else’s success as a roadblock, view it as a roadmap

She gives three reasons you should celebrate someone else accomplishing your dream. First, their success is proof that it is possible. Second, you can learn from their experiences. And third, you can use these people as teachers and allies on your journey.

(Shortform note: When somebody else has already accomplished your goal, this is an excellent opportunity to develop a mentor-mentee relationship. If you feel nervous or stuck on how to approach a possible mentor, this article in the Harvard Business Review gives step-by-step instructions, including templates. One of their tips: Keep the first meeting casual instead of jumping straight into discussions about business.)

When you start doubting yourself, Hollis recommends you to go back to your “why.” Why do you need to do this? As she points out, your dream itself may not be unique, but your deeper reason for wanting it is. Referring to the earlier example, while Rihanna and Beyonce may have the same dream of musical superstardom, they each have their own reasons for wanting it. 

(Shortform note: Is fear of success holding you back? While it may sound silly, anxiety around succeeding is fairly common and may lead to self-sabotage. You may have a fear of success if you find yourself imagining the downsides to achieving your dream. For example, if your dream is to be a successful actress, and you begin wondering how you will manage the hard work and pressure, you may be self-sabotaging. Rather than creating negative imagined scenarios, focus on your why.)

There Are No New Ideas But Don’t Let It Hold You Back

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Rachel Hollis's "Girl, Stop Apologizing" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full Girl, Stop Apologizing summary :

  • Rachel Hollis's lessons she learned while building a multimillion-dollar company
  • Why "having it all" isn't something you should aspire to
  • Why women need to stop trying to fit society's idea of a "good woman"

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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