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Na-apen (copycatting)

I tell my kids frequently that what they consider normal today may be an outrage twenty years from now.

“You’re not going to like me now.”

What was considered normal twenty years ago is unacceptable these days.

I grew up knowing that my country, the Netherlands, had a colonial history, but we were taught in school more or less matter of fact. It was a part of our history, and we didn’t consider the implications deeply.

Today, in 2022, my daughter points me to my country’s colonial history. Just recently, the Dutch National Bank apologized for its role (financing) in our colonial history.

The times have changed, and each country has its history.

With two nationalities, my daughter ‘plays’ lightheartedly with her nationality in conversations, depending on who deserves her feedback.

Sometimes she’s Czech when the Netherlands is the subject of the conversation. Sometimes it’s the reverse.

Each country is working through its past.

In the Netherlands, we grew up with Sinterklaas and his colored assistants. When I grew up, this was considered a tradition. Today, it’s downright discrimination.

In the Czech Republic, there’s an Easter tradition of using colorful whips to softly remind women of their role. It’s colorful, it’s done with humor, but it’s still wrong.

The whips are still on sale every Easter. So far, it has managed to stay out of the public debate, but it’s coming. For sure.

These things happened. It’s part of our context, and that context changes. Dramatically.

It doesn’t make our history right, it just happened, and the times have changed.

I tell my kids frequently that what they consider normal today may be an outrage twenty years from now.

Now let me come to the reason why this insight is called na-apen. Na-apen is dutch for copycatting. Apen are monkeys, and na-apen means copy the monkeys.

With the above introduction in mind, I’m just flat-out worried that someone will sue me because I’m making jokes about monkeys.

Na-apen is still a common word in the Netherlands today. Who knows whether it will still be there in the future. I’m sure someone will take offense to it at some point.

I might even lose a subscriber or two. Because they want me to be serious.

I might also gain a few subscribers because they heard word of mouth that my insights are fun to read, thought-provoking, easy to read, short (max. three minutes), and always ending with a question.

To learn, get inspired, and also see how things should not be done, I’m following a group of coaches.

Some are great; some are not so good (understatement). I probably follow five consistently because they’re good. The others get thrown out and refreshed by others.

The five I follow are unique, authentic, have their style, and create their content.

The others? You get it.

Na-apers (from the verb na-apen) or copycats.

They buy a few templates with ready-made funnels and emails and adjust them to their situation. Some do this well; others are just shamelessly copying and only changing a few words.

Let me give you an example.

You sign up for a newsletter, and then, after a few emails, you receive an email with the subject:

“You’re not going to like me now.”

Are you triggered and curious? Were you at the start of this insight?

The email with this heading comes from an email funnel template. Some people don’t even bother to put their creative hat on and change their writing.

They just use the title as is.

Believe it or not, they get clients. Because they copy the format, invest time in social media, and are able to influence people who don’t know what else is possible.

There are over seven and a half billion people on this planet, so your message will stick somewhere.

But then they still need to start coaching.

Can you imagine the damage?

My message for you? Do your homework.

Your turn: copycat or authentic?

Do more of what makes you happy!


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Erikjan Lantink
Business & Leadership Coach

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