Do you remember the last time you heard a really good story? I do. It was the last time I talked to you!
Maybe you thought you were rambling or talking too much…but actually you were giving me great pleasure! And I can prove it. Neuroscientists say human beings are wired for stories. Not only that, it makes us high. Literally.
Researcher Paul Zak proves listening to and telling stories causes hormones to release into our bodies such as oxytocin. This is like a feel-good drug that promotes bonding, empathy, meaning and connection.
In addition, people who appreciate the story-like aspect of life are more likely to enjoy themselves and succeed. If you are courageous enough to admit your life has a beginning and end…and in the middle a lot of plot twists, surprising characters, tragedy and humor…then you are embracing the story-like aspect of life. It’s a special way of being and it takes courage. Yay for you!
You are in good company. Tim Urban is a researcher who’s spent years following the decision-making habits of billionaire Elon Musk (founder of Tesla, among other things). Urban’s found a simple way to describe the formula for his success. Believe it or not, Musk’s way of being and doing has to do with viewing his life as a constantly unfolding story, with himself as the central character.
You can read about his recipe for being a successful and impactful operator. Sadly, to use the recipe successfully, you have to have the right ingredients. Knowing his true goals, and having an accurate read on reality are what Musk calls the ‘secret sauce’ in other words quality ingredients. In the overlap of his true goals and his reality is the ‘goal pool’ where his options lay. He creates a strategy from the goal pool and then directs his power toward implementing the strategy.
Sounds easy, right? But that’s not the end. Musk seems to view his goals as constantly evolving, as is his view of his reality. Each step he takes, each thought he has, changes the recipe. Each new feedback or observation must be constantly filtered in and layered over the previous ‘facts’ and rewriting the script accordingly.
What he calls ‘reasoning from first principles’ is the basis of his modified strategy. It’s a science term meaning starting with what evidence shows us to be true. In order to see what is true evidence requires accurately assessing events around him, and his own desires in relation to that world.
No small feat! Many of us are so eager to slap a quick and simple definition on an outcome, we avoid really seeing and feeling the world around us; we fail to derive real meaning, accurate reflections or appropriate responses.
Musk can and does do all the above. He is able to refresh his view independent from his past or his opinions. He adjusts his strategy based on the new (and accurate) data constantly flowing in through his senses. Urban defines Musk’s ‘brain software’ with four major decision-making centers in the list below.
1) Filling in the Want box
2) Filling in the Reality box
3) Goal selection from the Goal Pool
4) Strategy formation
Even more importantly, he can always accurately tune into his own desires. In other words, he always knows what he wants. How many of us can say that? Too often we become tainted by others’ agendas and suppress our own. But if we forget about our desire, we have no motivation to reach a goal. Therefore, how can your power be directed toward a goal if you don’t have any power?
What it seems to boil down to is Musk accepts the story-making aspect of life. He treats himself as the main character who continuously impacts and is impacted by which set he’s in and which characters he’s interacting with. Every story has a main character and the plot consists of the character doing something and things happening. There’s comedy and drama and tragedy and conflict…it’s all part of the plot! New things happen and complexities arise, often very unexpectedly!
If you have kids in your life, you must be aware of the constantly changing nature of life. Kids are always discovering new pieces of their puzzle. One of my main goals as a parent is to let my kids learn how to apply new information about themselves (or in coaching language the ‘pieces of their puzzle’) without interfering. Even though I make a conscious effort, I fail often.
Recently, my sons and I were at an orientation for a middle school that my sons may want to apply to. The presenter said the school specialized in pre-law and some classes could earn high school credits. I thought to myself “Oh, they are not interested in law classes!” But then I questioned the statement and realized, I am the one not interested in law. I have never wanted to study it or be a lawyer. My observation is that I prefer collaboration and lawyers seem to tend towards conflict.
I turned to my son and whispered in his ear, “Do you know what a lawyer is?” He turned to me and nodded. I then asked, “Have you thought about doing that as a profession?” He said, “Yes, I think I’d be good at that!” and his face lit up. Later, when I asked him why, he said that he liked the idea of speaking up for people, fighting for justice, and being right. I can vouch that all this is true.
Luckily, I caught myself when I made the assumption he wouldn’t want what I don’t want. I’m getting used to the idea now…. I mean having a son as a lawyer wouldn’t be so bad! Our story-life is in the making and the plot thickens…