The Stories You Tell Yourself Become Your Self
In “Becoming Michael Lewis,” Walter Isaacson wrote, “Michael is one of the happiest people I know.” Lewis was later asked about that claim—is it nature or nurture. Both, Lewis said. He first realized he’s a naturally happy person in middle school. He was sent to the headmaster’s office for insulting his English teacher, and the headmaster began with, “you’re one of the happiest people I’ve ever met.” “I liked that self-definition,” Lewis said, “so I sought to preserve it.” Then in his mid-twenties, Lewis began to notice the effect the stories we tell ourselves have on ourselves. “If you listen to people, if you just sit around and listen, you’ll find there are patterns in the way they talk about themselves.” Some people are always the victim. Some people always get unlucky. Some people are always in the middle of some impossible project. Some people are always having the worst day. “There are lots of versions of this,” Lewis says, “and you’ve got to be very careful about how you tell these stories because it starts to become you. You are—in the way you craft your narrative—crafting your character.” And so, Lewis says, “I did at some point decide: I am going to consciously adopt as my narrative that I’m the happiest person that anybody knows. And it’s amazing how happy-inducing it is.” (File next to or below: If You’re Not Happy With The Story, Tell Yourself Another Story).
Your Subconscious Is Out In Front Of Your Self-Awareness
Bruce Springsteen was asked if he ever realizes things about himself when he looks back on songs he’s written. All the time, he said, the songs are almost always out in front of his personal development. “The songs are like a divining rod,” he said. “What you write about—the self-realization comes a year or two years or six years later. You go, ‘oh fuck, look, I knew this back two years ago, it was in this song, and I didn’t really realize it about myself for that period of time.’ Your inner life, your subconscious, tends to be out in front of your self-awareness. It’s the same for everybody. In my case, I actually record it. I record that subconscious and then have a chance to go back and literally look at it and realize it took me a while to get there personally.” I’ve found this to be true of journaling. I never go back and read old journals, but almost daily, I’m surprised by what comes out—out of the subconscious and into my awareness. (File next to or below: We Learn In Practice, Not in Theory).
This Is A Country Of Second Opinions
Dr. Edith Eger’s son Johnny was born with athetoid cerebral palsy. He struggled to put his own clothes on, he struggled to talk, to hold a fork, to feed himself with a spoon. The first doctor she took him to told her that Johnny might not make it to high school, and that he definitely needed to be in a school for special needs children. “That’s when I asked,” she said on the Daily Stoic podcast, “‘Where do I get a second opinion?” She flew from Texas to Baltimore and at Johns Hopkins, she met a neurologist, Dr. Clark. Johnny stayed with Dr. Clark for a week. After that week, Eger writes in The Choice: Embrace the Possible, Dr. Clark told her, “Your son will be whatever you make of him. John’s going to do everything everyone else does, but it’s going to take him longer to get there. You can push him too hard, and that will backfire, but it will also be a mistake not to push him hard enough. You need to push him to the level of his potential.” Eger was a student at the University of Texas at the time, but she dropped out and daily took Johnny to speech therapy appointments and occupational therapy appointments and any and every other specialist she could find that might help in some way. Around the age of 10, Johnny was physically and academically stable. And in 1978, he graduated from the University of Texas, top ten in his class. “This is a country of second opinions,” Eger said.
9 Times Out of 10, It’s Not Going To Work
Jerry Seinfeld has told a lot of jokes on a lot of stages. If you were to ask me to name a comedian who is certain about their material before going on stage, Jerry Seinfeld. He was once asked: Before you try it on stage, how do you know if something’s funny? “You don’t,” Seinfeld said. You just trust yourself? “No you don’t. There’s no trust. 8 or 9 times out of 10, it’s not going to work.” Every time he goes on stage, he said, he tries some new material. If it works, he tells it the next night. If it doesn’t work, he tweaks it or drops it. If you’ve seen him on TV or Netflix—“What you see is what worked. But you’re only seeing 1.5% of what I’ve tried.” He published a book titled with the question every comedian says to every other comedian about a new bit, Is this anything? He says there’s a follow-up question when you see that comedian later, Did it get anything? “All comedians are slightly amazed when anything works.” (File next to or below: Just Keep Bumbling).
Go Through The Swamp
Dr. Thomas More is a psychiatrist in the fictitious Paradise Estates of southern Louisiana, created by Walker Percy in Love in the Ruins. Ted Tennis, his patient, lacks any sense of purpose, is in the midst of an identity crisis, and his marriage to Tanya is fizzling out. Ted goes and sees Dr. More. After some back and forth, Dr. More had the prescription: instead of driving home, walk. “Walk twenty-five miles on the interstate?” Ted asks. “No, walk six miles through the swamp,” Dr. More replies. “Recovery of the self,” he adds, “[comes] through ordeal.” The six-mile trek through the swamp, through mosquitoes and leeches and bats and gators and a gorilla took five hours. “It was every bit the ordeal I had hoped,” Dr. More says, “half-dead and stinking like a catfish, [Ted] fell into the arms of his good wife Tanya, and made lusty love to her the rest of the night.” If I’d read this farther back, it may have found its way into It’s Good That It’s A Struggle.
A Good Way To Enter And Leave A Room
Yesterday, one of my best friends got married. When he was a baby, he was chubbier than what is typical I guess, and so, he’s always gone by Buddha. His now-father-in-law said his three-year-old granddaughter calls him Buddy. “To me, Buddy is more fitting,” he said in his speech. “Every room he enters, he leaves everyone feeling like he is their buddy.” Like Lewis, it’s probably some combination of nature and nurture—in every room he enters, Buddha/Buddy is always one of the happiest. The best man would describe the effect Buddha has on people as something “like gravity—you can’t help but be pulled in by him.” True. Something to strive for.