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The Brains of a Hero – A Checklist
Published by May 31, 2014 1:40 pm

Taschen book: mindsets

I recently read an article called ‘The Brains of Successful vs. Unsuccessful People Actually Look Very Different’ on PolicyMic.com. The successful types are said to have growth mindsets while the unsuccessful suffer from fixed mindsets. As I was contemplating how my own mindset is dangerously close to the fixed mindset, if not smack in the middle of its murky sphere, I also saw a brilliant outline of what a hero’s mindset must, must, MUST be like in order for her and her story to succeed. The diagram above provides an excellent checklist to make sure your hero and her story succeeds!

Here’s the idea: ‘For fixed mindsets, intelligence is static. This leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless or worse, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential. All this confirms a deterministic view of the world. For growth mindsets, intelligence can be developed. This leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find lessons and inspiration in the success of others. As a result they reach ever-higher levels of achievement. All this gives them a greater sense of free will.’

Think about all the great heroes you love. Which mindset do they share common characteristics with? Sometimes a growth-oriented hero may be failing at one or more of the traits of the growth mindset. But isn’t that usually the area of weakness where the hero’s inner conflict lies?

You might say, but how about stories about people with fixed mindsets? Don’t their stories deserve to be told? Yes, they do, but only when the hero begins to see she must change and willingly or unwillingly goes through the journey of a growth mindset. A story about a fixed mindset getting a kick in the butt from life to adopt a growth mindset in order to overcome whatever hurdle life threw at her is a very common storyline.

No matter how big or small, every hero should be (or become) a force to be reckoned with. So we can find lessons and inspiration in their stories and do the same.

Read the full article here.


Sweetness of Entanglement
Published by April 30, 2014 1:57 pm

Quantum-doesnt-mean-small-or-big

“… the story of time’s arrow begins with the quantum mechanical idea that, deep down, nature is inherently uncertain.”

I read a very interesting article on quantum physics at Wired.com today. I believe it can be applied to the nature of stories and help explain our minds’ tendency and need to create and enjoy them.

Nature is inherently uncertain! What a beautiful statement! It has a ring of truth, acceptance, surrender and freedom. This sounds like a point that urgently asks to be further explored and its connections to the minute details of our lives thoroughly studied.

When I think about this statement in relation to storytelling, I feel more comfortable with the fact that stories too are inherently uncertain, just as their creators and audiences are. For one thing, they reflect an uncertain image of life. Secondly, they generate even more uncertainty as soon as they meet an audience. As many uncertainties as there are audiences.

It also explains why human beings and the characters they create and love are constantly striving for certainty and equilibrium. In fact, isn’t striving for certainty at the heart of all human conflict?

And now we know why! The article suggests that the moment a particle interacts with another (which, as I understand, happens as soon as the particle originates) it can no longer be described by its own ‘pure state.’ Professor Seth Lloyd who realized the relationship between quantum uncertainty and human uncertainty found that “When particles become increasingly entangled with one another, the information that originally described them would shift to describe the system of entangled particles as a whole. It was as though the particles gradually lost their individual autonomy and became pawns of the collective state. Eventually, the correlations contained all the information, and the individual particles contained none. At that point, Lloyd discovered, particles arrived at a state of equilibrium, and their states stopped changing…”

Bear with me as I try to make sense of this with my very basic level of comprehension. Is this how the story goes: We leave our ‘pure state’ of certainty as soon as we begin our lives and immediately turn into uncertain beings. By way of getting inevitably entangled with everyone and everything else in the universe and therefore becoming even more uncertain, we eventually reach a point of saturation with our entangledness. At this point we have sufficiently emptied ourselves out and become one with the collective ‘system’ that we stop changing/striving and finally become equilibriated, balanced, satisfied and happy?

Let’s try to apply it to the mythological structure of stories. A is confused, but doesn’t know it. A meets B. A gets even more confused and now knows it. B gets more confused too. Together A and B become more and more confused together until they have to change so so so much that A and B individually and collectively achieve a state of steadiness in a different and –in the case of stories– better way.

Lloyd says, “The universe as a whole is in a pure state. But individual pieces of it, because they are entangled with the rest of the universe, are in mixtures.” By living the story of our lives and all the little stories we generate and consume within it, we also become mixtures and eventually, hopefully, go back to that ‘pure state’.

Along the way, it sure feels good to know that uncertainty and certainty are natural and common in all of humanity, nature and the universe. Perhaps this is the reason why we tell stories and why we love stories. To entertain our uncertainties, to try to make sense of the inherent qualities in all of us, to move toward certainty…

Not surprisingly I am not certain about any of this. Have a read of the full article and send me your thoughts. Here’s the link: http://www.wired.com/2014/04/quantum-theory-flow-time/


More Life-Supporting Illusions for the New Year!
Published by December 31, 2013 7:46 am

Magic of Story was only born 10 days ago, but is already on its way into a brand new year. I am sure 2014 has a lot of gifts in store for all of us. I would like to add my contribution to the season of new year’s gifts and resolutions.

I recommend reading two books that I believe compliment each other wonderfully and would be a fantastic read for all storytellers and storylovers, writers and readers, students and enthusiasts of mythology, psychology, spirituality, history…….. This duo may be the eye-opening inspiration you’re looking for in 2014!

First is one of my inspirations for creating Magic of Story: Joseph Campbell’s ‘Myths to Live By’. Campbell talks about symbolic forms that support their civilizations. He says, in the absence of these symbolic forms we have uncertainty and disequilibrium; what we need is life-supporting illusions, without which ‘there is nothing secure to hold on to, no moral law, nothing firm.’

Dostoyevsky’s ‘The Dream of the Ridiculous Man’ perfectly represents Campbell’s notion of life-supporting illusions, where a dream -a perfect little story in itself- literally supports the life of its protagonist by giving him what we all want: a vision and a quest. This little story is not only a textbook demonstration of story structure and archetypes, but also proves Campbell’s idea that life withers in the absence of stories.

I wish for more of these artfully told life-supporting illusions for the new year.

The new year’s gift that I received this year is this website. Magic of Story is the fruit of the work of a few people, whom I’d like to thank here: David Dalla Venezia for giving me permission to feature his paintings, which, to me, beautifully represent the inner workings of the birth of stories; Layton Creative for the intuitively simple and sophisticated logo design; Sprinkler’s Nathan Shanahan for the web design and development and for his incredible patience in responding to my endless doubts and questions; Sprinkler’s Mary Cameron for her insightful editing; Can, Erol and Deniz for writing the first testimonials and my friends and family who contributed with their feedback and support.

Thank you all for your help and encouragement to realize this dream of mine. I hope 2014 will bring magic to all your endeavors.