“No story lives unless someone wants to listen.” – J.K. Rowling
There are two ways to look at this Rowling quote. There’s the story we try to sell to the audience – read my blog or my book, buy my product or service, hire me for the job, let’s do lunch… whatever. The story we tell others to persuade them to invest time, attention or money into what we’re offering. But there’s also the story we tell ourselves, “I am a writer”, “I am here to help others”, “I am a rainmaker”, that ultimately has to come first. If you don’t believe your own story how can you expect others to buy into it?
I was thinking about a George Mack Twitter thread on high agency that’s stuck with me for since I read it a year ago. Here are the key points from that thread:
“High Agency is a sense that the story given to you by other people about what you can/cannot do is just that – a story.
And that you have control over the story.
High Agency person looks to bend reality to their will.
They either find a way, or they make a way.
Low agency person accepts the story that is given to them.
They never question it.
They are passive.
They outsource all of their decision making to other people.
If in doubt, ask yourself, what would Wetzler do?
1. Question everything
2. Bend reality
3. Never outsource your decision making”
(Alfred Wetzler was a prisoner who escaped Auschwitz and helped bring awareness to what was happening there).
Pushing myself to become more high agency, less low agency has been a mission ever since. What story am I telling myself? That I’m someone that gets things done, or someone who falls in line and does what is expected of me? In general I’m proactive in reaching out to others, tackling projects (high agency) but tend to stall when I hit roadblocks (low agency). In general I follow the rules of the game (low agency), but what if the rules aren’t really there in the first place? Everything in social life is a construct, so why not construct my own life? That’s high agency, and a better story than passively going through life as a cog in someone else’s story line.
And so I’m pushing myself more in my career (which requires high agency thinking), and I’m writing more out of my comfort zone, and questioning other things in my life that I might have let slide before. This bending reality to my will thing seems arrogant on the surface, but that’s passive thinking, isn’t it? I have plenty of examples of people in my life bending reality to their will who I wouldn’t call arrogant, but instead adventurous and bold. And who doesn’t want their main character to be adventurous and bold?
The thing about high agency living is that it builds on itself. You start with one bold question, push back a little and go in a different direction and it changes you. Do it again and you change a little more. Pretty soon you have momentum on your side and step-by-step eventually you’re living audaciously. And that’s a story I’d like to see more of.