We Can All Be the Authors of Our Own Lives

We really can make a masterpiece out of our own lives if we so choose.

We’re all the authors here.  And I think that one of the first things that we can do is if we understand the power of self-amplifying feedback loops, the way our spaces influence our thinking and our thinking in turn influences our spaces, is that we could then control what happens to us by exercising creative control over the circumstances that we throw ourselves into. 


And there's always going to be the wild card.  There's always going to be the circumstances you can't plan for.  There's always the unexpected relevance and the serendipity.  But just like that book The Power of Pull talks about, we can funnel the serendipity or we can channel the serendipity funnel.  We can help engender and engineer serendipity by the choices that we make every moment, right?  

So by cultivating rich social networks, by cultivating weak ties, not just closed ties but the weak ties, by becoming connectors and by connecting others so that they connect us, we create a world in which these self-amplifying feedback loops feed on top of each other.  So good circumstances lead to other good circumstances which lead to other good circumstances and each one of them encourages us to then live more openly and participate in that sort of creative flow space.  You can go on and on.  

But at the risk of sounding like a self-help book, I just really believe that our creative choices ultimately shape who we become and so we should all be discerning and be radically open whenever possible and I think that we really can make a masterpiece out of our own lives if we so choose.  But that requires, it requires a boldness of character as well, because seeing the radical freedom that we have to compose our lives, what Leary called internal freedom, could also cause vertigo. 

The vertigo of freedom, this dizzying - what do I do?  I can do anything?  Well, the paradox of too much choice.  But I think we can embrace that with courage and with boldness, and once we do, there's nothing we can't do. 

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

3D printing might save your life one day. It's transforming medicine and health care.

What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.

Northwell Health
Sponsored by Northwell Health
  • Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
  • Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
  • Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Keep reading Show less

Adam Gopnik on the rhinoceros of liberalism vs. the unicorns of everything else

Torn between absolutism on the left and the right, classical liberalism—with its core values of compassion and incremental progress whereby the once-radical becomes the mainstream—is in need of a good defense. And Adam Gopnik is its lawyer.

Think Again Podcasts
  • Liberalism as "radical pragmatism"
  • Intersectionality and civic discourse
  • How "a thousand small sanities" tackled drunk driving, normalized gay marriage, and could control gun violence
Keep reading Show less

You weren't born ‘to be useful’, Irish president tells young philosophers

Irish president believes students need philosophy.

Personal Growth
  • President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins calls for students to be thought of as more than tools made to be useful.
  • Higgins believes that philosophy and history should be a basic requirement forming a core education.
  • The Irish Young Philosopher Awards is one such event that is celebrating this discipline among the youth.
Keep reading Show less

Fascism and conspiracy theories: The symptoms of broken communication

The lost practice of face-to-face communication has made the world a more extreme place.

Videos
  • The world was saner when we spoke face-to-face, argues John Cameron Mitchell. Not looking someone in the eye when you talk to them raises the potential for miscommunication and conflict.
  • Social media has been an incredible force for activism and human rights, but it's also negatively affected our relationship with the media. We are now bombarded 24/7 with news that either drives us to anger or apathy.
  • Sitting behind a screen makes polarization worse, and polarization is fertile ground for conspiracy theories and fascism, which Cameron describes as irrationally blaming someone else for your problems.
Keep reading Show less