Writing life stories

In the past few months, I’ve seen several people grow dissatisfied with their lives and seek change by quitting their jobs and going back to school. The less creative ones choose business school, the more creative ones spend a few months in France studying French.

There’s a demand for something more, a search for greater satisfaction. People know what they don’t like, and are willing to invest time and money (especially for MBAs) to get change, especially change that is legitimized by broader society.

I absorbed a specific set of aesthetic preferences over the time I was in school. I enjoy technical stories — stories which are specific and precise with respect to certain types of details. I acquired a definite bar for understanding, and feel a special joy when I learn enough about a new topic that it crosses that bar.

This description of what it is that I picked up sounds very good, and that’s not a coincidence. Education is significant in promoting skill acquisition, but it is often the effects on identity and motivation that are the most overwhelming. I feel good when I say good things about myself, and so I persist in doing that.

Objectively, it is the rules of storytelling which govern how good a particular life story sounds. Even though in theory everything you need for self-deception is inside your head, thankfully it isn’t that easy.

There’s no accounting for the lack of taste in stories though. I can imagine that for some who genuinely couldn’t tell between a good story and a bad one, self-deception would also be a difficult trap to avoid.

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