Little things can mean a lot. Let’s say you’re having a crappy day and you’re at the store when the cashier pulls out a coupon that saves you a dollar. This gives you a boost and you walk out the door in a better mood. Maybe you don’t honk at the numbskull ahead of you for doing whatever it is that annoys you. That person doesn’t get irked with you for being a numbskull honking at them and who knows what other little improvements occur because someone did you a solid just for the heck of it. Little bits of beauty & generosity have a tendency to carry on long after their tipping point. Like watching a TED talk and getting inspired to write an article about something both simple and radically important about the patterns at work in our lives.
Neil Pasricha decided to do something seemingly small when he was going through a very rough patch in his life. His marriage was falling apart, his best friend took his own life and he naturally was finding it really hard to think of anything good. He started a blog in order to record and share what he called 1000 Awesome Things, figuring that it might help him focus on the positive again. Little did he know that this one effort would have him publishing books, calendars, TED talks and receiving a Webby Award for his blog in 2010. All of this AND bringing a grin or a LOL to millions of readers. Neil’s 17 minute talk about how all of this came about is totally worth watching so, go ahead, it’s right down there, I’ll wait. Then you can read about how this talk is an invocation of three of your core archetypes. (Or you can just skip to the next bit.)
Neil calls the major lessons of his experience the three A’s of Awesome: Attitude, Awareness and Authenticity. Each of these invokes one of your core archetypal patterns, the Victim (Attitude), the Child (Awareness) and the Prostitute (Authenticity). These are 3 of the 4 core universal archetypes common to everyone also known as the Survival Archetypes.
Neil’s own story has a lot to do with the Victim archetype. He could have simply wallowed in his circumstances, let them take over and obscure the beauty in his life. The unempowered side of the Victim is the part of us that can get wrapped up in anger, sadness, and blame. We all have a Victim pattern in our lives – we have setbacks, get hurt, make mistakes, have crappy days when we feel like we’ve gotten the fuzzy side of the lollipop. We also have the empowered side of the Victim that makes choices to get out of the mire of blame and move on. Neil calls this ‘Attitude’ and I see it as using the pattern of the Victim to make a gigantic difference in a few small choices.
The second ‘A’ of Awesome is Awareness and this invokes the Child archetype in us. The Child or as Neil says, our inner three year old, can be amazed at the simplest things, see beauty where most adults just see a knot in a piece of wood. Invoking the awareness of the Child archetype can help us enjoy something simple, open our eyes to opportunity or just appreciate something we would ordinarily pass by. This isn’t just a mood lifter, but a way to be in the world with a deeper sense of presence. The Child can be the antidote to a fast paced world where it’s difficult not to become jaded to little pleasures like putting on socks still warm from the dryer.
The third ‘A’ is for Authenticity which believe it or not, invokes Prostitute archetype. The unempowered Prostitute is that part of us that will negotiate our self worth away because of someone elses opinion or keep us doing something we dislike because we feel we can’t do anything else. The empowered Prostitute reminds us that we can be authentic and make choices not based on fear but out of an authentic belief in ourselves. Neil uses the example of pro football player Rosie Grier and his penchant for needlepoint as an example of authenticity. Rosie could have easily kept his passion for something unmanly under wraps and let what other people might think of him control who he was (keep in mind this was the early 1970’s) but he didn’t. In fact he published several books on his interests. It doesn’t get much more authentic than that.
While this archetype has a shocking name, it can be a guide for us to live authentically. Are you not doing something because you are afraid of what people might think of you? Are you putting the opinions of others over your authentic dreams and desires?
This comes on the heels of a similarly themed article that I published in June called “Does productivity = happiness?” which deals with the same topic. Statistician (a Scribe in Archetypal terms) Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation’s success by its productivity — instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised. Here’s his fascinating TED Talk:
I find real world examples of the Visionary, Scribe, Detective and the Advocate in this presentation. The Scribe archetype in particular tends not to get a lot of attention. Clients rarely pick this archetype the first time around. Maybe it’s the name “Scribe”, it just doesn’t have the pizazz that “Alchemist” or “Visionary” do. Anyway, I’d like to use this presentation by a Statistician aka a modern Scribe, to illustrate the power of this archetype. Where would we be if there weren’t Scribes to keep track of our history, our finances and even to use statistics to help enlighten and help us solve real-world issues like happiness and climate change?
The Scribe Archetype – description and history
Variations on this archetype are: Journalist, Documentarian, Accountant, Secretary, Record Keeper and Genealogist.
The Scribe differs from Author or Artist in one significant way: scribes copy or use existing works rather than create new ones. The Hebrew scribes were originally secretaries who wrote down the preachings of the prophets, but evolved into a priestly class charged with writing and maintaining the laws and records, copying previous scrolls, and committing oral traditions to paper. Medieval Christian scribes copied manuscripts and helped preserve learning. In India, the sages who compiled the Vedas are known as vyasa, a Sanskrit word that means “collector” but could be translated as “scribe.” We can expand the definition to cover modern journalists, who also record the existing knowledge and information of their day and uncover secrets (investigative reporters). And we would also have to include that largely anonymous horde of copiers who are busy uploading everything imaginable onto the Internet in the hope of preserving it by distributing it to millions. What makes the Internet the modern equivalent of the medieval scriptorum is that so much information is transcribed onto it not for personal gain but for the sheer joy of preserving and sharing these artifacts with the rest of the world.
The shadow aspect of the Scribe can manifest in altering facts, plagiarizing, or selling information that belongs to others. You could even say that a crooked Accountant is a shadow Scribe or a photo-journalist that sets up images to portray a biased opinion.
Films: Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford in All the President’s Men; Sally Field in Absence of Malice (shadow); Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (shadow); Nicole Kidman in To Die For (shadow); Holly Hunter in Broadcast News.
Fiction: Bartleby the Scrivener by Herman Melville
Religion/Myth: Ezra (Hebrew scribe and priest, best known for collecting and editing the books of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, in the fifth century B.C.); Imhotep (in Egyptian myth, an architect, physician, and scribe in the court of the Pharaoh Zoser); Thoth (Egyptian god of wisdom, inventor of writing, and patron of scribes, often depicted as a man with the head of an ibis, holding a scribal tablet and reed pen).
How do we measure what makes life worthwhile? When the dotcom bubble burst, hotelier Chip Conley went in search of a business model based on happiness. In an old friendship with an employee and in the wisdom of a Buddhist king, he learned that success comes from what you count. Watch Chip’s 20 min talk on what he found.
What’s pretty amazing is that we don’t really measure happiness on a meaningful level at work or in government. I’m not even sure we have a good way to do this yet. Oh sure, we look at indicators of things that *might* mean that the general populace is more or less happy for a specific time period. Attrition rates and productivity seem to be our only key indicators.
Is our productivity really the measure of happiness or success? This seems like an idea that has become outmoded and more related to the last century than this one. Looking at this symbolically, I doubt that continuing to look at ourselves as if we were factories is at all useful to our well-being. What’s productive about a walk through the park on a warm summer day? What’s productive about sharing a delicious meal with friends? What is productive about many of the things we can do each day that bring us a sense of peace or even joy?
I spent last evening watching my 4 year old niece while her folks went out for dinner. We watched the Muppets (3 episodes, each watched twice) and we made puppets out of paper bags and ribbons. There was nothing at all productive about what we did, not even the creation of the puppets was about ‘getting them done’. We both totally enjoyed the experience of playing and collaborating on our creations. To my niece, if something was ‘silly’ it was good and for us everything was silly. Ok well maybe brushing teeth and going to bed wasn’t silly but it wasn’t exactly all about being productive either. This is the sometimes delicate balance of the Child and the Adult archetypes. Go ahead, do something silly and unproductive. It might be the happiest, most successful part of your day.