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That thing you think is true?

By September 20, 2022September 21st, 2022No Comments

If you’re going to tell a story, tell it well

It’s All Made Up

I had a delightful conversation with my friend Caroline Webb this week. She’s the author of How to Have a Good Day, the book where self-help meets neuroscience. (We’ll release that episode on 2 Pages with MBS in a little while).

Here’s what she told me about the brain that shocked me.

10% of neural pathways are used to receive information from the outside world.

90% of neural pathways are used to interpret that information.

When you add to that the knowledge that we only take in a tiny tiny TINY percentage of what is actually going on all around us to start off with, you come to realize that your lived experience is largely a story made up by your brain.

It doesn’t make sense. How does everything feel so true when it’s all being made up?

It’s on par with the realization that atoms are almost entirely space. To scale things up to make the point, if an atom was the size of a soccer stadium, then the nucleus would be about the size of a walnut placed in the center spot. The electrons would be on the back row of the seating, drinking beers and singing the team song. How does everything feel so solid if it’s all mostly a void?

I find I can sidestep the existential crisis this might bring up (🤔“wait … what is reality?”) and use it to hold things a little more lightly. When I find myself getting caught up in the hurly-burly, I’m able to ask myself (sometimes at least), “What have I decided is true?” or to put it another, longer way, “What’s the drama my brain is producing for me, what role has it cast me in, and is that really working for me?”

Knowing it’s all made up means you’ve got a choice to step back and decide if you’d like to try out another story.

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Michael Bungay Stanier

Michael Bungay Stanier

I'm the author of five books that have collectively sold more than a million copies. I'm the founder of Box of Crayons, a learning and development company that helps organizations move from advice-driven to curiosity-led. I'm the host of the *2 Pages with MBS* podcast.