I have been thinking ….. about Tony Robbins and fiction books. Every A-personality is probably guilty of proclaiming at some point in their life that they only read non-fiction books. Many do so due to the perceived benefit or rather lack of benefit of reading a fiction book. Many people still view a fiction book as a mere form of entertainment which is there to be consumed to fall asleep faster. At the same time they view non-fiction books as those that will develop them, improve them as a human being and help them towards successfully climbing the career ladder. If you are that person, then I hope you are willing to lose any mental biases or predisposition for a while and explore with me why fiction can be comparatively more worth your precious time then non-fiction.
First of all, yes you are right. Non-fiction will trump fiction in many areas. The more technical the knowledge is that you are seeking to acquire the more suitable are non-fiction books. However, if you are looking to develop and improve as a person, if you are struggling with managing your life efficiently, having fulfilling relationships or deciding what you should pursue in life then you might want to grab a fiction book instead.
Let’s maybe start from a common ground. Auto-biographies. Many people who are favor non-fiction material can still admit that it is useful/practical to read an autobiography from time to time. They then go on to reference autobiographies from people such as Benjamin Franklin, Steve Jobs or Rafael Nadal. Well, they are right there are many things to be learned by following another person’s decision and narrative. In fact let’s take a quick detour into psychology, specifically narrative psychology.
Narrative psychology is a viewpoint or a stance within psychology concerned with the “storied nature of human conduct”, or in other words how human beings deal with experience by observing stories and listening to the stories of others. Operating under the assumption that human activity and experience are filled with “meaning” and stories, rather than logical arguments or lawful formulations, narrative psychology is the study of how human beings construct stories to deal with experiences. As described by Sarbin, T.R (1986)
Your narrative is a powerful tool in general and worthy of an entire guide on its own. A quick example. Understanding your own life’s narrative can directly impact whether you are going to overcome certain challenges or whether you view yourself as a victim of unavoidable bad fortune.
Understanding the importance of being able to alter the perception we have of our own life’s story and learn from other people’s narrative is the first step. Given base many of our decisions on the story we tell ourselves about ourselves and the fact that we learn very effectively from stories by nature, suddenly opens up a new way of accessing the value of fiction books. Whether a narrative is real as in the case of an autobiography or whether it is a fictional story of a character’s struggle or success makes little difference to the potential value it can have if approached with the right mindset.
What helped me to make the analysis of a narrative more tangible, was to draw on the character theory literature . Character theory’s original concern was to study and develop archetypes for character roles in a story. A traditional example would be that a story might have a hero, helper, villain and victim. Below is a list of which you might want to assess yourself and how you understand your own role in life as well as the narratives of the many thousand of fiction books you are going to read after reading this blog posts.
3 Character theories you can apply for analysis
Goffman’s character theory (Goffman 1959)
- The protagonist (leading character)
- The deuteragonist (secondary character)
- The bit player (minor character whose specific background the audience is not aware of)
- The fool (a character that uses humor to convey messages)
Propp’s Narrative Theory (Propp 1969)
- The villain (struggles against the hero)
- The donor (prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object)
- The (magical) helper (helps the hero in the quest)
- The princess (person the hero marries, often sought for during the narrative)
- The false hero (perceived as good character in beginning but emerges as evil)
- The dispatcher (character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off)
- The hero [AKA victim/seeker/paladin/winner, reacts to the donor, usually marries the princess
Bishop’s character theory (Bishop J. 2008)
- Lurker – Driven by Surveillance forces. Lurkers make silent calls by accident, etc., clicking on adverts or ‘like’ buttons, using ’referrer spoofers’, modifying opinion polls or user kudos scores.
- Elder – Driven by Escapism forces. An Elder is an out bound member of the community, often engaging in “trolling for newbies”, where they wind up the newer members often without questioning from other members.
- Troll – Driven by Chaos forces. A Troll takes part in trolling to entertain others and bring some entertainment to an online community.
- Big Man – Driven by Order forces. A Big Man does trolling by posting something pleasing to others in order to support their world view.
- Flirt – Driven by Social forces. A Flirt takes part in trolling to help others be sociable, including through light ’teasing’.
- Snert – Driven by Anti-social forces. A Snert takes part in trolling to harm others for their own sick entertainment.
- MHBFY Jenny – Driven by Forgiveness forces. A MHBFY Jenny takes part in trolling to help people see the lighter side of life and to help others come to terms with their concerns.
- E-venger – Driven by Vengeance forces. An E-Venger does trolling in order to trip someone up so that their ‘true colours’ are revealed.
- Chat Room Bob – Driven by Existential forces. A chatroom bob takes part in trolling to gain the trust of others members in order to exploit them..
- Ripper – Driven by Thanatotic forces. A Ripper takes part in self-deprecating trolling in order to build a false sense of empathy from others.
- Wizard – Driven by Creativity forces. A Wizard does trolling through making up and sharing content that has humorous effect.
- Iconoclast – Driven by Destructive forces. An Iconoclast takes part in trolling to help others discover ‘the truth’, often by telling them things completely factual, but which may drive them into a state of consternation. They may post links to content that contradicts the worldview of their target.
I think this is where I leave you. Which role do you assign yourself in your life’s story?
When you are ready to start your next book, maybe pick up a fiction book next and approach it with the mindset of learning from that particular narrative. Taking inspiration from the story told to alter how you view your own life and progress or simply learn from the protagonist’s way of accessing their role in life.
P.S. if it wasn’t quite clear why I mentioned Tony Robbins in the first sentence, please have a look at his material. This idea is literally the foundation of his career and he has surely produced inspiring work.
This is my opinion as off the 08/10/2016, remember it might already have changed the day after. Always keep learning.