2023 November 28 How to have a good story!

Nov 28, 2023

Hi, this is Jim Cranston from 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com, the podcast and website about reimagining your life. Thanks for joining me today to talk about having a good story. So let's get started.  If you like what you hear today, please leave a like, tell your friends, send me a message.


Tonight is all about how to have a good story about yourself, what in your life would make a good story, and why? But first, I want to mention some news I learned about just before this broadcast. Charlie Munger, who is the other half of Warren Buffett and Berkshire Hathaway, the big investment firm, passed away today, November 28th, at the age of 99 years old. 


I just saw an interview with him recently, within the past week or so. I was just amazed about how even at that age, he's still so active and so dedicated. He had a lot of great quotes. Like we discussed last week, he's another example of how money is just an amplifier. It just makes a person more of what they are. It doesn't really change them necessarily. 


He donated hundreds of millions of dollars over his lifetime - often, not a single time, so he probably donated billions of dollars. For example, at one university, he stipulated that he would give the donation only if they accepted his architecture requirements.


One of his requirements was that the women's bathrooms always had to be much larger than the men's bathrooms so there wouldn't be a bigger line at the women's room than the men's room. He was just a good man. You look at some people and you wonder what they do with their money. Many just keep it all for themselves. He really did spread it around. 


Berkshire Hathaway, over the years, really turned into a very interesting investment firm because, unlike so many of these “modern activist investors,” they go in and they invest in a company. They basically try and take out all the value and just leave a shambles behind. They pat themselves on the back about how much money they took out and helped the shareholders. They destroyed the company, but they helped the shareholders.  When Berkshire Hathaway invests in a company, it's really to make the company better. I'm not saying that everything they did was perfect, but their point is to help the company grow and become more solid and provide more jobs and to build up the whole community, not to tear the company down and walk away from a shambles, but to leave a really well-operating, well-managed, well-run company.


I wanted to read a quick quote from them. This is from an interview in 2019 on CNBC. He's asked about the secret to a long and happy life. Munger said the answer is  “easy, because it's so simple. You don't have a lot of envy, you don't have a lot of resentment, you don't overspend your income, you stay cheerful in spite of your troubles. You deal with reliable people and you do what you're supposed to do. And all these simple rules work so well to make your life better. And they're so trite," he said. And staying cheerful ... because it's a wise thing to do. Is that so hard? And can you be cheerful when you're absolutely mired in deep hatred and resentment? Of course you can't. So why would you take it on?” That's the sort of person he was.


He really emphasized the positive. He didn't just accumulate wealth for the heck of accumulating wealth. He gave it all away. He is really somebody who's going to be missed, one of the old timers who really set a higher standard.


But back to the topic at hand, talking about writing a story about yourself and your life. The Wall Street Journal seems to have more articles on Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, which I find pretty interesting in itself. 


There was an article entitled How to Avoid Being Boring at 60 in the review section on the weekend, which was a must read for me with a title like that. I could start by saying that the author  Rob Lazebnik might benefit either from following me or perhaps getting a different group of friends. First of all, I’m not trying to pick on Mr. Lazebnik.  I'm sure it was written partly tongue in cheek, and his own way of living is different from mine, which is fine. 


That's his right, absolutely. I'm not trying to criticize him, but the gist of his story is that if you aren't doing something different and exciting, you really don't have much to talk about. I see that sort of attitude about one's own life quite regularly, that my regular old life is uninteresting and boring.  I guess a lot of it has to do with how you perceive yourself and how you choose who you hang around with. Who's your circle of friends?  I live a pretty normal life, in my opinion, but I do try to be pretty mindful of what is going on around me and also the people around me.


At any moment, there's usually a lot of both good and bad, so it's up to me as to which I want to focus on, which will form the basis of any stories I wish to relate to my friends. We talk about this all the time. Case in point: the 5 1⁄2 hour trip home from Virginia took nearly eight hours, almost three hours longer than it normally does. I elected to emphasize how many people got to see their families. There were no major accidents, instead of complaining about the length of the trip. It also meant I got almost seven uninterrupted hours to practice my Spanish listening skills. Win win!  


I could have complained about the delays, the roads, the other drivers, how I'm never doing this again. But honestly, complaining is really pretty boring.  I also stopped at a Spanish mass in Baltimore as I drove by and met a bunch of nice people, got to practice Spanish conversation, talked to the choir lead about how I sing in Spanish choir, and generally had a really nice break in my trip. I realized later how I'd been there about two years ago.


By emphasizing the good parts of a normal trip, I ended up with a fun and interesting story to tell people. As a bonus, I also feel much better about my day and myself.  You don't have to do really weird and exciting things to not be boring. You just have to pay attention to life and live it to the fullest. 


I think that's the real point of the story. I think the author gets hung up with this modern thought that the only thing that's interesting is the stuff that's unusual.  But really, the most interesting part is the reality of life itself and all the interesting people that you meet. 


I've generally picked friends who share many of my points of view on important topics. There are truly important things based upon our principles, and my friends and I have those in common. When I describe walking into a crowded religious service in another language in a rough town, they know it isn't some adventure trip. It's me meeting people in a meaningful way and relating to them the kindness that was shown to me while I was there. They found it interesting, and I was interested in telling it. 


They don’t find it boring because I presented it as something that was a pleasant event and that was naturally interesting, not because it was meant to impress a stranger with how unboring it was. This goes way beyond one story in a major newspaper. It's really rooted in how society teaches us to judge ourselves and who we should hang out with as peers.


If you're genuine in your life and live towards your well-defined goals, you are, by definition, an interesting and not boring person.  I met a mentor acquaintance of mine, Jaspreet Singh of theminoritymindset.com, at one of the FinCons (Financial Conference) I went to. It was just fascinating. 


The minority mindset has nothing to do with the way you look. It's the mindset of thinking differently than the majority of people.  His other website is marketbriefs.com. Check out Jaspreet. He's awesome. He's not awesome because he's different. He's awesome because he is genuinely interesting. His story is genuinely compelling. The progress he's made  since having to emigrate twice and losing everything both times  is enrapturing. You listen to somebody like that and you say, My life actually has been extraordinarily easy and good and wonderful. If you follow your dreams and try to live on your own terms, you are truly in the minority of humankind.  


If you're taking an active role in planning your retirement, even if you started too late, isn't that more interesting than complaining about what you should do or should have done, or complaining that life sucks?  If you're complaining about life, that's only true if that's how you decide to frame it. How you frame your life, how you perceive life, is very much how you decide to look at life. You can complain about your life. To sit and complain is intrinsically boring. 


Back to the newspaper story.  I'll bet you this person - he's a famous writer for the Simpsons -  I can't imagine that he doesn't have  interesting things happening in his life and around him  quite regularly. He has famous and interesting people coming in and out of his life on a regular basis.  He could just speak about those, look at what his goals were and talk about how these things are moving towards his goals. I'm not criticizing him in any way.


Maybe he does those things and the story was just written with the intent of being entertaining. But I see this often in society about how you're not very boring unless you hang out with the Pepsi generation and things like that. If we all just focus on the natural good things in our lives, we're not boring at all. 


A lot of people want to know how to live life that way.  It starts with your own goals.  If your idea of being not boring is having a bunch of new exciting adventures, then maybe you should look at your audience and what you think they need. I'm fortunate. 


I have a few close friends. Some of those have been friends for over 60 years, and we find each other quite entertaining. We have a lot in common and understand how our friends view life as well. We don't have to become unboring. We're friends because we enjoy each other, and that's never boring.


When I meet new people, am I concerned about being boring? Not in the least, for a number of different reasons. If that new acquaintance finds me boring, then they should probably just stay a casual acquaintance. It probably means that we don't really share much in common. That's fine. What really caught my interest in this article was that most of what he wanted to do, or did, was simply to impress someone else. Imagine if he chose things to move himself towards his life goals instead and how much more satisfying and interesting that would be. We're all unique. We are interesting to those to whom we share genuine and worthwhile interests. 


We don't have to dress up for society. We just have to be ourselves and be genuine. We've talked about mindfulness, positive attitude, and being purposeful in our lives. Those qualities will always make us fascinating and worthwhile to people who share our principles in life. That's it for tonight. Never be ashamed of your life if you genuinely feel you're living it in a way that brings you fulfillment and satisfaction.


Things don't bring happiness. Being genuine and surrounding yourself with close friends who are genuine is the best way to have interesting things to share and to enjoy. Be satisfied with all the amazing qualities you already have. Good friends don't have to be impressed with tricks. They're good friends because they're already impressed by you. 


Your homework (optional of course) is to think of some things in your life that your friends find interesting and that a casual acquaintance may not be interested in. Extra points if you think about how you could reframe those things so that even a new person might be at least curious about them. 


When I was going down to Virginia, I stopped at the Delaware Welcome Center. A sweet young lady worked behind the counter.  I grabbed a banana and went up to the counter and gave her a dollar. She said it was two bananas for a dollar. I've been there before and bought a banana, and nobody said anything. She was the first person. Big smile on her face. This is on Wednesday before Thanksgiving. There were about a bazillion people in that place. People coming and going, getting gas, using the restroom, buying stuff, complaining about the traffic, carrying on, and the entire time she had a smile. She made everybody smile. She brought a little bit of happiness in everybody's life. How nice you're going to see your family. Where are you from? That's awesome. Thank you. Have a good trip. Stay safe.  


She's probably thinking, when somebody asks her what she does, that she’s just a cashier in a service area on the highway.  That is so far from what she is. Every day, she makes dozens, maybe hundreds, of people's lives better. She should say that she makes hundreds of people's lives better every single day by just being a smiling face when they weren't expecting it. We're all interesting, we're all exciting. We just have to remember to find it within our own lives.  


Please remember the war in Ukraine. There are donation links at UKR7.com. You can donate to the World Central Kitchen at WCK.org.  Remember, one of the best ways to care for yourself is to care for others.


Looking outside of yourself into the world is a good way to expand your horizons. A good way is just to make somebody's day a little bit nicer by doing the smallest of things that may be insignificant for you to do, but may actually make a big difference in someone else's life.


As always, thank you for stopping by. If you found something interesting or useful, please pass it along and hit that like button. If not, please drop me a comment as to what you'd like to hear. Have a great week. Remember to live the life that you dream of, because that's the path to true contentment. Love and encouragement to everyone. See you next week on 7EveryMinute and 7EveryMinute.com. Thank you. 


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