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What is a High Agency Person? - The Writer’s Mind Podcast 016

Hi my name is tyler mowry and welcome to the writer's mind podcast episode 16. All right welcome patreon members to another episode of the podcast today what i want to talk about is a concept called high agency. So this is i'm going to read a thread this is a twitter thread that i'd like to read to you this is a thread from 2018 by george mack that's at george underscore mac on twitter. I think it. Yeah. I'm pretty sure that's underscore it looks a little long george underscore mac m-a-c-k on twitter and this is his thread on high agency i'm not going to read all of this.

But a lot of this is really fantastic stuff. So he says high agency once you see it you can never unsee it arguably the most important personality trait you can foster i've thought about this concept every week for the last two years since i heard eric weinstein discuss it on tim ferriss's podcast so high agency is when you're told when you're told that something is impossible is that the end of the conversation or does that start a second dialogue in your mind how to get around whoever it is that's just told you that you can't do something so high agency is a sense that the story given to you by other people about what you can and cannot do is just that a story and that you have control over that story hi a high agency person looks to bend reality to their will they re they will either find a way or they make a way a low agency person accepts the story that is given to them they never question it they are passive they outsource all of their decision making to other people. So i read this thread a while ago and i knew that it was something that i wanted to talk about on the podcast because i am really interested by this idea so this idea that certain people for whatever reason whether it's intelligence or experience or a certain level of disagreeableness but for whatever reason there are people who have high agency who bend reality to their will who go out who move things who shape things that don't take no for an answer and then there are low agency people who follow the rules accept the rules as reality and these sorts of things and when you look at most people who did important or creative things they are high agency people when you look at people who followed their dreams and took things seriously to build what they wanted to these are people who are high agency an example of an extremely high agency person in our society that is easily referenceable is elon musk he is someone who wants to go to mars. And so he's doing that he's built a company with that being the goal and he has built other companies to achieve other goals and when you are in the world you are given the same rules as everyone else of course you don't get to choose where you were born you don't get to choose your family there's a lot you don't get to choose but at some point you do get to begin making decisions and a high agency individual decides what they want to do and they go and do that and if they want to do a particular thing they want to build a particular thing they want to create a particular thing they don't have a problem getting around the people who tell them. No right this is kind of an idea that certain people believe that they are above the rules that others give them and i think that this is a this is an important thing to develop because this is what allows you to be a problem solver to be creative and to actually get what you want. Right. So a lot of times we place the boundaries of the world on our self right we are told what the boundaries are from other people. And then we accept that as our reality.

And then that's what it is we don't change it we don't shift it we don't try to push any further. And i think it's valuable to begin pushing just in small ways in your life to realize that so much of the world around us is not actually real in the sense that people create rules they create boundaries but once you push them you realize that. Oh they're not that serious about it. Or it's not actually something that you it's not something that's out of your control you can actually control the rules that are placed on you and there are also different levels of course of high agencies it's kind of a sliding scale where you would say that somebody like an elon musk would be at the very high level of high agency. And then you would look at somebody that you know built a business or sold a screenplay to be on that's that scale they are not low agency. But they are not as that high of agency so the ideal or the idea is that you are pushing towards what you want and when people tell you no or when structures tell you no you that you can't do something the idea is that you are figuring out how you can do it anyways and one thing i think a lot of people mistake is that they believe that the rules that we create must be followed or we are or it is an immoral action that we're taking right if the action that we take goes against the rules that other peoples have set it is an immoral action whereas that's not really the case there are very few rules in society that are based upon a particular moral rule right things. Like oh you can't stand here. Or you can't go into this place or this you know those are not moral judgments those are just rules that are created for organization to keep people out of certain things etc and so developing the skill and the understanding that you can actually go out and change things in the world. And you don't have to get permission from others and when people tell you know that you can just defy them and do things anyway this gives you power over yourself and it gives you power to shape your own reality and this is a extremely important idea another thing that george has in this thread that i really like is a concept from jeff bezos the founder of amazon and he says that jeff bezos has a framework for identifying high agency friends and romantic partners he says if you were stuck in a third world prison and you had to call one person to draw to try and bust you out of there who would you call this is a very interesting question and what's interesting about this is not everybody has somebody they would call right who would you call if you were stuck in a third world prison think about the people in your life right now the people closest to you is there a single person that you believe would have the power to get you out of this third world prison i cannot open this water bottle to save my life to get you out of a third world prison if you were stuck there is there one single person that you could say oh this guy would make it happen or this woman would make it happen and what that may mean if you have no single person in your life that can what that may mean is that you are low agency yourself you have surrounded yourself by people who are rule followers who don't get things done who don't drive and create their own reality which likely means that you aren't doing that. Either. And so i think it would be beneficial for you to think about that and be beneficial to say okay am i that person if one of my friends got asked this question the question being if you were stuck in a third world prison.

And they had to call one person to try and bust them out of there would they call you. And i hope they would you know. But maybe they wouldn't and this gives a good perspective on building this idea out and saying what are impossible tasks that are not actually impossible that are just difficult and require hoops being jumped through but are doable and that when you when you tell yourself that you actually can do these things that are seemingly impossible then you know you realize that you have a lot more control over your world and you have a lot more control over what you do and where your life goes he has another quote here by steve jobs which i really like. And he says that steve jobs says life can be much broader once you can once you discover one simple fact everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it you can influence it you can build your own things that other people can use and steve jobs is a great example of another high agency person another person who looked at the world and decided that they were going to change the things that they did not like about it and to be a high agency person it requires a certain level of disagreeableness it requires you being okay with conflict it requires you being okay with the people around you not liking you or being angry at the fact that you are defying the authority structure and that's sometimes a hard thing to do right especially when you're the only one. But if you want to be the one that's creating a reality and not giving that up to other people then you have to be okay with a certain level of people not liking what you're doing and being frustrated with you.

But if you have figured out why you are doing what you're doing and why it's important that you get what you want then you have to continue going after that and it doesn't matter if you are bothering or irritating some of the people around you who wish you would just stop and conform and stick with the rules and so and he has another quote here from peter thiel which i really like and this idea is how to bring out high agency thinking so to help you look at the world in a new way so that you can actually get to things quicker this is from peter thiel and peter thiel he's an early investor in facebook founder of paypal and some other companies and peter thiel says how can you achieve your 10-year goal in six months and i really like that because what it does is it forces you to think about the leaps that you can take much faster than you're currently thinking about them and the biggest question is you know why is this important right especially for us who are writers you know we're trying to be writers we're trying to be thinkers it's important to think about your own ability to impact and change the world if you want to write and if you want to be a person that other people look up to and if you want to be a person who is philosophically or literally trailblazing for other people and figuring things out you have to be a high agency person if that is your goal because you have to be the one to understand and realize that you must bend reality to what you want and that seems like a very selfish idea. But i think that is the only way to actually build a synthesized worldview and to actually give that to other people you have to focus on accumulating you know your own power and your own control over your world and without that you can't get anything done and i think that it can start small and then you can slowly you know work your way up to larger things i mean think about at your job all of the things that aren't real rules all the things that can be bended or broken or changed if you just push on them a little bit there's all sorts of structures that are just like that especially in our society where we have rules for literally every single engagement and activity you could possibly think of and there's all sorts of rules in the screenwriting world of who you're allowed to send your screenplay to who you're allowed to email what you're allowed to do what jobs you're supposed to take first how you're supposed to make connections how you're supposed to move up the ladder and all this is just people telling you what to do it doesn't mean anything sometimes there's good advice layered in this but a lot of times it's just people saying. Oh well yeah. This is how you have to do you have to go and do this and for me that is what i got away from. I mean. I interned for a company in la and it was a good experience but i realized that if i wanted to be a writer my path was to sit and be somebody's assistant for 10 years and then hope somebody read my script and i just was like. No. I'm not going to be 30 and be somebody's assistant i'm just not doing that i'm going to do something else i'm going to figure this out and i'm still doing that i'm figuring it out. I'm still working and figuring out what i'm supposed to be doing for the next 20 years but the point was that i knew that i could do this differently. I didn't have to do what the people around me said was the best path i didn't have to climb the ladder and follow every single rule. And i think also that we live in a world where that doesn't always you know how many times does that honestly happen where people do all of the perfectly right things and follow all of the rules.

And then they actually are a great writer and actually are impactful it doesn't really happen that much i really think you have to do your own thing you have to kind of be pushing and shoving a little bit you have to figure out the line between you how you are going to operate and how everyone else is. And it's very important to find that line and i also think part of being high agency is you know the action that you're taking what you are doing how you are changing your reality and also where your lines are to say no i'm not doing that i will not do what you want me to do in this thing or that thing and that can be tough and it requires some push and some pull and some figuring out who you are. But if you actually know what you want and you know how to get there then don't put roadblocks in front of you and say oh well i can't because i need five years experience doing this thing it's like do you actually remember to think from first principles this is part of the idea i talked about this in one of the earlier podcasts where high agency is a lot about thinking from first principles is this a principle of reality or is this a rule that somebody made to place in front of you to say oh here's how things are know the difference you have to know the difference between those two things i'm returning to the ain't. Rainless lexicon. I really like this book there's a lot of interesting things that she talks about and there is a part and the title of this is creators this is her thought on creators. And she says the great creators the thinkers the artists the scientists the inventors stood alone against the man of their time every great new thought was opposed every great new invention was denounced the first motor was considered foolish the airplane was considered impossible the power loom was considered vicious but men of unborrowed vision went ahead they fought they suffered and they paid. But they won and i think that is a great way to put it that there's an element of vision in high agency steve jobs had a vision for what he was trying to build elon musk has a vision for where he is trying to go and i think that we as stories tell her we as storytellers should have a vision for what we are trying to say and that vision is very important and she goes on to say no creator was prompted by a desire to serve his brothers for his brothers rejected the gift he offered and that gift destroyed the slothful routine of their lives his truth was his only motive and this is an interesting this is you know this goes into her particular point of view on society and individualism. And i'm interested to hear your thoughts on this idea here where she says the creators were not selfless it is the whole secret of their power that it was self-sufficient self-motivated self-generated a first cause a fount of energy a life force a prime mover the creator served nothing and no one he lived for himself and only by living for himself was he able to achieve the things which are the glory of mankind such is the nature of achievement she is going into her idea of individualism and the benefits of focusing on what you want and the benefits of understanding your vision and where you are trying to go. And i would be very interested in talking with you all more in the discord about her ideas. But i think what she is saying is there is truth to this that you have to sort of cut out the society you're living in and focus down on what you are saying for just a second. And you know allow yourself to decide what you want and where you're trying to go for you i think that's a really powerful idea and another thing that she goes on to say in this in the in her thought here is that no man can give another man the capacity to think you know you cannot truly give thinking and high agency to other people but what i do believe you can do is bring awareness and bring permission to those who are unsure yet that are unsure on their own ability or unsure and what they can do that they have things inside of them they want to bring to others. And they're worried about doing that you can say hey you can do that. And i think that's where the value is. And she you know one other thing that she says here that i want to mention is she says that the basic need of the creator is independence and that goes heavily i think into this idea of high agency where you are operating independently of the society around you or of the structure or the rules around you and you have to do that because if you cannot separate who you are from the rest of the society around you are never going to be able to bring something to them you know it's interesting that she's talk she talks about how all these acts of vision are just out of the singular person and not from the society. But i on a certain level i think i disagree. I mean i think storytelling there is a level of you must become an individual have your own thoughts think critically. But then once you do that the purpose of it is to bring it to the other people to bring it to the society you live in and sometimes they don't accept what you're bringing and that's okay. But your job as a storyteller is to say hey here's what i've figured out so far or here's what i'm struggling with and here's my best guess and to say that and to be able to stand by yourself and say this is what i think and not expect others to agree with you but at the same time you are bringing these ideas to the society you live in and it's important to do that because if you can't do that then you cannot then other people can never realize that they themselves must also be individuals and must do their own thinking and must find their own path and so it works together you know rand is an interesting person because i think that there's an element of her that is valuable to understand where your own individualism is and then after that you have to realize that hey you are not a you are not alone you exist in a world you exist with people you exist as a part of a larger universe and so there is a balance to be found here. But you she's right in that you must draw the lines between you and everyone else. But you are also a part of everyone else. And it's hard to figure out what that is. And i think it requires a back and forth and a there's a feedback loop there right of you figuring out what you think and pressing that on to others and then having that come back to you know which comes back into the idea of a story circle of the individual and the society the individual coming into that society and reacting with them and returning as a changed individual but remaining as an individual even though they are interacting with that society so there is this circle here that's happening. And it's so fascinating that i think you can see that circle again and again in so many different aspects of life which i'm happy about because it just means that these ideas are really fundamental to how our minds operate and the more that we can understand how our minds operate i think the better we are going to understand how to live.

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