As someone who identifies with being creative, the book Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World by Adam Grant, seemed super relevant. In some dusty crevice of my brain, I knew I had read it before (it’s on my kindle), but I remembered almost nothing. I think that there’s a lot to be said about reading a book in actual physical form, rather than on a digital platform, but that’s a conversation for another day.
I liked Originals. I’ve heard Adam Grant on a number of podcasts and he always has some interesting nugget of information. Like when you want to convince people to do something, it’s better to ask them to be a noun, rather than perform a verb. For example, in the instance of voting, he says it works best to encourage people to be voters, rather than telling them to vote. There are all sorts of reasons why people are more receptive to this, which are explored in Originals.
At first I thought the book was only about originality, how to come up with a novel idea for a novel, and there are some bits about that. Suggestions like rejecting the default, doing a ton of work to have plenty of ideas to draw upon, and that it’s best to be wildly unconventional in just one part of your life, while keeping grounded in the rest, so that you have the ballast necessary to survive. But this is mostly a book about how groups—including social movements, work settings and even families—persuade and make decisions. I love non-fiction books like this because I’m always curious about motivations, the why in what we do, and I find non-fiction often answers those questions in a more direct, succinct manner.
I took notice when Grant talks about who is responsible for influencing an original to drive meaningful change, and he states that in some cases FICTIONAL CHARACTERS may be a better role model than actual people we know. I had a hunch that Harry Potter fosters empathy, Frodo demonstrates bravery, and that there were life lessons in fiction. In fact, in the Netflix original series Russian Doll, I love how the main character realizes that the reason she survived her chaotic childhood was because she learned survival lessons from Emily, in Emily of New Moon, by LM Montgomery, but it’s nice to have that proven.
I’ve completed a couple great novels this year, including There There by Tommy Orange and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee. There There has a cast of a dozen characters, all Native Americans who are living in the Oakland area. It’s a well-crafted book that hits you with a sucker punch with its brutality and heartbreak. Pachinko is an epic tale of a young girl from Korea during the turn of the century, who has to leave her country and live in Japan, where she experiences the abuse and discrimination that Koreans have suffered there for decades. Fiction allows us to focus on the protagonist, often a victim, and this activates what Grant calls empathetic anger. When we are angry at others, we seek out retaliation, but when we are angry for others, we seek out justice and a better system. That, for me, is the best reason to be original.
*4th, 5th, and 6th books of my 52/2019 challenge.