Start with the story, then let your actions follow
Why is America “The Greatest Country in the World™?”
Unlike Italy (Caesar), Greece (Alexander the Great), and Mongolia (Genghis Khan), America never ruled half the known world. In fact, America is only 200 years old. It’s one of the youngest countries of all.
So why do they get that slogan? America gets that slogan because for all 200 of those years, they’ve been yelling it at the top of their lungs. When the founding fathers put their signatures on that document, they said: “This is what makes a country great.”
Ever since, America at large has been saying, “Look! This is what makes a country great. And we’re doing it! Look at us! That is why our country is the greatest.” It’s marketing — but it works.
“Which country is the best?” is a stupid question, of course, but let’s ignore that for a second. For any of the years it has existed, including this one, you could argue a thousand ways that America is not the greatest country in the world. You could use facts. You could use opinions. You could use ideas.
- What about originally taking the land from Native Americans?
- What about slavery?
- What about the problems with energy, finance, poverty, food, race, and a million other things?
Every country has problems. America is no exception. And yet, if you could put your ear on the global chatter-chamber, you’d find there’s no debate: By and large, people around the world agree that the USA are “The Greatest Country in the World™.” It might not be more than half the global population, but it sure is a hell of a lot more than just the 328 million people who live there. How many dream of moving to the USA? Billions.
USA wins, and it wins because when it comes to “the country reputation scoreboard,” Americans have made up a competition and declared themselves the winner. They’ve memed the outcome they wanted into existence, and even if the memes were just made up, the result is very much real.
Achieving your dreams works the exact same way.
The sooner you wrap your head around the fact that all large-scale change must — in large part — be memed into existence, the better. It’s not all of it but most of it.
Most people don’t want to accept this. People who don’t understand Bitcoin, the GameStop drama, or how Trump could ever win the election want logical explanations for why things work.
The truth is most things work because we collectively decide they should. Much more so than with facts and figures, we back them with belief — and human belief is one of the most powerful forces in the world. The story matters more than the data.
If we could travel through time and be there for some of the big moments of history, we’d understand this much faster. Imagine how skeptical the first users of paper US dollars must have been. “What the hell is this? I can’t bite on it to verify it’s real. It’s just paper!” Imagine how freaked out people were by the first light bulbs. “It must be witchcraft! They should hang this Edison guy.”
Early on, Martin Luther King was just a hot-headed guy with crazy ideas. So were Newton, Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, and Amelia Earhart. Then, the story changed.
When you actively try to change your story, you are taking back your power. You’re starting to meme your dreams into existence.
There’s a great scene in The Dark Knight where Alfred explains why Bruce doesn’t have what it takes to defeat Bane: “I see the power of belief.”
A few weeks ago, Jake Paul knocked out Ben Askren in the first round. How can a Youtuber (repeatedly) beat professionals? Training, circumstance, luck — sure, but at some point, you have to admit: “I see the power of belief.”
Ten days before the fight, one of Jake’s security guards died. That guard told Jake he had a dream of him knocking out Ben in the first round. Imagine what it feels like to fight for that. Imagine the power of belief. Can you feel it? Goosebumps.
Of course, Batman ultimately does defeat Bane, but not because of his renewed physical strength, better gadgets, or smarter ideas. He wins because he fights for something bigger, something he believes in so much that he makes all the above happen in the first place. Belief is a self-reinforcing loop.If you want something, you need to tell yourself a story that leads to it. In that story, you must be the hero. Then, you keep telling it to yourself and everyone you come across.
- “I’ll write the most popular young adult novel ever.”
- “I’ll be the first person on Mars.”
- “I’ll make green beans the most desirable food in the world.”
It matters not how asinine or unrealistic the story is. What matters is that it offers the power of belief — to others, but especially to you. You don’t need the facts on your side because if you persist with your story, the data will change over time.
When it comes to understanding what happens in the world as well as making your dreams a reality, the story isn’t everything, but it’s probably more than half. In today’s world of global awareness and instant story-spreading, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. Decide what the story will be, then insist on it with your words and actions. One day, it is bound to happen.
Just like, one day, someone decided America should be the greatest country in the world — and today, that’s a story billions of people believe.