Friday, January 24, 2014

Batman, Bieber, And The Power Of Personal Narratives

Are you the hero of your personal narrative?

Long story short: if you want to be a success, you need to understand what your "story" is. Where do you come from, where are you going, who are you, and how would that all play out in a theoretical movie about your life?

And who is writing this "movie"? Are you writing it? Or have you abdicated that task to others (who may or may not have your best intentions at heart)?

And what in the bloody heck does this all have to do with Batman and Justin Bieber?

Batman sans Bill Finger's input.

I'm currently getting a lot of hits right now on my piece about Bill Finger, the creator of core aspects of the Batman mythos. You might not have heard of Finger...though the name Bob Kane might be more familiar. As the prevailing narrative goes, Kane was the creator of Batman.

But actually, if you do the research (and the book "Bill The Boy Wonder" by Marc Tyler Nobleman and Ty Templeton lays the case out so plainly literally even a child could understand), you find out that without Finger, the Batman that we know now could not have existed. That's how much Finger contributed to the creation of Batman.

Bill Finger's mythos is currently being (re)built, brick-by-brick, by those who care.

But the point of that post—and this post— is not to argue who was the rightful "creator" of Batman. Instead, I would like to reiterate the concept of Owning Your Own Personal Narrative.

Batman has a "mythos"...but you might be surprised to find out that so do you. You have a mythos, a mythology, a personal narrative...and what you do with it determines a whole hell of a lot about your life.

The mythos of the "born loser."

For example, what if your mythos is: "I'm a fucking loser, nothing ever seems to go my way"? That's the mythology you present to the world, that's the mythology you carry within yourself, and that's probably going to be the personal narrative you will carry to your grave.

Now: that particular mythos might have been foisted upon you by others when you were growing up. But it is still your responsibility to change—and own—that personal narrative.

The narrative of the underdog who makes good.

On the flipside, your personal narrative can be about somebody who defies the popular convention and triumphantly succeeds despite overwhelming odds. So you carry that story like a shield with you throughout your life, giving yourself courage and confidence...and pretty soon others identify you with that narrative. And even if you become a big success, you might still choose to use this "Cinderella Story" as your mythos throughout your career.

What Bob Kane did was immediately seize on the narrative that he was the sole creator of Batman. And everything thing PR-wise he did until the day he died (including the design of his tombstone) reflected that consistent narrative. And that was a narrative that he decided did not include his partner Bill Finger.

Kane was just a "wide-eyed cartoonist who stumbled upon what would become one of the most iconic figures of the 20th century."

What an owning of one's personal narrative might look like.

Public figures and celebrities do this all the time. The simple "nerd" from the suburbs who becomes a tech billionaire. The former drug addict who makes a triumphant comeback. The girl plucked from the church choir who performs a concert in a football stadium. These are all compelling stories. We "buy" not only what these people do...but their stories as well.

And this might be shocking to you, but: personal narratives, sometimes, can be "fudged."

Again we return to the Batman case. Bob Kane did indeed help "create" Batman. But he is hardly the sole creator. And yet, that is the myth that's survived.

In contrast to Kane, Finger was, by all accounts, a rather humble person who didn't like to loudly "toot his own horn." And so, really, it was up to somebody like Kane to include him in a narrative, in a mythos, about the creation of Batman. But that just wasn't going to happen.

Now, what does this all have to do with Justin Bieber? (I'm sure you're wondering)

Well: right now, Bieber is living out the "patented" personal narrative/mythos of both the big celebrity who falls from grace and the innocent who gets corrupted. These are well-trod and tidy narratives that are like heroin not only to the mass media, but the public. It is such a compelling, primal story that it can't help but get under our skin and provoke us to emotional reactions.

The danger is that if Bieber, or somebody close to him, does not grab the personal narrative steering wheel with both hands and make a recalibration, he will most likely see these narratives to the bitter end—which will be complete dissipation and obscurity at best, death at worst (or is that the other way around?).

You see, Bieber has lost control his personal narrative; letting himself get swept away into a negative, self-destructive mythos that, unfortunately, both the media and the public are feeding into. He may think that he's "owning" his image...transforming himself from a saccharine teen idol to a "tough guy." But in actuality, he's just living out a very standard "script" that will ultimately yield dividends for everyone but him.

What is your personal narrative? Is it positive or negative? Do you feel that you are in control of that narrative...and if not, could you be? 

What is your mythos? How does your mythos and career work together (if at all)? 

These are crucial questions that you need to answer in order to succeed and go where you need to go.

If you don't have answers to these questions...stop everything and figure it all out!!!