A few days ago Scott Adams submitted an interesting theory via Periscope. The basic premise is that the best stories dominate the outcome of events. In this theory, everything from sporting events to politics are subject to the approval of an unseen editor. This editor ensures that only the best stories make it to the front page. The subjects of each story are like actors adjusting to a last-minute script change. In short the theory can be summed up as “The Best Story Wins”.
The premise was based on the results of the NBA finals. Scott explained that he had predicted the winner correctly the last three years based solely upon which story was the best. I have pointed out that his facts were flawed in his initial statement of the theory HERE. But despite the factual error, the theory is still interesting and can actually still be used in its current form.
In 2015 the Warriors were the best team in the NBA and they won the finals. Good Story. However, in 2016 the Warriors were a historically great team that won more games than any team in NBA history, yet they lost the finals after being up 3-1 against the Cavs and LeBron James. Not a Great Story. Capping a historic season with a win seems like it would be the best story, theory blown up right? Consider 2017, the Warriors again met with the Cavs in the finals and lead 3-1 but this time they were victorious. One could argue that this is in fact the best story possible, not as individual seasons, but over a 3 year period. When looking at the bigger picture we see something very familiar, The Heroes Journey in three acts.
- Act I: Establish the Characters
2015-2016 Pre-Finals: The Warriors are a historically great team that are dominating the NBA.
- Act II: A Problem Emerges
2016 Post-Finals: The Warriors were beaten by a formidable enemy even after the best season in NBA history.
- Act III: Resolve the problem
2017 Post-Finals: Rising from the ashes the Warriors defeat the very same enemy that laid waste to them the year before, with the help of a new ally(Kevin Durant).
Another great example of a three act perfection story is the case of the Kansas City Royals. In 2014 the Royals established themselves during the season as a force to be reckoned with, making it to the American League Wildcard game. Experts said this couldn’t be done, but they went on to win the wild card game and then the most consecutive games in MLB playoffs history. The Royals took the World Series to game 7 even though the Giants had the superior team. At the end of game 7 the Royals cinderella story came crashing down as they were defeated by the LeBron James of pitchers, Madison Baumgarner. Experts claimed that the Royals would have no shot at a repeat appearance in the World Series in 2015 and again they battled their way back to the World Series. This time they defeated teams that were much more dominant than the previous year. In the World Series they faced a team with not one, but four dominant pitchers. The Royals defeated the mighty Mets four games to one, and completed their heroic journey on the 30 year anniversary of their last World Series Championship. A nice round number and a gripping emotional journey. I couldn’t have written a fiction more perfectly than what reality was able to create. It is interesting to note that as a KC fan I was devastated in 2014, but I realized the following year that my anguish was part of what made the victory so sweet.
Questions remain. Is this a real phenomenon? If so, who is the editor? If not, why do so many situations work out in such a perfect way?
It seems to me that there are several options as it relates to this theory.
- Option One
We really enjoy hero stories and unconsciously we are all working towards the perfect journey story in our everyday lives. When our abilities and actions don’t fit in with the perfect story we adjust on an unconscious level to either increase or decrease our effectiveness. Missing that last second shot, popping up when we could hit a home run, acting stupidly to sabotage our own campaign, etc. We are the editors of our own fiction and everyone plays their parts in the re-writes.
- Option Two
We are programed to look for hero stories on an evolutionary level as an indicator of who we should be following. The recurring theme of hero stories is success in spite of failure, achieved through persistence and perseverance. Those traits are also the same ones that make a great leader. Perhaps we see these stories because we are looking for them and we simply ignore what doesn’t fit as unimportant.