Michelangelo Phenomenon, Almanack of Naval Ravikant, Success Equation

The High Five - Edition #11


A warm welcome to all the new subscribers. I am glad to see the appreciations coming in for ‘The High Five’, in the form of feedback emails and subscriptions. It is indeed very encouraging. Thank you very much.

In this 11th edition of ‘The High Five’, we have ‘Michelangelo Phenomenon’, a free e-book by Naval Ravikant, a link to a book summary I recently wrote and the success equation.

Relationships: Use the Michelangelo Phenomenon to bring the best out of you

Partners can derive more out of their relationships when they feel instrumental to each other. On the surface, the idea of using each other for any goals feels callous. But there is a lot of research that shows that people relying on each other's beliefs, values, behaviours to change certain aspects of their lives to become better, tend to be more successful (in their goals) and also elevate their relationship. Traditionally, we have been looking at goals as a solitary endeavour. But research shows otherwise, that the quality and aspects of a relationship do have a correlation to the success of the goals of the individuals in the relationship. When people's everyday life feels stable and predictable, they feel more in control of their ability to pursue their goals. This is called as 'Michelangelo Phenomenon' - where our partner's beliefs and behaviour towards us can bring us closer to the person we would like to become—the "ideal self". Just as Michelangelo saw his process of sculpting as releasing the ideal forms hidden in the marble, close partners sculpt one another (like two Michelangelos) to bring each individual nearer to the ideal self, thus bringing out the best in each other. In such relationships, we see personal growth and flourishing reflected in statements like: 'I'm a better person when I'm with her.'

This phenomenon is based on behavioural confirmation principles. Like the sculptor, the partner doesn't foster something (new) out of nothing—he or she brings out qualities that already exist but hidden. Imagine a husband who thinks that his wife is hilarious and laughs at her jokes and encourages her to retell them to others. Over time, the wife might objectively become a funnier person, even when the husband is not around. But if she has a different husband who doesn't think/express that she is that funny, she might become more timid, even when the husband isn't around. This article covers some interesting examples of real couples whose behaviours changed because of their partners/spouses. The article also argues that our partners influence not only our goals but also our approach to them. A workaholic might want to finish her work before the weekend, but she will probably work more effectively during the week if she lets her more easy-going partner convince her to shut her laptop and use the weekend for some fun activities together. People are also more motivated to work toward a goal when they are joined by others. Involving a partner in your goal pursuit can help bring you closer together and make you more likely to succeed (goals like studies, fitness, art etc.). But couples need to be careful about Pygmalion Phenomenon - where partners foist their own beliefs and ideals onto a spouse, in a judgmental manner. For example: committing to stop drinking for herself, when the real target is the spouse, conveys some implied criticism which could backfire. A better approach is to find goals where both individuals take on as equals. And along the journey, both need to find ways to help each other and support.

In a harmonious relationship, the help partners offer each other doesn't even have to be overt or with conscious effort. It could mean doing simple things that create time and space for the partner to do things that they like or aspire for (take solo trips, get better at something, focus on fitness, solitude etc.). Ultimately, a couple that becomes the best mirror to each other, grows individually and also together.

As one of the couples in this article says, quite profoundly:

I used to think that love was about giving your partner what you wanted her to have, and you expected from your partner what you wanted her to give. Over time I've found that a good marriage means that you learn to give to your partner what she actually needs, and you learn to value what your partner gives you.

Book Recommendation: The Almanack of Naval Ravikant (available for free download)

I discovered about Naval Ravikant early this year and when I saw some of his interviews, I was blown away by his razor-sharp clarity, perspective and articulation on various topics. Naval Ravikant is an angel investor and entrepreneur who has helped fund many start-ups.

He is an extremely eloquent thinker and speaker, whose perspectives on a range of topics such as life, wealth, happiness, technology, individuality, creativity, peace etc. have become viral because of the wisdom in them. Sample this:

Peace is happiness at rest, and happiness is peace in motion. You can convert peace to happiness any time you want, but peace is what you want most of the time…If you’re a peaceful person, anything you do will be a happy activity.

His Tweets and podcasts are very famous and he has a massive following among entrepreneurs, corporate professionals, students etc. So author Jack has distilled all of Naval’s wisdom, from Tweets, Podcasts, YouTube videos and has turned it into this book - The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, and has made it available for free download there.

The book’s format is free-flowing, in the sense that you can start it anywhere and pause anyway, for the book is a compilation of thoughts (on topics). I have just started reading it and I highly recommend it for everyone.

Book Summary: The Ride of a Lifetime

In Edition #3 of ‘The High Five’, I wrote a short review of the book - ‘The Ride of a Lifetime’. I now distilled the key takeaways and insights from the chapters of the book and compiled them all in a post. I have categorized the insights from the book into leadership themes such as:

  1. Finding your compass

  2. Treating people well

  3. Integrity

  4. Leadership

  5. Excellence

  6. Innovation

  7. Humility

Do read the book summary if you’d like to get a taste of the ideas and writing quality of this book, before diving into the full book.

A quote that resonated with me: Be interesting; not perfect.

An equation worth pondering about:

Success = a x Skill + (1 - a) x Luck

where a is [0,1]

This is called Mauboussin’s equation for success, coined by Michael Mauboussin. More about this in one of the upcoming editions of ‘The High Five’.

I came across Jethro Tull - The String Quartets on Spotify this week and it sounds beautiful.

If you liked ‘The High Five’, please leave your comments and share it with your network. See you next week.