The Story Economy Blog

Where to Find the Grand Unified Theory

I’ve recently become a little obsessed with the universe.

Maybe it’s because my kid keeps asking me where the world came from. Maybe it’s early-middle-age desire to more fully understand my place in the world. Maybe I just need a new intellectual challenge.

Whatever the reason, I’m cuddling up with my Kindle at night and blowing off entire hours during the day reading articles and watching lectures on You Tube about stuff like the speed of light, the big bang, and what’s out there (in space) and in here (inside atoms). I don’t understand 90 percent of it. But the 10 percent I do get is like an air popper in my brain. Pop, pop, pop: each kernel exploding into a new, amazing thought.

Like this notion of scale. I watched a great lecture by Lisa Randall (physics professor at Harvard and general smarty pants), where she explained how particle physics and cosmology have to use scale to make sense of anything.

You don’t need to look inside the atomic structure of a baseball, she says, to understand how gravity works on it. Too much resolution is confusing when you don’t need it. But resolution that isn’t sharp enough to see the thing in the distant distance is useless. If you try to drive from LA to New York with a map that shows every neighborhood, you’ll lose sight of where you’re headed. But once there, if you try to find an address in a New York City neighborhood with a map that only shows the major highways, there’s a good chance you’ll wind up in the wrong spot.

The Big and the Small and the Weird

A different scale at different times. The big and the small that go together but can’t be seen together. This isn’t just physics. This is life. Business. Child-rearing. Relationships. Personal growth. Marketing. Weight loss. Love. Creativity. Everything.

Scale makes sense to me.

The conundrum, however, is how to merge the big with the small so nothing contradicts.

When I came back from Seth Godin’s event in Tribeca in May, I wrote on my dry erase board (the one that sends me messages): How do I get to the next level? How do I scale?

What I meant was: how do I keep doing what I’m doing in a bigger way?

I’m anxious to figure this out because I’m spending the bulk of my time these days at the atomic level, putting together pieces: the paragraphs, sentences, speeches, and home page concepts. I love the atoms. I don’t want to ever lose them. But I need to figure out how to keep the atoms in place while looking through a telescope at the rest of my business universe.

I’ve set up the big and the small to be at odds with one another. I will finish my deadlines and then I will think about where I want to take my business next year.

Now, a big company solves the problem by hiring different people to focus on different things: you manage our brand; you find us new business; you make sure we stay afloat financially; and you meet the deadlines for the clients.

Smaller businesses and solopreneurs don’t usually have that structure. I certainly don’t (this isn’t a complaint: I don’t want it).

So there’s the task . . . unifying the small and the big in a way that everything still works. From what I’ve gathered, science still hasn’t solved this conundrum in a satisfying way. If the smartest people on the planet haven’t found a unified theory yet, how will I?

The answer is to stop thinking there is an answer. I mean, in science, there is a grand answer out there and good luck to the people smashing particles together looking for it.

But for you and me: it’s just about how we show up.

I need to take the stuff that makes my atoms strong and bring it to my search for the stars. So, the level of care that I bring to a sentence: I need to bring that to my exploration of what’s next. The curiosity that I bring to meeting new people and learning about their business: I need to follow that wavelength out into the larger universe.

The thing you want to build and the pieces that go into it: by their very nature, they’re not the same. And that is so weird. But what unifies my big stuff and my little stuff is me. And what unifies your big stuff and your little stuff is you.

And the speed of light smacks us around and tells us to stop thinking we’re in charge of anything anyway.

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