I was reviewing some old notes recently when I came across a quote I jotted down last summer from Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks. Benkler argues that in a networked economy,
…the diversity of perspectives on the way the world is and the way it could be for any given individual is qualitatively increased. This gives individuals a significantly greater role in authoring their own lives, by enabling them to perceive a broader range of possibilities, and by providing them a richer baseline against which to measure the choices they in fact make. 
This, I feel, is the flip side of what I’ve referred to elsewhere as the learning economy.
On the one hand, the demands upon all of us to keep learning, growing, and acquiring new skills and knowledge are greater than they have ever been before. It can be daunting at times. Frightening, even.
On the other hand, the opportunities are enormous. It’s worth stopping occasionally to ask: Given the range of opportunities available, what steps am I taking to author my own life?
Benkler’s book is several years old, by the way. I wrote about it at least a couple of times in the early days of Mission to Learn, but I return to it often and am always amazed as the prescience of his thinking. Well worth the read – and it is available for free in a variety of formats.
3 thoughts on “What’s your role in authoring your life?”
Moana – Thanks for commenting and for the link to your post (which I recommend to anyone reading this). I, too, am very much interested in decision making (Have you read Jonah Lehrer’s How we Decide?) and the issue you highlight is certainly a very real one. I think I may need to work up a post around it, but here are a few thoughts, for what they are worth.
First, I think this is one of the reasons that establishing reflection as a conscious, consistent habit is so important. I think it is only through a combination of experience and reflection that we find the right “self” to author.
Second, I also think this is why goals are so important – though with the caveat that goals are as much a starting point as an ending point, and must be reviewed and adjusted frequently.
Finally, I think the concept of competence (along with autonomy and connection, which are also key to Ryan and Deci’s work) is also critical here. I think the process of developing competence – little by little – in itself helps clarify our paths.
See: https://www.missiontolearn.com/2011/10/competence-and-learning/ and https://www.missiontolearn.com/2011/12/one-percent-solution/
I hope that is of some small help. I welcome comments from others.
Hey Jeff, like the new site design! I’ve been doing a lot of reading about decision making and so it was really interesting to read about authoring your own life in light of that. I wrote a response to it on my blog here:
Basically, I think authoring your own life is a responsibility that can be just as paralyzing as it can be motivating, and I’m not quite sure how to get over that hurdle yet. Any insight would be welcome 🙂
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