Boost Your Performance by Thinking About Your Ancestors

Today’s topic is how to boost your confidence and performance. And there’s a really unique trick or secret that has research and data backing it up that Jeremy, I’d love to hear you talk about.

Okay. So yeah, there’s a group of researchers that have discovered that you can have a boosted confidence by thinking about your ancestors. Who would have thought? What a weird idea. I read this and I was like, what is this? And I want to understand it so I read the article, I looked at some of the research. It’s really interesting. And so we talk about how important it is to think about yourself as a part of a multigenerational team. And so this group of researchers actually dove into various things in they tested lots of different things, and they discovered that if they caused a group to think about their ancestors and then gave them a test, and they tried lots of other things they could think about. This, just this thinking about ancestors had a totally measurable different effect on their confidence and their performance in these tests.

Let me just read a little snippet from the article. This is, it says, “Peter Fischer and his colleagues at the University of Graz, Berlin and Munich, have shown that thinking about our ancestors boosts our performance on intelligence tests,” what they dubbed the ancestor effect. “These benefits were displayed by students in control conditions that involved writing about themselves or about close friends. Moreover, the ancestor effect exerted its benefits even when students were asked to think about negative aspects of their ancestors.”

You know what I found most, so basically he’s saying that they tried lots and lots of things like think about your friendships and that didn’t help, nothing else helped. But for some reason the ancestor effect helped, and what I found most interesting was that they tried to figure out why this was and they attributed it to the idea that maybe just hearing inspirational stories about the past, this was their first thought, it was what boosted people’s confidence. Like, well people could do it in the past, maybe I can do it now. But I think that’s probably not at all what happened, because then they went back, tried to do the same thing replicated with friends, didn’t work. Negative stories about ancestors did work.

What’s happening, and they didn’t say this in the article. I don’t, I’m just going to throw this out. What I think is happening is that people live their lives without a root system, and this is the underlying cause of a lot of our lack of confidence. We don’t know where we came from. We don’t know who we are. We’re told all the time, be whoever you want to be, try to figure out who you are in a completely rootless way. Don’t think about the past. Don’t, try to derive any meaning or any foundation from your roots. Try to sort of invent this all on your own. And this is profoundly destabilizing to people.

And so what I am guessing happened, and they didn’t throw this in the article, but I would love for them to try to put this hypothesis into the mix, is I think people are actually connecting to their root system and then their performance increases because they feel rooted to a larger, bigger story. The multigenerational story of their family and this is why, you guys, that people that do this, that really understand their ancestors and they begin to believe and see that they’re a part of a multigenerational story. Even if your story’s tough, even if it’s a lot of negative stuff and that you’re overcoming a lot of difficult generational sins or problems in the past, this will create a root system that’s going to really help your life, really help your children. And it’s fascinating to me that there is an actual measurable scientific study that is now being done with control groups that is demonstrating how helpful it is for us to gain and sort of think about the connection we have with our past.

Yeah. I feel like that’s exactly what I was thinking too when you were reading it out loud is story seems to be the motivating force. We live without a story. We live in a vacuum. What’s interesting though is with all these truths in our society, like find yourself, be who you want to be, be free and you have no story, you’re detached. What we don’t realize is all of that still is exactly that. We are story creatures so that is a story. It’s just a really bad one that gives you, that just totally destabilizes you and kind of puts you off kilter. It’s shallow, it’s meaningless, and so all these things are still, they’re still going towards the part of our wiring that is innate, which is we are, like I said, story creatures. And I think going down farther into our roots does breed immense confidence, immense rootedness that just gives you perspective, right? Like that just absolutely gives you perspective on who you are, why you’re there, what you’re doing.

Because every single person on earth, no matter where they live, no matter what religion, is usually asking some of those same questions. Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the purpose, et cetera? And a lot of times this does not fully answer those questions, but being able to be able to connect yourself to the past and a story deeply helps. And we kind of pretty much have zero answers to that question in the west, in our more postmodern society. So guys, think about that. Think about how you can connect to your story and I think that’s huge. But yeah, Jeremy, anything else you’d add?

Yeah, so apparently what you’re supposed to do guys, is next time you find out your kid’s about to have a test or is going to take the ACT, stop them and say, “Okay, stop studying for about five minutes. Let me tell you a story about grandpa, great grandpa.”

Yeah, exactly, I like that. Then boom, they ace it.

I mean, yeah, boom, they’re going to do better. So yeah, I just, obviously that’s facetious, but what you should be doing in general is be telling these stories to your children. And in general, they are going to become more confident people. They’re going to be a lot less susceptible to the other stories that they’re hearing, other identities that are trying to capture their heart, capture their attention. You need to create a root system that they can actually dig into and know who they are. So that’s super helpful. There is a tip for how to help your kids get better grades and best of luck with that one.

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