marc2I do it all the time. Here on my blog. Go over all the numbers and charts related to my journey to FIRE I mean. Every month, one portfolio update after another.

I often think it must be dreadfully boring to read them. Who cares whether my net worth is 1% up or down or whether my savings rate is one third of my income? I am not saying it isn’t interesting for me. It is! It is my journey after all. And blogging about the numbers is part of it. It helps me track my progress and stay focused.

But for all followers out there it must be pretty boring. Sure, when you see my numbers it activates certain parts in your brain – the language decoding part that give the words and numbers meaning. But beyond that not much is happening I guess. This is not an insult to my readers nor a criticism of my blog. But I know how I react when I see a PowerPoint presentation with too many bullet points. I decode the words so they have meaning. But other than that I think nothing.

When we are being told a story, though, things change dramatically. A story puts our whole brain to work.

Metaphors, for instance, can activate our sensory cortex.

When Pablo Picasso said “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life”, he meant that art can transform and enrich our lives. Both mean the same thing, but it is the metaphor that really lights up our brain.

The reason why metaphors work so well is that whenever we hear them we want to relate them to one of our existing experiences. This causes the activation of a part called the insula, which helps us relate to that same experience of pain, joy, disgust or whatever else the metaphor attempts to convey.

I love metaphors. I love similes.

The difference between the two? A simile uses the word ‘like’ or ‘as’ to compare things. Metaphors directly state a comparison. “Life is like a box of chocolates” is a simile. “I am titanium” is a metaphor.

“Her eyes were like blooming bluebells in early spring”. A simile. “He has a heart of gold”. A metaphor.

I often find metaphors far more suggestive than similes, having a greater impact – in terms of lighting up my brain I mean. Many metaphorical comparisons can have multiple interpretations.

“Her home was a prison”. Wasn’t she allowed to leave her home? Or were there restrictions in place so she couldn’t exercise her rights or privileges? Or was it an actual prison – perhaps for others than herself? And if she is the prisoner, is it self-imposed or enforced on her?

You can’t help your brain going in multiple directions, trying to relate the words to your existing experiences.

If there is one thing that has been expressed via metaphors, it is love. It has been compared to fruits and plants, natural phenomena, animals and even diseases.

love

“Love is a fruit, in season at all times and within the reach of every hand. Anyone may gather it and no limit is set.” – Mother Teresa, “No Greater Love”

“Love is a fire.
It burns everyone.
It disfigures everyone.
It is the world’s excuse
for being ugly.” – Leonard Cohen, “The Energy of Slaves”

“Love’s wing moults when caged and captured,
Only free he soars enraptured.” – Thomas Campbell, “Love’s Philosophy”

“I thought love would be my cure
But now it’s my disease.” – Alicia Keyes, “Love Is My Disease”

Metaphors and similes for FIRE

I’m well aware that an abundance of metaphors in my portfolio updates would defeat their purpose. Portfolio updates are supposed to be boring in a sense. They must be to the point, factual and not leave any room for multiple interpretations. The same applies to many other investment related posts.

The great thing about being a personal finance blogger aspiring FIRE is that you can write about anything. To me, the financial numbers are just the backbone around which I built my blog. Like a trellis supporting spiraling grapes on a vineyard.

Yes indeed, that’s a simile.

FIRE is (like)…

FIRE is like a bonfire. It comforts, it warms. And like a fire needs to be crafted with twigs, bark, sticks and logs and needs to be maintained to produce warmth for the whole evening and night, so is my journey to FIRE being crafted and needs constant maintenance.

That’s a simile I used in a recent ‘thought experiment‘.

fire2

I’ve also compared reaching FIRE to crossing the Arctic circle. Not because I think I won’t be able to pay my heating bill and freeze my ass off once I reach it, but because being above the arctic circle is something I associate with being less stressed, having no schedules and deadlines.

Back to telling stories…

A personal finance blogger who loves telling stories is indeedably. In my view he excels at conveying concepts, ideas and opinions by wrapping them into stories that make you relate. You may agree or disagree with him, but remember you will. Check him out!

How about you?

Do you compare FIRE with something? A metaphor? A simile?

6 thoughts on “The Power Of Stories

  1. Wow, high praise indeed Marc. Thank you kindly!

    Stories can be be a great way to teach a memorable lesson or compelling way to explain an idea. When done well they are as fun to read as they were to write, and leave the audience with something to think about.

    I have often wondered whether the FIRE metaphor is supposed to be cautionary (or simply ironic!).

    When used cautiously and watched carefully, fire can be a useful tool providing warmth and enjoyment.

    Go too hot and risk getting burned.

    Burn through your fuel too fast and be left with nothing but ashes.

    Try and use it too soon, and your haste makes you ill from consuming things when they are undercooked.

    Finally the very important lesson we are all taught as children: do not play with matches!

    Perhaps there are some valid reasons why the mainstream don’t play with FIRE? Food for thought! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Indeed, a story can be a powerful vehicle for explaining ideas or teaching a lesson. If it’s written well. Sometimes a story is written so badly it simply annoys, rather than drawing you in 😉
      You provided some interesting interpretations of FIRE as a metaphor. Who knows, maybe it does scare mainstream. Don’t play with it or get burned 😉

      Liked by 1 person

        1. “You pump my tyres up with one hand, and puncture them with the other.” – don’t worry, I wasn’t referring to any of your stories 😉 I was talking about stories in general and how I sometimes get annoyed if they’re badly written.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I agree that adding some flavor to the numbers goes a long way to keeping us vested. I try to include storytellers in my Blogroll, I will probably need to update it again soon to include more storytellers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love stories and how they can be used to get a message across. Stories, narratives, are a part of our lives. And only because the numbers are part of a narrative, they are interesting. Our aiming for FIRE, the ups and downs, the struggles, the temptations, the dreams and goals, that’s what makes all these FIRE blogs so interesting in my view 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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