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Seven universal plots

Seven universal plots

There are only seven plots that are so fundamental to the way we tell stories that every storyteller uses one of them: Overcoming Monsters, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return Rebirth, Comedy, Tragedy.

It's not that good stories are the same, but the plots are less diverse. When we realize this, we see stories in a new light, because we have come to the heart of what stories are about and why we tell them.





  • People seem to want the same economic things – security, power, admiration, fulfillment.
  • They tend to use the same tactics to acquire those things - work, risk, incentives, persuasion, theft, control.
  • They tend to fall for the same...

Looking for a few universal plot patterns reveals things fundamental to how all people think, which are likely to be repeated in the future and relevant to your own situation. This idea also applies to how the economy works.

Economic history can seem complicated because it's part of politi...

A breakthrough is a big deal because no one had thought of it before. Because no one had thought of it before means it's likely either illogical or appears to violate previously accepted rules.

When someone pursues a breakthrough, as an entrepreneur, investor, or consumer, it requires ...

  1. Past progress as a one-time event misses how much of progress is incremental. A breakthrough never occurs in isolation but is the product of many little discoveries, often meaningless by themselves, that someone links together.
  2. Assuming that big current pr...

A good idea taken to the furthest extreme becomes indistinguishable from a terrible idea.

The most important technological breakthroughs deliver such a high that most will fail to know the limits and will inevitably overdose. Railroads transformed every inch of the eco...

The ability to believe things that aren't true or haven't happened yet is the foundation of all economic growth and decline.

Every society tells fictional stories and is willing to believe them to some extend. It isn't a bad thing: It's the root of most growth. Most econo...

Future progress is underrated because past progress is misunderstood.

  • There are times when optimism is so great and so broad that we become blind to future risks
  • People tend to be optimistic about their own future but pessimistic about other...

Five things contribute to the gravitational pull of competitive advantages:

  1. Being right instills too much confidence that you can’t be wrong. But the outlier success will have competitors chasing them and threaten to overtake you.
  2. Success tends to lead to growth. But a big o...

Surprises are constant, and not necessarily because we’re bad at predicting, but because everything important in the economy is driven by power laws where a tiny portion of things are responsible for the majority of outcomes. No single forecaster can track every moving part.

The only thing harder than gaining a competitive edge is not losing an advantage when you have one.

Sears was the largest retailer in the world and so dominant at retailing efficiency that it could spread its efficiency to unrelated industries. But then the growing inc...

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Importance of failure

We need to start talking about failure as life's master instructor. Experiences in failure are less about not finding success than they are about problem solving, and the skills cultivated as a by-product of failure are the skills many brilliant entrepreneurs have only come to possess by f...




Chess And Strategic Thinking

The game of chess helps build strategic thinking, a must-have skill in business.

It is a game of kings that goes back 4500 years under various names and rules, reflecting and teaching important business skills that have remained timeless.




For more than two million years, our human ancestors lived in small groups that they considered their own. They created a demarcation of us vs them, as people cared and cooperated with people in their own tribe while fearing and aggressing peop...