Wounded People Tell Better Stories: Justine Musk (Transcript)

Full text of Canadian author Justine Musk’s talk: Wounded People Tell Better Stories at TEDxSanFrancisco conference.

“Show me who you love, and I’ll show you who you are”

Listen to the MP3 Audio here:


Justine Musk – Canadian author, & former wife of Elon Musk

I am here, because of a question that someone asked me in the summer of 2014. And the question went something like this: ‘Justine, as someone who is married to the entrepreneur Elon Musk, you know, Tesla, SpaceX, PayPal, you have presumably interacted with some of the greatest names in the business world. So, as an observer, what are some of the big things that you’ve noticed that sets them apart from us mere mortals?’

Because I’m a writer, I like to watch and take notes, I’m the kind of friend who inspires people to say ‘Justine, please don’t put this on your blog’. So, I always say ‘no, of course not, I’m saving it for my fiction’.

But this question lived inside of me for several months. And I was surprised at what I wanted to say and what I’m going to say to you here right now, I am impressed and deeply moved by just how dysfunctional and messed-up we all manage to be as human beings.

So, even the most golden among us, I mean they have stellar careers but if you look at the other areas of their lives, you’ll see where their demons manifests themselves. Their forms of self-sabotage, you know, their wounds.

But what they do better than us mere mortals is that they tell better stories about who they are, not just to us. Although, part of genius is your ability to communicate it and make it relevant to others, but to themselves about who they are, where they come from, where they’re going because we are made up of stories.

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And the best stories don’t tell us how awesome we already are, they tell us who we can be, you know, they inspire and empower us and they call us out to our higher better selves.

They’re also obsessed with what they do. They don’t really bind this whole idea of something we call life work balance and maybe they’re on to something, because life work balance was originally a term that anthropologists used in the 1800’s. They were studying the happiness level of these tribes and their conclusion was that the thinner the line between what you did for work and what you did in the rest of your life, the happier you were.

So, it actually wasn’t about balance. It was about integration but we live in a culture where we’ve made this very sharp division between work and home, private and public and we’ve assigned men to one sphere and women to the other.

So, when this term surfaced again in the 70s in the UK and in the 80s in the United States, well, what else was going on in the culture? Women were moving en masse from the private world to the public world, so suddenly this balance was in question.

But maybe it’s time to question the question which forces both men and women to choose often between friends, family, love and a really kick-ass career that engages you, demands your best work, stimulates you.

But there’s another story rising to counter this and it’s called ‘finding your passion’.

How do you find your passion? We don’t seem very good in knowing how to do this, and Einstein said ‘a problem cannot be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it’. So, maybe we should go back and take a look at passion, the original meaning of passion, which means to suffer.

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