It turns out that recent research from the University of Pennsylvania indicates that news articles which inspire awe (i.e. are very literally “awesome”) are amongst the most shared and popular articles:
most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list.
The researchers also found a way to begin to quantify how something, exactly, becomes awesome.
They used two criteria for an awe-inspiring story: Its scale is large, and it requires “mental accommodation” by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.
“It involves the opening and broadening of the mind,” write Dr. Berger and Dr. Milkman, who is a behavioral economist at Wharton.
This sort of research directly compliments my existing theory: being awesome is enough. If what you do is on a large scale, and requires a “mental accommodation” – changes the way that someone views the world, you will succeed. Of course, this is much, much easier said than done – but if you can do it, you’ll do well.
Being awesome is difficult because you must transcend the ranks of simply being interesting or being surprising. As one article contributor noted,
“If I went into my classroom dressed up like a pirate, that would be surprising, but it wouldn’t be awe-inspiring,” Dr. Berger said. “An article about square watermelons is surprising, but it doesn’t inspire that awed feeling that the world is a broad place and I’m so small.”
As you, readers, embark on your daily lives, I encourage you to think about the ways in which you can cultivate awesomeness, operate on a scale larger than yourselves, and make a significant impact on the world around you. Encourage “mental accommodation,” inspire awe, and create positive change. The world can always use a little more awesomeness.
I am contemplating a running series about how awesomeness begets success, so feel free to send me your awesome encounters, or awesome projects.
Edit: Wired Magazine has confirmed that being capable of inspiring awe is, indeed, enough to become successful. They suggest the following headline for their article:
The world is huge, and you are small. But not as small as these billion-year-old particles we found on a giant spaceship.
Works for me.