Your Story is a Placebo


We all understand the Placebo Effect correct? This past weekend I learned a big way this placebo effect has made me better. . . with drumsticks.

Homemade Drumsticks

My dad is six years into his retirement and he is living it up. He and my mom travel the world like crazy. Literally this year they went to Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Bahamas, Mexico, few countries around the Mediterranean, and not to mention they drove from North Carolina to Montana and back to Kansas to see my son turn one year old! Retirement is treating them well. My dad’s side hustle is turning wood. Yes, you read that right. He makes all kinds of rounded objects from bowls and plates to lamps and candle holders. He even named his dog “Turner.”

Our family gets to see them a few times a year and without fail, he arrives with a Santa Clause sized bag full of all of these items. This was cool the first few times. Six years into this, my kitchen looks like we do not believe in plastic or ceramic utensils. They are all great, don’t get me wrong, and each item is more beautiful than the rest, but there comes a time when you run out of room for wooden candle holders.

This past Christmas was different. My dad said he made something for me and my first thought was “I’m not sure if I have the cabinet space dad,” but he went a different direction. He said he knew I was playing drums a lot and he thought he’d give it a try to make a pair of sticks for me that would last longer than the ones I use.

Picky Picky

Like most musicians I am extremely picky about my instrument. So, I took the new homemade drumsticks with a big smile. Honestly, I thought it was really cool that he’d do that for me, but I didn’t think I’d actually use them. I figured they would be a cool story to keep around my drum set in case anyone asked. Six months later he asked me how they were and luckily I actually played with them when I got home for a quick practice session. I gave him a few pointers with how particular I am, and he ended up making another pair with my new tweaks!

A few more months past by and I hadn’t played any more with either of the sticks. I was practicing for an upcoming weekend and I noticed that my bag of sticks was getting really low and the ones I had were all chewed up and useless. The week got away from me and I never got the chance to go to the store to pick up some more. Saturday band practice comes around for church and I decided to go ahead and play with the ones my dad made me. They were slightly heavier, darker, and different shaped than I’m used to, but they worked. Not only did they work, they worked great!


I felt like I was playing better, a lot better. I had more confidence, they felt like they bounced faster, sounded great, and didn’t seem to chip as easy. After the weekend services were over of rocking out to some of syncopated Christmas songs, I was happy my dad made these sticks for me. I thought  I played amazing because of those sticks. . .But did I really?

Was it the sticks or was it the story behind the sticks?

Truly a .2 oz difference in weight and hardness of wood did not make me a more confident drummer. The story did. Because I was (almost) forced to play with them and get out of my routine and box a little, I felt different than I usually do. I usually go through the motions. The story of my dad creating these sticks resonated in my head and I thought about it the whole weekend.

Stories change your mindset

We all have fixed routines and habits. Some good some bad. Most of the time, we have no idea we are even doing them until something comes along and makes us change them. I always buy the same size and brand of sticks. I’ve been buying the same pair for 23 years! I had no idea that habit was a part of me until now. The habit didn’t have a story, that’s why I go through the motions every time, not thinking or changing for the better. This time was different.

Now I’m going though my day and noticing all the little things I do and don’t even notice. Things that I could possibly change to be better, but weren’t even close to my radar before. Is there a way I can change that habit and insert a story so I can make that one small thing better in my life?

  • Can I greet people differently to make an impact?
  • Can I get a new headset that makes me feel more confident on the phone?
  • Can I get a new software that makes me quicker and more efficient?
  • Can I remove something from my morning routine and give more time to myself?

These sound small and dumb, and they might be. on the flip side you can’t tell me you haven’t bought new shoes and thought they would not make you faster, lighter, walk more, run more, exercise more. PF Flyers were proven to! The shoes didn’t do a thing, you did.

Stories change your mindset. . .placebo or not.