Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Carol Dweck

 

THE SCARIEST THING ABOUT INTROVERTS

Introverts drive extroverts crazy. Or should I say, extroverts drive introverts crazy?

“… 65% of senior corporate executives viewed introversion as a barrier to leadership…” (HBR)

The blank stare:

The scariest thing about an introvert is the blank stare that comes over their face when they’re thinking. It looks like displeasure, dislike, even disdain, to an extrovert.

Extroverts are noisy thinkers. They think while they talk. Introverts get quiet.

Introverts intimidate extroverts. It seems like they’re disinterested or resistant when they’re just thinking.

Tips for navigating introversion and extroversion:

  1. Be sensitive to a tendency to over-value extrovert leaders.
  2. Introversion and extroversion aren’t strengths and weaknesses. It’s who you are. (what that means?)
  3. Expect disciplined thought from introverts.
  4. Leverage the listening skills of introverts. Talk less and listen more if you’re an extrovert.
  5. Gather spontaneous ideas from extroverts.
  6. Give introverts time to think things over. A blank stare means they’re thinking.
  7. Extroverts enjoy public praise. Introverts often shun the limelight.

Suggestions for introverts:

I see different numbers for the ratio of introvert to extrovert. But extroverts tend to run the show.

  1. Give yourself recharge-time. Schedule and protect alone-time.
  2. Express your need to think. “Let me think that over. I’ll get back to you tomorrow.”
  3. Stretch your collaboration muscles. Avoid dropping final answers on unsuspecting victims.
  4. Beware of frustration and bitterness. People may disappoint you because YOU haven’t expressed what you want.

Introvert advantage:

In a dynamic, unpredictable environment, introverts are often more effective leaders – particularly when workers are proactive, offering ideas for improving the business.

Such behavior can make extroverted leaders feel threatened.

In contrast, introverted leaders tend to listen more carefully and show greater receptivity to suggestions, making them more effective leaders of vocal teams. (Adam Grant, Francesca Gino, David Hoffman)

What suggestions do you have for introverted leaders? extroverted leaders?

What dangers should introverts/extroverts be aware of, when it comes to their natural tendencies?

Note: the same cliche that I heard many times on extrovert and introvert, as if situations and conditions are not major factors in our current behaviors

 

3 SHIFTS THAT EXPAND INFLUENCE

The way you treat others is the chief culture building influence in your organization.

Lousy leaders act like individual contributors. Incompetent leaders can’t see the impact of their attitudes, words, and actions.

Newton said, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” (Was he being general to that extreme?)

The relationships you enjoy, for example, begin with you.

When you focus on weaknesses and ignore strengths, others build protective walls.

Adversarial leaders invite conflict.

Passive leaders create anxiety.

Teams don’t practice accountability until leaders follow-up and follow-through.

When you confront tough issues with kindness, others have tough conversations with greater confidence.

3 shifts that expand influence:

#1 Shift from who is right to what is right.

In one sense, leadership isn’t personal. The issue is the issue. It doesn’t matter who comes up with solutions. The person who screwed up last week might be this week’s genius.

#2. Shift from talking-at to talking-with.

Engagement requires “with.” The more you talk “at” the more you lose “with.” Talking-with requires humility, honesty, curiosity, openness, and forgiveness.

  1. Humility acknowledges the perspective and strengths of others.
  2. Honesty explains issues without hidden agendas.
  3. Curiosity asks, “What do you think?”
  4. Openness listens and explores. Defensiveness is the end of innovation.
  5. Forgiveness gives second chances after responsible failure. Honor sincere effort. Don’t punish ignorance.

#3. Shift from right and wrong to better.

Most issues are solved with progress. It’s about next steps, not moral imperatives. Stop judging so much. Start cheering more.

Complex issues have more than one answer. Their answer is better than yours, even if it’s not quite as good, because they own it.

Bonus: Shift from punishing to learning.

Treat responsible failure as a learning opportunity and risk is easier. But treat people like tools and you propagate self-serving attitudes.

Carol Dweck says the #1 quality of a growth mindset is learning from failure.

What shifts expand a leader’s influence?

What behaviors short-circuit a leader’s influence?

The learning myth: Why I’ll never tell my son he’s smart

By Sal Khan

My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lie on his bed and he reads a short book to me.

Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.”

I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a “growth­ mindset.”

But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult.

I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows.

Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it, the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones.

What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed, and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.
However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth.
Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not, that intelligence is fixed by genes.
People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure.
Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning.
People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.
The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable.
What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call “growth mindset interventions,” which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset.
For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone.
Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait.
And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages that praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.
The Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs, and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind.
However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of this without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means are at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about?
This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra – it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, how you learn a new language or instrument.
If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.
And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention.
The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself (­­for example, knowing that the brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­) can begin to change a person’s mindset.
The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this.
After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything

 

Key to success? Grit

  • Transcript of “The key to success? Grit”
    Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success.
     Mar 9, 2014

When I was 27 years old, I left a very demanding job in management consulting for a job that was even more demanding: teaching.

I went to teach 7th graders math in the New York City public schools. And like any teacher, I made quizzes and tests. I gave out homework assignments. When the work came back, I calculated grades.

0:35 What struck me was that IQ was not the only difference between my best and my worst students. Some of my strongest performers did not have stratospheric IQ scores. Some of my smartest kids weren’t doing so well.

that got me thinking. The kinds of things you need to learn in seventh grade math, sure, they’re hard: ratios, decimals, the area of a parallelogram. But these concepts are not impossible, and I was firmly convinced that every one of my students could learn the material if they worked hard and long enough.

After several more years of teaching, I came to the conclusion that what we need in education is a much better understanding of students and learning from a motivational perspective, from a psychological perspective.

In education, the one thing we know how to measure best is IQ. But what if doing well in school and in life depends on much more than your ability to learn quickly and easily?

I left the classroom, and I went to graduate school to become a psychologist.

I started studying kids and adults in all kinds of super challenging settings, and in every study my question was, who is successful here and why? My research team and I went to West Point Military Academy.

We tried to predict which cadets would stay in military training and which would drop out. We went to the National Spelling Bee and tried to predict which children would advance farthest in competition. We studied rookie teachers working in really tough neighborhoods, asking which teachers are still going to be here in teaching by the end of the school year, and of those, who will be the most effective at improving learning outcomes for their students?

We partnered with private companies, asking, which of these salespeople is going to keep their jobs? And who’s going to earn the most money?

In all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predictor of success. And it wasn’t social intelligence. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and it wasn’t IQ. It was grit.

Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals.

Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.

Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

A few years ago, I started studying grit in the Chicago public schools. I asked thousands of high school juniors to take grit questionnaires, and then waited around more than a year to see who would graduate.

Turns out that grittier kids were significantly more likely to graduate, even when I matched them on every characteristic I could measure, things like family income, standardized achievement test scores, even how safe kids felt when they were at school.

it’s not just at West Point or the National Spelling Bee that grit matters. It’s also in school, especially for kids at risk for dropping out.

To me, the most shocking thing about grit is how little we know, how little science knows, about building it.

Every day, parents and teachers ask me, “How do I build grit in kids? What do I do to teach kids a solid work ethic? How do I keep them motivated for the long run?”

The honest answer is, I don’t know. (Laughter) What I do know is that talent doesn’t make you gritty.

Our data show very clearly that there are many talented individuals who simply do not follow through on their commitments. In fact, in our data, grit is usually unrelated or even inversely related to measures of talent. (Yet, we don’t acquire talent without perseverance)

So far, the best idea I’ve heard about building grit in kids is something called “growth mindset.”

This is an idea developed at Stanford University by Carol Dweck, and it is the belief that the ability to learn is not fixed, that it can change with your effort. Dr. Dweck has shown that when kids read and learn about the brain and how it changes and grows in response to challenge, they’re much more likely to persevere when they fail, because they don’t believe that failure is a permanent condition.

So growth mindset is a great idea for building grit. But we need more. And that’s where I’m going to end my remarks, because that’s where we are. That’s the work that stands before us.

We need to take our best ideas, our strongest intuitions, and we need to test them.

We need to measure whether we’ve been successful, and we have to be willing to fail, to be wrong, to start over again with lessons learned.

5:55 In other words, we need to be gritty about getting our kids grittier.

Overvaluing confidence, we’ve forgotten the power of humility

Information is Not knowledge

Jacob Burak is the founder of Alaxon, a digital magazine about culture, art and popular science, where he writes regularly. His latest book is How to Find a Black Cat in a Dark Room (2013).

If I only had a little humility, I’d be perfect,’ the media mogul Ted Turner supposedly said sometime in the 1990s, in a moment of narcissistic exuberance.

While Turner has been much humbler since, today’s breed of tech entrepreneurs often display a similar arrogance.

Why be humble? After all, Aristotle said: ‘All men by nature desire to know.’

Intellectual humility is a particular instance of humility, since you can be down-to-earth about most things and still ignore your mental limitations.

Intellectual humility means recognising that we don’t know everything – and what we do know, we shouldn’t use to our advantage. Instead, we should acknowledge that we’re probably biased in our belief about just how much we understand, and seek out the sources of wisdom that we lack. (keep experimenting about any thing that people conform with?)

The internet and digital media have created the impression of limitless knowledge at our fingertips.

But, by making us lazy, they have opened up a space that ignorance can fill.

On the Edge website, the psychologist Tania Lombrozo of the University of California explained how technology enhances our illusions of wisdom.

She argues that the way we access information about an issue is critical to our understanding – and the more easily we can recall an image, word or statement, the more likely we’ll think we’ve successfully learned it, and so refrain from effortful cognitive processing.

Logical puzzles presented in an unfriendly font, for example, can encourage someone to make extra effort to solve them. Yet this approach runs counter to the sleek designs of the apps and sites that populate our screens, where our brain processes information in a deceptively ‘smooth’ way.

What about all the commenting and conversations that happen online?

your capacity to learn from them depends on your attitudes to other people. Intellectually humble people don’t repress, hide or ignore their vulnerabilities, like so many trolls.

In fact, they see their weaknesses as sources of personal development, and use arguments as an opportunity to refine their views.

People who are humble by nature tend to be more open-minded and quicker to resolve disputes, since they recognise that their own opinions might not be valid.

The psychologist Carol Dweck at Stanford University in California has shown that if you believe intelligence can be developed through experience and hard work, you’re likely to make more of an effort to solve difficult problems, compared with those who think intelligence is hereditary and unchangeable.

Intellectual humility relies on the ability to prefer truth over social status. ( How can we ever replace the term Truth with an alternative term that has Not this abstract connotation?)

It is marked primarily by a commitment to seeking answers, and a willingness to accept new ideas – even if they contradict our views.

In listening to others, we run the risk of discovering that they know more than we do. But humble people see personal growth as a goal in itself, rather than as a means of moving up the social ladder. We miss out on a lot of available information if we focus only on ourselves and on our place in the world.

At the other end of the scale lies intellectual arrogance – the evil twin of overconfidence.

Such arrogance almost always stems from the egocentric bias – the tendency to overestimate our own virtue or importance, ignoring the role of chance or the influence of other people’s actions on our lives.

This is what makes us attribute success to ourselves and failure to circumstance. The egocentric bias makes sense, since our own personal experience is what we understand best. It becomes a problem when that experience is too thin to form a serious opinion, yet we still make do with it.

Studies have shown that people find it difficult to notice their own blind spots, even when they can identify them easily in others.

From an evolutionary perspective, intellectual arrogance can be seen as a way of achieving dominance through imposing one’s view on others.

Meanwhile, intellectual humility invests mental resources in discussion and working towards group consensus.

The Thrive Center for Human Development in California, which seeks to help young people turn into successful adults, is funding a series of major studies about intellectual humility.

Their hypothesis is that humility, curiosity and openness are key to a fulfilling life.

One of their papers proposes a scale for measuring humility by examining questions such as whether people are consistently humble or whether it depends on circumstances. Acknowledging that our opinions (and those of others) vary by circumstance is, in itself, a significant step towards reducing our exaggerated confidence that we are right.

In the realm of science, if necessity is the mother of invention, then humility is its father.  (Survival of the mother’s necessities are more important than that of the father?)

Scientists must be willing to abandon their theories in favour of new, more accurate explanations in order to keep up with constant innovation.

Many scientists who made important findings early on in their careers find themselves blocked by ego from making fresh breakthroughs.

In his fascinating blog, the philosopher W Jay Wood argues that intellectually humble scientists are more likely to acquire knowledge and insight than those lacking this virtue. Intellectual humility, he says, ‘changes scientists themselves in ways that allow them to direct their abilities and practices in more effective ways’.

Albert Einstein knew as much when he reportedly said that ‘information is not knowledge’.

Laszlo Bock, Google’s head of people operations, agrees. In an interview with The New York Times, he said that humility is one of the top attributes he looks for in candidates, (except in negotiation skills?) but that it can be hard to find among successful people, because they rarely experience failure.

Without humility, you are unable to learn,’ he notes. A little ironic, perhaps, for a company that has done more than any other to make information seem instant, seamless, and snackable.

Perhaps humility’s the sort of thing you can have only when you’re not aware of it.

Raise you kids to be brave. Teach girls bravery, not perfection

We’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave, says Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code.

Saujani has taken up the charge to socialize young girls to take risks and learn to program — two skills they need to move society forward. To truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half of our population, she says. “I need each of you to tell every young woman you know to be comfortable with imperfection.”

Souha Itani shared this link. March 7, 2016
Happy International Women’s day! ‪#‎IWD2016‬
ed.com|By Reshma Saujani

Through her nonprofit, Girls Who Code, Reshma Saujani initiates young women into the tech world. Her goal: one million women in computer science by 2020. Full bio

So a few years ago, I did something really brave, or some would say really stupid. I ran for Congress.

00:22 For years, I had existed safely behind the scenes in politics as a fundraiser, as an organizer, but in my heart, I always wanted to run.

The sitting congresswoman had been in my district since 1992. She had never lost a race, and no one had really even run against her in a Democratic primary. But in my mind, this was my way to make a difference, to disrupt the status quo. The polls, however, told a very different story. My pollsters told me that I was crazy to run, that there was no way that I could win.

But I ran anyway, and in 2012, I became an upstart in a New York City congressional race. I swore I was going to win.

I had the endorsement from the New York Daily News, the Wall Street Journal snapped pictures of me on election day, and CNBC called it one of the hottest races in the country.

I raised money from everyone I knew, including Indian aunties that were just so happy an Indian girl was running. But on election day, the polls were right, and I only got 19 percent of the vote, and the same papers that said I was a rising political star now said I wasted 1.3 million dollars on 6,321 votes. Don’t do the math. It was humiliating.

Before you get the wrong idea, this is not a talk about the importance of failure. Nor is it about leaning in. I tell you the story of how I ran for Congress because I was 33 years old and it was the first time in my entire life that I had done something that was truly brave, where I didn’t worry about being perfect.

And I’m not alone: so many women I talk to tell me that they gravitate towards careers and professions that they know they’re going to be great in, that they know they’re going to be perfect in, and it’s no wonder why.

Most girls are taught to avoid risk and failure. We’re taught to smile pretty, play it safe, get all A’s.

Boys, on the other hand, are taught to play rough, swing high, crawl to the top of the monkey bars and then just jump off headfirst. And by the time they’re adults, whether they’re negotiating a raise or even asking someone out on a date, they’re habituated to take risk after risk. They’re rewarded for it.

It’s often said in Silicon Valley, no one even takes you seriously unless you’ve had two failed start-ups. In other words, we’re raising our girls to be perfect, and we’re raising our boys to be brave.

Some people worry about our federal deficit, but I, I worry about our bravery deficit.

Our economy, our society, we’re just losing out because we’re not raising our girls to be brave. The bravery deficit is why women are underrepresented in STEM, in C-suites, in boardrooms, in Congress, and pretty much everywhere you look.

 In the 1980s, psychologist Carol Dweck looked at how bright fifth graders handled an assignment that was too difficult for them. She found that bright girls were quick to give up. The higher the IQ, the more likely they were to give up. Bright boys, on the other hand, found the difficult material to be a challenge. They found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts.

What’s going on? Well, at the fifth grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science, so it’s not a question of ability.

The difference is in how boys and girls approach a challenge. And it doesn’t just end in fifth grade. An HP report found that men will apply for a job if they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women, women will apply only if they meet 100 percent of the qualifications.

This study is usually invoked as evidence that, well, women need a little more confidence. But I think it’s evidence that women have been socialized to aspire to perfection, and they’re overly cautious.

And even when we’re ambitious, even when we’re leaning in, that socialization of perfection has caused us to take less risks in our careers. And so those 600,000 jobs that are open right now in computing and tech, women are being left behind, and it means our economy is being left behind on all the innovation and problems women would solve if they were socialized to be brave instead of socialized to be perfect.

05:39 So in 2012, I started a company to teach girls to code, and what I found is that by teaching them to code I had socialized them to be brave.

Coding, it’s an endless process of trial and error, of trying to get the right command in the right place, with sometimes just a semicolon making the difference between success and failure. Code breaks and then it falls apart, and it often takes many, many tries until that magical moment when what you’re trying to build comes to life. It requires perseverance. It requires imperfection.

We immediately see in our program our girls’ fear of not getting it right, of not being perfect.

Every Girls Who Code teacher tells me the same story. During the first week, when the girls are learning how to code, a student will call her over and she’ll say, “I don’t know what code to write.” The teacher will look at her screen, and she’ll see a blank text editor. If she didn’t know any better, she’d think that her student spent the past 20 minutes just staring at the screen. But if she presses undo a few times, she’ll see that her student wrote code and then deleted it.

She tried, she came close, but she didn’t get it exactly right. Instead of showing the progress that she made, she’d rather show nothing at all. Perfection or bust.

It turns out that our girls are really good at coding, but it’s not enough just to teach them to code.

 My friend Lev Brie, who is a professor at the University of Columbia and teaches intro to Java tells me about his office hours with computer science students. When the guys are struggling with an assignment, they’ll come in and they’ll say, “Professor, there’s something wrong with my code.” The girls will come in and say, “Professor, there’s something wrong with me.”

07:44 We have to begin to undo the socialization of perfection, but we’ve got to combine it with building a sisterhood that lets girls know that they are not alone. Because trying harder is not going to fix a broken system. I can’t tell you how many women tell me,

 “I’m afraid to raise my hand, I’m afraid to ask a question, because I don’t want to be the only one who doesn’t understand, the only one who is struggling. When we teach girls to be brave and we have a supportive network cheering them on, they will build incredible things, and I see this every day. Take, for instance, two of our high school students who built a game called Tampon Run — yes, Tampon Run — to fight against the menstruation taboo and sexism in gaming.

Or the Syrian refugee who dared show her love for her new country by building an app to help Americans get to the polls.

Or a 16-year-old girl who built an algorithm to help detect whether a cancer is benign or malignant in the off chance that she can save her daddy’s life because he has cancer.

These are just three examples of thousands, thousands of girls who have been socialized to be imperfect, who have learned to keep trying, who have learned perseverance. And whether they become coders or the next Hillary Clinton or Beyoncé, they will not defer their dreams.

And those dreams have never been more important for our country. For the American economy, for any economy to grow, to truly innovate, we cannot leave behind half our population. We have to socialize our girls to be comfortable with imperfection, and we’ve got to do it now.

We cannot wait for them to learn how to be brave like I did when I was 33 years old. We have to teach them to be brave in schools and early in their careers, when it has the most potential to impact their lives and the lives of others, and we have to show them that they will be loved and accepted not for being perfect but for being courageous.

And so I need each of you to tell every young woman you know — your sister, your niece, your employee, your colleague — to be comfortable with imperfection, because when we teach girls to be imperfect, and we help them leverage it, we will build a movement of young women who are brave and who will build a better world for themselves and for each and every one of us.

10:56 Chris Anderson: Reshma, thank you. It’s such a powerful vision you have. You have a vision. Tell me how it’s going. How many girls are involved now in your program?

Reshma Saujani: Yeah. So in 2012, we taught 20 girls. This year we’ll teach 40,000 in all 50 states.  

And that number is really powerful, because last year we only graduated 7,500 women in computer science. Like, the problem is so bad that we can make that type of change quickly.

11:29 CA: And you’re working with some of the companies in this room even, who are welcoming graduates from your program?

RS: Yeah, we have about 80 partners, from Twitter to Facebook to Adobe to IBM to Microsoft to Pixar to Disney, I mean, every single company out there. And if you’re not signed up, I’m going to find you, because we need every single tech company to embed a Girls Who Code classroom in their office.

11:52 CA: And you have some stories back from some of those companies that when you mix in more gender balance in the engineering teams, good things happen.

RS: Great things happen. I think that it’s crazy to me to think about the fact that right now 85 percent of all consumer purchases are made by women.

Women use social media at a rate of 600 percent more than men.

We own the Internet, and we should be building the companies of tomorrow. And I think when companies have diverse teams, and they have incredible women that are part of their engineering teams, they build awesome things, and we see it every day.

 

Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators

The psychological origins of waiting (… and waiting, and waiting) to work.
Lots of people procrastinate but for writers it is a peculiarly common occupational hazard.
“Fixed mind-set,” people versus  “growth mind-set” who thrive on challenges because they would learn something they had no talent in.
A good read.
 posted this FEB 12 2014

Like most writers, I am an inveterate procrastinator.

In the course of writing this one article, I have checked my e-mail approximately 3,000 times, made and discarded multiple grocery lists, conducted a lengthy Twitter battle over whether the gold standard is actually the worst economic policy ever proposed, written Facebook messages to schoolmates I haven’t seen in at least a decade, invented a delicious new recipe for chocolate berry protein smoothies, and googled my own name several times to make sure that I have at least once written something that someone would actually want to read.

Wikimedia Commons

One book editor I talked to fondly reminisced about the first book she was assigned to work on, back in the late 1990s. It had gone under contract in 1972.

I once asked a talented and fairly famous colleague how he managed to regularly produce such highly regarded 8,000 word features.

“Well,” he said, “first, I put it off for two or three weeks. Then I sit down to write. That’s when I get up and go clean the garage. After that, I go upstairs, and then I come back downstairs and complain to my wife for a couple of hours. Finally, but only after a couple more days have passed and I’m really freaking out about missing my deadline, I ultimately sit down and write.”

Over the years, I developed a theory about why writers are such procrastinators: We were too good in English class. This sounds crazy, but hear me out.

Most writers were the kids who easily, almost automatically, got A’s in English class. (There are exceptions, but they often also seem to be exceptions to the general writing habit of putting off writing as long as possible.)

At an early age, when grammar school teachers were struggling to inculcate the lesson that effort was the main key to success in school, these future scribblers gave the obvious lie to this assertion.

Where others read haltingly, they were plowing two grades ahead in the reading workbooks. These are the kids who turned in a completed YA novel for their fifth-grade project.

It isn’t that they never failed, but at a very early age, they didn’t have to fail much; their natural talents kept them at the head of the class.

This teaches a very bad, very false lesson: that success in work mostly depends on natural talent.

Unfortunately, when you are a professional writer, you are competing with all the other kids who were at the top of their English classes. Your stuff may not—indeed, probably won’t—be the best anymore.

If you’ve spent most of your life cruising ahead on natural ability, doing what came easily and quickly, every word you write becomes a test of just how much ability you have, every article a referendum on how good a writer you are.

As long as you have not written that article, that speech, that novel, it could still be good.

Before you take to the keys, you are Proust and Oscar Wilde and George Orwell all rolled up into one delicious package.

By the time you’re finished, you’re more like one of those 1940’s pulp hacks who strung hundred-page paragraphs together with semicolons because it was too much effort to figure out where the sentence should end.

The Fear of Turning In Nothing

Most writers manage to get by because, as the deadline creeps closer, their fears of turning in nothing eventually surpasses their fears of turning in something terrible.

But I’ve watched a surprising number of young journalists wreck, or nearly wreck, their careers by simply failing to hand in articles. These are all college graduates who can write in complete sentences, so it is not that they are lazy incompetents. Rather, they seem to be paralyzed by the prospect of writing something that isn’t very good.

“Exactly!” said Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck, when I floated this theory by her. One of the best-known experts in the psychology of motivation, Dweck has spent her career studying failure, and how people react to it.

As you might expect, failure isn’t all that popular an activity. And yet, as she discovered through her research, not everyone reacts to it by breaking out in hives. While many of the people she studied hated tasks that they didn’t do well, some people thrived under the challenge. They positively relished things they weren’t very good at—for precisely the reason that they should have: when they were failing, they were learning.

Dweck puzzled over what it was that made these people so different from their peers. It hit her one day as she was sitting in her office (then at Columbia), chewing over the results of the latest experiment with one of her graduate students: the people who dislike challenges think that talent is a fixed thing that you’re either born with or not. The people who relish them think that it’s something you can nourish by doing stuff you’re not good at.

There was this eureka moment,” says Dweck.

She now identifies the former group as people with a “fixed mind-set,” while the latter group has a “growth mind-set.”

Whether you are more fixed or more of a grower helps determine how you react to anything that tests your intellectual abilities.

For growth people, challenges are an opportunity to deepen their talents, but for “fixed” people, they are just a dipstick that measures how high your ability level is.

Finding out that you’re not as good as you thought is not an opportunity to improve; it’s a signal that you should maybe look into a less demanding career, like mopping floors.

This fear of being unmasked as the incompetent you “really” are is so common that it actually has a clinical name: impostor syndrome. A shocking number of successful people (particularly women), believe that they haven’t really earned their spots, and are at risk of being unmasked as frauds at any moment.

Many people deliberately seek out easy tests where they can shine, rather than tackling harder material that isn’t as comfortable.

If they’re forced into a challenge they don’t feel prepared for, they may even engage in what psychologists call “self-handicapping” behaviors: deliberately doing things that will hamper their performance in order to give themselves an excuse for not doing well.

Self-handicapping can be fairly spectacular: in one study, men deliberately chose performance-inhibiting drugs when facing a task they didn’t expect to do well on.

“Instead of studying,” writes the psychologist Edward Hirt, “a student goes to a movie the night before an exam. If he performs poorly, he can attribute his failure to a lack of studying rather than to a lack of ability or intelligence. On the other hand, if he does well on the exam, he may conclude that he has exceptional ability, because he was able to perform well without studying.”

Writers who don’t produce copy—or leave it so long that they couldn’t possibly produce something good—are giving themselves the perfect excuse for not succeeding.

“Work finally begins,” says Alain de Botton, “when the fear of doing nothing exceeds the fear of doing it badly.” For people with an extremely fixed mind-set, that tipping point quite often never happens. They fear nothing so much as finding out that they never had what it takes.

“The kids who race ahead in the readers without much supervision get praised for being smart,” says Dweck. “What are they learning? They’re learning that being smart is not about overcoming tough challenges. It’s about finding work easyWhen they get to college or graduate school and it starts being hard, they don’t necessarily know how to deal with that.”

Embracing Hard Work

Our educational system is almost designed to foster a fixed mind-set. Think about how a typical English class works: You read a “great work” by a famous author, discussing what the messages are, and how the author uses language, structure, and imagery to convey them.

You memorize particularly pithy quotes to be regurgitated on the exam, and perhaps later on second dates.

Students are rarely encouraged to peek at early drafts of those works. All they see is the final product, lovingly polished by both writer and editor to a very high shine. When the teacher asks “What is the author saying here?” no one ever suggests that the answer might be “He didn’t quite know” or “That sentence was part of a key scene in an earlier draft, and he forgot to take it out in revision.”

Or consider a science survey class. It consists almost entirely of the theories that turned out to be right—not the folks who believed in the mythical “N-rays,” declared that human beings had forty-eight chromosomes, or saw imaginary canals on Mars.

When we do read about falsified scientific theories of the past—Lamarckian evolution, phrenology, reproduction by “spontaneous generation”—the people who believed in them frequently come across as ludicrous yokels, even though many of them were distinguished scientists who made real contributions to their fields.

“You never see the mistakes, or the struggle,” says Dweck. No wonder students get the idea that being a good writer is defined by not writing bad stuff.

Unfortunately, in your own work, you are confronted with every clunky paragraph, every labored metaphor and unending story that refuses to come to a point.

“The reason we struggle with “insecurity,” says Pastor Steven Furtick, “is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

About six years ago, commentators started noticing a strange pattern of behavior among the young millennial who were pouring out of college. Eventually, the writer Ron Alsop would dub them the Trophy Kids. Despite the sound of it, this has nothing to do with “trophy wives.” Rather, it has to do with the way these kids were raised.

This new generation was brought up to believe that there should be no winners and no losers, no scrubs or MVPs. Everyone, no matter how ineptly they perform, gets a trophy.

As these kids have moved into the workforce, managers complain that new graduates expect the workplace to replicate the cosy, well-structured environment of school. They demand concrete, well-described tasks and constant feedback, as if they were still trying to figure out what was going to be on the exam.

“It’s very hard to give them negative feedback without crushing their egos,” one employer told Bruce Tulgan, the author of Not Everyone Gets a Trophy. “They walk in thinking they know more than they know.”

When I started asking around about this phenomenon, I was a bit skeptical. After all, us old geezers have been grousing about those young whippersnappers for centuries.

But whenever I brought the subject up, I got a torrent of complaints, including from people who  have been managing new hires for decades. They were able to compare them with previous classes, not just with some mental image of how great we all were at their age. And they insisted that something really has changed—something that’s not limited to the super-coddled children of the elite.

“I’ll hire someone who’s 27, and he’s fine,” says Todd, who manages a car rental operation in the Midwest. “But if I hire someone who’s twenty-three or twenty-four, they need everything spelled out for them, they want me to hover over their shoulder. It’s like somewhere in those three or four years, someone flipped a switch.”

They are probably harder working and more conscientious than my generation.  But many seem intensely uncomfortable with the comparatively unstructured world of work.  No wonder so many elite students go into finance and consulting—jobs that surround them with other elite grads, with well-structured reviews and advancement.

Today’s new graduates may be better credentialed than previous generations, and are often very hardworking, but only when given very explicit direction. And they seem to demand constant praise.

Is it any wonder, with so many adults hovering so closely over every aspect of their lives? Frantic parents of a certain socioeconomic level now give their kids the kind of intensive early grooming that used to be reserved for princelings or little Dalai Lamas.

All this “help” can be actively harmful. These days, I’m told, private schools in New York are (quietly, tactfully) trying to combat a minor epidemic of expensive tutors who do the kids’ work for them, something that would have been nearly unthinkable when I went through the system 20 years ago.

Our parents were in league with the teachers, not us. But these days, fewer seem willing to risk letting young Silas or Gertrude fail out of the Ivy League.

Thanks to decades of expansion, there are still enough spaces for basically every student who wants to go to college. But there’s a catch: Most of those new spaces were created at less selective schools. Two-thirds of Americans now attend a college that, for all intents and purposes, admits anyone who applies. Spots at the elite schools—the top 10 percent—have barely kept up with population growth.

Meanwhile demand for those slots has grown much faster, because as the economy has gotten more competitive, parents are looking for a guarantee that their children will be successful. A degree from an elite school is the closest thing they can think of.

So we get Whiffle Parenting: constant supervision to ensure that a kid can’t knock themselves off the ladder that is thought to lead, almost automatically, through a selective college and into the good life.

It’s an entirely rational reaction to an educational system in which the stakes are always rising, and any small misstep can knock you out of the race. But is this really good parenting?

A golden credential is no guarantee of success, and in the process of trying to secure one for their kids, parents are depriving them of what they really need: the ability to learn from their mistakes, to be knocked down and to pick themselves up—the ability, in other words, to fail gracefully.

That is probably the most important lesson our kids will learn at school, and instead many are being taught the opposite.


This post is adapted from Megan McArdle’s The Up Side of Down: Why Failing Well Is the Key to Success.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

September 2020
M T W T F S S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
282930  

Blog Stats

  • 1,416,156 hits

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.adonisbouh@gmail.com

Join 767 other followers

%d bloggers like this: