Posts Tagged ‘Angela Duckworth’

Goals Versus Systems

April 26, 2017

Scott Adams wrote the following as the first teaser for reading “How to Fail At Almost Everything and Still Win Big”, “Goals are for losers.”  He later concludes, “My worldview is that all success is luck if you track it back to the source. “  By this he means that no matter how good the product or idea is, there were a variety of conditions that resulted in the success of that product or idea.  Absent those conditions, the product or idea would have remained unknown.

So chance plays a large role in success.  This is why he writes “Goals are for losers.” If you meet your goal, fine.  But meeting your goal does not guarantee your success.  And even if you do meet your goal, what’s next?  And if you fail to meet your goal?  What then?

Adams argues for systems rather than goals.  By systems he means those skills and activities that you enjoy.  Different skills can be blended into skill sets.  One works systematically at building these skill sets.  His book explains how he does this, and provides general advice as to how it can be done.

There were many healthy memory blog posts on Angela Duckworth’s book “GRIT.”  Her advice is to find your passion and pursue it.  There were posts written to try to modulate this advice.  Unmodulated passion, not matter how intense, can lead to misery and failure.

These systems, of which Adams writes, can be called passions, although Adams does not do so.  But absent success, they are enjoyable and fulfilling in themselves.  Moreover, continuing to develop and enhance skill sets increases the probability of success.  With perseverance that probability becomes fairly high.

There is a chapter titled “Managing Your Odds for Success.”  It contains the following success formula:  Every skill you acquire doubles your odds of success.  He further explains that this does not say anything about the level of proficiency you need to achieve for each skill.  Nothing is implied about excellence or being world class.  The notion is that you can raise your market value by being merely good, not extraordinary, at more than one skill.

An example he provides if you are a good, but not great, public speaker, and you know your way around a Powerpoint presentation, you might have a reasonable chance of running your organization, or unit with an organization.  Adams puts this success formula into its simplest form:    Good + Good > Excellent.

Adams also notes that sometimes an entirely inaccurate formula provides a handy way to move in the right direction if it offers the benefit of simplicity.   He provides this example.  When writing a resume, a handy trick is to ask yourself if there are any words in your your first draft you won’t be willing to remove for one hundred dollars each.  Here’s this simple formula  Each Unnecessary Word = $100.

Adams continues, “when you apply the formula to your resume, you’ll surprise yourself by how well the formula helps you prune your writing to its most essential form.  It doesn’t matter that the hundred-dollar figure is arbitrary and the some words you remove are more valuable than others.  What matters is that the formula steers your behavior in the right direction.  As is often the case, simplicity trumps accuracy.  The hundred dollars in this case is not only inaccurate;  it’s entirely imaginary.  And it still works.

Here’s how Scott Adams characterizes his skill set:  “I have poor art skills, mediocre business skills, good, but not great, writing talent, and an early knowledge of the Internet.  And I have a good, but not great, sense of humor.  I’m like one big mediocre soup.  None of my skills are world-class, but when my mediocre skills are combined, they become a powerful market force.

Adams concludes with The Knowledge Formula:  The More You Know, the More You Can Know.

In other words learning and knowledge build upon themselves.

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GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance

July 4, 2016

GRIT is a significant book written by Angela Duckworth.  There is a previous post on Angela Duckworth’s presentation at the 27th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science.  There will be a series of posts based on her book.  Angela’s father had been telling her that she was no genius from the time when she was quite young.  Her IQ was not high enough for her to be placed in gifted and talented classes.  Yet she did manage to attend Harvard and earn a degree in neurobiology.   She then earned a Marshall Scholarship that allowed her to attend Oxford and earn a Master’s degree.  They she worked at the high priced consultant firm, Mckinsey.  She left her highly paid job at Mckinsey to pursue her true love, which was teaching.  To understand more about teaching and how people learn and succeed she attended the University of Pennsylvania and earned a Ph.D in psychology from an outstanding psychology faculty.

In 2013 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, better known as the genius award.  Then she was able to show her father that she was indeed a genius.  Her research had convinced her that what we eventually accomplish depend more on our passion and perseverance than on our innate talent.   This should remind healthy memory blog readers of Carol Dweck and her book “Mindset” and of the importance of having a “growth” mindset.  .

Dr. Duckworth notes that her insights are not new, but rather have been forgotten.
Darwin wrote, “I have always maintained that, excepting for fools, men did not differ much in intellect, only in zeal and hard work.”  Darwin was certainly intelligent, but insights did not come to him in lightning flashes.  He was a plodder.  Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “I have no great quickness of apprehension that is so remarkable in some clever men.  My power to follow a long and  purely abstract train of thought is very limited.  So poor in one sense is my memory that I have never been able to remember for more than a few days a single date or a line of poetry,”

Darwin also wrote, “I think  I am superior to the common run of men in noticing things which easily escape attention, and in observing them carefully.  My industry has been nearly as great as it could have ben in the observation and collection of facts.  What is far more important, my love of nature science has been steady and ardent.”  One biographer describes Darwin as someone who kept thinking about the same questions long after others would move on to different—and no doubt—easier problems.

The founder of American psychology, William James,  published an article in the Journal Science titled, “The Energies of Men.”  “Compared with what we ought be, we are only half awake.  Our fires are damped, our drafts are checked.  We are making use of only a small part of our possible mental and physical resources.”  James continued, “Of course there are limits.  The trees don’t grow into the sky.  But these boundaries of where we will eventually stop improving are simply irrelevant for the vast majority of us:  “The plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource, which only very exceptional individuals push to their extreme of use.”
Three of the McKinsey firm’ partners published a report called “The War for Talent.”  Talent was defined as the sum of a persons intrinsics gifts.  According to “The War for Talent”, the companies that excel are those that aggressively promote the most talented employees while just as aggressively culling the least talented.  In such companies huge disparities in salary are not only justified, but desirable, because a competitive winner-take-all environment encourages the most talented to stick around and the least talented to find alternative employment.

The journalist who’s done the most in-depth research on McKinsey to date, Duff McDonald,  has suggested that this particular business philosophy would be more aptly titled “The War on Common Sense.”He pointed out that the companies highlighted in the original McKinsey report as exemplars of their doctrine didn’t do so well in the years after the report was published.

Macomb Gladwell has also criticized “The War for Talent.”  Enron epitomized the McKinsey philosophy.  The performance review system  for Enron  consisted of grading employees annually and summarily firing the bottom 15%, regardless of their absolute level of performance.  And everyone should know of the disaster that befell Enron.

Dr. Duckworth asks the question what is the downside of television shows like “America’s Got Talent,” “The X Factor”, and “Child Genius”?  She asks why shouldn’t we separate children as young as seven or eight into two groups:  those with few children who are “gifted and talented” and the  many, many more who aren’t?  What harm is their, really,  in a talent show being names a “talent show”?

To which she answers, “In my view, the biggest reason a preoccupation with talent can be harmful is simple:  By shining our spotlight on talent, we risk leaving everything else in the shadows.  We inadvertently send the message that the other factors—including grit— don’t matter as much as they really do.”

In other words, Dr. Duckworth thinks that as much as talent counts, effort counts twice.

Self Control and Grit

June 24, 2015

Angela Duckworth is a 2003 recipient of a MacArthur Award, better known as a genius award.  She is currently a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.  Her research holds many practical benefits and also accords with common sense.  Unfortunately this “common sense” is not often followed.

Her research has found that changing the external situation is more effective than cognitive strategies in achieving self control.  Perhaps one of the most conspicuous examples concern the company we keep.  Bad company can easily lead to bad behavior and bad consequences.  She related an anecdote of what she observed at a school.  An older student was counseling a younger student with respect to the gang the younger student was “hanging” with.  He warned the kid that he should change the company he was keeping.  He told the kid that when he was the age of the kid he hung out with the wrong crowd that led him to do bad things and suffer bad consequences.

She recommends students sit at the front of the class.  Doing so increases their attention to the subject matter and their engagement with the class.

She also requires that all students in her classes close their laptops.  She insists upon gaining their entire attention.  And she instructs her students to continue to close their laptops in their other classes if they want to excel.

She reported research using experience sampling data to describe the phenomenology  of academic compared to other daily pursuits.  She found that adolescents felt more productive during academic work, and yet, in these same moments were less happy, less confident, and less intrinsically motivated compared to other daily activities.

She reported an experiment with adults on the effect of self-distancing (taking an outsider’s perspective) to stimulate effort on a tedious, but beneficial academic task.  Relative to control, adults in the self-distancing condition persisted more on a math task despite tempting media distractions.

Although laypeople usually connote self-control with the effortful exertion of willpower in the immediate face of temptation, the most effective self-control strategies are actually the ones that preempt situations or temptations that interfered with goals, thereby eliminating the need to exert willpower.  She did a study in which students assigned to implement situation modification rather than straightforward willpower or no strategy at all better accomplished their academic goals.

She uses the term “grit” to refer to staying engaged and overcoming frustration, that is  frustration tolerance.  She assesses grit by measuring the time spent on a frustrating task.  Grit predicted Grade Point Average, standardized math and reading achievement scores above and beyond demographic characteristics, general intelligence, and task importance.  Thus, grit, frustration tolerance, is highly important to academic achievement.

Attendance at 27th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science (APS)

June 9, 2015

I attended the first meeting of APS (although it was called the American Psychological Society then) and gave a poster presentation.  I haven’t attended all of these meetings, but I have attended some of them, and I’ve found that they don’t disappointment.  Nor did the 27th meeting.

The Keynote Address at the Opening Ceremony was given my Michael Posner.  It was titled “Fostering Attention for Human Needs.”  Posner is one of the leading researchers of attention, and attention is central to human cognition, human behavior, and human health.  At least one additional post will be done on Posner’s work.

One of the first session was titled “Cognitive Capital:  Causes and Consequences.”  The researchers were relating the economic success of different countries to what they called cognitive capital.  To do this they needed measures of cognitive capital, which they produced.  The notion of Cognitive Capital is an intriguing, one which will be addressed in subsequent posts.

Another session was on the “Biased Processing of Political Information.”  This is an important topic and is one of the obstacles to an effective democracy.  Some interesting reach was presented that suggested that judges and lawyers process information different that we lay people.  Obviously, they have biases also, but within these biases the evidence suggests that legal minds think differently.  This session also included a paper on the topic of why historical misconceptions endure, such as the holocaust being a myth, or that 9/11 was a tragedy done by the United States to the United States for nefarious purposes.  Unfortunately, there was no information on how holders of these misconceptions can be disabused of their misconceptions.  People’s biases simply blind them from facts.

There were many papers on how cognition works, and on the neural structures underlying cognition.

Michael Gazzaniga gave a presentation that I was unable to attend, but I think it was similar to the presentation he gave at the 2013 meeting of APS that was reviewed in this blog.

LeDoux presented his new concepts on the differences between fear and anxiety.

Angela Duckworth, who is a 2003 MacArthur Award recipient gave a presentation on Grit, which she defined as staying engaged to overcome frustration.  There will be a post devoted to her work that will includes some tips for fostering grit.

A highly worthwhile session was given on the “Other Side of Positive Psychology.”  There have been prior healthy memory blog posts on Positive Psychology.  Instead of debunking Positive Psychology, this session provided some very useful advice on “fine tuning” Positive Psychology.  There will be blog posts on this topic.

There was an interesting session of false confessions that will be covered in subsequent healthy memory blog posts as well as on a session on the “Central Park Five.”

The work on Timothy Wilson was covered in the Healthymemory blog post, “Strangers to Ourselves.”  He gave a presentation expanding on this topic.

Franz B.M. de Waal gave the Bring the Family Address titles “Humans and Animals:  Politics, Culture and Morality.  It was very interesting and highly entertaining.

There was a very interesting presentation on Free Will.  I shall be discussing a book, in a future healthy memory blog titled “Free Will” by the philosopher Mark Balaguer.   I informed the presenter about this book as they have similar views to Balaguer.  They were grateful for this information.

As always, there were too many interesting presentation to attend.  And even when one was able to attend presentations, there was too much information to absorb.  These conventions leave me physically and mentally depleted, but with the knowledge that I have learned much.

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