Posts Tagged ‘success’

A Few Words on the Fading American Dream

July 5, 2018

A few posts back there was a healthy memory blog post titled “The Fading American Dream May Be Behind the Rise in US Suicides.” The first point is that the American Dream is real. Many have immigrated into the United States in the hope of a better life. This American Dream has been important not only to the immigrants, but also to the United States, because it is these immigrants who have made America great. For America’s greatness to continue it is important that this flow of diverse immigrants not only continue, but also increase.

Unfortunately, many are told that you can be whatever you want to be. Anyone who believes this risks the very real likelihood that they will be disappointed. Although it is true that most of us can accomplish more than we think we can, there are still certain limitations for success. Here is what I believe is Nobel Winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s formula for success:

success = talent + luck
great success = a little more talent + a lot of luck

Here talent should not be interpreted as inborn skill, but rather as how much we develop whatever talents we have. But a very large player in success, both great and moderate, is pure luck.

Successful people should always be aware of this fact that a lot of luck has played in to their success. And people who feel that they have been cheated from the American Dream, the truth is that they have been short on good fortune.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Fail to Succeed: Igniting Insights Through Mistakes

February 3, 2016

Fail to Succeed is the second element of “The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking” by Drs. Burger and Starbird.  Here are some noteworthy comments about the benefits of failing from some highly eminent people.

Winston Churchill
“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.”

Michael Jordan
“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed..  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And that is why I succeed.”

James Joyce
“A man’s errors are his portal of discovery.”

Linus Pauling
“The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away.”

Samuel Beckett
“Ever tried.  Ever failed.  No matter. Try again.  Fail again, fail better.”

So failure, or rather the ability to capitalize upon failure ,is what these outstanding individuals in different pursuits have in common.

When you see or make a mistake, you have at least two actions to take:
let the mistake lead you to a better attempt, and/or
ask whether the mistake is an answer to a different question.

As was mentioned in the first post on this book, always do something, even when you know it is wrong.  Then you have something to improve upon.  The book suggests thinking to yourself, “in order for me to resolve this issue, I will have to fail nine times, but on the tenth attempt I will be successful.”

Actually, the number of times is irrelevant.  The objective is to improve upon each attempt until we eventually reach our objective.  Thomas Edison had at least an order of magnitude of mistakes beyond ten when inventing the light bulb.  He succeeded, because he did not regard these attempts at failures.  Each one provided information that led to his ultimate success.

There is more in this chapter that I cannot pass on without copying the chapter.  So I again I urge you to read the book yourself.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

October 18, 2015

The title of this post is the same as the title of a book by psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.  The book was cited in the previous healthy memory post, “The Importance of a Growth Mindset.”  This book was a best seller in hardcopy and is now a best selling paperback book (as well as a kindle version).  It is good news that so many people have read this book and are reading this book, but having read it myself I think that everyone should read it.  This is especially true for students, parents, educators, and coaches.  I regret not having read the book earlier.  I agreed with the title, but I thought I knew enough about this topic and would get to it later.  I was wrong.  Dr. Dweck has taken this concept, explained its ramifications, and thoroughly developed its applications.

She contrast two types of mindsets:  fixed mind sets, where abilities are basically fixed.  And growth mindsets, in which knowledge and abilities are grown.  Understand that these are attitudes.  It’s a question of which mindset you choose for yourself and others.

The developer of the first IQ Test, Alfred Binet, did not believe that intelligence was a fixed ability.  He developed the test to identify students who required special attention.  Darwin and Tolstoy were considered ordinary children.  The legendary golfer Ben Hogan was completely uncoordinated and graceless as a child.  The great actress Geraldine Page was advised to give acting up for lack of any talent.  Dr. Dweck cites many other compelling examples.

Here is an example of the fundamental difference between the two mindsets.  People with a fixed mindset who fail a test will likely conclude that they failed because they lacked intelligence.  However, a person with a growth mindset will conclude that they didn’t not study enough and they work to understand what and how they failed and how they improved.  So it is obvious that having a fixed mindset is a severe handicap one places on oneself.  Success is unlikely.  However, those with a growth mindset are much more likely to succeed.

It is not only one’s own mindset that is important.  It is also the mindset one imposes on others.  If your child or student fails, do you conclude that they are stupid?  Or do you conclude that the potential is there, but it needs to be grown and developed?

I was, and remain, impressed by how thoroughly Dr. Dweck developed these ideas.

Chapter 1 develops the concept of mindsets.

Chapter 2 takes us inside mindsets asking whether is success about learning—or proving you’re smart.  Mindset changes the meanings of failure and effort.

Chapter 3 elucidates the truth about ability and accomplishment.  This includes the relationship between mindset and school.  It raises serious question about the notion that artistic ability is a gift.  It alerts us to the danger of praise and positive labels as well as explaining negative labels and how they work.

Chapter 4 is titled Sports:  The mindset of a champion.  It discusses the idea of the natural “character.”  It asked what is success and what is failure and explains how to take charge of success.  It asks the question, “What Does It Mean to Be a Star? and write about hearing the mindsets.

Chapter 5 is titled Business:  Mindset and Leadership and has subsections titled
Enron and the Talent Mindset
Organizations That Grow
A Study of Group Processes
Groupthink versus We Think
The Praised Generation Hits the Workforce
Are Negotiators Born or Made?
Corporate Training:  Are Managers Born or Made?
Are Leaders Born or Made?

Chapter 6 is titled Relationships:  Mindsets in Love (or Not) with subsections titled
Relationships are Different
Mindsets Falling in Love
The Partner as Enemy
Competition:  Who’s the Greatest?
Developing in Relationships
Bullies and Victims:  Revenge Revisited

Chapter 7 is titled Parents, Teachers, and Coaches:  Where Do Mindsets Come From”
Parents (and Teachers):  Messages About Success and Failure
Teachers (and Parents):  What Makes a Great Teacher or (Parent?
Coaches:  Winning Through Mindset
Our Legacy

Chapter 8.  Changing Mindsets has the following subsections:
The Nature of Change
The Mindset Lecture
A Mindset Workshop
More About Change
Taking the First Set
People Who don’t Want to Change
Changing Your Child’s Mindset
Mindset and Willpower
Maintaining Change
The Road Ahead

Subsequent healthy memory blog posts will address some of these topics more deeply.

I am curious about the relationship between a growth mindset and Alzheimer’s and dementia.  I would make a substantial wager that a growth mindset effectively wards off Alzheimer’s and dementia.  With respect to the amyloid plaque and neurofibrillary tangles that constitute the definitive diagnosis, there is the question of people whose autopsies were wracked with plaque and tangles, but who never showed any of the behavioral or cognitive disorders of Alzheimer’s.  I would make an even larger wager that these people had growth mindsets.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Regression to the Mean

August 3, 2014

Regression to the mean is a little-known and a difficult-to-understand concept. Nevertheless it is quite important. Let me begin with an anecdote from Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow. John Brockman, the editor of the online publication Edge, asked scientists to report their favorite equations. Kahneman’s contributions were as follows:

success = talent + luck

great success = a little more talent + a lot of luck

It’s important to appreciate that there is a component of luck in all success (see the healthymemory blog post, “The Matthew Effect”). Talent and preparation can increase the probability of success, but there is always a component of luck, of being in the right place at the right time. I believe that historically there have been many outstanding people who were never recognized as such. The lack of connections, plus being in the wrong place at the wrong time is the likely reason. Today I believe that there are many more people making notable contributions, or potential contributions, who are never noticed given the vast amount of content in cyberspace.

Regression to the mean was discovered and named late in the nineteenth century by Sir Francis Galton. This was two hundred years after the theory of gravitation and the development of calculus. The definitive article was published in 1886 with the title “Regression towards Mediocrity in Hereditary Stature.” He found that offspring did not tend to resemble their parent in size, but to tend to be more mediocre than their parents. If their parents were large, they tended to be smaller than their parents. If their parents were small, they tended to be larger than their parents. Remember that the mean is average, and the tendency is for extremes to regress to the average.

This phenomenon provides just one of many reasons control groups are needed. Suppose you read an article that reported that depressed children treated with an energy drink improved significantly over a three-month period. Would you accept the conclusion that the energy drink reduced the depression? You shouldn’t unless there was a control group of depressed children who were not given the energy drink. The reason for this is extremes regress to the mean, so you would expect improvement on these statistical grounds alone. So the control group is needed to assess the amount of improvement that can be attributed to statistics alone.

Should you find this concept of regression to the mean difficult, you are not alone. Lawyers hate to make this argument to a jury.

We humans do not like to accept statistical explanations. We like to look for causes. Consider the following true statement:

Highly intelligent women tend to marry men who are less intelligent than they are.

I’m sure you can think of reasons that this might be the case. Moreover, the reasons might be true, but the following statistical result can also account for this relationship, “The correlation between the intelligence scores of spouses is less than perfect.”

© Douglas Griffith and, 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.



The Matthew Effect

July 27, 2014

The Matthew Effect was named by sociologist Robert Merton who named if after a sentence from the Book of Matthew in the Bible, viz., “For those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance, but for those who have nothing, even that will be taken away.” Matthew was specifically referring to wealth (the rich get richer and the poor get poorer). And of course this is true. Being born into wealth carries substantial advantages, but Merton was arguing that the rule applied to success in general. Success leads to prominence and recognition. This, in turn, leads to more opportunities to succeed and more resources with which to achieve success. There is a greater likelihood of your subsequent success being noticed and attributed to you, even though others might have played a key role.

Researchers have attempted to study this effect and to differentiate it from individual potential by trying to select pools of people with similar potential and seeing how they develop. However, no matter how carefully researchers attempt to do so, their futures tend to diverge wildly over time, which is consistent with Merton’s theory. It is known that college students who graduate during a weak economy earn less, on average, than students who graduate during a strong economy. This difference tends to persist throughout the students’ subsequent career. And surely the economy in which they graduate is a random effect.

So the common sense notion that an individual’s success is solely due to the individual’s unique attributes is false. Although the individual’s unique attributes do play a role, there are also chance or random factors.