Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Another View of Deliberate Practice

According to the Wikipedia entry about deliberate practice psychologist K. Anders Ericsson, a professor of Psychology at Florida State University, has been a pioneer in researching deliberate practice and what it means. According to Ericsson:

People believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults. [...] We agree that expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance and even that expert performers have characteristics and abilities that are qualitatively different from or at least outside the range of those of normal adults. However, we deny that these differences are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain.

This Wikipedia entry also cites criticism of deliberate practice. It states the following, “Two recent articles in Current Directions in Psychological Science criticize deliberate practice and argue that, while it is necessary for reaching high levels of performance, it is not sufficient, with other factors such as talent being important as well.”

I wanted to added another source to the Wikipedia’s entry about criticism of Ericsson’s theory of deliberate practice. My edited post is below and can be located at  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Practice_(learning_method).

Malcolm Gladwell’s point-of-view about deliberate practice is different than Ericsson’s view.  Gladwell, staff writer at New York Magazine and author of five books on The New York Times Best Seller list including Outliers: The Story of Success said in a May 2016 Freakonomics podcast interview that, “He’s [Ericsson] a hard practice guy, and I’m a soft practice guy.” Gladwell says that talent is important with intentional dedication to practice and having a support system is vital to produce superior outcomes. It not all about methodical effort as Ericsson claims.

I agree with Gladwell that raw talent combined with deliberate practice is not enough to become a superior performer. The myth that hard work alone will get you to the top of your chosen field is a fallacy.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Grit: Born or Nurtured

Grit has two simple meanings as defined by Merriam-Webster online dictionary. The first definition of grit is very small pieces of sand or stone. The second definition of grit is mental toughness and courage. Grit is also defined in psychology as a positive, non-cognitive trait based on an individual’s passion for a particular long-term goal, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their objective.

According to Merriam-Webster, grit is in the top twenty percent of words used. Perhaps the word is more popular because Angela Duckworth.

Ms. Duckworth, professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and founder and Scientific Director of the Character Lab, whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. When Duckworth was in her late twenties, she left her job as a management consultant to teach math to seventh graders in the NYC public school system. During her experience in the classroom she noticed that effort not talent was enormously central in success outcomes.

In a 2009 paper, she and co-author Patrick Quinn developed a “grit scale” for 1,218 new West Point cadets. Duckworth and Quinn used the cadets answers to the grit scale and reached the conclusion that grit was highly predictive of the chance of completing “Beast Barracks.” This West Point program for freshman cadets consisted of 17-hour days for seven consecutive weeks of classroom instruction and physical training.

In her 2013 seminal six minutes and twelve seconds TED presentation, which has been viewed over 8 million times, Duckworth was propelled to prominence as she explained how grit plays a role in success. Her first book published in 2016, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, was a New York Times bestseller. The book wanted to explain why some individuals succeed and others fail. Her research found that talent is not a guarantor of success and that grit—a combination of passion and perseverance for an important goal is the foundation of high achievers in every field.

What distinguished high performers, she found, was largely how they processed feelings of frustration, disappointment, or even boredom. While some individuals took these as signals to quit and move on to some easier task, high performers did not. It was as if they had been conditioned to believe that struggle was not a signal for alarm.

Is grit overrated when it comes to predicting success? In Marcus Crede's report, Much Ado about Grit: A Meta-Analytic Synthesis of the Grid Literature, says that, “My overall assessment is that grit is far less important than has commonly been assumed and claimed and it doesn’t tell us anything that we don’t already know.”

One key aspect of Crede’s analysis is that the impact of grit is exaggerated, especially when considering wider populations of individuals—not just high achievers in Duckworth’s initial studies. Secondly, grit scores and conscientiousness scores are very highly correlated. This is important because Duckworth’s research concludes that grit is a skill.

But, psychologists have determined that conscientiousness isn’t a skill—it’s a personality trait. According to the field of psychology, a trait is driven by some inexplicable combination of genetics and ecosystem. Thus, one’s grit is not necessarily changeable, especially in adulthood, however Duckworth in her writings suggest that grit is.

Duckworth also came to another interesting observation about effort and talent. She says people don’t like “strivers” because then they start questioning themselves and why they don’t have the success like others. Strivers invite self-comparisons. Most people like to think that some people are just naturally more talented than others.

Duckworth says that grit is hard work, tedious and not attractive. The majority of individuals like to keep their failures private and their successes broadcasted to the public. Thus, the “hidden” practice among successful people is costly to society because it hides the amount of failure that goes into success. We think we don’t have what it takes to succeed and give up. The struggle should not be a signal to give up!

Duckworth is the first to say that the essence of grit remains a mystery. Even if the origins of grit are difficult to source I believe that stick–to–itiveness does play a role in the outcome of an individual’s success towards a significant and meaningful goal. I would rather have grit than be without it!

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Other "F" Word

I want you to remember that failure isn’t permanent!

Believe it or not, success is often the byproduct of repeated failures. The difference between long-term success and failure is our reaction to it. Do you know about spectacular failures of the following individuals?
  •  James Dyson, the vacuum cleaner magnate, made 5,126 prototypes of his namesake upright bag less vacuum cleaner before getting it right on the 5,127th time. Each time he erred, he reminded himself that he was learning how to make a better device.
  •    Fashion designer Vera Wang failed to make the 1968 U.S. Olympic figure-skating team. She later became an editor at the fashion magazine, Vogue, but was passed over for the editor-in-chief position. Today she leads a fashion empire and is known for her designer wedding dresses.
  •  Albert Einstein had difficulty communicating and learning in a traditional manner. His communication and behavioral challenges were not suggestive of a lack of intelligence. Einstein said he wasn’t necessarily any smarter than most, but he “stayed” with problems longer. For one experiment it took him eight years before it was successful. He famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
  •  Walt Disney was fired from the newspaper, Kansas City Star, because his editor felt he lacked imagination and had no good ideas. His first business landed in bankruptcy because he was unable to manage money and wound up heavily in debt. When he formed the Walt Disney Company, all of his past failures paved the way for a very successful business.
  •  Steven Spielberg, award winning movie director and producer, was rejected by the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts multiple times.
  •  Colonel Harland David Sanders was fired from dozens of jobs before founding Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC).
  •  J.K. Rowling was a single mom living off public assistance when she began writing the first Harry Potter novel. She became the first billionaire author in 2004.
  •  Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss, had his first book rejected by 27 different authors. His books have sold over 600 million copies.
  •  Jay-Z couldn’t get any record label to sign him. He and his friends sold this first single out of the trunk of their car. He co-founded his own record company called Roc-a-fella Records with his two partners. According to Forbes magazine, he is worth about $550 million.
So how exactly are we supposed to rebound from failures without getting discouraged?

According to Noa Kageyama, Ph.D., in his article, "The Upside of Failure, the Downside of Success, and How to Keep Improving No Matter What":

After a failure, we should focus on the specific errors we made PLUS the specific things we did well. Focusing on both the good and bad seems to result in the most learning and performance improvement.  Presumably, if we focus only on our mistakes after failures, we’ll get discouraged and spiral into that unproductive dark place.

Ryan Babineaux, Ph.D. and lecturer at Stanford offers five suggestions from his book, Fail Fast, Fail Often: How Losing Can Help You Win.

(1) Identify Your Fear: Find something that you would like to try but have hesitated to do because of your fear of failure.

(2) Reverse Your Thinking: Come up with a way that you can fail at it as quickly as possible.

(3) Do It Anyway: Get out there and give it a try. Make mistakes and have fun doing it. Ask others for help and feedback.

(4) Fail Forward: Use your exploratory actions as a means to learn and discover what you need to know.

(5) Find the Next Challenge: Seek out the next opportunity to do things at the limits of your abilities.

Don’t let set-backs paralyze and demoralize you. Failures truly are “learning opportunities” to re-evaluate what you may be doing wrong but also what you did well. With each opportunity you are learning what to do and what not to do.