Marine Sgt. at New Orleans, La. By Howard R.Hollem. Library of Congress collection via Flickr.

Don’t Think You’re Smart If You Want To Succeed

One of the remarkable things that Carol Dweck showed is that students who thought that they succeeded because they were smart did more poorly in new tasks. They wouldn’t ask for help because they were supposed to be able to figure it out themselves, or perhaps because they thought that if they asked for help they would be shown as not being smart.

Of course, this can be mixed with a DIY attitude, to make it even worse. I’ll chime in here with a personal story: when I was in college, I wouldn’t go to the math profs’ office hours because I somehow believed that I shouldn’t ask for help. It could have been a result of believing I succeeded because I was smart. It was at least also a part of “don’t ask for help” that was a cultural thing with my family. Compound the latter with the former and you get someone who could have done much better in differential equations than he did. (It didn’t help that I really don’t have a strong aptitude for mathematical thinking, arriving at most of my conclusions through intuition and guesswork.)

So internally you need to think that you succeed because of effort.

Lots of people ignore this advice. This leaves them open to being manipulated by you to your advantage, as long as you are willing to not be the smartest person in the room.

Getting Rid of the "Dead Wood" at GE

GE’s practice of firing the bottom 10% would have seen as evil leadership by the Romans, who practiced “decimation” only on cowardly or mutinous troops, and even then rarely.

The Bros. Heath Explain Incentive Pay Structures

This post has been one of my most popular since I wrote it. If you’re coming to this site for the first time, let me know what you thought in a comment below. In January, I scored a copy of the Bros. Heath’s Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die as I was working with an Australian …