Angela Duckworth: Grit and Human Behavior | Episode 109

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The Knowledge Project

Angela Duckworth is the Rosa Lee and Egbert Chang Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and the Founder and CEO of Character Lab, a not-for-profit whose mission is to advance the science and practice of character development. She’s also the author of Grit, a New York Times bestseller that examines why some people succeed and others fail, and why talent is hardly a guarantor of success. Angela and Shane discuss whether human behavior is constant or circumstantial, the mindsets that help us succeed in life, developing our passion, and personal rules for success. Full show notes here: https://fs.blog/knowledge-project/angela-duckworth/ Follow us on Instagram HERE: https://www.instagram.com/farnamstreet/ Subscribe to The Knowledge Project Podcast Apple Podcasts: https://apple.co/3fz6u4X Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2SSgCvT Google Podcasts: https://bit.ly/2Wjw7iy) -------- #TheKnowledgeProject #ShaneParrish #AngelaDuckworth -------- FOLLOW US: Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/farnamstreet/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/farnamstreet Shane Parrish: https://twitter.com/ShaneAParrish

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Video Transcript:

And if your kid is like driving you nuts because they are not taking risks and they seem to be you know you know afraid of failure and that by the way that sometimes looks like laziness right even though it's underneath the surface not at all laziness you know ask yourself like maybe they are not confident because They haven't had a string of experiences to make them confident right so here again the person versus the situation like maybe your underconfident child which is a person is be that way because of series of situations um and then you have to think of and you know all the great coaches and teachers do this you kind of just like engineer these You know small wins where you know you make things like bite size enough that there can be a few at-bats and a few hits [Music] angela welcome to the show thank you shane i'm so glad to be here i'm curious about human behavior can we explore a bit to what extent our behavior is predictable versus what extent it's situational so the person versus Situation debate uh is the question that you're asking about and you know you could say that this has been the central question in all psychology for as long as we've had psychology right and then if you want to predate it even more you could say philosophy has grappled you know you could argue that there are other questions as well but this is central you know am i Generous because i'm a generous person or am i generous because of the exigencies of the situation and the and the contrary too right so you know when you witness a selfish behavior is that because the person is selfish or because of context factors um and i've been thinking about this shane for well not not since the beginning of time but Since the beginning of my time um uh and and and as a psychologist one of the first things i learned about was this war i mean have you ever heard this expression you know the person versus situation war in in psychology no never so uh it was about 1968 so i could be off by a year or so um but walter michelle uh one of the greatest psychologists to Ever live who lived into his 90s passed away a couple years ago um he wrote a book um it was called personality and assessment it was really like a monograph like a really really long essay but it was like 300 pages so let's call it a book and um young walter at that point it was like two years before i was born asked the question um you know how consistent Is our behavior across situations because that of course would be an argument for the person right you know shane is generous when he goes to buy coffee in the morning shane is generous to his family shane is generous to his friends and shane is generous to you know a random person at the bus stop and when he looked at the available data of which there was dramatically less because data seems to have you know Exploded exponentially uh in behavioral science but at least circa in 1968 walter was able to squint and say look if you look at all the available data not so much is the answer to how much consistency there is across situations which is an argument in favor of situations over the person and uh the correlation that he observed across situations Had like a maximum of about point three um and sometimes people call this like the point three ceiling right so um if i observe somebody in at home versus at work you know the correlation in a data set of lots of people who are observed in both situations might might only approach point three so the reason why it's a war you need an enemy to have a war right so on the other side of This debate actually even in the 1960s and um you can find these like early back and forth arguments um if you go back far enough into google scholar you had people who said that's ridiculous of course there's such a thing as a generous person you know you're not going to marry a random person you marry them because of their character because of their personality so it can't be that we are So um chameleon-like that there's no consistency within us um there's no such thing as our character um and around um that decade or so there was also this um uh you know this research on the big five now i want to ask you this is like a psychology quiz like shane have you ever heard of the big five no are the are these the caldini sort of Liking loving principles or these something completely different no no the big five refer to the five personality factors that um are kind of like the north south and east and west of personality except for their five not four inconveniently um but the big five are it's a taxonomy of personality traits so extroversion Uh uh conscientiousness agreeableness openness to experience uh and emotional stability and there are these like five you know kind of um you could think of them uh just to mix metaphors here like as continents and then like specific character or personality traits would just be you know on these continents so like grit which is something i study would be like on the conscientiousness continent But sitting next to self-control and and you know punctuality and politeness etc and the reason i bring all this up i mean um uh it's not that everybody has to like you know take psych one but but i think it's really interesting that around the time that people began to ask seriously and interrogate the data on whether it was the person or the situation that determined behavior This kind of contrary to walter tradition was emerging which is to say yes there is such a thing as personality and furthermore we can actually give you a map of human personality that is consistent across culture and across time so children seem to you know have you know characters or personality uh attributes that could be classified into the big five you can say of a child Like oh that child is like pretty high on extroversion relatively low on conscientiousness kind of in the middle on emotional stability etc etc so i guess where i would say that you know we've advanced to in 2020 is the following resolution of this debate or this war um which is that it is both the personality of the person and their situation that determines what they will do And what's more i can say that the wrong way to think about it is like 80 20 70 30 40 60. uh because what really um your personality and your situation are like it's like a conversation where the personality of the person actually changes the situation you know conscientious people like select into jobs that require conscientiousness but then the situation kind of talks Back to the personality and shapes the person so after you've been in a job that requires like lots of detail orientation and you know diligent uh methodical work like you yourself after years um will be shaped by it and so forth so so that was a very long answer to your question but i believe that the situation matters i believe that we do have Character strengths or personality traits and um i think you know there's a lot more complexity to get into but i think the the metaphor that we want to use is that there's a conversation going on between our ourselves and the circumstances in which we are and is that a conscious conversation or is that a conversation between our unconscious Brain and our circumstance or our physical environment or well now that you got me thinking historically right so i'm i'm i'm 50 i've been alive a half century and you know in that time the personality uh you know this debate between the person the situation um uh happened and you know kind of was resolved um i think um and at the same time Another i think important discovery or advance was made in the same time period in psychology which is the um basically the affirmation that freud was right i mean you know freud was wrong about a lot of things but one thing he was very right about is that so much of our um our behavior and even our emotion and our motivation happens below the surface of consciousness And the idea that we do things um and not always knowing that we do them is important but it's not just that you know insight because you could say like oh really it took i took freud and 50 years of science after freud to figure that it's like how much of our behavior and our emotion and motivation could be going on without our conscious awareness so i do think a lot of the conversation Between you know who we are and our circumstances is happening um without our um being aware although you can bring our awareness uh to to you know to our behavior that's where freud was wrong by the way freud was like you'll never know it's under the floorboards and you can't pry open the floorboards in the basement of your mind um no matter what tools you have But there i think he was wrong but if our situation and our environment can speak to our subconscious mind which will influence our behavior how do we consciously design a situation to the extent we can or a physical environment to the extent we can to put us on the path to success so here's where um you know there are many people i would like to resurrect just so we can have a really great dinner party conversation or write A paper together and freud would be you know close to the top of the list um and i would love to um say this to freud but i would also like to see what freud would have said back um so so freud designed psychoanalysis um uh around the assumption that you can't actually think directly about these problems right so say you're like you know really compulsively Um you know checking the stove every time you have ocd right or a version of ocd because most psychopathologies are continuous not categorical so so say you're you're you're you're on the continuum toward um obsessive compulsive disorder and you have these um obsessive thoughts that you left the stove on and then you find yourself going back and like checking you know 64 89 however many times a day so freud might say that like what we really need to do is meet five days a week and you tell me about your dreams and you you know talk about your father and then you know you project on to me your your feelings about your father and then like several years later maybe but probably not we will make some progress because of course i can't just say Hey let's talk about the stove thing like what's going on i think that this dialogue that happens below the surface of consciousness can be raised most of it to conscious awareness and you could just like literally have a conversation like like we're having and then you can think like hey you know what is it about my job that's sort of bringing out the Worst in me like let me think about that i'll talk to my spouse about it and then proceed from there how do you think he would have responded to that well you know freud's reasoning was um you know famously uh like non-falsifiable right so he would probably well first of all i'm a woman so he would have wondered about my wandering uterus which was one of his lovely ideas That like women who had what he called neuroses were um afflicted by a wandering uterus um which is a lovely image uh i if you listen to me and like and and took the um argument seriously i i i think i think people in his day must have brought this up right like wait a second i just talk about my problems um you know he he probably would have said that you you know you think you're getting To the to the root problem um but you never really will because it's your id right your id is in conflict you know with your ego or you and you just like you can never really like address your id so it may have been you know one of those dinner party conversations that ends in argument and people leave before dessert and a lot of wine yes maybe if i plied him with wine it Would go better um i'm gonna switch gears a little bit here history shows us that the best opportunities um come from sort of seizing and spotting opportunities and they don't come in the good times they come in the bad times and it seems like an art so they're if you follow that then there's a staggering advantage to be gained by positioning yourself to capitalize on bad times and one of the Ways that we can do that is our mindset if you think about the mindsets required for this what comes to mind so i wanna uh make sure we go back if you could uh stick a pin in the idea that um there's more opportunity in times of crisis than there uh there is in times of flourishing i would i would like to just question that a bit all right is that True can we go back to that now first of all yeah i mean we can explore how do we like how do you mean that and it's not that i disagree i just want to know um because you seem really certain about that so what do you mean i think that you know businesses people um tend to put themselves in positions to succeed during good times and bad times and if you can succeed during the bad Times you really thrive because everybody else is really like if we look at and i'm speaking in a business context because you look at rockefeller right he went through three financial crashes all of them he came out much stronger than he went into them in part because he had this optionality and he you know you could say he intelligently prepared for these Situations and while everybody else was panicking and losing their cool he was able to stay collected which became a huge advantage um to him i think in terms of like how he went about that i'm curious like maybe i'm completely wrong no that's really interesting of course i think of things more as a psychologist so i thought you meant like in times of personal crisis you know there's more opportunity Than there is in times totally yeah and that may be um i just want to add a footnote to that which is so i don't know i'd have to think about that more i i will say that um i've i've worked with some great coaches right so you know professional coaches of professional athletes and um uh and and uh more than one of them i said something that surprised me Which is when when we start talking about like you know how to develop their players and like especially their younger players so usually when you recruit a professional athlete they're like technically still in adolescence um psychologically anyway brain's still developing prefrontal cortex not quite mature anyway it sometimes gets in a lot of trouble um and i thought the whole Conversation would be like tell me what to do when my players are having a bad day and actually one of the things that surprised me most was that so often it's the players who are having a really good year that actually end up um uh for a variety of reasons like you know like that's its own kind of crisis in a way tell me more about that well i think There are probably two this is me speculating now beyond their comments so i'll start with you know some things that that have been said but then i had you know a different idea as well um so one is that um you know when when things are like really going well you know you get picked one and two in The draft like you know you're gonna be mvp etc you know um you can just see how that could lead to all kinds of problems from the trivial like oh you get like like you know just lavished with attention on social media and people like throwing themselves at you and um you know not telling you what they really think anymore because they want to be Hanging around in your entourage um but also i think it creates a lot of fear for uh people because um uh because now you know you have everything to lose um and i do think that like some of the most successful people right like the um uh like the uh you know people like kobe bryant like were able to maintain an underdog mindset um or even tom brady right long past the Time where they you could actually legitimately say that you're an underdog right and maybe for kobe bryant that would be never right because he never really was an underperformer in any sense right um so so i think the the the idea that you know like failure is an opportunity to either thrive or or not but also success has its own i think Challenges um the the thing i would amend to that or uh i guess append to that is that um you know one of the things that i really admire about outstanding performers is that um they really are never done they're like they're the opposite of complacent and i think one of the hidden dangers of success is that you stop you stop kind of like Working as hard as you really need to i mean that's kind of related to the first thing that we're saying but just like you know like like there are people that i know who really want to win their second nobel prize um and and and you know the the people who are like just uh tireless are they so so they learn as much in bad years as they do in good years and i think that's Maybe you know they're perennial learners so anyway so that was all a bit of a digression you wanted to know about your the mindset no hold on before we come to this mindset how do we how do we maintain that underdog mentality in light of success like how does tom brady may be different for him right because you know he has this michigan experience that totally changes his life which was Decades ago right but he's got a chip on his shoulder and he still has it but how do you keep it on your shoulder right like we can explain the first time he had a chip on his shoulder right but like i don't know like after the second super bowl win like what you know what so so how how it's it's both why and how i think the Why is you know a lot of these um high performing athletes um but actually high performers in all fields you know chefs and you know entrepreneurs and so like what's fascinating to me is like when i talk to them it's very clear that they are they are at some level manipulating themselves like you know like you know you you i'm sure watch the michael jordan documentary last dance and um and and just like You know if you think about michael jordan basically he must have not a stupid guy right an extremely intelligent person and very psychologically intuitive i know okay i don't know i'm guessing that he used certain like tricks to get himself riled up and he kind of knew he was using them right like he would pick on a certain argument that like he had with the You know opponent team or opponent like you know player um in the 24 hours leading up to a game just sort of like looking for something to and so it wasn't happenstance it was he was like manipulating himself so i i think this underdog mindset where you you like keep the chip on your shoulder is um is is partly if you ask why It's like because they know it improves their performance right so then you could ask the question um i think an equally interesting question is like why doesn't everybody do that yeah right like only some people do that and here's something that i have long speculated maybe i know you have a lot of like you know like economically oriented um if not economically trained People listening to you um shane and maybe one of them will email me and ask to work on this so um here's something that i have observed in my data that i have an idea for why it is but i haven't figured out a way to test it so talent measured by iq scores or objective measures of physical ability are are not very correlated with grit um the correlations usually hover around zero And um and by the way i should define grit grit is uh the tendency to pursue long-term goals over years and years with passion and perseverance so this quality of grit is correlated about zero with measures of ability sometimes it's actually negative actually so at west point for example the higher your sat score um the lower um you know statistically um on average your grit score so then You ask the question why right and and the reason i'm surprised by that is just rationally speaking if you're really good at something if every time you try for an hour you know you just get a huge return on investment because you're really talented like shouldn't you be the person who works the longest and the hardest because like your roi is awesome But in fact you get this zero and sometimes negative correlation so um here's my my speculation i think that the reason why that is is that for the vast majority of people let's say for 99 of people um you're just trying to get to a certain you know um like threshold of excellence you know like how many people when they're already getting a 99 in a course right or frankly a 93 Whatever the water mark is for getting an a right how many people would keep trying and really try like just try it like the marginal gain of knowledge is like no small there's no diminishing marginal return um i'd say 99 of people are like oh you only try up to the point where you get the a or you make a certain you know whatever amount of money or you get a certain Amount of accomplishment and then you withdraw effort um you know accordingly and therefore the really really smart people who have like a really high roi are like those taxi drivers in the um famous study who like on a rainy day even though they can earn more money so they should stay out for like an 18 hour shift like they actually go home early because they make their till Right they're like oh made it to my i made my some amount money i'll go home after three hours the one percent of people i mean making up numbers here but the rare individual is never stated and there's no diminishing marginal return for achievement or understanding or learning and so they're the abbey wombacks like they're the tom brady's like they're the kevin durants you know They're the jeff bezos's and i i think that um satisficing is is a is a description of most people and um maximizing without end is is a description of the people that i study are are those people born or they made through life experiences like how do we yeah let's start with that and then maybe like how do we develop it to the extent that it is developable i think you know a lot of it is driven By life experience i mean this is my personal taste yeah i mean i would love to um i would love to hear what you think and i wonder yeah i would like to like know what you think of yourself like whether you know like how you are in those dimensions and whether that was kind of nature or nurture for you um i'm very much of the will smith mindset which is You know i'm i'll i'll race you on a treadmill and you're gonna get off i'm just gonna pass out before i give up i have no idea where that comes from but it's really good for grinding it's been great were you always like that yeah i think so and i don't know why and doesn't that lead you to a nature um narrative well sort of but then i have two kids and one of them is very much Not like that he's very much like oh you know i can do 30 seconds of work and get a a 70 or i can do five hours of work and get a 90. like why would i do five hours of work i'm content with this tell them am i satisficing a hypothesis yeah okay so that i mean that's why your kids have different genes by the way i'm not yeah i'm not the expert here so yeah okay You can turn the mic back to me i i i think that's interesting you know um the the nature nurture um debate which has been going on for more than 50 years right so we were talking about personality assessment and you know that was published about 50 years ago um but um it was about 150 years ago that um uh francis galton who was by the way a complete [ __ ] like he was a Eugenicist racist um not nice person um terrible person but but uh but he did have a way with words and he coined the phrase i believe nature versus nurture um he was staunchly in the nature camp by the way um which drove his eugenicist beliefs about um but hold on can we just broaden this nature nurture thing to begin with so uh nature would sort of be in my Understanding just to make sure we're on the same page as you like your genes this is what you're born with genetically it's the mutations and your parents and the combination of your history nurture there's two types of nurture there's chance and there's chosen right chance is like what country i'm born into what my parents do for a living what my uh you know what my situation is what my environment Is like circumstances my zip code right like i had no say in any of that that's all but then at some point there's like a chosen nurture that kicks in which is like you're an adult and there's probably no light switch that like flips right there's some people that will probably flip it 16 some people it might never flip but you have this ability to take An agency to change your situation yeah you're like hey these friends are really not good for me i'm not going to hang out with them anymore yeah so you can see how immediately this gets very complicated right and and you can see how immediately you're like hold on like nature versus nectar sounds so elegant and like but wait that's just now i have two kinds of nurture like what do i do With that and and um and and let me say that when francis galton coined this term and by the way his cousin um uh half cousin was charles darwin right so so just to put this in history this is well before there was a real appreciation of genes um right so it was only kind of like this idea that something was transmitted from generation to generation and um and I i think you're right to complicate things and and my my desire always when somebody asks me about this is to shove as much information into their heads as possible um usually that's not that much right usually people are like i just want to know like is it nature versus nurture so i was like how about this first complication it's nature and Nurture right so step one is it is not either or it is definitely both and you know you have two kids i have two kids our kids inherited dna from their biological parents right uh they um are absolutely influenced by that dna i mean there is no no characteristic at all psychological or otherwise you know your risk of heart disease your preference For broccoli um you know whether you like to talk a lot at parties whether you pray or not there are literally published studies on all those things uh like documenting that if you are twin you know um you are more likely to be like your sibling than if you are not a twin right because you know at least talking about identical twins etc etc so that's the nature part but For the very same characteristics which is like all characteristics right there there's also um evidence from the same twin studies by the way um that that nurture matters and in these studies very often nurture is just like uh they take the nature part which they can back in into statistically and then just like nurtures kind of everything else so it kind of puts into one group the Things that you had some control over and then the things that you you didn't um although okay step step two is is like okay now we say like there's probably a conversation going on between nature and nurture because a very conscientious person says i'm going to go to summer school this summer and get away from my good for nothing friends yeah um but also the kind of kid Who chooses to go to summer school when they're 16 probably is being influenced by their genes so it quickly becomes extremely complex and then there are things that you probably don't want to talk about more like epigenetics and anyway it gets very complex i don't i don't know that um that most people like want to shove this much information into their minds so sometimes i just Stop at kind of like it's complicated and it's both no i really i want to actually explore it a little more especially on the the fulcrum of there are things that we can't control but there are things that we can control and what are those things that we can control and what are the like you don't choose who your parents are but as an adult you can choose who your exemplars Are you can choose who the people you model yourself after are yeah and actually let's go back to parents for a moment because you know it's so often joked like you can't choose your parents you know but you can choose your friends whatever you can't choose your parents but you know what what the the fact is that you can kind of choose not choose entirely i don't want to Overplay this but um when a child acts out um and there's like a pain in the ass it evokes a certain kind of parenting behavior um so it's not just that it's not exactly that simple even for parenting right like if you're extremely agreeable and grateful and empathic as a child you will evoke a different kind of parenting from the same parent who Would have a very different response if you were ungrateful callous unempathetic mean right so that's been um one of you know the things that like there are parents who um god bless them like they they do have kids who biologically genetically like are inclined to be like really difficult and one of the breakthrough discoveries in that um like area of psychopathology is that um Yes there's a genetic component etc yes parenting does inflate like if you have you know abusive parents and so here's the complication when you like ask those not so great to be with kids to be in a room with like a total stranger who obviously is not you know like they're not their parents you can get those kids evoke a kind of like strict Harsh disciplinary because the adult is just like shut up sit in that chair stop throwing things so it's complicated and i don't i don't want to you know say that we can control everything but but uh but you can see how like almost anything that we say ends up being slightly wrong right um uh so okay so you were saying there's parenting Which you know maybe largely at least outside your control and then there are things that are clearly in your control like you know you could not buy oreos when you go to the supermarket if you choose to buy oreos you're gonna be in a different situation you're gonna be in your house with oreos as opposed to in your house without oreos right so um i that kind of comes back to being conscientious about your Situations that you're put in because now you're choosing to overrule perhaps your your nature your your your nature with your nurture your chosen nurture is choosing to put yourself in a situation that's more likely to be on a path to success yeah i mean like i i hope this conversation is long enough that i'm going to talk about agency and control and the mindset that gets you to say Like wait a second a little bit of i have a little like control here i think i can do something which i do think is um the mindset of of a gritty person um and um usually a high achieving person and i hope our conversation is long enough to um to address i think a critique of that um stance which is like like like for example i have been criticized for ignoring Poverty race and structural um lack of opportunity and over emphasizing like what a human being can do with their circumstances so hopefully our conversation will extend long enough to address those critiques which i think have a legitimacy to them that i want to like try to definitely come back to that yeah okay so let's start with the mindset of like hey i can change something i've Done these research studies on this self-control technique called situation modification um and this work was done with um collaborators including james gross at stanford um and james gross actually originally um and mostly studies emotion and one of the things that's interesting about regulating your your anger is if you have a bad temper or your sadness if you tend toward melancholy or Your happiness if you want more of that or i guess if you wanted less of that is um that people can you know use these like sort of mental strategies like what i pay attention to how i'm gonna frame things my self-talk but also you can just change your actual situation so for example you know if you constantly get into arguments at thanksgiving with your brother-in-law then maybe you should sit at the other End of the table or like not go to thanksgiving with your brother-in-law or like make sure that like you're watching football while your brother-in-law is like cutting up the pie right so um we extended that in the study of um uh middle school actually we've done it in all different age groups i'll tell you about a study we do with high school students where we randomly assigned high school Students to watch this little video it was about five minutes long um and then we told some similar things but the intervention wasn't very long and we were like you know you can change your situation you know like people think when they have to exercise self-control to like study or do on school they think it's all willpower but like actually like you could for example put your Phone in another room like you could make sure that you study in a place that like people aren't walking into and out of all the time so in that study there was a control group that learned about willpower and how important it is to like you know use willpower to accomplish your goals and then there was a neutral control group and what we found is that the condition That increased academic goal attainment best was the one where you just explained to kids like hey you can modify your situation um and i think that idea that like your situation isn't just like fixed or set um but something you can agentically intentionally modify is one of the most important lessons that you could learn in life i love that I think that the there a lot of people are passive about life it's like life just happens to them and things just happen to them and it's sort of like you can you can um put that in the victim mentality sort of mindset but it's really it's deeper than that no way right it's like i have no agency over anything it's not necessarily but the story it's just sort of like this general Passiveness too and i i believe in a very active life right where did you where did you learn that like why do you think you have um come out on that end of the continuum i don't know i mean i first got that phrasing i think it was from graham duncan uh in a conversation we had in new york and he just sort of recounted this story to me about um One of his friends actually was driving with this portfolio manager and they i think he actually wrote about this on his blog too but they were driving and then this car swerved out and almost hit him and the guy driving the car was like why does this stuff always happen to me and it was just a very revealing sort of mindset right and it comes back to sort of that question which is like what are the mindsets that are going to Enable us to capitalize on life in part in bad situations capitalize on bad capitalize on good intelligently prepare to put us on the path to success so i don't know the rest of the poem but right i'm the captain of my fate i am the master of my soul right and and then there are people who are like i'm on a ship and i have no idea where it's going and I can't you know like steer it and um i think i think you're on to something very important and um i i guess i have a fondness for like you know great psychologists in their 90s um because i have been calling al bandura a lot he is the psychologist at stanford i think he's 96 now who um coined the term self-efficacy to describe the belief that you can do something if you try Right so self-efficacy about physics would be like i can learn physics if i tried right and um and i had this conversation with him you know like a couple weekends ago actually where i asked him i was like um al um you know you've spent your whole life studying self-efficacy um but but there was this other person um whose name is spelled r-o-t-t-e-r But i think it's like dutch or german anyway so i'm going to mispronounce it as rotter but roger studied locus of control and locus of control was um uh to me like super similar so i asked out like what's the difference because in locus of control theory you either have an internal locus of control or an external locus of control right so life kind of happens to you or um that would be the external or like You know you're in control and he said oh there's a very important difference he said um i'm more interested in saying that like i can control you know my behavior you know not necessarily that that behavior is going to like magically make everything the way i want right what what locus of control is about is more just like you know like in the grand scheme is the Actual outcome going to be you know my doing or not he's like all i want to say is that people have agency over their behavior uh over their um uh uh performance not necessarily like that you're gonna get hired just because you're the most qualified candidate but that you could control like your own behavior and performance so i think that's a very important um nuance here um because i don't think that we want to teach our kids um That you know that they have like control over like whether the corotavirus vaccine is going to be made available in their municipality you know in one month or another or whether they're you know or whether they're gonna get into a certain college um because those things are a bit downstream but where i really agree with um bandura is that um That first of all that we do have control we do have agency and that it's dramatically more productive to when you think about your own behavior that you think about you that you you really pay attention um to the things that you can control um and i i wonder you probably haven't or maybe you're more well read than i have you ever heard of howard thurman no okay we need to resurrect howard Thurman even before freud right so howard thurman was um like the mentor and the pastor um for martin luther king um junior and um howard thurman i had never heard of because i'm deeply illiterate um but i was reading arthur ash's memoir so arthur ashe for those who are younger than us maybe you know he's a great tennis player and i believe the only Um black male to win wimbledon so he wrote this um memoir called days of grace which i recommend and and and in it he talks about how so important in his life was howard thurman so that led me to howard thurman and the reason i bring it up is that howard thurman has all these um sermons about how um there is um what he would like say like you know the you the final consent he was like you know You cannot like change that you were born into a racist society you cannot change that you are born into a certain family um but you can always uh change how you react to it right like you and you're responsible for how you react to it and and victor frankel said the same thing um uh about his experience in the concentration camps right that that That you know terrible things can happen to you um over which you do not have control but you can control your reaction um and and i don't even say that you can control 100 but i do think you have some control over your reaction and i i i i think this agentic view is um you know both accurate and adaptive how do we as parents instill that mindset in our kids so i asked um i asked al bandura this Um uh so uh i said you know do you think that you could learn as much from failure as you could from success right because there are all these like adages and aphorisms about failure especially in startup land um and he said oh this one i 100 believe that um mastery experiences success success experiences um are what really build this You know sense of agency um and um he then of course you know because i know you want nuance and and you're right to want the nuance and i think he wants here is extremely important if your kid has like a teflon life where you know everything comes easily in part because you make it that way and there are a lot of parents who like sort of just make their kids lives frictionless right Like oh you know you're struggling for 10 minutes like i'll get you a 500 per hour tutor like like you know like oh your your teacher is not so great i'll get them fired like you know so you remove all obstacles etc that's not the kind of success experience that alexander is talking about because he's talking about Um success after challenge success after struggle so i think al bandura's advice is the best advice which is the the number one thing and there is more than one thing but the number one thing is that people develop confidence when they have struggled to overcome something and they have come out victorious um and the the engineering problem for a parent is then to figure out the right Size of challenge for the kid like in the next moment in time and i think that we often get it wrong like the challenge is just too big um or the challenge is too small and then so it's sort of monitoring and adjusting based on your particular child and the circumstances involved how do we do it as adults do we seek out these opportunities to be challenged do we [Music] i think that we are benefited um in large part by having a surrogate parent i mean i i what i mean by that is you know whether you're 50 or 5 right it's good to have somebody who is a little older and wiser than you who is like helping you figure out the next challenge um and and most of the people that i study like they never get out of being Mentored you know like they have a they have a management coach they have like a personal coach they have a therapist um they have like uh like the ones i'm most jealous of have a peer for whom they coach each other right but they have somebody who's like you know you should write a book oh no i can't write a book no you should really write a book like and you know it's that it's that kind of Um challenge setting that of course you can try to do it on your own but i think that we're always benefited by having like another human being um whose advantages are multiple but one of them is that they're just not us right so they have a psychological distance um from our situation they have a better a different aperture into our situation one that removes a lot of the nuance and The nuance in our case might be holding us back right and the ego right the sort of like right so yeah and sometimes you know the people who are looking at us have a better sense of our strengths as well right so um yeah absolutely do do you have a do you have like a like a yoda i have a friend group that sort of like keeps me Keeps me motivated and keeps me going in part because they're just so extremely um successful and crazy successful amazing people right like so yeah and that's awesome right because it's not only extreme success but it's extreme success with the right kind of in the right way or what i think is the right way which would obviously be subjective but you know very kind and thoughtful and Conscientious right not the ebenezer scrooge type of success which is mutually exclusive from like living a life of meeting right you just want to redo at the end of your life um you know how that ended so right exactly i think yeah um i'm curious as to the moment like when are we most likely to give up like when it comes back to grit for a second Like what are the times when we're most likely to give up and what do we intervene in those times is there a mental intervention we can have with ourselves or is there a recognition oh this is that point like i know it's coming i just need to get over this hump and in part like i see and i knew you said grit was about long term but i feel like there's a lot of grit Necessary in the times that we're in right now too right this kind of like well time limited crisis right yeah it's not it's not but in indefinite we don't know quite normally going to end we just don't know when but we don't know when right which um i think um you know just to think about like the psychological dimensions of 2020 Um the uncertainty clearly amplified you know all of the negative emotion right i think we're much better at somebody saying like hey you're going to have to be in quarantine for 17 days that's going to be terrible and then the following things are definitely going to happen to you brace yourself right versus like you wake up and then like you don't know what's going to happen but it's pretty bad and then like Some other bad things happen that is by the way um what you do to an animal if you want to induce learned helplessness which is um you know the work of my phd advisor marty seligman um where you know you have an animal and then you like shock them i mean this is his early research and then the key is that if they experience these um uh traumas at an Unpredictable way with like you know you don't know when it's gonna end you know next thing's gonna happen that's when you actually get you know the symptoms of depression um and giving up so anyway 2020 has been like you know a learned helplessness experiment and um and the suffering has been real and amplified i think psychologically because of that Um with gritty people i think that the um well let's start with like not even gritty people but like when we give up and like when we're most likely to give up and what's going on there you know i think that when people say oh no i'm not gonna try anymore um there is either a lack of confidence that you can prevail right like no i'm not going to go for soccer again because I'll never make varsity or like i'll never be very good that's self-efficacy that's agency that's al bandura that's what we were just talking about the antidote to which by the way as al said is like small mastery experiences right like if you can see some progress um and there are some other sources of self-efficacy which i can um you know sketch out if you like but The other thing i think is that like if it's not that you can't do it it's just that it has it has no value to you like like like what am i even doing this is a stupid job like like am i like i when i quit management consulting and you know some of my best friends are managing consultants so it's not like i think it's a meaningless industry but for me personally who had been so interested in Kids in education i literally said out loud if i go to my grave you know like increasing the roi for a hypodermic needle company like i just will not feel like i fulfilled my purpose so um it couldn't have been that i didn't think i could make partner or director i think i could have um it was just that like that goal lost value for me So if you ask the question like when do people quit i think it's either because they the value of the goal um goes down for whatever reason or their belief that they can achieve it that's a really interesting point right the value of the goal goes down um but we can convince ourselves the value goes down too right like that can also that can be an objective criteria but can it can also Be something that we oh i don't want that anymore i think that these things are right this is um this is uh you know again you know the nuance here is just accurate when when when a kid like just fails math like you know for three marking periods in a row very clearly on the fourth marking period they'd be like i hate math that is stupid it's like Or you know what is it really that or was that originally because like you didn't and the flip side of that is i think a lot of us i mean gosh talk about the unconscious like how many of us like what we do because we were good at it and we got praised and encouraged and then we like the praise and that becomes self-reinforcing we practice more we get Better at it i'm curious as to coming back to what you said earlier what's the most credible sort of research or arguments against your research well um there is a a number of scholars including bettina love um who have asked the question you know is teaching grit anti-black um and is the whole like idea of you know shining light on Resilience um uh and and and you know this whole class of this whole conversation on agency like are are we um are we doing something dangerous here um by ignoring uh structural poverty racism etc etc and um you know my first reaction being a human being was defensiveness like what like how am i racist like Like you know that's that's i think natural but hopefully temporary and for me i thought like well i am the head of character lab like it is not really a good thing to just like wallow in defensiveness and maybe i should actually listen and read more so i did and that we had some conversations in person and then i read more read bettina's book i read what other critics had said And i think that um i think that the the message or the perspective that's being offered has real value and that is this that if you are asking questions about like you know under achievement and you know closing the achievement gap etc and um you know the antidote that's offered is like we should teach kids about growth mindset and grit and agency Um then you might be overlooking you know the massive problem that stands in the way much more so which is you know terrible you know like lack of resources and and that's such an abstraction like terrible classrooms like terrible curriculum no computers like no no none of the things that your kids and my kids have so i i think that's a i think that's an important message i I would like to think that we can accommodate both of these perspectives i mean almost always the answer is both and in some version and to me this goes all the way back to your first question about the person in the situation right so you know a child's life is um not just something that they have complete control over and um i would hope that like all children you know not just black children or brown children but like Literally all children um are our help to learn some of the things that you and i learned and and we're not born with like you know knowing how to set a goal make a plan figuring out how to take an optimistic growth-oriented stance toward adversity you know understanding like how to um you know think about stress in ways that are adaptive Modify your situation i mean you know like those have to be part of personal development and so i i i try to say both and and in a way that that you know first of all doesn't confuse people to no end and also that kind of honors this perspective which you know has has a lot of value to it is is there anything that you've learned significantly post writing your book on grit that you think should be Added to the conversation one thing that um i think is a continual surprise to me is that um you know i'm a university professor so my students are between the ages of 18 and 22 and um you know when you just think of the word grit and you think of like what people need to learn um you think they need to learn about resilience and hard work about how to practice Uh on your weaknesses and get feedback etc and those things are all true but honestly the ivy league students that i teach are pretty good at all those things already and i can help them sharpen a little bit and strengthen a little bit but but the other half of my class i teach this class called grit lab is on passion and i find that many many young people Are struggling much more with the direction in their life than the determination um that they need to bring to that um pursuit so so you know questions of like even basic questions like what am i interested in right like like how could you not know what you're interested in i will tell you that i have young people in my office hours who say like i literally can't tell you what i'm interested in Like i don't know help me help me figure that out let's talk about that for a second i mean how would you answer the question about should we follow our passion should we not i don't think the word follow the verb follow is the right verb okay so that's the right verb right because because you say to this like 18 year old Is like i don't know what i'm interested in okay 22. let's make it a 22 year old senior who's like oh my god like i see adulthood on the horizon fast approaching and i i don't know what i want to do right and then if i say to them my advice to you is to follow your passion oh like how is that helpful they don't they don't know where it is um or what it is So the verb i prefer is develop um because i do think that um if i even um kind of like like retroactively retrospectively think about my relationship with psychology like shane like if i went to google scholar and you picked like a random article from a random year in a random journal on something about psychology there's a very good chance that i'm gonna be fascinated by it right I'm like god is that how the visual system works like wait wait what's the difference between short-term and long-term memory like blows my mind right now that is me now right so you could say like angela followed her passion for psychology but there was a time in my life where i didn't even know what psychology was at all um and there was a time in my life where Like this romance was very very fledgling right and it could have gone in lots of different directions but it deepened and deepened and deepened and got more mature and like a marriage right like you know your relationship with your passion actually evolves over time so so to the terrified 22 year olds or frankly probably there's some 22 terrified 32 year olds or whatever in on On this conversation with us i would say to you like if you change the verb from follow to develop right it gives you a little bit of a clue as to what you need to do which is you need to like start dating some things right and then like you know go on a second date with the ones where you're like oh no kind of like you and then allow this Relationship to evolve over what might take years um and not expect to have the relationship that like if i think about my own husband jason right my relationship to my husband today is just oceans deeper than when i first met him and i was like oh my god he's so cute right so so i think that that's the process um And if i had known that when i was 22 um i think i would have um like you know relaxed a little bit because basically i spent like a whole decade just you know tortured that i didn't know what my calling was and does some of that come back to what you said earlier about early successes and then feeling like progress and the progress becomes passion and then the passion becomes developed Instead of followed but it becomes your your pursuit like those early victories that early mentor that early introduction becomes so key which also places the role on teachers and professors so much too right yeah i mean look it's not only what you're good at right i sat down on the subway something like 15 years ago but i won't forget it next to this guy was like a really long subway ride I don't know i was going to the bronx or something anyway it was in new york and um i was sitting next to this guy and i struck up a conversation he was a computer programmer and um what i learned in that conversation is that he was really good at computer programming and he hated it and i kept arguing back with this guy total stranger but i was like how can that be like people are good at what they like And they like what they're good at and he's like not me like i'm really really really good at this which is why i do it and it makes a living and i really don't like it so i don't want to say it's only what you're good at right um there's more than that to what you like but it does play a huge role and when i think about my um sort of you know Luck in having early wins so my first research paper in psychology my mentor marty seligman said um you know you should write this up and you should send it to psychological science and i was like writing it down in my notepad psychological science right i was like okay right so i write up my study i send a psychological science about two days later or something i get this email back so i great articles accepted um a couple like Little revisions but you know and so that was like my idea of what it was like to be an academic psychologist i now know i don't even know if i've gotten anything ever published in psychological science since then i may not have but like i now know that it's incredibly hard um to get in and you know if i had had like a series of fails right like would i be here i don't know That's interesting back to the passion thing my friend naval ravikant has a i'm gonna butcher this quote or phrase but it's sort of like do what is play for you but work for others and then that's how you can sort of like where are those things because now you're leveraging also the need to make a career out of it and all of that stuff i think that's really interesting You know shane that quote though like which i love um you couldn't have butchered it that much that was a good one i like that a lot um i recently was interviewing um alex rodriguez a-rod um actually he was being interviewed by students in my my class grit lab and he said you know i am a hard worker everyone will tell you i'm always like i feel like i haven't worked a day in my Life right he's like i can't believe i get to do that and that must be more than just like i'm good at it so i do think there's something about like having an affinity like why am i interested in human nature or not interested in like you know physics like i don't know but like it it's so so there's there is there is that and um another person that you may or may not have interviewed but Um steve levitt um tells the story of how he became an economist right so steve levitt is half of the freakonomics um duo of yeah dubner and levitt and uh and levitt tells the story of how he was a freshman um and he uh you know goes to his like harvard you know 10 class i think it was harvard um and act 10 is the intro um economics Class um and uh he comes out and it was like something on the comparative advantage or whatever and um he's walking alongside his you know classmate or roommate and they both say almost at the same time like oh god that was ridiculous but then steve says like yeah i mean everything that was said was so damn obvious and his friend was like i couldn't Understand anything that he was saying so so the idea of doing things that are playful for you but drudgery for others that are maybe easy for you i actually you know um in my class the passion section of my grit lab course is called choose easy um and then there's another section called work hard but but i think that you know doing something that was like yeah it's Like butter it's like it's like easy cheesy lemon squeezy plus it's so fun i mean choose those paths walk down them long enough um and uh you know learn to work hard talk to me about the ten thousand hour rule uh when it comes to working hard we seem to have this view that hey if we just do something for ten thousand hours we can't help but be successful in it does It to what extent is it the hours versus the reps involved and the immediacy of the feedback too i would imagine yeah and you um you may know that anders eriksen passed away this year do you know that did you know that i yeah yeah this summer and i um will say that it was um uh unexpected and And and truly tragic i mean anders was in his early 70s and it was his research of course that became paraphrased as the 10 000 hour rule um anders would want everyone to know that um it's it's nothing about the um like magic number 10 000 first of all so you know um that number comes from a single study of German musicians at a um a music academy where the highest performing musicians had done on average about 10 000 hours of practice the next most expert group was 5 000 and the group below that i believe was like 2 500. but obviously there's a lot of variation within those groups and most importantly anders would want everyone to know that it's the quality of practice That is um really remarkable because even in the you know next group down they were still doing lots of practice it just wasn't um that they had a higher proportion of ineffective practice or less effective practice in in an expert you know they there are three elements any of which being missing you know then you're not doing deliberate practice in andre's view the first is that There's this kind of like hyper intentionality about a very specific weakness or um or a goal um that you're trying to address the second is that you are really practicing with complete concentration and many of his research studies including the ones that i did with him we measured deliberate practice by whether you were doing practice alone Because um that was like a proxy for concentration and then the third element was feedback right and um ideally in most circumstances immediate feedback um in some circumstances you could argue that like there's some benefit to a delay and then the rep repetition of that cycle um and i think if you ask yourself how much of my day Am i hyper conscious about exactly what i'm trying to do like i have a like a movie in my head of what it looks like before i can do it and then i'm like practicing full concentration my phone's off nobody's around and then i'm getting like immediate feedback and then i just do it all again like i don't know there could be days that go by without any deliberate practice and So that's i think the magic of what um experts do that makes sense um i want to come to something you told me earlier which is two weeks ago you gave a presentation that didn't really go as planned i want to know what happened and how you talk to yourself in the moment like what was that internal monologue so i don't have as many opportunities to like dramatically fail As i did earlier in life right like um uh i mean i do fail and this was a failure so i want to share it um like but i it wasn't like a final exam that i like blew and then you know ended up getting an f in a course but but i had this presentation that i was really excited about on um like a new idea and behavior change for me and i got so excited about it and i was so confident about how Excited everybody else would be about it but i ended up inviting it was like having a dinner party inviting like more and more people until like suddenly they hardly can fit into the room now in this case it was zoom so like everybody fit in the room but you know some of my idols like danny kahneman like you know like very very important political officials And like anyway so the party grew and um and i um made my presentation which i it's sort of like it's like i uh i delivered this presentation like not having ever done it before and also not really being good at managing the dynamics of like 100 people on a zoom call like some of whom like you would obviously want to say what they thought um as opposed to just like monologuing yeah yeah um 70 of you shut Up but there's 10 of you i want to hear from you oh i mean it was just really bad and right afterwards i had a call talk about feedback so right afterwards i had a call um with one of my collaborators who was in the party and um he said you know that was not your best hour and then told me exactly how it was that that was Such a you know impoverished you know experience um for everybody including him and um it was a friday and i couldn't sleep i mean i was like up all night you know replaying things and like writing down notes and like i literally revised my slides i mean i didn't have anyone to give them to but i just wanted to like rearrange them and like make them right And then i sent emails to um not all hundred people but like the people i had specifically invited um and i apologized and i was like that was not a good use of your hour i was underprepared i um didn't manage the structure or the time well um and i'm sorry um i i do like the idea that i presented but yeah that was not good um and and so so i i mean you know even when i'm At this age with like some successes like i will tell you like the emotion of failing and even something that's not like a final exam or a job interview but just as trivial as a powerpoint presentation that you hoped would go well man that emotion just oh it stings i mean it's horrible like i i really felt terrible dive into that a little more like how did you speak to yourself in That moment and then how did you change that conversation well i'll tell you the self-talk that went through my head um was like that was a [ __ ] show like i'm humiliated like and then the self-talk was very specific though right like it was very kind of like i shouldn't have managed the time that way i shouldn't have used pull everywhere um i should have rehearsed right now that self-talk is um negative but Actually um putting on my psychologist hat again or my you know if i were analyzing that self-talk it's actually productive self-talk because like um almost everything that i said was like changeable right it's like next time i'll rehearse next time i won't use pull everywhere for the you know like next time i will like you Know do x y or z now in my 20s the self-talk that i had when i screwed up was very different um and i have all these journals so i i know what the self-talk was i would say things like i'm bad i'm a bad person and that self talks really toxic because you know you can't really do anything about being just a fundamentally bad person you know like whatever that Even means so i have grown up a little bit in the 30 years um you know since my earlier you know young woman failures how much of that was planted by that immediate feedback by one of the your collaborators who called you and then would probably give you very specific feedback too right versus 40 minutes of it versus when we're in it we often Don't often get specific feedback like we i remember when i first started working in my early 20s in an organization my boss would just be like that doesn't work like that's no good but it's like well what's so good like what is it you know you have this vague sense that you're not living up to expectations but you're unclear sometimes on what those experts what to do so you You reinforce this vague self-talk in a way and then yeah i mean at the time let me tell you i was not appreciating the specificity of the negative feedback right and the dosage of it because like after about five minutes i was like hey let's talk about something else like no 35 more minutes of specific things to say About like how that didn't go well um so i didn't respond well and you're right that you know to answer your question directly i think i felt especially bad because i immediately got like an avalanche of criticism that was um both authoritative um and um detailed um and kind of you know um unvarnished um i probably would have gone to sleep earlier or like slept more soundly if You know like there had been a little less of it if it were a little less detailed um but but i do think you know like it was better to have gotten that than a kind of like hey it could have gone better all right so let's talk about other things right that wasn't your best effort but dinner was great yeah you know but whatever like i kind of like this idea let's talk about so So you know feedback as they say is a gift but most of us don't know how to unwrap it like i i will say that it's not a gift that we usually want to receive like at the moment it's given to us and the way it's given to us so i i think it's a skill to uh to be and by the way shane you know uh i really truly believe that if somebody uh is eager for feedback actively solicits Feedback tries to listen to the feedback learn something from feedback there you could do anything or those are the people i never worry about right like i've had students where they're like really not super socially intelligent right i'm like whoa not they're not how do i know because other students come and talk to me about them right so it's like i but but if that student is Like asking for feedback about how they can improve their like they're going to be fine and you know if you're the opposite of that then i really worry about you because then i think like you're never going to fix your own problems um so the feedback is magic yeah it's like uh the world is right and i need to learn versus the world is wrong and i'm just going to keep doing what i'm doing And getting the same results that i've always gotten i wonder what drives i'm going to sleep but i'll go to sleep tonight right but i wonder what drives that behavior in terms of i want the feedback because if you want it from other people you're probably really open to it from the world too when it starts giving you feedback that you're what you're doing is not which is a lot more vague than when Other people are giving you feedback i i think so is your question like why do some people or why do i some you know on my better days like why am i eager for that feedback like from the world and also from you know individuals so um i guess i have a first layer answer and a second layer answer i think the first layer answer is like it's like because i want to learn like i didn't i don't i want to feel Good in the moment but i mostly i more want to learn like i'm driven to improve desire to learn over rules feeling good in the moment exactly because their intention right it's like i think i can feel good right now and just get unalloyed praise or i can learn something that will make me a better presenter and scientist in the future And i'm much you know the weight is higher for me right um on on the learning so that's the first layer answer right it's because of that but then you can ask the question like why like why is that like why is that ratio like that for you but maybe for other people it's more important to protect their ego or they want to sleep well on a friday night like why and i think for me The um the ability to take negative feedback um uh and i'm not perfect by any means but like whatever ability i do have i think does come from a history of mastery or success experiences right like i have been encouraged enough to to be to be a little vulnerable um and in early childhood there's this idea of secure attachment Have you heard of like attachment theory [Music] so um for those i guess who are less you know familiar this is the idea that young children you know around you know really like toddler age right um they are attached to their primary caregiver often their mother but um not necessarily and there are different styles of attachment and the the the attachment style you you Really want is called the secure attachment style and then there are various forms of insecure attachment um and the reason why this became so important in developmental psychology it was the idea that like whatever your attachment style was gonna be it was gonna be like pretty influential in terms of like how you would like have other future relationships in your life and um The the thing to note about the secure attachment style is that because the child has security they actually um uh so so you you imagine a mother in a room and they have their you know toddler child if that is a secure attachment then um the behavior of the child say in a new room with new toys is not gonna be to cling to the mother It is because the child is attached that they will venture you know even five ten feet away from the where the mother is sitting and pick up a new toy and then maybe run back and make sure mom's there but and so i think i am as whatever i have that's like okay i can handle this criticism it is probably because i've had enough mastery experiences to feel secure that's i i think that's a Really important place right you feel the safety so that you can take these risks including learning and knowing that it doesn't change who you are it doesn't change your relationships in your life it's just making you better and if your kid is like driving you nuts because they are not taking risks and they seem to be you know you know afraid of failure and that by the way that sometimes looks Like laziness right even though it's underneath the surface not at all laziness you know ask yourself like maybe they are not confident because they haven't had a string of experiences to make them confident right so here again the person versus the situation like maybe your underconfident child which is a person is be that way because of series of situations Um and then you have to think of and you know all the great coaches and teachers do this you kind of just like engineer these you know small wins where you know you make things like bite size enough that there can be a few at-bats and a few hits i like that notion um do you have personal rules routines or habits for success and what I mean by that is i like to think um that there's these automatic rules that we can adapt for ourselves that put us on the path to success to help us get what we want out of life and without getting into what we want out of life i'm curious as to exploring what those habits routines um or rules that you have are i've been actually researching that um a little bit right personal rules so Personal rules are like i never or i always um that's what a personal role is not a kind of like well sometimes or often but like you know some people might have a personal role actually my editor for my um well the only book i ever wrote so um rick had a rule of going to the gym every day without missing a single no matter what um not exactly sure how he adapted that Rule in the pandemic but um so always never rules are really interesting to me and they are related they're kind of in the same family as like habits um because they are these sort of like you're not thinking about it you're not deliberating you're just doing right and um i the reason i'm studying it is because i do think that um very successful people have um usually a small number of Like you know fairly inviolable rules and also habits um and and by the way why is that right like you know there are downsides like inflexibility and um that's probably the biggest one right so why do people have these rules and habits when there's so much um to be lost by having them in a way right the reason i think is twofold so colin kamerer at um Caltech who's a collaborator would say that the biggest reason i think cal co you have to ask him but i think colin would say that the biggest reason why we have habits is that um they they put us on autopilot and they free up cognitive resources for other things yeah right i mean if every time you had to like you know cut yourself uh you know uh uh like grapefruit you had to like Devote all of your energy to like first i lift my wrist then i clench my fist around the night it's like no it's like there are there are things that can like run on autopilot like cut the grave again how to do that and habits are like that there's another reason i think colin would agree with me that habits actually are a self-control device so um if you're doing something as a matter of habit like exercising or Eating a salad for lunch or writing thank you notes or doing other things which are good for you and others in the long run but maybe not the funnest easiest thing to do in the short run being on autopilot is a very good thing for that so it's not just so that we can free up cognitive resources to do calculus right it's also because many of the things about which we have Habits and roles are self-control dilemmas where the immediate alternative is just better um so so a lot of people like i have a habit of checking my email after dinner that's one um so why do i have that habit i have that habit in part because um i don't want to check my email all day because like that would make for a lot of email checking and not a lot of thought about Behavioral science right so so there's that the second thing is that when when it's after dinner i mean i could watch like reruns of downton abbey i could you know like just like scroll through twitter i could do all these things now those things are all going to be like a little bit more fun for me than email but if i make it a rule or a habit that like after dinner i check my email Always then that that kind of doesn't end run around the temptation so that's one of the habits i have um i also have a habit of doing um exercise at 6 00 pm eastern time um i uh have a habit of um every time i do a public talk um i have a habit of um sending a thank you email because i think it's the right thing to do and um as your producers know there's Like a lot of back end stuff that somebody had to do to make that possible and i think it's the right thing to do to show some appreciation and i always ask for feedback so i always ask like what's one thing that i might not know about that i could do better and you know half the time i i get some um negative feedback half the time they just can't they just there's like it was Great it's like they just can't bring themselves to say an unkind word but um those are all habits that i have you know found to be very useful just coming back to the rules versus uh habits or choices we'll maybe we'll just broaden it to rules versus choices if there's a huge difference between somebody who's on a diet and somebody who doesn't eat dessert Right because if you're on a diet you're consciously you're you're making these choices all the time but if you don't eat dessert a it's a rule you just don't eat you don't have to make a choice and daniel kahneman told me this in our conversation actually for the podcast where he said nobody argues with rules he's like he's he's he's the reason i started studying Rules because like i just noticed and we were in conversation and he'd be like well i have a rule i don't make a you know i don't make a decision on the phone yeah and then he would say like well i have a rule like i don't blur books unless i read them in entirety and have a personal relationship with the topic or the author and i was like wait danny kahneman does it dan gilbert does it Like what's up with these personal rules um so so i will say this too in the in the small amount of research i've done because we randomly assign people to for example set a rule about how many steps they were going to take and you know these are fitbit users that we had recruited because they already had a fitbit um and then we had other conditions where you just set a goal and Like anyway various control conditions we did not find a benefit of setting a kind of always never rule like i always make 10 000 steps right now and i i'm guessing that one reason is that um even though for danny kahneman certain rules can be certainly adaptive um there are you know some downsides to rules like when you don't make your rule Like you can have the what the hell effect um so so i think that the the rule on rules is probably that you should make up your own rules as opposed to like somebody exogenously handing you one yeah and um and you know making you adhere to it you have to think for yourself what are the rules that are likely to put me on the path to success but I think about that in multiple ways right there's lifestyle rules which is you want to get enough sleep you want to eat healthy you what are this you what are the rules that you can create around that that help you just go on autopilot it could be your alarm going off at 9 30 on your iphone going like now it's time to wind down and go to bed why am i doing that i'm doing that because that puts me in the best position to succeed Tomorrow at work and then you have these rules about the type of person you want to become what would that person behave like in these given situations right so you have an identity-based rule system where it's like i want to be a better person i want to be a better spouse i want to be a better what would a better a better version of me or what does the best version of me look like in these moments you have These business rules you sort of have these life rules and then you have these personal well i'm curious as to your take on that yeah the the the other reason i you know became fascinated with rules is um i read this essay once by james march who was a brilliant and iconoclastic and interdisciplinary thinker and he said um there's two kinds of logic That we can use to make choices there's the logic of consequence and then there's the logic of appropriateness so the logic of consequence is like basically cost-benefit analyses right it's like thinking like an economist like we should buy a new house do you know this essay by the way like no i'm familiar with merch though but i don't remember this one yeah so he's you know he's written so Much they were like but anyway google march logic of consequence and i think it'll come up um so um so you know these are the kinds of things that economists think we do all the time and to some extent even if it's at a non-conscious level we do like they're expected value decisions um and much of our conversation has been about that right like why do people you know why are they ambitious like why Do they give up etc but march said there's a kind of logic that we apply in many situations that has nothing to do with calculating costs and benefits and probabilities and it's the logic of appropriateness and he said when you are operating according to logic consequence the three questions are what are the costs what are the benefits what are the probabilities When you are operating according to the logic of appropriateness the three questions are what situation is this who am i what does someone like me do in a situation like this right and so this is all about identity right so imagine that um you are like me a tired mother working mother who has a teenager at home right and your kid is doing something totally annoying like whatever In my case like you know asking you demandingly like whether dinner can be running in four minutes right so there's this kind of like cost benefit probability things like what are the benefits of you know responding in a kind way what are the costs to me every spot what are the probabilities that like that outcomes or like what situation is this like my daughter is being grumpy Who am i i am a mother what does a mother do when a child is grumpy a mother is kind right and so i i've been kind of fascinated by like the the the logic of appropriateness the importance of identity and i do think that much of our life is um you know trying to basically you know if shakespeare said that all the world's a stage and each of us it's players You know much of our lives were like what role am i in like oh i'm the doctor okay i'll do that right like oh i'm the whiny child okay i'll do that and we we step into that role and we play it out i think that's a great place to end this angela i want to thank you so much for a fascinating conversation shane i loved this conversation um thank you for having me you

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