Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Social Media Addiction: What You Need to Know

One of my primary interests and concerns right now is social media and the sometimes devastating effects it is having on young people.  I have spoken and written about it, and will continue to do so when given opportunity.  When parents on average spend less than an hour a day with their adolescent kids, while the kids are spending an average of over two-hours a day on their smart phones, I believe there is a major disconnect.  Here’s an article from the website smartsocial.com that you may find interesting.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Grit: A Few Thoughts From Angela Duckworth — Part I

When I first discovered Angela Duckworth a number of years ago, I sought out as much as I could find to read about her theories on the concept of “grit.”  The first thing I got my hands on was information from some of her research into what made people successful.  She referred to that “what” as grit.  I grabbed on to any paper, article or interview I could find written by or about Duckworth and grit.  From what I have read and learned from her I believe there is far more than can be covered in one article on this blog.  Therefore, this is the first of three articles in which I attempt to share what I believe is very important information regarding what makes human beings successful.

First off, before I dig into Duckworth’s research, I want to try and explain why I am so intrigued by her work.  As a coach and former athlete I have always been very interested in what motivates people.  The mental aspect of sport has always been more interesting to me than the physical, so it is natural that I would be drawn to her work.  But there is another reason: the actual word — grit.  That word has been used in my family for years, primarily by my maternal grandfather and my mom.  I could not begin to count how many times they referred to a person as having grit.  Most often they were referring to someone that was tough, one that stuck to it and got the job done no matter what.  I remember times when my mom would tell me that I needed to have some grit at various times when I was competing in one sport or another!  At the time my understanding was that people with grit stuck to it and got the job done, no matter what.  And for the most part, that is what Duckworth has determined separates the truly successful people from others.

The title of Duckworth’s incredible book actually defines grit, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  That definition has been now modified as perseverance and passion for long-term goals.  One only has to read a few pages of her book to get a clear picture of what grit is and why she became so passionate in her work to better understand why some people exceed at high levels and others do not.  It all started as she was a psychology graduate student looking at why some of the cadets at West Point washed out early on, and others persevered and succeeded.  What she determined is insightful.

I will try to be brief so that this article actually comes to an end(!) and the point is made, but you need to know a few things about West Point.  The United States Military Academy in New York is where our nation’s leaders are developed.  This list of West Point graduates is extensive in terms of leaders of our nation, business and industry, and other aspects of American life.  Only the very best and brightest young men and women are selected to attend in one of the most rigid application and screening processes that exists in colleges of higher education.  It is generally a two-year process, and once a new class of cadets is selected, one has a group of extremely talented, smart, and physically gifted individuals.  There is no question that on paper, after going through all of the assessments, interviews, surveys, and tests, each new plebe is an outstanding person that should easily succeed.  Folks, these kids are the best that America has to offer!

But, they do not all make it.  In fact, 20% wash out in the first two months of school at West Point.  The Army was concerned about those that did not finish and wanted to be able to identify why some made it and others did not.  For years the Army was using a measure called the Whole Candidate Score to try and predict which high school students had the potential to succeed.  It included a weighted average of SAT and ACT exam scores, high school rank adjusted for the number of students in the applicant’s graduating class, expert appraisals of leadership potential, and performance on objective measures of physical fitness.  Yet even with this scoring system they could not accurately predict who would stick it out and go on to be commissioned officers and who would go home before the end of their freshman year.  The Army was determined to figure out how to improve their tool so as to eliminate the “wash outs.”

In the plebe’s first summer, they encounter their first challenge, commonly called the Beast.  This is a seven-week intensive training that starts at 5:00 in the morning and takes the young men and women through a structured and grueling 17-hour day described in the West Point handbook as “the most physically and emotionally demanding part of your four years at West Point . . . designed to help you make the transition from new cadet to soldier.  It is because of the Beast that 1 in 5 new cadets quits.  And, the Army was stymied as to why.  So Duckworth and Mike Matthews, a military psychologist dug in to find out what the reason was that some made it and other’s didn’t, and was there a way to predict who those individuals would be.  

There is a lot more to this story, and I strongly encourage you to read Grit.  However, to wrap this up, through their work and analysis, they found that those who dropped out rarely did so because of their ability or their talent.  There was no trend that they could find in terms of where individuals stood on the Whole Candidate Score.  Some of the highest rated new cadets dropped out, while some of the lowest ones made it.  What Matthews surmised as they looked closer at the data is that those who made it had a “never give up” attitude.  They were driven to make it through every obstacle and had a passion to work hard and succeed.

Duckworth took this experience and also worked with people in a variety of fields, looking to explain why certain people made it to the top and others did not, and she found similar attributes.  The impression that many people held is that those at the top of the field were talented people who had some luck.  But she looked at something else because there are highly talented people that do not make it.  When she really started sorting through things she determined those who made it to the top and were highly successful had a ferocious determination to succeed, were resilient and hardworking, and they knew exactly what they wanted.  They had determination and direction.  They had grit.