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It's such a shame that people who want to be popular define "smart as"

    smart = results/effort
It gives them an incentive to slack, and while that may work in the lower tiers of the school system, they're going to hit a brick wall at some point, and for many, it will be too late for them to do anything to catch up.

I also recall someone on Quora referring as the distorted picture in places like Stanford described as the "duck syndrome": on the surface, everyone seems to be coasting calmly, but below, they are paddling like mad.

* * *

Praising kids and people can be so friggin' difficult. I remember playing football (soccer) in school, and I was a bit of a geek, but when I played, I would sometimes get all these "compliments": "Nice one, kmfrk!", "You played a great match today" from class mates and the gym class teacher. Most meant well by it - some didn't - but even though I wasn't very old, what was going on was very transparent. (I was a blatantly bad player, except as a goalie, so I took the compliments about my role as the latter more to heart.)

It downright annoyed me, because I knew that I was awful.

It has made it very hard for me to discern actual praise in my life.




Your equation is mathematically equivalent to:

    results = effort x smart
The problem is optimizing this equation for smart, rather than for results.


I like that construction. The article also emphasizes teaching kids another contributing equation:

  smart = sum(previous efforts)
Giving a final equation:

  immediate results = immediate effort * sum(previous efforts)


I don't think aiming at the results/effort equation is a bad heuristic for lots of things, depending on how effort is defined. Though maybe it isn't a good equation for schooling in particular, and I agree defining people as unintelligent based on them putting in effort isn't a good strategy.

It's the basic heuristic of elegant code, for example: elegant code maximizes the ratio of results to coding effort. The opposite is when you get the results, but by slogging through a bunch of inelegant boilerplate.

It's also the whole premise behind the "hacking the workweek" type ideas, though I realize not everyone likes those.

If anything, I'd say it's a pretty pervasive part of hacker culture, and what differentiates it to some extent from "normal" engineering culture: hackers aim for that results/effort win, the cool hack, virtuosic performance, etc., rather than the N-hour straightforward, carefully managed slog. Not even just because it saves time/money, but because somehow it's intrinsically interesting to see people finding ways to get great results via a route other than "I just plowed through it and got it done". That's sometimes necessary too, but it's not the part that gives the hacker spirit a spark.


The problem here is that you were comparing yourself with the rest of the people.

I have trained track and field for some years now and if I would try to compare myself with Michael Johnson, I would always be a failure. But in every sport you are (at the end) just trying to improve yourself and competing against yourself. My point is that you could have been doing a good game (for you) even without being anything similar to Pele, and maybe they were praising you for that.


I totally get that it'd be okay to praise me for making progress of putting effort into it, but - at least - in these cases, I weren't really. That's why it annoyed me.

It's also a reminder to be specific about your praise, too - nebulous praise is useless.


"It gives them an incentive to slack, and while that may work in the lower tiers of the school system, they're going to hit a brick wall at some point, and for many, it will be too late for them to do anything to catch up."

Agreed. I hit the wall in the final year at University. Worst time ever.




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