For people into parenting books, I highly recommend NurtureShock. It's about the only parenting book I've found based on actual scientific research, as opposed to being somebody's opinion.
Through Olympic weightlifting.
All through primary and secondary school, and through most of university, I have scraped by on brute intelligence and my efficient memory. Like a lot of HNers, I suspect. But that began to leave me behind. I failed algorithms. I jokingly said to my professor a year later "I'm not smart enough for algo".
"You're plenty smart", he said. "You just didn't do any work".
I took up Olympic-style weightlifting ("Oly" to friends) about 3 years ago. It taught me the most important lesson of my working and studying life:
You cannot cram for a competition.
No one training session makes for success on the platform. Success comes from months of work. A few hours, every day or two. Each session is hard, sure, but by itself does not seem like much. But the cumulative effect can be amazing.
By my third year in computer science I was becoming more methodical about studying. My scores improved and my professors accepted me for honours. Thanks to the learned ability to stick to a project for months on end, I completed my degree last year with first class honours.
I wish I'd known earlier that consistency, and not flashes of brilliance, is what would get people to think of me as truly capable.
But I did react exactly like the NutureShock book mentions.
I'm feeling pangs in my chest just thinking of all the times I froze with a fear of failure when presented with even the slightest challenge. Or even worse, when I would brush something off as beneath me, since I was so smart. I didn't need to try.
This is simple human bias if you expect something to be good it will be good, and has to do with how your teacher feels about you.
I once got an A in a philosophy course where I never even turned in any work. I think the teacher knew I was generally smart and argumentative, and just gave people marks accordingly.
I wouldn't do that today, because I'm more aware of how irrelevant school is.
http://www.webofstories.com/play/17068?o=MS (it starts around 2:37)
One interesting happening I've noticed too is that with mathematical and computing knowledge specifically it seems that as people gain knowledge it becomes easier to add new knowledge. The curve seems exponential. It's easy to pick up Python if you're already familiar with C and C++. It's easy to understand a new comparison sorting algorithm if you know it can't be faster than O(n lg n) and can place it in perspective with merge and quicksort.
This is why I still go on Stack Overflow and am floored by how few questions I can answer and how much more experienced guys know than me. But I have hope that learning will beget faster learning.
EDIT: It looks like it's behind a semi-paywall. Here's a Googled PDF: http://www.ccsf.edu/Campuses/Downtown/scientific_american.pd...
You can always read some excerpts on Google Books or Amazon, it's chapter 1 of NurtureShock.
Includes references for further reading if so desired.
Anyway, I want to emphasize that while his response was specifically to some guy in MIT feeling down, his words are applicable for any of us.
I have experienced first-hand the shock of discovering just how hard university is, but pushing yourself harder and harder until you break is not the answer. You need to be smarter about how you work, you need to develop proper study habits, and you need to get over your fear of asking for help. But at the end of the day, grades are just grades. Once you finish university and get your first job, none of this will matter anymore.
University is far harder than programming jobs, so don't judge yourself too harshly for struggling. Many things are more important in life. Remember to enjoy the most intense learning experience you will ever experience, and don't forget to look after your own health.
Also, for example, a kid with ADHD is woefully behind on the "being able to sit and work" ability. I think it's nice that we say "everyone is equal and let's hold hands" But I personally don't understand that.
Knowing the genetic basis for intelligence is kinda like knowing about obscure diseases. When you have the sniffles, it's probably just a cold, not lupus. When you're finding something beyond your grasp, you're probably not working hard enough, or working smart enough.
Sure, if you're a policy maker allocating budgets and looking at the population in aggregate, it makes sense to have a deep understanding of all the problems that may not be fixable. But if you're deciding what to do with yourself, why give yourself the excuse?
The truth is genetics do matter if for no other reason than the fact that who your parents are will greatly determine your opportunities later in life by the fact that they control the country you're born in. Not to mention that your family's mental or physical health history can have a great impact on you as well. If your family has a history of depression, anxiety, attention deficit, dyslexia or substance abuse you are indeed at higher risk of developing those same issues later in life. Also families with those issues can have a greater struggle creating a nurturing environment to break free from the cycle of dysfunction.
I feel that people ignoring the genetic or parental factor are ignoring science & using that ignorance as an excuse to call people lazy so that they feel more in control of their situation despite a considerable amount of their success having nothing to do with their own effort or ingenuity.
My appeal isn't to give people a reason to be lazy, but to admit that we don't know how the brain learns or re-learns things. A person's life my be an eternal struggle until they find help that allows them to escape whatever disease they are dealing with. Ignoring those diseases does not help the person & merely casting them off as lazy or needing to try harder is not a valid remedy.
Because the point of a learning disability is that the person is working their butt off already but still struggling.
It's like having two people try to catch a pig, but one of those pigs is greased. If you tell both participants to use exactly the same effort to catch the pig, the person who has to get the greased pig will probably fail. The person with the greased pig may even try harder than the other person yet still fail to catch the pig.
There isn't an easy solution to mental illness or learning disorders. Again, I am not saying that we should tell people to not try hard, I am just saying that people shouldn't go around saying learning disabilities are an excuse for the lazy or those who don't like to work their butts off.
I admired R., and I looked up to him, and while I doubt I
will ever compete with his genius, I recognize that it's
because of a relative lack of my conviction and an excess
of his, not some accident of genetics.
If you think you can do a thing or think you can't do a thing, you're right.
Of course, if it's possible to learn how to learn--that is, if you can learn more efficient study methods--one would expect to see this disparity (effort expended per unit of knowledge acquired [not that you could measure this]) even in a hypothetical population of genetic clones raised in different environments.
As to why downplaying genetic potential could be a good thing, I've got this excellent pg quote fairly well seared into my brain:
"I'm not saying there's no such thing as genius. But if you're trying to choose between two theories and one gives you an excuse for being lazy, the other one is probably right." - http://www.paulgraham.com/hs.html
Still looking at genetics, look at height--then look at all of the athletes who've defied "sports logic" and excelled in their sport despite the naysayers and their "disadvantage"-- Muggsy Bogues, Doug Flutie, and Martin St. Louis to name a few.
I think knowledge does come easier to some kids, but there are always people with the drive, ambition, and passion that find a way to persevere despite their issue. I know it's cliche but, those that want it, find a way.
If learning comes harder to you then it just means you've got to work that much harder. Bad luck.
"smart" is really just a way of saying "has invested so much time and sweat that you make it look effortless."
All of the people that I truly admire (who subsequently I consider to be "smart") fall directly under this guise. They took the time and effort to learn how to be who they are. It's a simple idea, sure, but when it's really taken to heart it can change your entire outlook on things.
If it was possible we would and we could all just sit back and crib each other's notes on life. But this has to come from within you. You cannot share willpower, dedication and ambition.
There's nothing else to it: it's not as if the knowledge isn't on the internet or in books for cheap...
You can mould yourself a more conscientious personality through your own ambition and the willpower you had to start with.
What you're talking about isn't a failure of willpower, dedication or ambition.
It's a failure of knowledge. It's a failure of knowledge of the resources that are available to them, and it's a failure to awaken from the Samsara of self-doubt.
Inri137's doing the Buddhist thing and trying to shake people awake. These are skills that you can acquire. Sure it's modulated by willpower, dedication, ambition, and some natural talent, but that's not the important part imo. To quote FDR, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
You are right, but I didn't say that you couldn't acquire these skills. I was trying to be particular with my choice of words: "You can mould yourself [...through what] you had to start with".
"He showed me some of those tools, but what I really ended up learning was how to go about finding, building, and refining my own set of cognitive tools."
Sadly, he does not mention anything else about those tools (of his mentor at MIT), nor how he went about building his own set.
In life, you learn bit by bit from others(in person, through books, net, etc.)
Unfortunately,his post does not provide any real hard information, just good inspiration, which of course is nice.
Inri is talking about the conscientious personality trait . This is highly correlated to success in school and in the workplace.
You may consider yourself a struggling student but often a struggle is needed for success. If you're doing this already then have faith that you are on the right path as eventually it will be borne out. My point is that you can learn a conscientious personality, and you can become smarter and stronger willed. Every human is born with some willpower. Every human is born with some intellectual ability. Intellectual effort and willpower are both cumulative. They are like muscles, simple exercise of them grows them.
I have never met a man or woman who has fulfilled their potential.
Eric Mazur advocates the peer instruction method of lecturing (http://mazur.harvard.edu/research/detailspage.php?rowid=8)
Students should always be at the lecture with the content in advance to discuss in some form such as peer instruction. My University didn't even release a reading list of Mathematical or Computer Science material prior to the course beginning.
It redefined for me what it means to understand math.
The white printer paper reminded me of that "end artificial scarcity" article.
When I start there is excitement as I see the peak in the distance. Then as I tire comes doubt and the fight with myself about turning around because no one would know, except me of course. The key is to never stop pushing forward. There often comes a point, especially on a new challenging mountain, where all I want to do is turn around. Instead I just focus on the next step in front of me. Step, breath, step, breath,... Then when I finally reach the top, the view is of course beautiful, but the real reward is looking back at the trail I followed and thinking that's impossible yet here I am.
In a way it was maybe too early, in university everything was too easy (I did not go to a top school because I had trouble getting a high enough TOEFL score and wanted to start as early as I could). It took failure in graduate school, then few years of wasted 9-5 code monkey work to get me to see the light again.
At first, I felt depressed after reading it and all the fawning responses to it. Then, I remembered this parable about how knowledge comes from people, not places:
> "At a gathering of divines, the Mullah was seated right at the end of the room, farthest from the place of honor. He began to tell jokes, and soon people were crowded around him, laughing and listening. Nobody was taking any notice of the greybeard who was giving a learned discourse. When he could no longer hear himself speak, the president of the assembly roared out: ‘You must be silent! Nobody may talk unless he sits where the Chief sits." "I don’t know how you see it," said the Mullah, "but it seems to me that where I sit is where the Chief sits."
After recalling this parable, I realized that I had initially misunderstood the OP's insight. His message was really the same as the Mullah's in many ways.
What I took away from OP's story is that his friend "R" was a more useful source of lasting wisdom than his MIT instructors. Why? Because "R" had cultivated an air of confidence, charisma, and credibility. How "R" achieved this wisdom himself is a red herring.
P.S. This also isn't about my gripes with academia. I have no problem with people squandering their time and money and lives on any variety of "rat race", including the various diversions that people consider to be an education. As I said, you have to "taste" for yourself to truly understand. I have no agenda to change anyone's mind with words. I was just sharing my own revelation about the OP's message.
Allow me to further muddy the waters with another Nasrudin parable:
An opinionated and small-minded cleric was lecturing the people in the teahouse where Nasrudin spent so much of his time.
As the hours went by, Nasrudin realized how this man’s thoughts were running in patterns, how he was a victim of vanity and pride, how minor points of unrealistic intellectualism for its own sake were magnified by him and applied to every situation.
Subject after subject was discussed, and every time the intellectual cited books and precedents, false analogies and extraordinary presumptions without intuitive reality.
At length he produced a book which he had written, and Nasrudin stretched his hand forth to see it, because he was the only literate man present.
Holding it in front of his eyes, Nasrudin turned page after page, while the assembly looked on. After several minutes the itinerant cleric began to fidget. Then he could not contain himself any longer. ‘You are holding my book upside down!’ he screamed.
‘I know,’ said Nasrudin, ‘Since it is one of the archetypes which seems to have produced you, it seems to be the only sensible thing to do, if one is to learn from it.’
(With credit to Idries Shah, Octagon Press)
A con man also cultivates confidence, charisma and credibility. That doesn't make him a source of lasting wisdom.
In any case, if you admire someone as a mentor, why would their path to success be a red herring? Wouldn't you naturally be curious about how they got where they are?
According to PG :
- hard work is necessary but insufficient
- entrepreneurs either have a very high probability of success or "epsilon".
- it is easy to know (or find out) what group you are in.
PG makes a strong argument...but then, so does this guy from MIT. Maybe they are talking about different things? Is intelligence more important for a startup founder then it is for a kid at MIT?
The Redditor is talking about a specific trap that some people who've been told from a young age that they're smart fall in to, at different ages. The trap involves - mostly - having not been challenged previously, and not knowing how to work through things that don't come easily.
When I was a kid, I spent 6 years at a school in Barbados, and some time at a school in Thailand, where I was unambiguously the smartest kid in the class, with the top grades, always. Then at 10 I went to the UK's largest prep school. I was behind in Latin, French, and a bunch of other subjects - especially those which required any rote learning (which I hadn't come across up to that point).
The transition to a school with /much/ better teaching saw me become a distinctly mediocre student almost straight away - faced with challenges, and faced with not being able to simply smart my way to the top of the class, I started rejecting work wholesale - something that stayed with me throughout the rest of my formal education, and led to me getting some truly shitty A-Level grades, to the disgust of teachers who saw much greater potential there.
Hard work and talent are both important, and so is the ability to encounter and handle challenge. If you grew up in an environment where you were coasting at the top, the first time you encounter serious challenge you might well fall apart.
I've recently started an MSc at what Americans would call an Ivy-League university (having talked my way without an undegrad degree), and the first module I'm working with is "Software Engineering Mathematics". Working through the chapters of the book I have consistently had real trouble getting to grips with the material. I want it to just fit in straight away - and I just want to understand it - and it doesn't, and that's a constant challenge.
Being a little older, and a little more mature, I'm throwing everything I have against it now, and seeing real dividends for perseverance. But every day is a struggle of fighting against the part of me that doesn't know how to deal with challenge, and I put that down to the sudden transition from coasting to the top to sudden massive challenge, and having not dealt well with it at the time - which it sounds like the very very original poster was also struggling with.
When doing a start-up or in the "real world" you can easily fill up time with work which is not actually directing you towards your ultimate goal(s).
Being an entrepreneur is entirely different. You need to work hard, but there are a lot of things which aren't so linear. It's kind of like picking up chicks. Hard work and being smart doesn't help you there. ;)
It may take some time but what the hell if you really want to understand something you got a give everything to it.
I've met very motivated people in my life, many of which are creating amazing things and companies. The first characteristic you can see in all these people is that they all have a well defined end goal. That's the first thing everyone should look for when motivating themselves, finding an end goal. This is essentially a long term goal, not short term ones. It must be a single goal, not a set of goals, else you will loose focus. I can hear you thinking already, "but I want to do so much", but that's the beauty of this end goal, it can be broad enough to cover all your dreams. This is the hardest question to answer ("what's my purpose in this life?"), took me 15 years (from the day I started to think about this, when I was a kid) to decide on what I wanted to do with my life, but the more life experience you have, the easier it is to decide upon it. When deciding on this, make sure you don't confuse the end with the means to reach it, so don't choose a specific goal such as become a doctor, or become the president of your country. Do you want to be a doctor, or do you want to actually save lives? Do you want to be the president, or do you want to build a better country/world? A tip that can help you with not confusing the end with the means is: state your end goal in 3 words or less. I can state mine in 2.
The second characteristic motivated people have is confidence. They are usually pretty confident they can reach their end goal. This is one of the reasons people have very different goals. Many would say that making the world better is a good goal, but how many would say they got the confidence to do it? If you don't have the confidence, build it. A little example from my own experience: when a kid I was scared of skating down a big half-pipe from a park we used to go to. At that time, my goal was quite simple, have fun and skate better than my friends, but I didn't really have the confidence to accept the challenge of skating down that huge half-pipe. I built up my confidence by going down smaller ones (even broke an arm when doing that, but it didn't stop me, I learned from my mistake and started using gloves) until one day I was confident enough to try going down the large one, and so I did. That's how you build confidence.
Lastly, after choosing your goals and building the confidence to do it, you need to decide on what way to take. For any goal, there are a wide choice of ways you can take to move towards them. Some ways are easier than others, some are more interesting, some are very challenging. This is what will define your short and mid term goals. Think of them as stepping stones so you can reach the end goal. Let's go back to one of our examples, you want to save lives. You can be a doctor and save lives, you can be a scientist, finding cures to diseases in a lab and save lives, you can be a fireman and save lives or even be an investor in nanotechnology labs and save lives. Which way is more appealing to you? Let's continue, you decided that by being a doctor you will save lives. First of all, what kind of doctor do you want to be? A cardiologist? A neurosurgeon? An E.R. doctor? Well, do you need to make that decision now? Not really, you can choose it while you are at college, so let's move on. Oh, right, you must enter college and graduate before becoming a doctor. Uhm, do you want to enter the best college you can? Damn, we need to study for the SAT then (I ain't American, not really sure how college admissions really work). Anyway, this is how you decide on the way. You state your end goal and work backwards from the longest term goal to the shortest one. That's how you decide on what means you will use to reach your end goal.
Anyway, after deciding on all that, that's how you will be motivated to study for that algebra exam, or to pay attention at that physics class from that boring teacher at 6pm on a Friday. A couple important notes, I highly suggest you to never share your end goal with your peers. This usually undermines your confidence, and therefor, your motivation. Secondly, your goal, once defined shouldn't change. If it changes, it just mean you haven't found yours yet. What can change, and should change (due to changes in environment) are the means you choose to take. The means can always change, but they should always be moving you towards the end. An example, your country enters in war. This is highly disruptive to everyone's lives and this will very likely affect on the means you will choose to reach your goal, but shouldn't change your end goal.
Bullshit. When a 3rd grader masters differential calculus it is almost entirely hard-core innate intelligence combined with an innate ability to concentrate. No normal 3rd grade has the ability to study at that level. People who succeed often want to think it was entirely their hard work, and that lucky genes had no real influence.
Think about it.
If you take someone of average intelligence, he could spend his entire life, sweating and studying like crazy every day,
and not get through MIT. Even Bill Gates went from Theory to Applied math at Harvard when he realized how difficult it was. If you think he isn't a determined, hard-working person, well... The truth is, he just didn't have the freakish IQ required for the work.
Anyhow, I don't have much for tips. I was like the OP, too confident from my own good and was almost crushed by a college engineering program.
I think my main problem is I often accomplish things by with intense fits of work. It's easy to underestimate the effectiveness of the slow-and-steady approach. I'm still working on improving with that.
Regarding college, my advice is go to class, do the reading, do the assignments. If you can find a group to study and do homework with, that helps. I'd also recommend reading "Getting Things Done". The power of identifying the next task for a project is truly amazing and the "get it out of your head" ready does reduce stress.
Or is Stanford just the best school in absolutely everything?
Perfect, maybe they'll actually get studying done.