Self Help

Hidden Potential The Science of Achieving Greater Things - Adam Grant

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Matheus Puppe

· 37 min read

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  • Researchers conducted extensive interviews with 120 high-achieving individuals across various fields like music, science, sports. They found that very few were child prodigies and most did not clearly stand out early on in their abilities.

  • Success comes more from appropriate learning conditions rather than innate talent alone. With the right opportunities and motivation to learn, anyone can build skills to achieve greater things.

  • A landmark study in Tennessee randomly assigned students to classes from kindergarten to 3rd grade. An economist later analyzed the data and found students taught by more experienced kindergarten teachers earned more money as adults.

  • While early teachers helped with cognitive skills, it was their influence on developing character skills like initiative, collaboration, discipline, and determination that had the longest impact. These skills mattered more than early academic performance in predicting adult success.

  • Character is better seen as a set of learnable skills rather than just moral willpower or principles. Developing character skills allows one to perform better in challenging situations and achieve greater success.

  • Maurice Ashley, a chess champion, started teaching chess to students in Harlem schools. He took an unconventional approach by teaching the endgame first rather than the standard opening moves, to engage the students’ competitive spirit and desire to win.

  • He provided “scaffolding” to support the students’ development, such as having them draw cartoons and write stories about chess strategies to make it more interactive. This helped ignite their motivation to learn.

  • The students formed a team called the “Raging Rooks” and held each other accountable by recording their games. They spent the summer training on their own initiative.

  • Their skills and discipline impressed chess grandmaster Bruce Pandolfini. He was amazed by how composed they remained under pressure, like professionals.

  • Maurice believed character traits like discipline were more important than raw talent. The Raging Rooks success showed how developing these skills through chess could boost one’s potential.

  • Temporary scaffolding like what Maurice provided is important, as not all students have ideal mentors or parental support to access opportunities to grow. This highlights the role of motivators and skill-building activities in developing hidden potential.

  • The passage describes an experiment that tested whether character can be developed later in life, contrary to the belief that it “sets like plaster” by age 30.

  • Researchers gave business training to 1500 entrepreneurs in West Africa, either focusing on cognitive/technical skills or character skills like proactivity and discipline.

  • Those who received character skills training saw substantially larger growth in profits (30% over 2 years) compared to cognitive skills training, showing character can still be developed.

  • Character involves prioritizing values over instincts, especially under stress. It’s how you respond on hard days, not typical days. Personality is tendency but character enables transcending that.

  • “Soft skills” is a misnomer as character skills like these are actually our greatest strength, more so than cognitive skills which can be automated. As technology advances, character skills will become even more important.

So in summary, the passage uses an experiment to challenge the idea that character is fixed by a certain age, finding that character skills training can still lead to significant gains later in life and may be even more impactful than cognitive training alone. It argues “soft skills” are a misnomer and character will be increasingly important as technology automates more cognitive tasks.

The passage discusses how technological advances are placing a growing emphasis on interpersonal skills and relationships. It argues that as interactions and connections become increasingly important, the human qualities of character, determination, proactivity, and mastery of discomfort will be highly valued.

It notes that while most people prioritize career success and happiness, focusing more on developing character skills could have great societal benefits. If Americans pursued character with the same dedication as careers, it could profoundly impact the country.

The key idea is that embracing discomfort, rather than avoiding it, is essential for growth. Facing challenges before feeling fully prepared helps build character strengths. Polyglots like Sara Maria and Benny prove that anyone can learn new skills or languages later in life by getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. This counters the popular myth that learning styles determine what people can learn, and suggests determination to endure struggles is more important than innate abilities.

  • Learning styles are not fixed, and focusing only on your strengths limits growth and improvement in weaknesses. Embracing discomfort is necessary for learning.

  • Steve Martin initially bombed in stand-up comedy because listening, watching and doing alone were not enough. Writing, which he disliked, helped him refine his material and structure jokes better.

  • Procrastination often stems from avoiding uncomfortable feelings, not just lack of effort. Steve overcame procrastination on writing by recognizing it was necessary for success.

  • Writing forces clearer thinking by exposing gaps and requiring articulation. Unclear writing signals unclear thinking. Steve improved through the discipline of writing.

  • Learning methods should match the task. Reading led to better comprehension and recall than listening in an experiment. Producing a language leads to better understanding and speaking than only comprehending.

  • One must actively seek discomfort, like Sara Maria did by living in Madrid speaking only Spanish. True comfort comes from mastery, but practicing before mastery is uncomfortable, so we avoid it. Overcoming this requires courage to use knowledge as we gain it.

So in summary, the passage advocates overcoming discomfort and weaknesses through embracing challenges outside one’s comfort zone, like writing or language production, for deeper learning and growth.

  • Researchers found that encouraging people to intentionally seek discomfort and view it as a sign of growth was motivating for learning new skills and information. This applied to both non-political skills as well as getting political partisans to consume media from the opposing viewpoint.

  • Sara Maria, wanting to honor her husband’s Cantonese-speaking family, committed to learning Cantonese despite being terrified of making mistakes. She memorized speeches, took lessons, and immersed herself in the language. She delivered her wedding toast beautifully in Cantonese.

  • Benny Lewis struggled to learn Spanish until he realized he needed to overcome his fear of speaking and make mistakes. He started by putting himself in mildly uncomfortable social situations, and eventually committed to always speaking to strangers, like bursting into song. This “flooding” approach helped him become conversationally fluent quickly.

  • Experts compare systematic desensitization and flooding approaches to overcoming fears. While desensitization gradually increases exposure, flooding throws one into the full threat. Both can be effective for building skills if the person survives the experience without long-term harm. Intentionally introducing unexpected threats is important for training.

  • Learning languages is about building a communication skill, not just acquiring knowledge. Students learn best by guessing incorrectly first before the right answer, and language learners should aim to increase mistakes in order to practice communication and improve. Embracing and amplifying discomfort is key to progress.

  • To make fewer mistakes when learning new skills, it helps to make mistakes early on. Early mistakes help us remember the correct answers and motivate us to keep learning.

  • Benny uses a goal of making at least 200 mistakes per day when learning a new language. He sees mistakes as part of the learning progress and doesn’t beat himself up when he makes errors. This approach helps him improve more quickly.

  • Psychologists call the cycle of getting praised for effort, which then makes effort feel rewarding, “learned industriousness.” This pulls us toward keeping trying rather than needing to push ourselves.

  • Starting to practice skills from day one, even if uncomfortable, helps build comfort through practice over time rather than waiting until feeling ready. Taking the leap leads to becoming prepared.

  • Being a “human sponge” by absorbing information well is more important for growth than just the quantity of work or information sought. Sea sponges’ ability to absorb, filter, and adapt helped them thrive through devastating extinction events in history.

  • Mellody Hobson overcame difficulties through the quality of her efforts, not just quantity. Her rise illustrates that gains come more from how fruitful our efforts are than sheer hard work alone. Literacy played a key role in advancing societies through the Protestant Reformation more than just work ethic.

  • A study found that higher incomes near Wittenberg, the origin of the Protestant Reformation, were entirely due to gains in literacy from the Reformation. Literacy allowed people to learn and apply skills more effectively.

  • Cognitive skills like literacy lay the groundwork for becoming a “sponge” and absorbing new information and ideas. This allows people to achieve more through being proactive self-starters.

  • Mellody Hobson was focused on learning from a young age. She was determined to read Charlotte’s Web and learn new words. As an intern, she studied the stock market by meeting her mentor at McDonald’s on Saturdays.

  • Hobson had high “absorptive capacity” - an ability to recognize, value, assimilate and apply new information. This depends on being proactive in seeking knowledge and focusing on growth rather than ego.

  • Julius Yego and Ihab Abdelrahman faced disadvantages growing up but Yego taught himself javelin throwing techniques by watching YouTube videos. He improved more over time than athletes who had coaches, showing his proactive approach to learning.

  • Absorptive capacity allows people to learn from both objective sources like videos and more subjective feedback from others to continue growing.

The passage describes the author’s early struggles with public speaking due to shyness and anxiety. As a graduate student, they decided to directly face their fear by volunteering to give guest lectures. However, the feedback they received from friends was vague and not very helpful for improving.

Later experiences giving presentations to students, hiring committees, and military leaders resulted in harsh criticism that was demoralizing. The author realized they needed a better way to get useful feedback. They started asking peers for specific advice on how to improve rather than general feedback. This elicited more constructive suggestions, such as opening with a personal story to connect with the audience.

The passage also discusses qualities that determine whether a source can be trusted as a good coach providing advice. If the person cares about you, is credible in their expertise, and knows you well, their feedback is worth considering to help you grow. The example is given of politician and mentor Bill Bradley providing critically important but difficult feedback to Mellody Hobson that helped shape her career success.

In the end, the author argues we can learn from challenges by focusing on absorbing useful advice from trustworthy coaches, rather than dwelling on weaknesses, in order to continuously improve public speaking and other skills.

  • Sponges are responsible for complex life on Earth. They helped oxygenate the oceans, allowing for more advanced organisms to evolve. Without sponges, humans may not exist.

  • Being a “sponge” in the social sense means absorbing helpful information from others, but also releasing that information to help others learn and grow. It’s a proactive and prosocial skill.

  • The chapter profiles architect Tadao Ando and how he embraces imperfections in his designs. Despite lacking formal training, he uses his own experimentation and studying to become one of the most renowned architects.

  • Ando’s buildings withstood a major earthquake that destroyed many other structures. He prioritizes durability over perfection in amenities or aesthetics. This compromise allows him to achieve his artistic visions within limited budgets and spaces.

  • The piece argues that perfectionism is not necessary for technical or aesthetic mastery. Excelling often requires tolerating certain flaws or shortcomings. Experts know which flaws are acceptable to achieve their overall goals.

So in summary, it discusses how sponges enabled complex life, the value of sharing knowledge to help others, and why tolerating imperfections can help architects and other experts achieve their highest work. Perfectionism is not always the path to mastery.

  • Perfectionism can limit growth by focusing too much on narrow skills and avoiding mistakes. It traps people in spirals of avoiding failure and new challenges.

  • The Japanese concept of wabi sabi honors imperfections and finds beauty in them. Famous architect Tadao Ando embraces imperfections in his use of raw concrete, choosing ‘perfectly acceptable’ over perfection.

  • Ando’s experience as a boxer taught him to accept imperfection and risk failure to develop new skills. This mentality informed his architectural approach.

  • The author recounts struggling with perfectionism as a diver in high school. It caused him to excessively refine minor details instead of harder skills, and freeze up from trying new dives out of fear of flaws.

  • With coaching, he learned to aim for specific, challenging goals rather than the vague ‘do your best.’ This focused his effort better and helped gauge progress. Imperfection was accepted as long as he achieved the goal, allowing him to take risks and improve overall.

  • The passage describes the author’s experience training with diving coach Eric Best. Eric encouraged the author to push their limits and not be afraid to try more difficult dives, even if they felt wrong. This led to significant improvement in the author’s skills over a few years.

  • At their team banquet, the author received an award for focusing too much on minor errors rather than appreciating their progress. Eric’s philosophy was to focus on constantly improving and helping others, rather than having a “bad day.”

  • The author learned to judge themselves based on the progress they had made rather than constantly seeking perfection. Looking back at old videos helped them appreciate how far they had come.

  • The passage also discusses choreographer Twyla Tharp’s process of revising her musical “Movin’ Out” based on critical feedback. Tharp aimed for a “minimum lovable product” rather than perfection. Key revisions like adding a prologue helped simplify the story and clarify characters.

  • The passage advocates for seeking feedback from judging committees to help identify needed improvements, rather than leaving success to chance opinions. The author has applied this approach to their own writing projects.

The passage discusses strategies for transforming daily practice and grinding towards goals into more motivating and fulfilling activities. It uses the example of Evelyn Glennie, a Scottish musician who dreamed of attending a prestigious music conservatory despite facing obstacles.

When Glennie auditioned, she played various pieces on percussion instruments like timpani and xylophone as well as piano. However, the conservatory did not accept her. This rejection could have been demotivating, but Glennie did not give up on her passion for music. She continued practicing diligently and applying herself.

Later passages discuss how mentors, coaches, role models and peers can provide scaffolding or temporary support structures to help people overcome obstacles and scale new heights. Different types of scaffolding may be needed at different times depending on the challenge. Playing Tetris is given as an example of how a specific activity can help reduce unwanted flashbacks or intrusive thoughts after distressing experiences.

The summary focuses on how the passage discusses transforming daily practice and “grinding” towards goals into more motivating activities, using Evelyn Glennie’s example of persevering in her music passion despite an initial rejection from her dream conservatory. It also mentions the concept of scaffolding from mentors/others to help overcome challenges.

  • Evelyn Glennie is a renowned percussion soloist who is profoundly deaf. She was told as a child that it would be impossible for her to have a musical career due to her deafness.

  • Her teacher, Ron Forbes, helped her develop a unique approach to music through vibrations felt in her body rather than hearing. She practiced feeling different notes in different parts of her body.

  • Their collaborative approach made learning music a joy rather than a chore. They varied the tasks and increased the complexity over time in a challenging but fun way.

  • Evelyn went on to have an extremely successful career as a solo percussionist, becoming the first to have such a career. She has won multiple Grammys and other awards.

  • The key to her mastery was finding a way to make practice a source of joy through “deliberate play” rather than tedious repetition. This helped unlock her hidden potential in a fun and engaging way.

  • A communication course for pharmacy students allowed them to better identify patients’ chief complaints and empathize with concerns, improving their performance on patient examinations.

  • Similar benefits were seen in a sales training class where students role-played customer and salesperson scenarios. Those who participated sold 43% more tickets compared to a control group.

  • Deliberate play, where tasks are made more motivating and developmental, can help sustain enjoyment and achievement in sports and other domains like music or word games.

  • A basketball experiment found that young players who spent more time in deliberately designed games vs drills showed greater improvement in skills like court awareness and passing.

  • Basketball trainer Brandon Payne works to incorporate harmonious passion into every element of practice by reimagining drills as games to motivate players.

  • He helped NBA star Stephen Curry improve weaknesses like speed and agility through deliberate play approaches, helping Curry break records and become the league’s MVP. Changing situations can build discipline more than willpower alone.

  • The shmarlow test studied how kids dealt with temptation by waiting to eat a marshmallow. Some found creative ways to make the wait easier by covering their eyes, sitting on their hands, etc. This showed their ability to create “scaffolding” to reduce the need for willpower.

  • Brandon Payne, Steph Curry’s trainer, takes a similar approach by making workouts fun and game-like through “deliberate play.” Drills have time or point targets to reach, competing against yourself. This keeps Curry motivated to improve over time.

  • Mixing up drills is better than repetition, per research on “interleaving.” Variety and challenges are more engaging and effective for learning.

  • Deliberate play is key for summer training when games are not as frequent. It keeps workouts interesting and players focused on improving.

  • Taking breaks from practice is important to sustain passion, spark creativity, and aid learning through incubation and spaced repetition. Forcing overly long practices can reduce quality and lead to burnout.

  • Musician Evelyn Glennie takes regular breaks to stay energized and avoid compulsion in her practice. Breaks unlock fresh ideas and deepen learning through forgetting curves. Balance of work and rest fuels long-term development and enjoyment of one’s craft.

The story describes how baseball pitcher R.A. Dickey struggled in his career, facing many setbacks and demotions. Despite showing early promise, he was derailed by an elbow injury in his late 20s. He spent many years in the minor leagues trying to get back to the majors. When he did, he struggled and was demoted again.

At age 31, it seemed his career was over as most pitchers retire by their early 30s. However, he broke through at age 35, making it back to the majors and becoming one of the top pitchers. The key was finding new ways to improve through backing up and trying different approaches when he was stuck. His coaches helped him reconsider his technique.

The chapter discusses how skills often plateau and then decline slightly before improving again, as new methods are tried, tested and implemented. To move forward from being stuck, one may need to back up, slow down and follow a different path to build new momentum. Teams also improved after injuries by restrategizing and giving other players opportunities. Overall, backing up can be necessary to progress when current approaches have stopped working.

  • We often seek guidance from experts when trying to achieve a goal or learn a new skill. However, experts are often poor teachers for beginners.

  • Experts have advanced far in their field and may struggle to remember what it was like to be a novice. This “curse of knowledge” makes it difficult for them to explain concepts simply.

  • Much of an expert’s knowledge is tacit and intuitive, not explicit. They may have a hard time articulating the step-by-step process they use.

  • Taking classes from eminent professors, like Einstein, can leave beginners feeling overwhelmed and incompetent when the material is beyond their level.

  • Even if experts can demonstrate their skills, they may not be able to translate how to navigate someone else’s unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning path effectively.

  • In summary, while experts have mastery of a field, that expertise can paradoxically make them poor guides for novices just starting out on their own journeys of learning. Nonexperts may be better able to relate to and teach beginners.

  • The passage discusses the importance of having multiple mentors or guides when navigating an uncertain path, rather than relying on a single person for advice. No individual will have all the answers, and different mentors can provide different perspectives.

  • It uses the example of lawyers trying to become partners at law firms. Having a supportive mentor was good for satisfaction but didn’t directly impact promotions. Having multiple mentors (2-3) who could share different advice was what helped lawyers actually get promoted.

  • The passage then discusses how R.A. Dickey, a baseball pitcher, had to enlist various former knuckleball pitchers as mentors to learn how to master the unusual knuckleball pitch. He got useful but sometimes contradictory advice from different mentors and had to determine what worked best for him through trial and error.

  • It notes how progress is not always linear, and periods of stagnation or feeling “stuck” are common when making a major change or climbing to a new level. This state of languishing can deplete motivation if it persists too long without any noticeable progress. Periodically taking breaks or detours may be needed to refuel emotionally and cognitively.

  • In 1944, 16 Black men were selected to be the first to undergo officer training in the segregated U.S. Navy, despite longstanding discrimination and doubts about their abilities.

  • They faced racial slurs from instructors meant to ensure their failure, as well as an accelerated 10-week training program due to the war. Some had limited education backgrounds.

  • Defying expectations, all 16 candidates passed their exams, significantly outperforming the typical 75% pass rate. Leaders suspected cheating and made them retake exams, which they scored even higher on.

  • They proved the doubters wrong through perseverance and academic excellence despite facing obstacles meant to ensure their failure due to racism and prejudice within the Navy at that time. Their success paved the way for more opportunities for Black servicemen in the military.

In summary, the story highlights the triumph of 16 Black men who were the first to integrate officer training in the Navy during WWII, achieving success against the odds and pushing boundaries through their academic excellence despite facing discrimination and being set up to fail.

The Golden Thirteen were the first group of Black men to become Navy officers in the US. Faced with significant obstacles and racism, they banded together to support each other through officer training. They realized their potential was greater when focused outward on collaborating, rather than inward alone.

The group studied intensely together each night, with each member teaching their areas of expertise to the others. Pooling their knowledge through peer-to-peer teaching helped boost everyone’s learning, competency and confidence through the “tutor effect”. Working as a united team with the mantra “all for one and one for all”, they were able to rise above the challenges and become the highest achieving class in Navy history. Their success demonstrated that facing obstacles is easier when harnessing collective resources and building “bootstraps” of support together, rather than relying only on individual grit. Their pioneering achievement paved the way for future generations.

  • Alison Levine wanted to lead an expedition of American women up Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, but faced many challenges due to her small size and circulatory disorder that caused numbness in cold temperatures.

  • Crossing the dangerous Khumbu Icefall was extremely difficult for her due to her slower pace. A male climber yelled at her to go faster or quit.

  • They later faced many dangers like an avalanche, helicopter crash, and another climber falling to his death.

  • After nearly two months of climbing, when they were just 300 feet from the summit in the death zone, a dangerous storm blew in forcing them to turn back without summiting.

  • Despite facing doubts about her abilities, nearly dying multiple times, and falling short of the summit, Alison successfully led her team back down the mountain in challenging conditions.

The key points are that Alison faced doubts about being able to summit Everest due to her physical limitations, but persevered through many dangers to lead her team in a heroic climbing expedition, even if they narrowly missed the summit.

  • Alison Levine faced criticism and skepticism after failing to reach the summit of Mount Everest in her first attempt in 2002. She felt like a failure and sank into self-doubt.

  • When she read online comments belittling her efforts, she was motivated to prove the doubters wrong. However, simply wanting to disprove ignorant critics was not enough to spur her second attempt.

  • Her friend Meg encouraged Alison to try climbing Everest again. Alison wanted to honor Meg’s memory after she passed away from cancer. Having someone counting on her gave Alison stronger motivation to overcome the challenges.

  • On her second attempt in Meg’s memory, Alison pushed past her doubts. A knowledgeable guide also encouraged her when she faltered, believing in her ability to summit. With critics to prove wrong and a friend to honor, Alison succeeded in reaching the Everest summit.

  • Overcoming obstacles requires both fighting against low expectations and having someone or something meaningful to fight for. Ignorant doubters can spark motivation, but close supporters help sustain the drive to achieve significant goals.

  • The Golden Thirteen were the first Black officers commissioned in the US Navy in 1944. They faced significant doubt and low expectations due to their race.

  • They were extremely motivated to prove their doubters wrong and succeed so that future Black officers would have opportunities. They supported each other and didn’t want to let their community down.

  • All 13 members completed their training, breaking the color barrier. They went on to have very successful careers and advocate for civil rights. Their achievements opened many doors for future Black officers and generations.

  • It took many years for the Navy to formally recognize their historic accomplishments. In 1987, a building was dedicated in their honor at the training site.

  • Meeting each other decades later at a reunion, the Golden Thirteen were moved to see how many officers’ careers they had enabled through paving the way. Captains thanked them for all they had done.

  • The Golden Thirteen showed great determination and belief in one another to confront obstacles of racial discrimination and doubts about their abilities at that time in the Navy. Their success improved opportunities and conditions for many others to come.

  • The passage discusses Finland’s remarkable rise to the top of international education rankings based on PISA test results, starting in 2000 when they unexpectedly won.

  • Previously, Finland’s education system was average or below average. But between the 1960s-1980s they implemented major reforms focused on teacher training, professionalization, autonomy, and creating a culture that values education.

  • While some attributes like homogeneity helped, the key factors were cultural - assuming all students are teachable, tailoring education to individuals, and giving teachers freedom and flexibility. This created cultures of opportunity where all students can excel.

  • In contrast, the US system assumes potential is innate and rewards brilliance early on, creating a “winner take all” culture. Reforms like NCLB failed to close gaps.

  • Finland shows intelligence comes in many forms, and investing in all students rather than just the gifted leads to the highest performance and smallest gaps. Their practices personalized learning through student relationships and interests.

So in summary, the passage attributes Finland’s education success primarily to cultural factors like valuing teaching, tailoring to individuals, and assuming all students can excel, which their reforms successfully established.

  • Finland practices “looping” where students stay with the same teacher for multiple years, often up to 6 years in elementary school. This allows teachers to deeply know each student and tailor their instruction.

  • Research in North Carolina and Indiana found significantly improved student performance when they had the same teacher for 2 years in a row, showing the benefits of looping.

  • Finland also provides individualized support for struggling students. School principals actively tutor and mentor students like Besart who was falling behind.

  • Every Finnish school has a student welfare team of professionals like psychologists, nurses, etc. to provide early intervention and prevent major issues. About 30% of students receive extra assistance.

  • Finnish teachers have allocated break times which prevents burnout and allows them to plan personalized learning plans for each student starting in kindergarten.

  • The emphasis on early intervention and individualized relationships between teachers and students is aimed at helping all students reach their potential and access support if needed. This contrasts with more reactive approaches in some other countries.

  • Tim, a teacher from the US, was surprised to see how differently kindergarten worked in Finland compared to the US. In Finland, kids spent most of their time playing rather than sitting at desks doing worksheets.

  • Finnish kindergarten focused on play-based learning rather than direct instruction. Kids played games, built structures, sang songs, explored their interests through activity stations. This was meant to teach kids that learning is fun.

  • Research shows kids who enjoy school at a young age do better later on standardized tests, even controlling for intelligence and socioeconomic factors. Play is seen as a child’s work in Finland.

  • One popular activity was running an imaginary ice cream shop, which helped kids practice math, social, and language skills through role-playing.

  • However, Finland’s PISA scores started declining after years of being tops. Experts looked at possible reasons like complacency, budget cuts, and lack of student motivation, especially among boys and in high school.

  • Finland ran experiments to give students more agency and explore their interests, like running a miniature city program. This was meant to boost intrinsic motivation.

  • Cultivating a love of reading was also seen as important to nourish individual interests and motivation to learn other subjects.

  • In 2010, 33 miners were trapped underground in a collapsed Chilean mine after an avalanche caused the only entrance to cave in. They were given less than a 1% chance of survival.

  • The initial rescue efforts faced many challenges as the maps of the mine were outdated and the team had to “drill blind” to locate the miners. After 17 days, they made contact via a small drill that came back covered in paint and notes from the miners.

  • The miners’ supplies were dwindling and they were on very limited food and water. The team had to figure out how to drill a large rescue hole without risking further collapse of the mine.

  • Rather than solely relying on a small group of experts, the rescue leaders built a system to gather ideas from a broader pool. They made initial voice contact via a small borehole and also set up a system to crowdsource ideas online from anyone around the world.

  • In an unprecedented rescue effort, all 33 miners were successfully rescued after 69 days trapped underground, the longest anyone had ever survived in a mine collapse. It was considered a miracle. The broad problem-solving approach was key to the ultimate success of the complex rescue mission.

The passage discusses the importance of collective intelligence and prosocial skills for effective teamwork. It cites research showing that the smartest teams are not necessarily those with the smartest individuals, but rather teams that harness the contributions of all members. Prosocial skills like recognizing others’ strengths and motivating shared goals are more important than cognitive abilities.

One study found collective intelligence depended more on players’ prosocial skills than cognitive skills. Teams succeeded less if they had narcissistic members who didn’t cooperate well. Another example discussed how initially disorganized rescue efforts after a Chilean mine collapse were improved by appointing a leader with strong prosocial, team-oriented skills to coordinate everyone. The passage emphasizes that true teamwork requires developing common identities, strategic roles for all, and coaching/mentoring between members - not just putting individuals together. Prosocial leadership is key to unlocking hidden potential in groups.

  • André Sougarret was put in charge of leading the rescue mission to save 33 miners trapped in a collapsed mine in Copiapó, Chile in 2010.

  • Rather than barking commands, Sougarret took a consultative leadership approach, focusing on listening skills and bringing out the best in teams. He knew he didn’t have all the answers and needed collaborative problem solving.

  • Sougarret set up a “brainwriting” system to solicit rescue proposals from around the world, rather than relying solely on group brainstorming. This crowdsourcing approach generated hundreds of diverse ideas.

  • Some ideas were far-fetched but others provided useful solutions, like using tubes to deliver food/water and communication with the miners. Even an inexpensive plastic phone helped when high-tech solutions failed.

  • Sougarret’s collaborative, idea-generating approach helped develop an effective rescue plan and ultimately saved all 33 miners after 69 days trapped underground. His focus on listening, teamwork and crowdsourcing ideas was crucial to the mission’s success.

  • Igor Proestakis, a young engineer, had an idea to access the trapped miners faster by rapidly expanding one of the existing drill holes using a special drill called a cluster hammer.

  • When he mentioned his idea to the geologists overseeing the drilling, they asked him to present it to André Sougarret, the head of the rescue operation. Igor was surprised they took his suggestion seriously given his young age and junior role.

  • Igor quickly put together a presentation and pitch for his idea. André listened carefully and asked thoughtful questions rather than immediately dismissing it. He had Igor pitch the idea to Chile’s mining minister, which was then approved to run in parallel with the existing plan.

  • In most organizations, a junior person like Igor would not have been able to present an idea directly to senior leadership. But the climate at the rescue operation encouraged ideas and input from all levels, creating psychological safety.

  • The willingness to consider Igor’s suggestion despite his lack of experience showed the rescue leaders were looking for ways to say yes rather than excuses to say no, maximizing the chances of saving the miners. Their openness to new ideas unlocked collective intelligence.

The passage describes the story of José Hernandez, who dreamed of becoming an astronaut since watching the moon landing as a child. He pursued engineering degrees and worked as an engineer, applying to NASA repeatedly over many years but always being rejected.

NASA’s selection process focused on work experience and past accomplishments, failing to see José’s potential. He had overcome significant obstacles as the son of migrant farmworkers who didn’t speak English at first. Between applications, José developed cancer detection technology, ran marathons, and took on community leadership roles.

The passage argues that selection systems like NASA’s underestimate potential when they only consider past performance. They miss “diamonds in the rough” who have had to climb steep slopes and overcome obstacles to achieve what they have. The true test is how candidates respond to challenges, not where they start from. Selection processes should consider life experiences and growth over time, not just early accomplishments, to identify potential in a wide range of qualified candidates.

  • People who achieve excellence often face speed bumps and roadblocks along the way that are hidden from view. By failing to see their potential and understand their difficult paths, we risk squandering their valuable contributions.

  • When screening large applicant pools with limited time, assessment errors are inevitable. Candidates get reduced to thin slices of info without a deep dive into their backgrounds.

  • Relying solely on credentials like degrees is flawed - pedigrees don’t always predict performance. Experience also often reveals little about potential.

  • Past performance in similar roles provides a better clue to potential, but has limitations if skills don’t translate or if it overlooks growth mindsets. Natural talent sets floors but learned character affects ceilings.

  • Character skills that drive success, like perseverance, grit and learning agility, aren’t always apparent from surface evaluations. We risk missing brilliance beneath if we don’t look beyond credentials.

  • Studying NASA’s selection process showed how difficult backgrounds, like Jose Hernandez’s upbringing, remained invisible without probing questions about adversity candidates overcame.

  • Quantifying unquantifiables like degree of difficulty is challenging but important for a full picture of potential. Simply judging on past execution favors those with easier paths and dismisses taxing trials others faced.

  • Affirmative action policies aim to promote underrepresented groups but can unintentionally disadvantage those they aim to help by raising doubts about their competence. Research shows members of disadvantaged groups perform worse when affirmative action is in place.

  • Measuring “degree of difficulty” at the individual level could help address this issue rather than just focusing on groups. Factors like access to opportunities and training should be considered in addition to membership in underrepresented groups.

  • Selection systems often fail to consider the context and challenges applicants have faced. Things like course difficulty, socioeconomic factors, and grade trajectories over time provide important context but are overlooked.

  • Improving how selection systems assess “rise over run” - the rate of improvement over time - could help identify hidden potential in applicants who started weak but improved significantly, like due to overcoming early challenges through hard work. Looking at fuller transcripts and contexts can give a more accurate picture of applicants’ abilities and potential.

  • Traditional job interviews are highly stressful and put people with disabilities at a disadvantage by focusing on weaknesses, hypothetical future scenarios, and tricky brainteasers. This amplifies anxiety and makes it hard to see a candidate’s full potential.

  • Standard interviews and past performance/experience alone don’t provide a complete picture of a person’s abilities or potential to learn and improve. They don’t account for different challenges candidates have faced.

  • A better approach is to use interactive “work samples” during interviews to observe how candidates solve real problems in the moment. This shows hidden skills and gives people a chance to succeed where traditional interviews may set them up to fail.

  • Allowing candidates to get feedback and redo work samples if they get stuck provides valuable second chances to demonstrate their skills and reduces stress.

  • Common interview practices can obscure the potential of neurodivergent candidates or those who have faced adversity, whereas a supportive, sample-based approach reveals strengths employers may otherwise miss.

So in summary, the key gaps highlighted are shortcomings of standard interviews in accounting for disabilities and adversity, as well as the benefits of interactive, feedback-based techniques like work samples.

  • The passage shares the story of José Hernández, a migrant farmworker from Mexico who eventually became an astronaut for NASA after many years of perseverance and self-improvement.

  • As a young man, José applied multiple times to become an astronaut but was rejected. He kept improving himself by earning a pilot’s license, scuba certifications, and learning Russian.

  • In 1998, after applying for over 15 years, José made it to the final round of astronaut selection but was again rejected, this time offered a job as an engineer at NASA instead.

  • In 2004, José got a call asking if he was replaceable - he was then selected to become an astronaut. In 2009 at age 47, he fulfilled his dream by traveling to space aboard the space shuttle.

  • José’s story demonstrates overcoming adversity through perseverance and constant self-improvement. It also shows the importance of second chances and not giving up on one’s dreams and potential.

  • The author failed a writing exam at Harvard and had to decide whether to take a remedial writing class or jump straight into the regular class. Writing experts advised taking the remedial class.

  • He was torn about what to do, not wanting to ruin his GPA but also embarrassed about being held back.

  • He spoke to his Harvard alumni interviewer John Gierak for advice. During the interview, the author had shown initiative by performing magic tricks, which impressed Gierak.

  • Gierak told the author his success would depend on his ability and motivation to learn, not initial ability. This gave the author confidence to skip the remedial class.

  • The author worked hard, staying on campus over Thanksgiving to rewrite papers. He went from failing the exam to getting the only A in the regular class.

  • This experience taught the author about having a growth mindset over an impostor syndrome mindset. It also showed the importance of scaffolding or support systems to help oneself learn.

  • The author later became a professor and writer. He struggled at first to write accessibly but learned from mentors. He published his first book by writing like he teaches, not like an academic paper.

  • The author now sees impostor syndrome as a sign of hidden potential. When others believe in you, it may be time to believe in yourself and your ability to grow. Success is about character growth, not just achievements.

  • Doing an activity is better for remembering information, while summarizing is ideal for understanding emotions.

  • It’s important to seek discomfort and a “mistake budget” in order to learn and improve through trial and error.

  • One should aim to become a “sponge” by absorbing new knowledge and perspectives from trustworthy sources.

  • It’s better to strive for excellence rather than perfection, and engage others to provide feedback on progress.

  • When facing obstacles, one can turn practice into play, take roundabout paths by backing up to move forward, and build self-confidence by coaching others.

  • Systems should be designed to bring out the best in all students by recognizing different types of intelligence and allowing exploration of individual interests.

  • Collective intelligence in teams can be uncovered by transforming groups into aligned teams with prosocial leaders, and using brainwriting over brainstorming.

The passage advocates for replacing traditional job interview and application processes with more equitable approaches that focus on potential rather than credentials. It proposes several ideas:

  • Replace the traditional hierarchical corporate structure with a “lattice system” that gives employees multiple paths to have their ideas heard and supported.

  • Eliminate requirements for degrees and experience in evaluating job applicants and students. Focus on talents and character over past accomplishments.

  • Consider the degree of difficulty in a person’s background and compare their performance to peers with similar circumstances.

  • Look at trajectories and improvement over time rather than just recent performance, as upward trajectories may indicate overcoming adversity.

  • Reimagine interviews to highlight candidates’ strengths and give them opportunities to showcase what they love. Allow do-overs if needed.

  • Redefine success as progress and distance traveled rather than just peaks achieved. The mark of potential is helping others progress as well.

It calls for putting candidates in the best position to succeed during evaluations and focusing on uncovering hidden potential and talent regardless of credentials or backgrounds.

Here is a summary of the key points about language learning and character development from the references provided:

  • Researchers have found that having a growth mindset and believing talents can be developed through effort is important for success in areas like language learning. Dedicated practice over many hours is necessary to reach high levels of skill.

  • Studies show that character skills developed early in life like conscientiousness, perseverance and self-control can have significant impacts on important life outcomes like career attainment and social-emotional well-being. Targeted skills training programs have boosted small business success.

  • While innate abilities provide an initial advantage, decades of research demonstrates that through deliberate practice, nearly anyone can acquire high levels of expertise in cognitive skills like chess or languages. Intelligence becomes less important compared to practice habits.

  • Teaching techniques like scaffolding that provide structured support can help develop both cognitive and non-cognitive abilities. Learning is most effective when challenges are just beyond a person’s current level of competence. Supporting growth mindsets and character strengths nurtures long-term development.

  • Famous polyglots and experts emphasize the importance of consistent, daily practice over many years to reach high proficiency, as well as drawing motivation from a passion for learning rather than just outcomes. Maintaining enthusiasm through the challenges of the learning process is key.

  • The article studied the retention of material learned from podcasts compared to in-class lectures in a university psychology course.

  • 68 students participated in the study. They listened to 10 psychology podcasts at home, then completed online quizzes to test their retention of the material.

  • As a comparison, students’ retention of material from in-class lectures was also tested using additional quizzes.

  • The results showed significantly better retention of material presented in class versus material learned from podcasts. On average, students answered 85% of questions correctly from in-class lectures but only 63% correctly from podcasts.

  • The authors argue that podcasts may be an effective supplemental tool but are not as effective as the traditional in-class lecture method for maximizing student learning and retention, especially for non-auditory subjects like psychology.

  • They attribute the better retention from in-class lectures to social cues from the instructor, ability to ask questions, visual aids, and interactive elements that enhance learning compared to passive podcast listening.

In summary, the study found that university students had significantly better retention of material presented in live lectures compared to material learned through podcasts outside of class. It suggests podcasts are better as a supplement rather than replacement for in-class instruction.

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