Sunday, July 24, 2011

Derek Sivers: "Why You Need to Fail"

I like this video because it distills a lot of literature (and popular articles) on becoming an expert (deliberate practice, the 10,000 hours rule, "talent is overrated," the growth mindset, etc.), and presents it all in under 10 minutes.


  1. MP said...

    Sure, now let us all strive to be Feynman.

    I appreciate the sentiment, but there are a few things wrong with this line of thinking.

    First, from "Accomplished people work hard" it doesn't follow that "Working hard will make you accomplished". Accomplishment is a mix of many other factors, including being at the right place, at the right time, in the right company, and having lots of dumb luck. Being tall helps too.

    Second, all people cannot work hard on all things. You have to be really motivated by something to work hard at it. And that motivation itself cannot be created by hard work. Motivation is a function of many things, including your social, economic, family, race and gender status, and an intrinsic orientation to some fields.

    Third, a critical factor that distinguishes accomplished people is their (sometime bizarre) perspective. As of now, we do not know *what to work hard on* to gain such perspective. I would generalise this to say that except for some very clearly defined areas such as athletics, we don't know *what to work hard on* to be accomplished in most areas. And that includes music, painting, dance, math and science. The really good people in all these areas have very different perspectives from the rest of the crowd.

    Fourth, knowing when to cut your losses is a critical skill -- all giving up is not bad.

    Fifth, the brain is plastic, but it is not infinitely plastic. Assuming the state of your brain is a significant component of your accomplishment, it is a function of three kinds of learning processes -- evolutionary, epigenetic and developmental. The hard work manifesto focuses on the last of these, and discounts the other two, which are critical precursors that decide what developmental learning can achieve. That's a lot of discounting.

    Finally, being accomplished is not the only worthwhile objective in life. Being contended is an equally, if not better, objective.