Three Controversial Books on the Mind – Earth Shattering Discovery or Snakeoil?

By: Heero Yuy

Repost from WallStreet Oasis (WSO). Check it!

Facebook feed showed yet another plug from Harvard Business Review (HBR) on Carol Dweck’s concept of a growth mindset as it pertains to Microsoft’s adaptation. I quit reading the book when she cited Enron executives as a role models for creativity and ingenuity as I always thought the creative branch was over at Arthur Andersen.

Summary of Mindset: Everyone can whine about things, people succeed by believing they can and actually doing it.

Angela “Grit” Duckworth invents new vocabulary to go along with her new revelation that success comes from passion and perseverance in her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance. Angela has been on TED talks and headline of articles such as this one from Forbes. Suggestions for her next buzzwords coined have been rest of the breakfast menu such as oat(s), egg(s), ham, and bacon.

Summary of Grit: Watch the movie Forrest Gump.

Last but not least, we have Malcolm “10K” Gladwell and his book Outliers. A Princeton study done back in 2014 on the meta-analysis of performance in different domains only found a 12% difference in performance based on practice in this article. Primary counter-argument for the 10,000-hour theory? It has to be deliberate practice and not just any practice that can allow a person to trend towards mastery as cited in the previous article and as well as this one on the National Post.

Summary of Outliers and ancillary books: Practice under a superb coach/teacher/mentor and actually know what the hell you are doing and love it at the same time. Hours are irrelevant.

Major Sales Pitch: You have to have the right growth mindset and grit to endure 10,000-hours of training to become a true Jedi Master. [Mindset->Grit->10K Race]

Let’s examine history. We’ve survived for thousands of years, tiptoed through disease and war, built World Wonders, innovated and engineered ourselves to the current modern life. Did we really haphazardly survive all this time without the above tools or perhaps we’ve been doing this the entire time under other terms? My people (Chinese) built a Big Wall to keep foreigners (Mongols) out, Egyptians built Pyramids, Europeans survived the Dark Ages and flourished through the Renaissance (thank you Assassin Creed, history class could never compare to the Animus), and now we got the internet and this wonderful place called WSO. In the first two examples of the Chinese and Egyptians came down to one simple concept; work or die. Surprisingly enough, from this is ‘new’ idea of work, the aforementioned items are two of the Seven World Wonders.

I’m not bullish on re-branded buzzwords. These books are good at explaining basic concepts to first time readers but the idea that we’ve somehow missed the train for tens of millennia is hard to swallow. It’s like the new twig calling the branch and the tree trunk fragile.

Do you believe these ideas are new?

Books referenced can be found on Amazon.com:
Mindset: The New Psychology of Success
Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
Outliers: The Story of Success


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