While our middle-aged brains may get distracted (and there is a reason for that), they are actually performing many higher-level brain functions better than our younger selves.
So, I just finished reading a book that I can't stop talking about; it's called The Secret Life of the Grown-Up Brain: The Surprising Talents of the Middle-Aged Mind by Barbara Strauch, which I came across while wandering around Powell's Books on my recent vacation in Portland, OR.
If you're a bookstore lover and you've never been to Powell's, you may just have to make a special trip to Portland for no other reason than to spend a week roaming the rainbow-coded multi-floor, mega-mecca-emporium's floor-to-ceiling stacks of new and used books. Needless to say, the hour I had was hardly enough to cover a measly corner of the place—but, oh, what a corner it was.
Strauch's book immediately appealed to me on several-levels:
Now, if you frequently find yourself:
What does all this mean? While our middle-aged brains may get distracted (and there is a reason for that), they are actually performing many higher-level brain functions better than our younger selves. So, as Neil Charness, a psychologist at Florida State University says in the book, "if what you are doing depends on knowledge, then you're going to do very well as you get older."
Who among us, in today's economy, whether a business owner or career professional, isn't trading in knowledge and expertise, in some way or another? There's some comfort in knowing that as we get older our experience actually does count for something—it really does make us better at our jobs, smarter than our younger selves (and competition) and wiser than even we may have expected (really, there have been studies to prove it). Read Strauch’s book if you don't believe me.
And if you need a strategic edge with your business or career my one-on-one sessions are a great way to get the support and boost you need to get you to that next level. Call or email me today to for details.
Without a willingness to fail and learn from failure one cannot gather the information needed to identify the best solution for success.
I’ve just begun reading Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide, which examines what’s happening in our heads when we’re making decisions and the role dopamine plays in connecting our decision-making to our emotions and our system's desire to recognize patterns for better and for worse.
One research citing in the book struck me as particularly fascinating as it made me consider how as children our futures as good decision-makers or "experts" may already be defined for us by something as innocuous as the words of praise we receive from parents or teachers.
Several years back Carol Dweck, a psychologist at Stanford, and her team ran an experiment in NYC with 5th graders, conducting several rounds of exams. The first round was a relatively easy exam after which each student was given their score and either praised for their intelligence or their effort. Then, they were offered the choice of taking a more difficult test, where they were told they would learn a lot, or a test that was about the same level of difficulty as the first.
Next, Dweck gave the same group of students an exam designed for 8th graders, making it extremely difficult. After taking the test, students were asked to choose between seeing exams of other students who scored better or worse than they did on the same exam.
Finally, the students were given a round of tests similar in difficulty to the initial round and were asked to self-report their scores.
Of the group praised for their intelligence:
Of the group praised for their efforts:
So what does all this have to do with being or becoming an expert? Well, it shows that failure is necessary and, I would even say, vital to the process of learning. Without failing our brains can’t properly work out the patterns that reveal the best solutions because they don’t have enough information from which to formulate the correct answers or drive us to make good decisions.
Dweck’s research shows that our desire to learn is highly influenced by the feedback we receive. In her research, like in most learning situations, Dweck's feedback sparks each child's desire either to learn or to succeed; those inspired to do the former embrace exploration and the possibility of failure rather than fearing failure and opting for what might be thought of as "the safe bet."
It is this willingness to fail that encouraged 90% of the effort-praised 5th graders to attempt the more difficult round 2 exam and drove almost all of them to learn from their mistakes by comparing their exams to those who scored better than they in round 3. And, in the end, it's the defining factor in why they became more proficient and expert while their intelligence-praised classmates actually decreased in proficiency.
Without a willingness to fail and learn from failure one cannot gather the information needed to identify the best solution for success. Expertise results from innately recognizing patterns for success, which itself is not possible without a preponderance of information and/or experience within or among a given field or function or set of disciplines.
If you’re an expert or want to be seen as one, you need to understand the patterns that govern your success so you can communicate your expertise in a way that makes sense to clients, customers, colleagues and/or employers. Consider:
If you need help with defining, refining or translating your expertise for your business or career, please don’t hesitate to get in touch; I'm always happy to put my expertise to work for you.