So I was reading a Sports Guyarticle
he does his "Curious Guy" bit. It's where he exchanges emails with someone famous and has
a "conversation" of sorts with them. Something most of us with email are very familiar with.
In this instance he is swapping email with Malcolm Gladwell, who before this article I
had never heard of.
At any rate, one paragraph that Mr. Gladwell wrote to the SG was a paragraph I complete
disagreed and agreed with:
Gladwell: This is actually a question I'm obsessed with: Why don't people work hard
when it's in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year
The (short) answer is that it's really risky to work hard, because then if you fail
you can no longer say that you failed because you didn't work hard. It's a form of
self-protection. I swear that's why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor.
If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year
I will and I'll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as
hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost.
That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very
special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is
focused on why some kids don't study for tests -- which is a much more serious version
of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and
you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the
problem is that you're stupid -- and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence. The
point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a
task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because
he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works
When I first started this paragraph I thought, "the reason people don't try their
hardest is there is actually little reward and it actually isn't in their best interests
to do so." The difference between doing an adequate or slightly above average job, and
doing your absolute best for most people in most professions is little to none. Is it
really in Eddy Curry's best interest to bust his butt? He's got more cash than he needs,
if he goes through the motions he'll still get paid a lot and has a far less chance of
getting hurt which would really threaten his earning potential, plus he's avoided all of
that hard work and given himself lots of extra time for whatever it is Eddy Curry does
in his spare time.
I think this line of thought only works if a person is actually doing what they love
for a living. Without that the whole argument falls apart.
However, the second half of the paragraph is fascinating to me. I had never even
considered that line of thought as to why people would simply blow off assignments in
school. It makes a lot of sense to me, and I suppose this is something I would have
heard more about in college psych classes, but when I got a C in my first class, I
stopped taking those real fast. :-)
Food for thought on a Friday.
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