SG Thought

- wadE

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So I was reading a Sports Guyarticle yesterday where 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 overweight?

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 harder.

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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