The July-August 2007 issue of Harvard Business Review contains an interesting article The Making of an Expert by Ericsson, Prietula and Cokely.
The article argues (on the basis of scholarly research since 1985) that outstanding or elite performance in any field is predominantly “the product of years of deliberate practice and coaching, not of any innate talent or skill.”
Experts (and elite performers) are made, not born: that elite performers in fields ranging from music to arts to mathematics to neurology could not be correlated with significant early indicators that could have predicted success — research has indicated that “there is no correlation between IQ and expert performance in chess, music, sports, and medicine.”
The only significant exception the research allow for is that genetic physical characteristics such as height and body size can play a significant role as indicators of elite sporting performance — but even then these factors alone aren’t enough to indicate elite success in the chosen field.
The key characteristics behind the development of “experts” (defined as outstanding leaders in their chosen fields of endeavour”) are
outstanding coaching, feedback and mentorship
A significant investment of effort over time (typically ten years or more)
Deliberate practice includes, focused, concentrated training, techniques of visualisation and scenario planning. It involves systematic efforts to practice and improve performance in any area of activity.
The key point with training and practice is not the length of time spent practising: it is the amount of quality focused practice and training undertaken on a regular basis. For example, the authors cite violinist Nathan Milstein. Milstein noticed other students around him practising all day, and asked his mentor how many hours a day he should be practising — to which the mentor replied “it doesn’t really matter how long. If you practice with your fingers, no amount is enough. If you practice with your head, two hours is plenty.” Milstein advises to “practice as much as you can with concentration.”
Practice also involves focused efforts to improve on weaknesses as well as to build on strengths.
The authors argue that “it takes time to become an expert” — typically “a minimum of ten years (or 10,000 hours) before they win international competitions.” The authors claim that in some fields it is longer: for classical musical performance, it can be 15 to 25 years.
This result is well borne out by research studying successes from the Beatles to Nobel Prize winners, identifying that typically even “overnight sensations” have a solid ten years behind them during which they acquired skills, developed familiarity and relationships in their professional domain, and generally built the capabilities and relationship infrastructure to position themselves for success.
Finally, the authors argue that individuals who reach elite performance success or “expert” status “seek out constructive, even painful feedback” — and develop an ability to assess when and if a coach’s advice is appropriate and useful to work for them.
The article — and its observations — are certainly interesting. However, it is a rather superficial examination of the making of an “expert,” and does not begin to address a range of additional factors such as passion and motivation (presumably something along this dimension is needed to fuel people through a 10 year journey towards becoming an expert), intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and their roles in motivation, commitment, supporting social networks (e.g. family and colleagues), and the differences between acquiring expertise in different areas (for example, the differences in becoming an “expert” and leader in their field in Medicine or Law and in Olympic Athletics, Business, Creative Arts, etc).
Does an “expert”mean the same thing in all these different areas, and is the path to get there the same? And is “expert” necessarily the best word to use for extremely informed and capable high achievers and star performers in a range of different fields?
In any case, the article is an interesting provocation for further thought.
In the human mind, everything is a theory. And, there are two kinds of theories. True theories and false theories. So, as a thinker, how do you tell the difference between true theories and false theories?
Theories that are supported by the balance of evidence we call ‘true’. Theories that are not supported by the balance of evidence we call ‘false’.
In those cases where new research provides a shift in the balance of evidence away from one side and toward the other then the theory may shift from ‘true’ to ‘false’ or vice versa. For example, flat earth theories have shifted from true to false. Heliocentric theories have shifted from false to true. In cases like these, as a thinker, you may find a need to change your mind.
An example of a true theory supported by the balance of evidence is the Big Bang Theory which is increasingly supported by more and more evidence every year. An example of a false theory is the Theory of the Assumption of Mary which is is supported by less and less evidence every year.
When did you last change your mind based on the balance of evidence?
FACULTYÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â DFQs
COMMENTSÂ Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â STUDENTS
You can always judge a post by its comments. That’s the training policy of the SOT blogschool. This year, the School of Thinking became one of the very few blogs in the history of the internet to pass the 40, 000 comments mark.
Since 1995, a unique innovation of the online School of Thinking is that the students—as individuals and as a body—are also part of the faculty.
In response to the SOT daily feedback questions (DFQs) students around the world voluntarily contribute many thousands of comments on the SOT lessons and articles. Many insights, edits, suggestions, corrections and improvements result from this ongoing interactive and daily collaborative effort.
SOT students range widely from farmers, truck-drivers and retirees to young school students, teachers, parents, scholars and Nobel scientists to knowledge-workers in media, business, sport, politics and the arts, and from more than 50 countries worldwide.
As a result of all this collaborative work over the past 16 years, the SOT instruction model has evolved to become a very robust and effective training method for transferring metacognitive skills online, pro-bono, and at a distance.
In 2001, Wikipedia launched a similar model of an online encyclopedia where the readers also become the writers. This is also an example of a voluntary and collaborative online model which has proven to be very effective.
There are two basic meanings of success:
1. You-Lose, and
You-Lose is the kind of success a boxer enjoys in an Olympic Champion title fight. For him to win the title – be Olympic Champion of the World – and collect the Gold Medal he has to see that the other fighter fails to win. This kind of situation is called, by games theorists, a ‘zero sum’ game and is where success for one player means failure for the other.
Backgammon is also a zero sum game as are Olympic sports and professional sporting competitions like cricket, football, basketball and baseball.
I-Win is more like what happens in life itself. At home (whether in a relationship between lovers or families), or at school, or at work, I can be successful by playing I-Win without anyone having to lose or fail.
– I-Win can happen without my mate having to fail.
– I-Win can happen without my customer having to lose.
– I-Win can happen without my neighbour having to suffer.
That is because in the ‘game of life’ there is always a third party which we will call The Banker.
When there is a banker who always pays out and collects after each encounter, two players can co-operate and laugh all the way to the bank. Mountain-climbing is a non-zero-sum game where I-Win can happen without my partner having to fail, or fall.
Blackjack at the casino is a non-zero-sum game and a novice player can always be spotted because they do not yet understand the difference between playing You-Lose and I-Win with their fellow players, against The Banker.
In a non-zero-sum game there are only consequences.
The Banker always pays and always collects according to how you play the game or, more precisely, according to which strategy you choose.
There are many strategies in the game of life and some succeed more than others but there is only ONE dominant strategy which ALWAYS succeeds in beating any other strategy.
It is The #1 Law of Success and the one we’ll explore in this masterclass.
Here we explore a new zero sum game to mimic life and called The Game. Those who become skilled in this simplest of all games will become skilled in the #1 Law of Success which is more successful in life than any other strategy. In The Game the Banker makes the following payoffs:
NICE/NASTY: Banker Pays WINNER 1 million points.
NASTY/NICE: Banker Fines SUCKER 200,000 points.
NICE/NICE: Banker Pays Both 600,000 points as REWARD
NASTY/NASTY: Banker Fines Both 20,000 points as PUNISHMENT
OK. What’s the science behind all of this? The Game has its biological origins in what scientists now call Game Theory.
We see how succeeding in life–survival & making a living–is largely a strategic matter.
Success in life consists of how well we manage the unfolding series of encounters with others. In each encounter we can cooperate and be NICE or we can defect and be NASTY. We see examples of those who always play NASTY, others who always use NICE and still others whose strategy is a mix of NICE and NASTY.
We are introduced to the Rules of The Game and also to the risks and rewards of life which are represented by REWARDS and PUNISHMENTS: a series of points paid out or deducted as fines which the Banker always pays out after each encounter or round of the game. We are now ready to play and try out different strategies. With instant feedback from the Banker we soon see that there are always four inevitable outcomes which, in Game Theory, are called: The Winner, The Sucker, The Punishment and The Reward.
TACTIC – AVOID THE TEMPTATION TO WIN
The Temptation to Win is one with which we are all familiar. Exemplified so well by Gordon Gecko in the movie Wall Street, this tactic is all about Victory. It’s the I-Win-You-Lose philosophy where for you to win the other loses; you beat the opponent, you conquer the adversary. “Greed is Good” is the motto of this strategy and in the Game it is the strategy where the other played NICE and you played NASTY.
He becomes the Sucker and you become the Winner. Your Temptation to Win has paid off and you collect the Banker’s highest payment, 1 million points. The Skase’s and Bond’s of the eighties were high profile players of the Temptation to Win strategy and the Adlers, Vizards, Pratts and Rineharts may be more recent examples.
The chance of having the biggest possible payout attracts many people to this NICE/NASTY strategy called the Temptation to Win. It seems, intuitively, to be the best strategy and in Game Theory it’s called ALL NASTY or always play NASTY. If life consisted of only one round or one encounter, it would be the one to always use. But life is unfolding. There are many encounters and repeated rounds in the game of life. We see that this iteration of the game, its repetition, soon shows Temptation to be a flawed strategy with only short term gains and much greater long term losses.
WHY WINNERS ALWAYS END UP SUCKERS
All Winners eventually become Suckers and Suckers always suck. The reason for this is because ‘what goes around comes around’ and ‘those who live by the sword die by the sword’. If you are NASTY to me in this round, then you can be sure that I will be NASTY to you in the next round. This is how the Temptation strategy, which seemed so attractive in Round I, always becomes a problem to the Winner in later rounds when revenge is sweet and the other side gets their ‘payback time’.
In Game Theory, the sure knowledge that there will always be ‘payback time’ in future rounds of the game is called The Shadow of the Future.
This Future Shadow is the key to the game. Only those who understand this inevitable cybernetic feedback feature of the game can have access to the most successful strategy of all which we call the #1 Law of Success.
The problem with the Temptation strategy is that its short term upside is soon diminished by the long term downside. This is why obsessed Winners eventually become losers.
THE SUCKER – WHY SUCKERS ALWAYS SUCK
The Sucker is the biggest loser of all in the Game. You become a Sucker when you play NICE and the other plays NASTY. You get ‘caught with your pants down’ and you’re ‘a sitting duck’. The Banker saves his biggest fine for the Sucker, a hefty 200,000 and it’s called the Sucker’s Payoff.
Yet, there are those who actually play a strategy called ALL NICE or ‘Always play NICE’. These Suckers always suck. They actually reward Temptation. They make it intelligent behaviour for the other to always play NASTY and collect their 1 million prize. In Darwinian evolution, Suckers are altruistic and help other members of the species to pass on their genes to the next generation always at their own expense. In biology, Suckers always suck, they die a Darwinian death.
THE BLIND SUCKER
In a sense, all Suckers are blind. That is, they are blind to consequences. They cannot see the Shadow of the Future. They fail to understand the impact of payback time. The greedy Sucker who gives her savings to the Get-Rich-Quick-Merchant is blind to the consequences. The Bloody Idiot (portrayed so effectively in TAC ads) who drinks then drives is a blind Sucker. The smoker who heeds the Marlboro man but not the Cancer Society is a blind Sucker. Blind Suckers who stay blind always end up losers.
THE RIGHTEOUS SUCKER
This is a fatal disease. Most Righteous Suckers die. They may die in battle or are put to death at the whim of their victorious Winners. They are conquered and crushed by their opponent. Many Righteous Suckers are suffering from PTV, the Plato Truth Virus. I have written in depth about PTV in Software for Your Brain.
PTV causes the host brain to believe that they are ‘uniquely right’, that they have a certain and absolute ‘truth’. Righteous Suckers have usually contracted PTV through any religious or political movement which claims to be the ‘True Religion’ or the ‘Right Majority’. They also are blind to the Shadow of the Future. Some become martyrs, others become dictators. All end up dead. Suckers always suck.
THE SAD SUCKER
We have all been Sad Suckers and hopefully we learn from the experience. The Sad Sucker played NICE and was tricked. The Sad Sucker played NICE on the understanding that the other was going to play NICE too. He was wrong. She was sucked in. Each reader will have his or her own bitter memories of childhood abandonment, broken trust, emotional betrayal. The young draftee who returns from Vietnam to find no welcoming parade, no grateful public is a Sad Sucker. The faithful wife who trusts her unfaithful husband is a Sad Sucker.
Children are often Suckers because they are so vulnerable and trusting. Whether they trust the pedophile who offers “to take them to mummy” yet is their mortal enemy or their older sister who always takes the bigger slice of cake, children are often suckers.
The important point about the Sad Sucker is to learn from the experience. Children grow up and become players in the Game of Life. They can then choose whatever strategy they wish. They don’t have to remain Sad Suckers and fortunately, most don’t.
THE PUNISHMENT – ALWAYS PUNISH WINNERS
The Game always punishes winners. Whatever the outcome of today’s round there will always be future rounds to play and that’s where the Winners get punished. Because the game of life is unfolding it is a cybernetic or feedback loop.
There are many rounds of the game and each player has multiple encounters. There’s always a payback whether you call it karma or feedback or revenge or reprisal or reciprocation or retaliation. This brings us to the best strategy of all:
HOW TO PUNISH WINNERS
Tit-for-tat means payback. The Dutch call it ‘dit vor dat’ and the French ‘tant pout tant’. Caesar called it ‘quid pro quo’. To Shylock it was a ‘pound of flesh’ and the Hebrews called it ‘an eye for an eye’. In the Game it is NASTY/NASTY. If you play NASTY then I’ll play NASTY, too. The Banker calls this The Punishment and both players are fined an inconvenient 20,000. But, wait a moment, how can this be the #1 Law of Success? Surely not! It seems very wrong and counter-intuitive.
In both the Game and in real life this is the best strategy of all yet it is one which has a very poor reputation because it is so widely misunderstood. tit4tat is usually considered childish at best and uncharitable, even heartless, at worst. Yet it is the fairest strategy of all and, as it turns out, the most successful strategy in life and, therefore, the only one which qualifies as the #1 Law of Success.
In Game Theory, t4t or thetit4tat strategy is also called the NICE Strategy and has two basic rules:
1 Always play NICE first, then
2 Always match the other’s play thereafter.
In other words, you start by playing NICE then whatever move the other plays, you match it. If he plays NASTY then so do you. If she plays NICE, you play NICE. You never cheat and you never waver.
There are several outcomes for those who use this strategy. Obviously, you always punish Winners. Whenever a Winner plays NASTY you ALWAYS play NASTY, you ALWAYS punish NASTY with matching NASTY. That’s what is meant by ‘an eye for a eye’ but there’s more to Tit-for-Tat than just returning NASTY with NASTY. Tit-for-Tat also means you ALWAYS return NICE with NICE!
This always leads to NICE/NICE. The Winner soon realises that to play NASTY will immediately produce the same retaliation so that he is virtually playing NASTY on himself. To win the 1 million, he has to achieve NASTY/NICE and he now understands that, in Tit-for-Tat, he never can. In Tit-for-Tat there are only two possible outcomes, NASTY/NASTY, the Punishment which will cost him 20,000 every time. Or, NICE/NICE.
This paradox is the nut of the masterclass and takes a little getting used to. The members must fully come to grips with this insight: that tit4tat or an eye for an eye always ends up leading to NICE/NICE.
It is hard for the Western mind to grasp simply because we have been taught that ‘turn the other cheek’ is the better strategy. It isn’t. Turn the other cheek always leads to NICE/NASTY because if one is always going to be NICE then the other is rewarded more for being NASTY than for being NICE.
THE REWARD – ALWAYS REWARD NICE GUYS
NICE/NICE is called The Reward in Game theory. NICE/NICE is when both players play NICE and the Banker pays out his second highest payment of 600,000 to each player. It’s not a million but it’s a very nice reward. Only tit4tat/t4t can produce this outcome. If the players are intelligent and are not Suckers who are blind to the Shadow of the Future then there is nothing to stop them playing NICE/NICE in every round of the game and picking up their Reward of 600,000 points every time. This is the I-Win-You-Win philosophy and ALWAYS scores the highest points. t4t is the ultimate strategy and those that ALWAYS play t4t, or NICE/NICE, will ALWAYS be successful in life. Win/Win is the #1 Law of Success.
HOW TO REWARD NICE GUYS
Tit-for-Tat is how you reward a nice guy. When he or she plays NICE you always play NICE. You NEVER play NASTY. You NEVER yield to the Temptation to Win the million. You build trust and you ALWAYS both succeed.
In selling, the traditional American model, which I have called oldsell is the Temptation strategy. Close the sale and win! Contrast this with the newsell model which is based on the relationship of trust built up by the NICE/NICE strategy. The Chinese use this model (Confucian) and have been much more successful at selling for a much longer period of time than Americans.
CONCLUSION: t4t IS THE #1 LAW OF SUCCESS
This masterclass offers participants a unique strategy called t4t. t4t is the #1 Law of Success. t4t is a counter-intuitive but very powerful strategy to help you to succeed in the unfolding Game of Life. Whenever you decide to use the tit4tat strategy you:
– Always REWARD NICE tit4tat – (NICE/NICE)
– Always PUNISH NASTY tit4tat – (NASTY/NASTY)
– Always avoid the TEMPTATION to WIN – (NICE/NASTY)
– Always avoid the SUCKER’S PAYOFF- (NASTY/NICE).
(These notes are from The Advanced Strategy Masterclass
ON Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gave a speech in Mongolia denouncing Asian governments that seek “to restrict people’s access to ideas and information, to imprison them for expressing their views, to usurp the rights of citizens to choose their leaders.” It was a swipe at China’s authoritarian political system. The view that China should become more democratic is widely held in the West. But framing the debate in terms of democracy versus authoritarianism overlooks better possibilities.
The political future of China is far likelier to be determined by the longstanding Confucian tradition of “humane authority” than by Western-style multiparty elections. After all, democracy is flawed as an ideal. Political legitimacy is based solely on the sovereignty of the people – more specifically, a government that grants power to democratically elected representatives. But there is no compelling reason for a government to have only one source of legitimacy.
Democracy is also flawed in practice. Political choices come down to the desires and interests of the electorate. This leads to two problems. First, the will of the majority may not be moral: it may favor racism, imperialism or fascism. Second, when there is a clash between the short-term interests of the populace and the long-term interests of mankind, as is the case with global warming, the people’s short-term interests become the political priority. As a result, democratically elected governments in America and elsewhere are finding it nearly impossible to implement policies that curb energy usage in the interests of humanity and of future generations.
In China, political Confucians defend an alternative approach: the Way of the Humane Authority. The question of political legitimacy is central to their constitutional thought. Legitimacy is not simply what people think of their rulers; it is the deciding factor in determining whether a ruler has the right to rule. And unlike Western-style democracy, there is more than one source of legitimacy.
According to the Gongyang Zhuan, a commentary on a Confucian classic, political power can be justified through three sources: the legitimacy of heaven (a sacred, transcendent sense of natural morality), the legitimacy of earth (wisdom from history and culture), and the legitimacy of the human (political obedience through popular will).
In ancient times, Humane Authority was implemented by early Chinese monarchs. But changes in historical circumstances now necessitate changes in the form of rule. Today, the will of the people must be given an institutional form that was lacking in the past, though it should be constrained and balanced by institutional arrangements reflecting the other two forms of legitimacy.
In modern China, Humane Authority should be exercised by a tricameral legislature: a House of Exemplary Persons that represents sacred legitimacy; a House of the Nation that represents historical and cultural legitimacy; and a House of the People that represents popular legitimacy.
The leader of the House of Exemplary Persons should be a great scholar. Candidates for membership should be nominated by scholars and examined on their knowledge of the Confucian classics and then assessed through trial periods of progressively greater administrative responsibilities – similar to the examination and recommendation systems used to select scholar-officials in the imperial past. The leader of the House of the Nation should be a direct descendant of Confucius; other members would be selected from descendants of great sages and rulers, along with representatives of China’s major religions. Finally, members of the House of the People should be elected either by popular vote or as heads of occupational groups.
This system would have checks and balances. Each house would deliberate in its own way and not interfere in the affairs of the others. To avoid political gridlock arising from conflicts among the three houses, a bill would be required to pass at least two houses to become law. To protect the primacy of sacred legitimacy in Confucian tradition the House of Exemplary Persons would have a final, exclusive veto, but its power would be constrained by that of the other two houses: for example, if they propose a bill restricting religious freedom, the People and the Nation could oppose it, stopping it from becoming law.
Instead of judging political progress simply by asking whether China is becoming more democratic, Humane Authority provides a more comprehensive and culturally sensitive way of judging its political progress.
Jiang Qing is the founder of the Yangming Confucian Academy in Guiyang, China. He is the author, and Daniel A. Bell is an editor, of the forthcoming book “A Confucian Constitutional Order: How China’s Ancient Past Can Shape Its Political Future.”