Entry 293: Hey, Who You Callin’ Smart?

Every once in awhile, I sit at my computer watching a video of a TED presentation and, I dansonhave to tell you, I’m really getting sick of Mr. Danson’s comments. I mean, how much can you bear to listen to someone complain about Shelley Long?

Hah! Just kidding. TED, of course, stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design. It’s a non-profit organization that sponsors conferences at which today’s great thinkers present their latest, most profound ideas in 18 minutes or less. It’s a nice concept, but I don’t know about the time limit; possibly the folks who came up with Obamacare were just about to tell their audience how to make it work when they hit the 18-minute mark.

Anyway, I highly recommend that you step away from playing Candy Crush for a few minutes and watch one of the TED lectures. Most are fascinating and quite educational.

I watched one recently from a researcher named Angela Lee Duckworth who claims that IQ isn’t as important as we think it is. Hard work, she says, is more critical for success.

For reasons you probably can’t even understand, this really pissed me off.

I mean, here I am, taking time off from my job to stimulate my intellect by watching TED videos, and Ms. Duckworth is telling me that it’s work ethic, not brainpower, that best predicts success. But she only took 6:13 to do it, and then she slacked off for 11 minutes and 47 seconds! What kind of work ethic is that?

Actually, she doesn’t call it “work ethic.” She calls it “grit.”

“Grit” is one of those great words that carries such wonderful imagery and, in our culture at least, makes you want to immediately don an eyepatch. It calls to mind an angry sort of ambition, teeth clenched, face dirty, sweat oozing from every pore, a pat of butter soaking through that hill of lumpy white stuff next to your eggs at the Waffle House.

bezosMs. Duckworth talks about perseverance, about putting in the hours, about overcoming obstacles and, most of all, about an unflagging commitment to a long-term goal. She cites numerous studies in which these traits, more than mere intelligence, separate the future Bezos from the future Bozos.

Let me put that into words you can comprehend: Ms. Duckworth is saying that someone of my considerable intelligence can Bozo%2BSticker[1]be surpassed by a relative dimwit simply by the application of…what’s that word again?–oh, right: “effort.”

While that is great news for all you fans of Real Housewives of Anywhere, it’s a bit frustrating for us smart people.

It’s especially disheartening for me because, as I near my 60th birthday, I find myself increasingly short on long-term goals. The very concept of “long-term” has become a moving target. At my age, I’m getting reluctant to even begin reading a long novel, much less aspiring to something I can achieve in 10 or 20 years. Right now, for instance, my long-term goal is to complete my Christmas shopping.

On the other hand, my bar for “success” has lowered considerably. I consider it a success if I get up from a chair without hearing my knees crack. I’m even excited about an email I just received that my E-Z Pass account was replenished successfully. Yea!

To her credit, Ms. Duckworth does not stop at this “hard work pays off” observation which, after all, is not all that original. She goes on to say that the goal for society should be to figure out how to motivate people–particularly school kids–to be industrious, to work toward a goal, to ignore short-term failure. However she admits that she really doesn’t know how to do that.

Perhaps that’s where we smart folks come in.

I am now going to devote my advanced intelligence to solving the problem of motivating children to really apply themselves to their schoolwork. Wait–here come the ideas…

  1. Offer them candy.John-Wayne-300x150[1]
  2. Have them wear eye patches in class.
  3. Provide all classroom materials via text messages.
  4. Tell them they must set their life goal by age eight and work tirelessly toward that aspiration until they either reach it or realize they no longer want to be a fireman.

Those are just off the top of my enormous head, but I’ll keep at it.

I’ll give it 18 minutes.

See you soon.

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