So next time you are struggling with a task in front of your children don’t make it look too easy. By trying and repeatedly failing at a task you are helping children understand the value and importance of persistence.
“Many cultures emphasise the value of effort and perseverance. This emphasis is substantiated by scientific research: individual differences in conscientiousness, self-control and ‘grit’ correlate with academic outcomes independent of IQ” wrote scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
They wondered if persistence and quitting could be learnt. “Does seeing an adult exert effort to succeed encourage infants to persist longer at their own challenging tasks?”
In an experiment they ran at MIT, reported in the journal Science, 250 15-month old children watched adults perform a task getting a keychain attached to a carabiner out of a box.
Half the time the adults easily removed the keychain but half the time struggled before they accomplished the task.
The toddlers were then given their own task – a music box with a big button to press (which didn’t make the music play no matter how many times they pushed it). The idea was to see if the number of times they pushed the button depended on whether or not they had seen adults persevering.
The experiment was stopped after two minutes or after the toddler threw the box on the floor three times in frustration.
The results seemed to support the scientists’ hypothesis. Those children who had seen adults persevere, albeit in an unrelated task, kept pushing the button for longer.
While they are not suggesting this is the only way for children to learn the value of perseverance – they might also learn by just observing adults completing tasks or by being told about the importance of hard work – the study did suggest “the potential value in letting children “see you sweat”. Showing children that hard work works might encourage them to work hard too”
It’s good to be reminded that we are role models for our children in everything we do!
Researchers from Northwestern University studied around 300 rural African-American teenagers. Those from low-income families who exhibited high levels of self-control, and were thus more likely to achieve their goals, had immune cells that were biologically much oder than their actual age.
Rapid ageing of these cells has been linked to premature death and its thought to be due to long-term high levels of stress hormone.
“To achieve upward mobility these youths must overcome multiple obstacles and often do so with limited support from their schools, peers, and families. Even if they succeed, these youths may go on to experience alienation in university and work-place settings and discrimination if they are African-American”
“Collectively these experiences seem likely to cause persistent activation of stress response systems”
Professor Greg Miller went on to say “For low-income youths, self-control may act as a double-edged sword facilitating academic success and psychological adjustment while at the same time undermining physical health”
In the research those with high self-control were able to focus better on long-term rather than short-term goals. were less depressed, used substances less frequently, and were less aggressive – regardless of their gender, family income or education
In addition those from low-income families were more likely to have the ageing immune cells.
Previous studies have shown that poorer children with better self-control were also at greater risk of heart disease because of their obesity, high blood pressure and levels of stress hormones in their blood.
The researchers add “These patterns suggest that for low-income youth resilience is a skin deep phenomenon wherein outward indicators of success can mask emerging problems with health”
They also think that providers of “character-building programmes” should include health education to help the youth mitigate health problems that stop them achieving their full potential. Low-income youths who do well in school and stay out of trouble are thought to have overcome disadvantage but it’s only half the full story it seems.
It would be interesting to know if these findings translate into other cultures and countries or whether they are only applicable to African-Americans from poor backgrounds.
In the Sunday Times business section this weekend Luke Johnson, Chairman of Risk Capital Partners and the Centre for Entrepreneurs, set out his list of the most important characteristics that a managing director should possess.
In brief these were:
The ability to motivate. The boss who can enthuse a workforce will generally do better than one who rules by fear.
Domain Knowledge. They must have sufficient technical understanding to gain the respect of their team.
The ability to listen. The best bosses don’t dominate debates but encourage feedback and leave their doors open. They listen to the shop floor by going there in person.
Decisiveness. Ultimately companies cannot function as pure democracies and someone has to make decisions rather than procrastinate. Employees need a sense of direction.
Financial literacy. Must be able to interpret financial statements and analyse accouts.
A sense of humour. Life is too short not to enjoy going to work .
Reliability in a crisis. Someone who doesn’t panic in the face of adversity and gets down to work in a diligent and professional way without histrionics.
Frugality. Having a thrifty approach to business. Extravagant CEOs set a bad example especially if they live beyond their means. A lean operation is the only way.
Delegation. The only way for start-ups to become large companies is for the proprietor/managers to learn to identify, promote, trust, and empower talent.
Adaptability. Modern companies need to be flexible and intelligent leaders thrive on change and are constantly learning.
Bravery. Outstanding leaders need the courage to make unpopular decisions. Those who fail to speak out on controversial issues and follow the consensus are followers not leaders.
That’s Luke Johnsons’ list and I can’t say I disagree with any of them. An interesting mixture of personality traits e.g. adaptability (being open to experience) and learned skills e.g. financial knowledge.
I’ve yet to meet anyone who meets all those criteria however! And when it comes to frugality it’s hard to say it abounds. When the average pay at the top of organisations is 130 times pay at the bottom and CEOs get rewarded for failure e.g. the Barclays CEO walking away with £28 million it’s hard to believe it exists at the very top of organisations.
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