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Author Topic: Self-Discipline May Beat Smarts as Key to Success
philnotfil
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My first thought was "well, duh," but it was an interesting article.

Washingotn Post

quote:
According to a recent article by Angela L. Duckworth and Martin E.P. Seligman in the journal Psychological Science, self-discipline is a better predictor of academic success than even IQ.

"Underachievement among American youth is often blamed on inadequate teachers, boring textbooks, and large class sizes," the researchers said. "We suggest another reason for students falling short of their intellectual potential: their failure to exercise self-discipline. . . . We believe that many of America's children have trouble making choices that require them to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term gain, and that programs that build self-discipline may be the royal road to building academic achievement."

But how, educators, parents and other social scientists want to know, do you measure self-discipline? Duckworth, a former teacher studying for a doctorate in psychology, and Seligman, a psychology professor famous for books such as "Learned Optimism," used an assortment of yardsticks, including questions for the students (including how likely they are to have trouble breaking bad habits, on a 1-to-5 scale), ratings by their teachers and parents and the $1-now-or-$2-later test, which the researchers call the Delay Choice Task.

The results: "Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable, including report card grades, standardized achievement test scores, admission to a competitive high school and attendance. Self-discipline measured in the fall predicted more variance in each of these outcomes than did IQ, and unlike IQ, self-discipline predicted gains in academic performance over the school year."

quote:
Some educators said schools can teach self-discipline. Rafe Esquith, an award-winning Los Angeles teacher, often tells his low-income fifth-graders about a study that showed that hungry 4-year-olds willing to wait for two marshmallows were more successful years later than those who gobbled up one marshmallow immediately.

Ryan Hill, director of the TEAM Academy Charter School in Newark, N.J., said students at his school, a Knowledge Is Power Program middle school in a low-income neighborhood, are required to stay at school until their homework is done if TV interfered with study the night before. "Over time, they learn to just do their homework before watching TV, delaying gratification, which becomes a habit of self-discipline," Hill said.


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Everard
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I'm, personally, evidence for this story. My IQ consistently is borderline genius level, any standardized to test to measure most kinds of intelligences, I score in the type 5%. But I've got some serious psychological problems that undermine my ability to do what I need to do, and when those factors kick in, my brains don't matter one whit. Its not necessarily a matter of will power, either... but simply the ability to turn on certain synaptic pathways, and turn off others.

I'm not sure how to go into the details of how this works for myself, without exposing the stuff I talk to my pyschiatrist about.

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canadian
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Or maybe it's just a matter of willpower.

edited to add the oh, so necessary [Wink]

[ January 19, 2006, 07:39 PM: Message edited by: canadian ]

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FiredrakeRAGE
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I have to agree with Everard. Most of my school career, I have had trouble convincing myself to do the boring work.

It's only within the last couple of years that I've started to be able to force myself to do stupid things for the long term gain associated with them.

--Firedrake

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The Drake
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The story of the 4-year-olds demonstrates that one who uses the rational mind instead of acting blindly on their emotions ultimately gets more candy.

In Dune, the Bene Gesserit tested ordinary people to find the humans, the ones with sufficient emotional intelligence to rise above a merely animal existence.

I've seen plenty of "smart" people in Mensa (98th percentile on standardized tests) who are incapable of acting human. They merely drift from pretty bauble to pretty bauble like a mewling infant and wonder at why they aren't rich or powerful, usually deciding that the stupid people in charge of society must be to blame, or that the masses are keeping them down.

If only they could be understood... (much weeping and handwringing follows, then snacks, then staying up late inventing clever puns)

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witless chum
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I'll second Everard, although I'm not smart to that level, but I'm pretty smart at least according to standarized tests. But I'm also really damned lazy and sometimes lack the self-control push my self to do anything. Or stop smoking. Or floss. Or stop playing Madden 2006, which gets to why I haven't posted around here much.
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Zyne
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Maybe it's a matter of vision.

You can't keep your eye on the prize unless you believe the prize exists.

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JoshuaD
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I'm the same way. I don't have much patience for long-term things like college, I'm really just terrible at jumping through hoops.
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tonylovern
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sign me up for the agree side.

quote:
They merely drift from pretty bauble to pretty bauble like a mewling infant and wonder at why they aren't rich or powerful, usually deciding that the stupid people in charge of society must be to blame, or that the masses are keeping them down.
yup, done my share of that. [Smile]
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drewmie
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quote:
Everard wrote: I'm, personally, evidence for this story. My IQ consistently is borderline genius level, any standardized to test to measure most kinds of intelligences, I score in the type 5%. But I've got some serious psychological problems that undermine my ability to do what I need to do, and when those factors kick in, my brains don't matter one whit. Its not necessarily a matter of will power, either... but simply the ability to turn on certain synaptic pathways, and turn off others.
Scary, but this is me exactly. I've flunked out of college about five times. My grades in high school were mediocre. And yet, every bit of work I actually did was always superior. But it has been rare for me to follow through. My whole life, I've been considered brilliant, creative, intelligent, etc. But I've also been lazy, unreliable, without priorities, and held down lower-middle-class jobs (and been fired from some of those).

Now I'm 33, married, and have two and a half kids. My wife is the only woman I ever dated who was actually smarter than me in some ways (i.e. who didn't bore me to tears by the third month). She has finally convinced me to seek professional help, so I've recently started taking Adderall. It might be helping, but its a little too early to discuss any real long-term differences in my life.

This reminds me of a former thread on artistic creativity and craziness. It seems related. I have a great brain. I just wish it would behave, and do what its told.

I'm thought of as the brilliant one who teaches my bosses how to do things. Within three months of employment, I understand the particular systems and long-term effects better than anyone there, and have a far better company-wide perspective. But I'm also chronically late, forget about tasks, miss deadlines, and break promises. Not just sometimes, but CONSTANTLY.

I really have to change, and I've tried. And I've always wanted to believe it was a matter of will power and faith, of "pulling up my bootstraps" and living the Gospel. But for the last few years, I've gradually come to accept that sometimes, it simply isn't enough. I want to do one thing, and I mean REALLY want to do it, and my brain simply decides to redirect my thoughts to another. I'm so used to it that it's taken a major effort just to objectively notice when it happens. Now that I'm noticing it, it's twice as frustrating.

I still believe that my faith and will power make a difference. They always have. But they aren't enough. And now I have the biggest incentive I've ever had to change: my children, specifically their education and opportunities. My career thus far simply hasn't given me the resources to provide them the things I want to provide, like better schooling and programs. I have to do whatever it takes, even if that means being annoyed at taking some pills that make me very "on" constantly, but allow me to focus my attention where I want to.

Lastly, I don't think this is a new problem. But it has far more effect on people in modern society. If I could simply dig ditches, shovel snow, or farm for a living, I probably would never notice my problems. But today's work is mental, and our value is in our ability to use our brains in very applicable, productive ways. I'm great at new ideas, new ways, and problem solving. But I really such at the day-to-day stuff, whether at home, at work, or at church.

P.S.- My father is a Political Science PhD and one of my brothers is a brilliant pianist with a doctorate from Eastman. Another brother of mine is also quite brilliant, but works at Hollywood Video. None of us has ever even made a median income.

[ January 20, 2006, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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Everard
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Drewmie, if you'd like to email me, and discuss the particulars of our situations, I'd be glad to exchange emails on it for a while. Or, if not, I won't be offended [Smile]

I got professional help after I flunked out of wisconsin, and have recently started up again after being JUST about to graduate, and then shooting myself in the foot in the last 6 weeks.

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drewmie
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Ev, I'll definitely email you. And I noticed your profile's "Interests" says "Err, everything? [Smile] " which is EXACTLY how I am. Involved in everything, excel at everything, truly successful at almost nothing. My wife says we should trade in some brains for some practical success.

[ January 20, 2006, 12:35 PM: Message edited by: drewmie ]

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FIJC
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I agree with much of the consensus here. I am not the smartest person in the world and actually think my intelligence is only slightly above average. That being said, I make a very good wage for someone my age and have gotten promoted faster than average (pretty much every 7-8 months), I think. But I don't think that it's because I am brilliant, I just do whatever it takes (working around the clock) to submit client deliverables on time, and never miss deadlines or forget tasks.
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philnotfil
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That was me, and then I grew up. How did I do that? I'm not sure, failure helps, failure in things that you care about really helps. Take away the security blanket and taste the jagged rocks beneath. It isn't comfortable, but it works.

Failure is not an option anymore and so I succeed.

I took ten years to finish my degree, but I did finally finish, and then I got a real job, and am succeeding in it.

Your mileage may vary [Smile]

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javelin
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Hmm... I think I'm an opposite, in some ways, of you and Everard, Drewmie - at least in later life. My IQ has always been measured as "near genius", as you've both noted for yourselves. I also was ridiculously lazy in school - and got away with it until college, getting good grades because I was able to always get assignments done at the last minute (or during the part of class where the teacher is explaining how to do the assignment), and I always was able to produce "superior" work in those circumstances, when compared to others.

When I hit college, this changed - there were several classes where I wasn't able to do the work immediately before or during class, and I didn't do so well. Also, I had no free time or sleep, due to "other commitments" I made. [Smile] So, I didn't do nearly as well as I was used to.

It took awhile, but after I left college I finally was able to get some control over myself in this area. I still am rather lazy - but I've learned to get things done, and done reasonably well. I will still procrastinate, and I still work in bursts, and I still use the crazy speed I can do work at to allow myself to loaf occasionally, but I've been able to pull it together enough so that I'm currently able to have a bit of a social life, three jobs, and even a little free time. I don't plan on doing this for long, but I'm able to mostly keep all the balls in the air.

I think one of the main differences is something you both mentioned: you both say everything fascinates you, and your brain will take you somewhere off task, no matter how hard you try. This is perhaps the separator - I've never been that kind of focus, or fascination, with anything. I tend to attempt to understand things to a point that allows me to use it to establish first principles (so it fits with my understanding), and then I move on - until I need more information. I'm wondering if that's what's creating the difference?

[ January 20, 2006, 01:39 PM: Message edited by: javelin ]

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Ivan
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quote:
Ev, I'll definitely email you. And I noticed your profile's "Interests" says "Err, everything? [Smile] " which is EXACTLY how I am. Involved in everything, excel at everything, truly successful at almost nothing. My wife says we should trade in some brains for some practical success.
I'm not surprised that this is one of the subsets of people attracted to this site. I'd probably lump myself in along with you and Ev, Drewmie. At the moment, I'm woefully behind on my thesis for want of the will power to sit down and get organized with it.

I will say that lists (my mother's mantra) have served me well in recent weeks. If nothing else, they help me clarify in my mind what it is that I need to get done in a given day, and considering how easily I forget what exactly it is I need to be doing, this has been a real boon.

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Everard
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Lists suck for me [Frown] I get no emotional satisfaction out of crossing something off my list. On the other hand, drawing up a list of what I need to do tends to make me feel like I've gotten a start on the list, so I avoid it for a while, because "I've accomplished something."
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The Drake
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Nothing beats a deadline. I've found that if I fix a date to a task - I find a way to make it happen.
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tonylovern
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oddly enough several of my teachers understood that. i remember one in particular, i think it was the 3rd grade, the woman would give me 5 minutes on an egg timer. wouldn't do my homework at home, but when i was on a tight time limit, i got it done. it just seemed easier, more fun, like a game.
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Jesse
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Take it for what you will, I can't find a source to back it up, but I was told by a high school counselor that 10% of high school dropouts have IQs in the third standard deviation or higher.

She loaned me a book on Gifted Education which I should have written down the title of, but a few things stuck with me, such as the claim that those most likely to have a postive opinion of their K-12 educational experience were those with IQs between 110 and 125 on the stanford binet.

Take it for what you will, I don't have the time to do much reasearch on-line right now and come up with links. I'll give it a shot tomorrow.

[ January 20, 2006, 09:11 PM: Message edited by: Jesse ]

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Lisa M.
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quote:
Originally posted by tonylovern:
oddly enough several of my teachers understood that. i remember one in particular, i think it was the 3rd grade, the woman would give me 5 minutes on an egg timer. wouldn't do my homework at home, but when i was on a tight time limit, i got it done. it just seemed easier, more fun, like a game.

I'm much like Drew and Ev, but doing okay-ish in college so far. In high school, I remember asking teachers to give me more difficult assignment so they weren't so boring, and no teacher would. I hated doing problems from the book when I knew I'd get a 95-100 on the test anyway.

I have so many ideas but I'm so terrified of messing things up when I write them down that I don't write anything at all. Taking a creative writing class now hoping that deadlines will help.

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Adjudicator
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I think that the big reason our modern society seems to suffer so much from this apparent lack of focus is the sheer volume of distractions. The list runs the gamut from the seven deadly sins available in cheap, prepackaged form (high fat and sugar foods, pornography accessible essentially anywhere any time etc.) on to things which are merely a waste of time (X-box, anyone?). Part of this is, I think, due to the fact that our bodies have built-in desires for things which used to be scarce but which anyone can get at anytime nowadays. Another part is absolutely cultural- some group of fools got it into their heads that telling a child "No" damages their psyche somehow, and these fools were able to market their stupid idea to everyone. Kids without limits are always going to have a hard time with self-discipline. There are certainly other issues too- possible neurological imbalances and so on.
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Everard
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" Another part is absolutely cultural- some group of fools got it into their heads that telling a child "No" damages their psyche somehow,"

I'm not sure how much relevance that has to this particular discussion. No was certainly a big part of my parents vocabulary.

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javelin
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I do think what Everard was describing is more of an "encouraged" focus, as opposed to distraction. The focus, the keen interest and utter absorption with a particular topic, to the point where it distracts from other things - this has been encouraged, and can be very useful. It can, however (as noted), end up being a liability when it comes to completing projects, especially if that interest is awakened by many different things - it can stop one from following through on anything.

At least, I think that's what's being described.

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Joe Schmoe
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Ouch. That article and everyone's posts here hit way too close to home for comfort. [Frown]
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flydye45
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So has anyone decided to eschew Descarte, Satre, and Camus and discussing the "lightness of being" to the rolodex, the checklist, and the gut wrenching idea of getting off their forum fundement, or is it all whinging? [Wink]

I for one, have to get up and clean up a lot of stuff I've left lying around. See you.

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javelin
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quote:
Originally posted by flydye45:
So has anyone decided to eschew Descarte, Satre, and Camus and discussing the "lightness of being" to the rolodex, the checklist, and the gut wrenching idea of getting off their forum fundement, or is it all whinging? [Wink]

I for one, have to get up and clean up a lot of stuff I've left lying around. See you.

Well, some of us, so far, can have it all [Wink]
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Lifewish
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Well, if we're comparing IQs...

I also score very highly and have had the exact same problems actually getting down to work. Managed to coast my way into one of the premier maths courses in the UK, and have spent the last 2.5 years trying to gain the self-discipline to actually get all I can out of it. Was a real shock being given work that I couldn't just waltz through.

As Lisa says, school was always horrifically boring. I almost got labelled educationally subnormal in primary school as a result - kept getting the answers to questions wrong because I couldn't believe they were supposed to be that easy. Got tuition after that, which helped, and secondary school wasn't nearly as boring. Only time I really reacted badly was when teachers uttered the phrase of Doom: "You don't need to know that".

One thing that I've found works really well when learning a new subject is to find one question that's not explicitly answered in the course and use that as a driver to encourage myself to do the question sheets and background reading. For example: "are there any curves that don't have points with two rational coordinates?", "can the Mandelbrot set be generalised to use quaternions?", "do girls find brainpower attractive?". Answers: "yes", "yes but it's boring", "no".

Fortunately, the question sheets we have are fairly well-designed so that it is actually possible to be interested by their contents.

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WarrsawPact
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Lifewish -
quote:
"do girls find brainpower attractive?"
[...]
"no."

You would be surprised. Many of them don't, but the ones that do can shock the hell out of you. Don't ever ever ever dumb down to impress someone.
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flydye45
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"It's better to be hated for who you are then liked for who you are not..."
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drewmie
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But it's even better to stop worrying about defending who you are, and instead become who you should be.

The "this is just who I am" thing has always seemed like a lame excuse for people who have no interest in personal betterment, and even less interest in actually caring about anyone but themseves. It always reminds me of the average Jerry Springer guest.

Sorry, total tangent. Got to get back to work (concentrate, concentrate,...).

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Kent
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Huh, I was always measured as being slightly above average in intelligence, with a high need for approval. I graduated in the top 10% of my class, mainly because I was so insecure that I needed to get good grades to validate myself. Delusional stress is how most less intelligent people like myself get good grades, and cheating of course, we can't leave cheating out of the equation.

For all of you geniuses: Your problems stem from your high self esteem and inablility to compromise your morals.

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The Drake
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quote:
Originally posted by Kent:
Your problems stem from your high self esteem and inablility to compromise your morals.

heh. I always knew all this encouragement of high self esteem in kids would end badly.

But seriously. If a kid doesn't ever feel like they've lost or done poorly, how would they know to do better?

Humiliation is an excellent spur to motivation.

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Lifewish
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quote:
Don't ever ever ever dumb down to impress someone.
Oh, I agree completely, if only because in the long run a consistent focus on quality* is the best way to achieve true respect.

* There's a whole nother argument here. Anyone read "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"?

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pickled shuttlecock
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quote:
Originally posted by drewmie:
The "this is just who I am" thing has always seemed like a lame excuse for people who have no interest in personal betterment, and even less interest in actually caring about anyone but themseves. It always reminds me of the average Jerry Springer guest.

Sorry, total tangent. Got to get back to work (concentrate, concentrate,...).

I'm not convinced your statement is all that tangential, actually.

We smart, scatterbrained people know that things would work out better if we could concentrate better on boring stuff. If there's some kind of coping strategy, some tiny extra measure of willpower, some outside help - just something, whatever - that we can do to make it better, we ought to do it rather than claim "It's just who I am!"

This obviously doesn't apply to cases where there's nothing you can do, but I don't think those are all that common.

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Everard
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"For all of you geniuses: Your problems stem from your high self esteem and inablility to compromise your morals."

Hrm. So you're saying I should feel worse about myself then I already do? That would definetely lead to suicide...

"The "this is just who I am" thing has always seemed like a lame excuse for people who have no interest in personal betterment, and even less interest in actually caring about anyone but themseves."

Depends. People have quirks. If the quirk isn't harmful, then liking it in yourself isn't a bad thing. But if it prevents you from succeeding, or makes you hurt other people, then it needs to be fixed.

E.G. there's nothing wrong with saying "Being slightly disorganized is just who I am, I find it easier to work when things aren't just so." There is something wrong with saying "Being slightly disorganized is just who I am. Thats why I havent cleaned the dishes in a month."

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WarrsawPact
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That, and there's also the "Libertarian Party" argument against ivory tower folk: if you're so smart, how come you aren't winning?

It's a pretty damnng argument.

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flydye45
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Thales has always been my favorite philosopher for just that reason...and I find the newer arguments about compromising just as invalid.

To paraphrase, every successful person is the same. Everyone else is a "loser" in their own unique way.

From another "loser" [Big Grin]

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Snowden
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I agree that delayed gratification is a noble quality. But there is another side, those people who do what they are told because they were trained to do what they were told.

There is a small virtue in the ability to do what you are told, even if you think its stupid. And there is a danger that we council kids to unthinkingly accept someone elses priorities as their own. I'm not all for breeding wage slaves.

quote:

That, and there's also the "Libertarian Party" argument against ivory tower folk: if you're so smart, how come you aren't winning?

It's a pretty damnng argument.

No, it's not.

[ January 24, 2006, 01:23 AM: Message edited by: Snowden ]

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TomDavidson
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It depends. What value do we place on effectiveness?
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