Steve Martin’s Advice for Building a Career You Love →

Cal Newport—

To simplify things, I’ll use the “passion hypothesis” to refer to the popular belief that the way to end up loving your career is to first figure out what you’re passionate about, and then pursue it (a strategy often summarized with the pithy phrase, “follow your passion.”) The more I studied this hypothesis, the more I noticed its danger. This idea convinces people that there’s a magic “right” job waiting for them, and that if they find it, they’ll immediately recognize that this is the work they were meant to do. The problem, of course, is when they fail to find this certainty, bad things follow, such as chronic job-hopping and crippling self-doubt.

Yep. And this can happen even when you find the work you were meant to do. I’ve been learning who you are is so much more than your current profession.

Steve Martin’s advice to aspiring performers—

Nobody ever takes note of [my advice], because it’s not the answer they wanted to hear. What they want to hear is “Here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script,” … but I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Newport again—

If you’re not focusing on becoming so good they can’t ignore you, you’re going to be left behind. This clarity is refreshing. It tells you to stop worrying about what your job offers you, and instead worry about what you’re offering the world. This mindset–which I call the craftsman mindset-allows you to sidestep the anxious questions generated by the passion hypothesis—“Who am I?”, “What do I truly love?”—and instead put your head down and focus on becoming valuable.

This is sound advice as long as you don’t lose yourself in the process of becoming valuable. Balance. It’s all about balance.

The whole article is interesting and worth checking out.

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Do kids really learn from failure? Why conventional wisdom may be wrong →

Strauss quoting Alfie Kohn:

The idea that “kids today” have it too easy is part of a broader conservative worldview that’s been around for a long, long time.  Children are routinely described as coddled and indulged, overprotected and overpraised.  But I’ve been unable to find any data to support this claim, … there’s simply no proof that the phenomenon is widespread, much less that it’s more common today than it was 10, 20, 50, or 100 years ago.

I agree. This tends to be back in my day nonsense. Everyone has it tough in various degrees, and each generation is faced with its own set of challenges.

In fact, studies find that when kids fail, they tend to construct an image of themselves as incompetent and even helpless, which leads to more failure. …if an adult declines to step in and help when kids are frustrated, that doesn’t make them more self-sufficient or self-confident:  It mostly leaves them feeling less supported, less secure about their own worthiness, and more doubtful about the extent to which the parent or teacher really cares about them.

I struggle with this balance of stepping in and butting out. It’s a tough call. I want to support my own children and students, but I don’t want them to feel like they can’t to things for themselves.

Many students whom a teacher brands with zeroes already see themselves as failures.  They’re likely to experience his insistence that they be “held accountable” as yet another dose of humiliation and punishment.  (And it’s the students’ perception, not the teacher’s intention, that determines the result.)  The idea that another goose egg will snap them out of their cycle of failure and put them on the road to success is, to put it gently, naïve.

I personally know that spiral of failure all too well. I don’t think it makes for the best learning environment.

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How Could a Sweet Third-Grader Just Cheat on That School Exam? →

Shellenbarger from WSJ:

When Ms. Avant asked her daughter that evening why she cheated, Kaci said s he was afraid her mom would be angry over a bad grade. “When she said that, I thought, ‘Wow, maybe I need to check myself,’” Ms. Avant says.

Ugh. Of course kids cheat to get better grades. So sad. Grades make learning have winners and losers. No one wants to be a loser.

“To say that kids who cheat will get caught and they will be punished‚Äîand they will not gain by cheating‚Äîisn’t true anymore,” she says… Her sons shot down that argument in elementary school, telling her they’d seen other students cheat without getting caught.

It worked better, she said, to tell her kids, “Cheating flies in the face of the values of our family and the rules of the school.” She told them they’d be letting her down if they cheated, and she wouldn’t defend them.

I love this advice as a parent and as a teacher.

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The Deliberate Rise of Stephen King →

Cal Newport on King:

King was careful to always aim above, but just barely above, his current skill level. His first published story was in a fanzine — the 1960′s version of a blog. He moved from fanzines to second-tier mens magazines like Cavalier andDude. After he cracked that market he moved on to top-tier mens magazines and top-tier fantasy and science fiction publications. Only once he could consistently hit those targets did he succeed in selling his first novel to Doubleday.

Good stuff about honest feedback and how to stretch yourself. This is exactly what I hope to do for my writing students.

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