Archive for April, 2011

How Pressure and Stress Are Affecting Your Performance

April 19, 2011 130 comments
The Candle Problem

The Candle Problem

Some years ago, a Princeton psychologist named Sam Glucksberg brought a group of test subjects into a room. In the room was a table positioned against a wall. On the table was a book of matches, a box of thumbtacks, and a candle. “Your job,” Glucksberg told his subjects, “is to attach the candle to the wall in such a way that when it’s lit, the wax will not drip onto the table. I will be timing you, and I will use your results to establish averages and benchmarks.”

Some time later, he brought another group of subjects into the room. He showed them an identical set-up: table, matches, box of thumbtacks, and candle. He gave them the identical instructions, but added a twist: “I will be timing you, and you will be rewarded with money based on your times. If you finish in the top 25% of all times, you will receive X dollars. If you’re the fastest of all times, we will give you double that amount.”

All of Glucksberg’s groups were timed against one another. And what do you think happened as a result?

The groups who received the money as a reward were, on average, three-and-a-half minutes slower at coming up with the right answer. How could this happen? Read more…


What do we do with the negative feedback?

April 9, 2011 1 comment

“Do what you’re good at.”

“Do what you love.”

“Do what you would do for free.”

Is there anybody reading this who found this kind of career advice as utterly useless as I did? For a variety of reasons, some of us don’t have the first clue what this goal might be. I have an actress friend of mine who always wanted to be an actress. She aimed her whole soul towards becoming an actress, and went to Juilliard. I envied her, and people like her, for easily discerning the call of their personal direction. I’ve always been a generalist, pretty good at a lot of different things that all tasted pretty much the same, with no really inclination one way or the other.

Now, I’ve accomplished a few things, but never really applied myself in one single direction. I don’t have a great idea of what my strengths are. The reason for that is that I was always over-sensitive to criticism or negative feedback. So when I was younger, I’d try one thing, hit my limits, and stop. Then I’d try another thing, hit my limits, and stop. I was searching for that area for which I had natural talent, figuring that when I found it, it would somehow feel easy and right. When I hit early failure, I took it as a sign that I was in the wrong pursuit, that I was outclassed, and that I should do something else.

Peter BregmanPeter Bregman is a leadership coach who writes a blog for the Harvard Business Review. He gave a TED Talk at TEDxFlint (I love using TED talks for blog inspiration) about how we learn and grow by deliberately embracing discomfort and criticism. More is achieved through inviting rejection and criticism than by trying to find the path of least resistance. I’ve included a YouTube posting of his talk below: Read more…