Two of my favorite writers are Bill Simmons (Espn.com, “The Book of Basketball”) and Malcolm Gladwell (“Tipping Point”,”Blink”,”Outliers”). Today I was reading an article from Simmons and he had linked to a couple of articles that he had wrote with Gladwell. I’ve been reading Bill Simmons work since I was 16 when I would spend time between my classes at Big Bend reading his articles on Page 2, along with Jim Caple, Jason Whitlock and Hunter S. Thompson’s work. I didn’t start reading Gladwell’s stuff until this past year and I love it. So, I the time I read the Gladwell vs. Simmons articles I didn’t really know who Gladwell was so I decided to re-read them today and I came across some interesting stuff.
Simmons asks Gladwell how hard he works at writing and they begin to discuss athletes and their dedication to working at their profession. Gladwell writes:
This is actually a question I’m obsessed with: Why don’t people work hard when it’s in their best interest to do so? Why does Eddy Curry come to camp every year overweight?The (short) answer is that it’s really risky to work hard, because then if you fail you can no longer say that you failed because you didn’t work hard. It’s a form of self-protection. I swear that’s why Mickelson has that almost absurdly calm demeanor. If he loses, he can always say: Well, I could have practiced more, and maybe next year I will and I’ll win then. When Tiger loses, what does he tell himself? He worked as hard as he possibly could. He prepared like no one else in the game and he still lost. That has to be devastating, and dealing with that kind of conclusion takes a very special and rare kind of resilience. Most of the psychological research on this is focused on why some kids don’t study for tests — which is a much more serious version of the same problem. If you get drunk the night before an exam instead of studying and you fail, then the problem is that you got drunk. If you do study and you fail, the problem is that you’re stupid — and stupid, for a student, is a death sentence. The point is that it is far more psychologically dangerous and difficult to prepare for a task than not to prepare. People think that Tiger is tougher than Mickelson because he works harder. Wrong: Tiger is tougher than Mickelson and because of that he works harder.
Do you ever not work at something because it would be demoralizing to work hard and fail than to not work hard and fail?
I feel that this applies to me sometimes, especially with school. I rarely study and I get decent grades and I feel that sometimes I do this because what if I were to study as hard as I can and fail? I feel like that would be devastating to me. This also comes into play with the ladies. Isn’t it worse if I try to get a girl and I get rejected than if I don’t try and don’t get her?
Now, just so you know, I do work at some things and sometimes it happens to be school and at getting girls, but not all the time.
Also, here is the link to the article I was reading.