From Arrested Development to Attested Development: 3 Simple Ways to Get Back on Track

“You come to the gym more than the average member”, the gym employee commented.

“Wow! Really? Thanks for the encouragement!”, I responded, feeling dissatisfied with myself all the same.   

“I guess the problem”, I thought, as I drove home,” is that I’m not seeing any progress”. In fact, after a very cold winter which made venturing out in the dark after dinner even less motivating, and a busy schedule that just kind of crowded out the time to go the gym, I feel like I’ve arrived at summer in a stodgier and heavier state than in previous years.

In fact, I like I’ve hit a state of arrested development. I’ve plateaued. So, what to do about it?

A video I saw recently came to mind. Angela Duckworth, a world expert in the area of grit, was giving a conference on deliberate practice.

She explained the following theory:

Talent X Effort = Skill 

                                             Skill X Effort = Achievement

What does that mean? If you have talent and make no effort, you won’t develop skill. For example, if you have a talent for music, but don’t practice, you won’t develop any skill. Also, even if you do have skill, you won’t achieve new heights unless you keep making an effort to develop that skill. You just won’t get to that state of attested development!

Okay, so to go back to my initial question: what do you do when you hit that plane of no progress?

The answer, according to Angela Duckworth, is simple: deliberate practice*. It’s the only way to break the curse of the flatline; you’ve just got to get up and get going! If you don’t practice speaking, you won’t make any progress. If I don’t go to the gym, I’ll become more and more passive.  

Here’s Angela’s advice:

#1.  Set your goals.

What are your goals? Be specific. Do you want to learn 5 new words this week? Do I want to go to the gym 4 times this week instead of 3? Whatever, the case, make sure your goals are challenging, too. If you consistently practice and make an effort, you will still hit that flatline. You need to intentionally increase that goal just a bit, so that it is just that bit further or more. Do you see what’s happening? You’re making progress.  

#2. Find your focus.  

When you are 100% focused, you’re engaged. You’re not doing anything else but working on developing a specific skill. Set aside 15 minutes of time alone to read an article in English or watch a short video. In my case of exercise, scheduling in time for specific workouts ensure that I am setting aside time when I am completely immersed in my physical activity. I can’t be doing anything- else! Picture being on a stationary bicycle and checking your social media on your phone, to get the idea! Whatever you’re working on, concentrate on that body, soul and spirit!  

#3. Get your feedback.

Ah, feedback. Correction. Yes, like you, I see a frowning parent, a nagging teacher, a never-satisfied coach. Maybe that was then, but this is now. Choose a friend or colleague (or in my case, a coach at the gym) to nudge you along and let you know how you can be just that little bit better. Would the Saint- Louis Blues have won the Stanley Cup this weekend without the guidance of Craig Bérubé? Would the Raptors have grabbed the NBA championship title without Nick Nurse advising them all season long?  

This week’s going to be a great week. I’ve got some objectives (specific and challenging), I’ve blocked off time (three of them to be exact!) and I’m going to enlist the aid of a personal trainer (at least for a consultation to begin with!)

How about you? What are your secrets to keeping off the arrested development plateau? – Claire :o)

*https://www.coursera.org/lecture/positive-psychology-project/3-3-deliberate-practice-fhwtq

Need a shot of chutzpah?

I’m thinking I sure do!

Chutzpah is that zingy Hebrew word that means gall, effrontery and sometimes outrageous audacity. It’s the stuff that entrepreneurs, politicians and every-day go-getters have loads of.

What does it look like? How about not taking no for an answer, daring to ask why when everyone else is frozen in stunned silence or anxious passivity, or thinking ‘what the hell, why not?’ and jumping into a situation without any guarantee of the results – but being without-a-shadow-of-a-doubt sure of what you’re aiming for. 

Chutzpah is just one of the concepts illustrated in the numerous stories of entrepreneurial success described in the book Start-Up Nation: The Story of Israel’s Economic Miracle, by Dan Senor and Saul Singer (M&S, 2009). The tour guide on my recent trip to Israel and Jordan highly recommended it as a resource for getting a better grasp of the innovative Israeli mindset and culture.

He was so right. Not only is it enlightening, but it is inspiring. Wix, Waze, Teva… these are just three examples of Israeli start-ups. When considering the fact that Israel boasts the highest per-capita density of start-ups in the world, you can’t but help be intrigued by the success of this New-Jersey sized newborn state.

So how does chutzpah play out? What can a language teacher or student learn from it?

#1. Chutzpah means asking questions.

Senor and Singer explain that Israelis learn from the get-go that ‘assertiveness is the norm, reticence something that risks your being left behind’ (p. 31). This means that whether it be at home, school, in business or the army, they are taught to ask questions.

To me, the practical application is a gentle reminder to forget being shy and speak up when a question is warranted. What do you want? What do you need to know? Ask. Don’t be shy!

#2. Chutzpah means taking the initiative.

Soldiers in the Israeli military are trained to act with the understanding that all performance is value-neutral, meaning that whether positive or negative outcomes are treated equally. The priority is to learn from the ‘errors’ and to take risks intelligently.

So, speaking up in class, possibly making all kinds of syntactic errors is no big deal. What can you learn from it? Or, as a teacher – or writer, trying out a new activity or form of writing and seeing it fall flat, does not mean you are not made to be a teacher or writer, but that you have something to learn. Learn from it and do better next time!

#3. Chutzpah means arguing when necessary.

 Four guys are standing on a street corner…

An American, a Russian, A Chinese man, and an Israeli…

A reporter comes up to the group and says to them:

‘Excuse me… What’s your opinion on the meat shortage?’

The American says: What’s a shortage?

The Russian says: What’s meat?

The Chinese man says: What’s an opinion?

The Israeli says: What’s ‘Excuse me’?

  • Mike Leigh, Two Thousand Years (p. 23, Senor & Singer)

That Israeli guy had some chutzpah! And you know that a debate probably ensued. That guy was ready to defend his opinion.

Elsewhere, the authors of Start-Up Nation quip that when you have two Israelis, you are most likely to have three opinions! My own personal thought when I was in Israel, upon observing the way questions were asked and debating was welcomed, “It’s no wonder there are so many Jewish lawyers and business-men!”

If you believe in your idea, either as student or teacher, defend it – calmly, logically and creatively. The entire class will benefit from the discussion!

Final Shot

I’ll leave the final thought with Alan Alda.

Nothing important was ever accomplished without chutzpah. Columbus had chutzpah. The signers of the Declaration of Independence had chutzpah. Don't ever aim doubt at yourself. Laugh at yourself, but don't doubt yourself. - Alan Alda

Shabbat Shalom! Have a great weekend! – Claire