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Attitude Influences Outcome

December 31st, 2009

John Maxwell in his book Your Road Map For Success, refers to a report published in 1986 about a research experiment in a San Francisco school.  The Principal called in 3 teachers and said: “because you three teachers are the finest in the system and you have the greatest expertise, we’re going to give you ninety selected high-IQ students and we’re going to let you move these students through this next year at their pace to see how much they can learn.”

The teachers, the students and their parents understandably thought it was a great idea. By the end of the year the students had achieved from 20 to 30 percent better than the other students in the entire San Francisco Bay area!  Everyone was delighted.  However, the Principal called in the teachers and said: “I have a confession to make. You did not have ninety of the most intellectually prominent students.  They were run-of-the-mill students. We took ninety students at random from the system and gave them to you.”

The teachers concluded that their exceptional teaching skill was therefore responsible for the students’ outstanding progress until the Principal said “I have another confession.  You’re not the brightest of the teachers. Your names were drawn out of a hat.”

The researcher concluded that the reason both the students and their teachers performed at an exceptional level is the attitude they each embraced.  They had an attitude of positive expectation and confidence in each other.  They performed well because they believed they could!

I wonder how much of our own under-performance can be attributed to our failure to believe in ourselves and our colleagues.  Henry Ford’s statement: “If you believe you can or you believe you can’t you’re probably right” has become cliche but I think it’s a natural law.  I’d be interested in what you think.

  1. January 22nd, 2010 at 18:11 | #1

    And here’s another example of how self-perception can have a dramatic impact on a person’s accomplishments. Covey, at page 300-301 in 7 Habits relates a story about a computer programming error that resulted in a report that categorized students into “bright kids” and “dumb kids” based on an IQ test. The problem was that the programmer got the logic wrong and the “bright” kids on the report were actually the “dumb” ones and vice versa.

    Several months later the error was discovered. They decided to test the kids again without telling anyone. The result astounded the school administrators. The IQ of the “real” bright kids had gone down significantly. They had been treated as being “mentally limited, uncooperative and difficult to teach” by the teachers. The teacher’s paradigms in other words had become a self fulfilling prophecy.

    On the other hand, the scores of the supposedly “dumb” group had gone up. They were treated as being bright, energetic, optimistic and excited which resulted in “high individual expectations and worth for those kids.” What’s interesting is that the teachers of the “dumb” group said that they were challenged in the first few weeks of teaching but they knew they were “bright” so they changed their teaching methods with outstanding results.

  2. January 22nd, 2010 at 17:48 | #2

    I totally agree Phil. In fact I’m working on material that deals with this very issue right now. Here are a few more books that I’d recommend to anyone would wants to achieve greater success in life and in business. Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich is a classic. David Swartz’s The Magic of Thinking Big is a great read. Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People should nut just be read it should be studied! And Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude by Napoleon Hill & W. Clement Stone is amazing.

  3. Philip Arnfield
    January 20th, 2010 at 01:33 | #3

    I was reading a book over Christmas that explains why attitude will influence outcome. The important lesson in the book is that we will become what we think about ourselves.

    Dr. Bob Rotella is a sports psychologist with a special interest in golf. In his book Your 15th Club he discusses the relationship between your conscious mind, subconscious mind, and the creation of your self image.

    To explain the relationship Dr Rotella uses the example of learning to drive a manual car. It is the conscious mind that learns the physical activity required to move through the gears smoothly. Eventually you learn how to control the car well enough so that control of the gears is an activity controlled by the subconscious mind. You can drive from A to B without even thinking about the gear changes.

    The reason you can drive the car without thinking about the gear changes is as a result of your self image as a driver. Self image lives in the subconscious.

    According to Dr. Rotella we all have the power to train our self imagine so that our subconscious mind helps us to become what we think about ourselves.

    Ric, you pose the question how much of our own under-performance can be attributed to our failure to believe in ourselves and our colleagues. Having read Your 15th Club I am of the view that a great deal of our under-performance is attributed to our failure to believe in ourselves.

    I have read the book twice now. The first read was an attempt to improve my golf, and it actually has had a positive impact there already. It then occurred to me that the concepts discussed have relevance to my work, so I took off my golf hat and put on the eye shade and read it again.

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