In the late 1960s, Stanford researchers developed a longitudinal, delayed gratification test (the Marshmallow test) that claimed to predict a person’s long-term success at three years old (see video here).
For the test, an administrator brings a three year old into a room and gives her a marshmallow. He tells her that he is going to leave the room for two minutes and if she doesn’t eat the marshmallow by the time he returns, he’ll give her two marshmallows. They then tracked the three year olds success over the next few decades and concluded that the ones who were able to resist the marshmallow at three years old were more successful in life than the ones who gave in and ate the marshmallow.
In an excellent Ted Talk, Professor Conor Neil from IESE Business School shares the top qualities that Warren Buffett looks for in a partner (integrity, energy, intelligence) and notes that willpower is a necessary component of each:
- to have the willpower to keep alignment with values and time spent
- how much time goes into the things you mean to do?
- to have the energy to accomplish a difficult challenge or multi-year goal, you need the willpower to focus on the present and not let one’s mind get too far ahead of the now
- focus on the next marshmallow
- adaptive intelligence
- in order to gain adaptive intelligence, one needs the willpower to regularly document the things you read, experience, learn
- if you take the time to regularly reflect on what you’ve learned (e.g. through use of a daily journal), over time you’ll gain intelligence as you’ll become the accumulation of your experiences
- write about the marshmallow and how you felt when resisting it (both immediately and an hour or day later)
He concludes with the following advice,
“A successful life is the accumulation of the right decision over and over again, day after day. We so often underestimate what we can achieve in a year and overestimate what we can achieve in a day. Rule #1 for success, when you have a marshmallow don’t stare at it. The diet doesn’t fail because of weakness of will, the diet fails because the chocolate is there. It’s small decisions done repeatedly that makes the difference.”
Last week, and after months of planning, I helped host an event for an organization and cause I’m passionate about. In the hour leading up to the event (panel style interview live-streamed on social media), I reached out to my wife to let her know about event and remind her to tune in. But she was already tuned in. In a way only special people in your life tune in. Or maybe just special person. I checked my phone five minutes after I texted her to see if the live feed was up on social and to remind the internet to tune in (i have 72 twitter followers btw so my reach is somewhat limited but…) and not only was she tuned in but she:
- forwarded the live stream link to all her friends with a sweet message overstating my role and demanding that her friends log on (she’s never on Facebook)
- sent multiple text messages to my family and her family rallying the troops to check it out
- texted to say how exciting the event looked and that she pulled off the highway on her commute home to watch
- made a comment about a random part of the interview toward the end that she would only know if she listened
The event was fulfilling and amazing and all of that but I’m not writing to talk about the event. The reason the event was extra meaningful was because of the authentic support I had from my wife. She was 100% engaged in what I was doing in a way where I could feel the love and support the next day (and even a week later). Pretty cool.
I hope I can be as selfless and as excited and as focused on something she’s into as she was for me last week. I think we often don’t realize the profound positive impact that type of focused and genuine support can have on someone else.
Thank you JL!
My buddy Steve told me shortly after my daughter was born about the email account he set up for his daughter and his routine of sending her letters once a month since birth. I’ve taken that advice and have emailed my eldest daughter (now 22 months old) on average once per month. I started sending notes to my youngest daughter (now 5 months) last week. In order to maintain regularity, I try to write without a specific purpose, just sharing stories and first words and activities we’ve shared since last note. I add pictures and links to youtube videos for songs I like. I made a rule to never edit it after so it’s authentic to my feelings at that time.
Thanks Steve, I think this journal via email will be a memorable gift for my daughters, my wife, and me as it will be a tool we can use to tap into old memories and bring them back to life.