Archives For Authentic Selling

“Was there ever a time when older people said, ‘Hmmm. I think it’s just right’?” – Neil Howe, Coined the term “Millennial” in 1991 and author of Millennials Rising

Aziz Ansari, Author of Modern Romance

Aziz Ansari, Author of Modern Romance. Use via Creative Commons permission.

My light reading over a long Labor Day weekend at the beach: Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, the comedian best known for his part in the NBC show Parks and Rec. He takes an anthropological look at dating among Millennials where – no exaggeration – 35 percent of this generational cohort meet their significant others through online dating apps.

It’s hilarious. Listen to how Ansari work the book’s themes into his act with the embedded podcast below from NPR’s The Hidden Brain. He brings audience members – Millennials, of course – onto the stage and gets them to read aloud text messages received from members of the opposite sex. Start at about the 2:50 mark to hear how one poor guy bumbles a clear shot at a date.

And it’s utterly terrifying. I’m at the stage of life where I look at these things through the lens of a father whose young daughters are nearer to their first dating experiences than I am removed from my last. I read Ansari’s account of what boys text to girls in hopes of getting their attention, many of which are made public, he tells us, on a popular blog called “straight white boy text.” I won’t recount them here, but let your imagination run wild. I imagine my daughters nine or ten years from now, and my blood pressure spikes.

It’s these kind of anecdotes of the Millennial Generation that lead so many Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers to dismiss it. What are the common descriptions we hear? Coddled. Entitled. Craving praise. Living in the parent’s basement. Failures to launch.

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An article in which I explore skill acquisition, the beauty of practicing skills for the sheer appreciation of the craft, and announce that I’ve teamed up with software firm TransLoc…

Magical Thinking & Joshua Foer as Skill Acquisition Gonzo

In 2010 Joshua Foer burst onto the non-fiction literary scene with the book Moonwalking with Einstein (1). It’s a brilliantly conceived piece of gonzo writing in which Foer combs through the academic literature on skill acquisition theories and applies them in his own quest to improve his memory.

Joshua-Foer

Joshua Foer, Memory Champ

Foer is a good writer with a knack for unearthing compelling real-life stories to illustrate his points. In the case of this book, he is the story. The techniques he learned (and practiced religiously) carried him through to become U.S. memory champion – yes, there is such a thing – in about a year’s time.

He went from having an average memory to being a champion by approaching memory as a skill…something that can be developed and improved.

It’s a tremendous feat and an even better book. It should come as no surprise when it landed on many 2010 must-read lists, including that of Bill Gates. This interest in skill acquisition and development is a refreshing trend to watch. It once held a prominent place in our cultural discussions of success. Now we seem to focus more on inborn talent driving outcomes. Or we become sloppier yet, ditching our critical natures altogether when achieving an outcome we want. We neglect our post-mortems; eschewing the autopsy and contenting ourselves with the crudest explanations of why some activity turned out the way it did.

Joshua Foer didn’t become U.S. memory champion because he was endowed with a great memory. Nor was it because he was recipient of a gushing torrent of luck (though luck always plays a role). He achieved the outcome because he considered memory ability holistically, broke it down into a finite set of skills, found techniques for mastering those skills, and then practiced like crazy.

That same methodology can be applied to virtually any set of skills in which anyone wants to get better. It can also be applied to the complex combination of hard and soft skills that compose a craft.

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