I am sure that I have read somewhere that the last frontier of human knowledge is the brain. Well, I’m pretty sure I read that, athough I also can’t rule out the possibility that I have completely made that up. Whether or not the statement is in itself true, it doesn’t change the reality the brain is certainly an enormously intriguing subject that is just barely beginning to be understand. New techniques are shedding light on what has been more or less a complete mystery. One of the books that has attempted to collect some of this new research in an accessible form is ‘Drive‘ by Daniel Pink. Borrowing from the style of Malcolm Gladwell (at least in terms of structure and subject matter) Pink presents some findings on how we think, focussing his attention on the things that motivate us. A couple of particularly interesting topics to me are the role of emotions in the decision making and the role of making errors during learning. Emotions are central to the decision making process and in turn help and hinder us. For certain types of decisions following our emotional responses leads to better quality decisions. For other kinds of decisions, our rational mind serves us better. In terms of learning however, the research seems less equivocal. Brain research seems to suggest that focussing on errors (and studying them and attempting to correct them) leads to better learning outcomes. In my mind at least, this tends to support the concept of deliberate practice that I have written about many times before.
Another topic that the book addresses is how we value things. In this area none of the findings in themselves are particularly earth shattering. For example, even though anyone who has spent a few days living in the world knows that human beings value the present much higher than the future it is still fascinating to learn how the brain arrives at those conclusions. One anecdote was of a debt consultant whose work consisted of advising people how to reduce their massive, mostly credit card induced, debts. It is hardly surprising to learn that businesses deduce human frailties far faster than science can indentify them and that people do not value costs associated with credit cards at the same level as cold, hard cash. The debt consultant in the story physically destroyed his clients’ credit cards as the first step towards returning them to financial stability. In his experience, even intelligent, hard working people were unable to control themselves and their spending when they remained in the possession of a credit card.
Recently I came across a book called ‘Coachisms‘. As someone who is interested in the topic, and loves all those pithy (and I realise mostly fake) quotes, a quick flick through indicated that it was exactly the kind of book I would like. So possessing a credit card and an amazion.com account, I purchased it. Sadly, with each passing page I was reminded of Daniel Pink’s debt consultant more and more. If I had been in an actual book shop, I would have flicked through more than six pages. I certainly would have noticed that some of the quotes originated from coaches other than those to whom they were attributed. I probably would have noticed that a third of the book was made up of biographies of the coaches, which including the couple of pages introducing each chapter meant that barely half of the book were actually coachisms. I hopefully would have noticed that there was no index. In short I’d like to think I wouldn’t have bought it.
The moral of story? Buy ‘Drive’, or at least read it, but don’t bother with ‘Coachisms’. You can put together your own ‘Coachisms’ book by googling John Wooden quotes. And I just did that for you.
Read about the great new Vyacheslav Platonov coaching book here.