Strength Lessons from Wonderland

by Katie Ledger on October 5, 2007 · 4 comments

in Uncategorized

Bernard Haldane is the pioneer of positive psychology. He started to articulate his methods of optimization of behaviour in the 50’s and was still writing in the 90’s.

I love this mythical conversation between the Mad Hatter and Alice in Wonderland as an illustration of the problem most of us have in evaluating our strengths.

Mad Hatter: We only go around in circles here in Wonderland but we always end up where we started. Would you mind explaining yourself?

Alice: Well grown ups tell us to find out what we did wrong and never do it again.

Mad Hatter: That’s odd! It seems to me that in order to find out about something, you have to study it. And, when you study it, you should become better at it. Why should you want to become better at something and then never do it again? But please continue…

Alice: Nobody ever tells us to study the right things we do. We’re only supposed to learn from the wrong things. But we are permitted to study the right things OTHER people do. And , sometimes, we are even told to copy them.

Mad Hatter: That’s cheating !

Alice: You’re quite right Mr Hatter. I do live in a topsy turvy world. It seems as if I have to do something wrong first in order to learn from that what not to do. And then, by not doing what I’m not supposed to do, perhaps I’ll be right. But I’d rather be right the first time, wouldn’t you?

Bernard goes on to say,

“Many individuals would rather not know what is strong about them, the strengths that point to growth and reveal potential. A greater degree of responsibility is required to take hold of success rather than to stay in the safe area of complacency and complaint”. 

I couldn’t agree more and will return to the theme of studying things we do right and things we are motivated to do.This combination is the key to finding out what you want to do and will ultimately find enjoyable.

Bernard’s Career Satisfaction and Success – a guide to job and personal freedom – first written in 1974 – is still one of the best books on the subject. Its brilliant !

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce Lynn October 6, 2007 at 10:30 am

Katie’s (and Talent Network colleague Mike Pegg’s) focus on strengths derived from passions (which she highlights here) came to mind reading the recent Sunday Times article on ‘The Science of Music’ (http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article2350325.ece). The article reports the quite substantiated proposition that most anyone can achieve virtuoso musical talent with about 10,000 hours of practice. People respond, ‘What about *naturals* like Mozart?’ to which theorists respond that given his musical family and what we know about his upbringing, Mozart started playing at 2 years old and probably did achieve 10,000 hours by the tiime he was 8 when he started to achieve notoriety. The morale according to the article, ‘effortless genius appears to be a myth.’ In short, anyone can be a virtuoso if they can find something they love enough to invest 10,000 hours into.

2 Katie Ledger October 7, 2007 at 11:25 am

Hi Bruce,
I was at a talk by Malcolm Gladwell “Tipping Point” last week and he said exactly the same thing.Its all about finding what you love to do and doing it again and again – focussing on what you do RIGHT as opposed to what you do wrong. Just have to do more of the stuff you do right and you will learn to refine it as you go along. The trick as Mr Pegg says, is then to get someone to pay you for it ! Katie 🙂

3 strasno July 18, 2008 at 12:41 pm

I love this… I’ve never really watched Alice in Wonderland, but I like what she and the other fella have to say about our strengths and learning from mistakes. I don’t think it’s cheating to learn from others though. It has saved me a lot of trouble in my life!

4 strasno July 18, 2008 at 12:42 pm

p.s. the conversation in Carroll’s story is far less involved and philosophical. I find that interesting too.

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