Wharton’s gravel expert discusses decision-making and exploration

On April 22, 2022, more than 50 high school students from as near as northern New Jersey and as far away as Indonesia descended on the campus of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, for the Wharton Global High School Investment Competition Learning Day.

The next morning, these same students – from 10 teams of aspiring asset managers – would compete in the 2022 Global Finals of the Investment Competition, in hopes of becoming international champions of investment strategy. (see the competition results HERE).

But on this day, they were ready to network with other contestants, explore the Wharton campus, and learn business from the experts.

A session with Angela Duckworth, professor of psychology at Wharton and Penn, provided some of the most profound insights of the day. Dr. Duckworth is founder and CEO of Character Lab, a non-profit organization that advances scientific knowledge that helps children, including adolescents, thrive. She is also the best-selling author Grit: the power of passion and perseverancea theme she addresses in her popular 2013 TED Talk (see photo above for a Learning Day student showing off her book).

Dr Angela Duckworth.

Part of Dr. Duckworth’s research is about how to live a happier, more successful life. How does she arrive at these conclusions? By studying the best performers.

“I interview and study Nobel laureates, Olympic gold medalists and Grammy award-winning musicians,” Duckworth said during his 30-minute interactive chat with students from Wharton’s Jon M. Huntsman Hall. “The common denominator that I find as a psychologist is that they have this combination of passion and perseverance for very long-term goals,” she added. “That’s what grain is. Passion for long-term goals is caring so much about something that even if you don’t have to think about it, you do… Persistence goes with it. So work really hard…and be resilient in the face of setbacks.

The common thread running through Dr. Duckworth’s work, whether she studies the power of praise or how to adopt a growth mindset (believing that you can improve your abilities), is science. During her learning day conversation, which touched on many different topics, she drew on the research of New York University psychology professor Gabriele Oettingen to describe her own decision-making process. tough trade-off decisions.

“When you’re faced with choices like where to go to college, what after-school program to pursue, or what to major in, I’m going to give you a four-step process that’s the most scientifically established or evidence-based way to fix goals and make plans for them,” she noted. “The acronym is called WOOP.”

O“Ask first, ‘What is my To wish?’ For example, what do I want to say about my college career? Whatever comes to mind first is good. I want to earn a lot of money. I want to go to medical school afterwards. Or I want to be proud of myself. Anyway… what is my wish for college?

O: “The first O is Result. What is the outcome if this wish comes true? So I want to go to medical school after college and the result will be that I will take care of people. The first O clarifies your priorities. If you clearly state what the outcome is if your wish comes true, you can see if it is a very big wish for you or a trivial one.

O: “The second O is the Obstacle that stands in the way of your wish. So if you wanted to go to medical school, the main hurdle might be organic chemistry.

P: “P is your Plan. You need a plan, which is your answer to the obstacle. How are you going to overcome it?

Dr. Duckworth concluded: “When I have a really tough choice to make, or I’m not making the progress I want or I’m feeling unhappy, I ask myself: What do I want? What is the best outcome if this wish comes true? What obstacle stands in the way? And that prepares me to make a plan for what to do.

What if you are not satisfied with your final decision? You can’t be afraid to make a change, advised Professor Duckworth, who champions experimentation that requires getting it wrong every now and then.

“You’re going to learn most of the things you learn in life through messy, ineffective trial and error,” she observed. “The most successful people, including Nobel Prize-winning scientists and truly world-class athletes at the Olympic level, have historically in their lifetime done more sampling and exploration than people who are not as gifted. Give yourself time to try majors, try activities, drop those activities (but avoid stopping things in the middle; be prepared for a commitment that has a beginning and an end). The more samples now will help you succeed later in life.

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