Revisiting A-Ha Moments From a Different Perspective

Hi all,

A little while ago, I wrote a piece about “a-ha moments”.  I discussed the difference between gathering information and actually connecting that information with your core value systems and mental structure.  Turns out that my father, CEO and founder of Cerebyte, specializes in the neuroscience behind this kind of occurrence.  So, when he read my blog, he had some pretty cool insights.

Before that, though, let’s describe who my dad is and what Cerebyte does.   My dad used to be a teacher, got a PhD from Stanford studying management decision making, became a consultant, got over the whole consulting thing, started Cerebyte based on his discoveries studying neuroscience and business management.

Cerebyte provides essentially a three-step service to its clients (generally large-ish corporations).  First, it identifies the top employees in the company.  Second, it gathers knowledge from those top employees– the goal is to figure out why they perform so much better than their co-workers.  Extracting expert knowledge is a critical (and fascinating) element of the process.  Third and finally, Cerebyte builds a training program to confer the expert knowledge of a company’s best employees unto the average ones.  “Make the rest perform like the best”, as they say.  The key moment, though, is when an average-to-below-average employee starts exhibiting the behaviors of the premium-level employee.  At that moment, the weaker employee (or poker player, or whatever) actually adopts the knowledge of the stronger one.  That is what we call an “A-ha” moment.

After writing my previous blog post, my dad replied with some really interesting stuff.  He took issue with my reference to Malcolm Gladwell’s theory that it takes 10,000 hours to achieve true expertise in a field.  He begins by saying, “I think the post conflates two different though related ideas – ah ha movements and karmic convergence”.  Then, he separates those two ideas:  

Gladwell and his 10k hours is only partially correct

o   Gladwell makes 3 key assumptions about learning and ah ha moments that are true for the first people through but do not have to be true for others with a modern learning program §  Assumes that experiences are essentially ad hoc and that it takes about 10k hours to accumulate enough of the right experiences to develop insight

§  Assumes that the individual through personal capability somehow brings analysis, integration and ultimately synthesis to the ad hoc experiences

§  Assumes that ah ha moments are essentially random events that happen as a result of the first two o   However, ah ha moments can be systematically created in about 10% of the 10K (i.e. in about 1k hours or less) because the underlying conditions of ah ha moments are well known (Gladwell doesn’t use any of this research – which is one of the reasons I don’t like his work – it is very superficial)

§  By identifying and focusing on the experiences that were most relevant to building to the ah ha, these experiences can be proactively replicated for anyone §  Almost anyone can be taught to analyze, integrate and synthesize the proactive experiences §  When combined, these processes (which is what Cerebyte does) don’t guarantee the ah ha moment but 90% of people going through these programs experience an ah ha moment after about 1k of fewer hours of work

Basically, Malcolm Gladwell says that a very average person doing a task for 10k hours will achieve (somewhat randomly) an a-ha moment.  My father’s point is that you can be very smart, or you can have amazing guidance, and get there much, much faster.  This is explanation for why I succeeded without getting poker coaching, yet I still believe that poker coaching is an effective tool.  If the average person takes 10k hours to become good at poker, and a smart person takes 5k, how fast can a smart person with guidance achieve those transcendent moments?

Karmic events are only indirectly associated with ah ha moments

o   The dynamic is that the more ah ha moments a person has the greater their actual depth and breadth of knowledge and, more importantly, the greater the confidence in that knowledge

o   There is great contentment when this stage is reached – people really feel as though they know something meaningful and exude a sense of peace

o   Others sense first the contentment, then the confidence, then the depth of expertise and think –wow, this is someone special (probably the effect of “mirror neurons”)…and good karmic things happen

o   So, it is possible to make good karmic things happen if you do the right things…

I want to hang specifically on my father’s second point here.  People “exude a sense of peace” when they’ve reached a level of confidence and depth of knowledge.  Not to be an ultra fanboy, but observe how Phil Galfond interacts with people at and away from the table.  This man wins and loses massive pots, yet he always seems to do exactly that–exude a sense of peace.  So, in a sense, the more you know about the game (or life, or your job, or what-have-you), the more unflappable, concretely happy and content you are.  Our eager search for knowledge and success actually ends up being our search for contentedness and fulfillment.

To me, this ends up being a further argument to just take something you always wanted to do and dive into it.  The more passionately you attack life, the more likely you’ll end up with those “a-ha” moments, the more likely you’ll end up both successful AND exuding that sense of peace that we all crave.  Personally, I know that when I’ve been travelling alone, I’ve often found those two things (peace and enlightenment) come together.  On two different occasions, I can remember reaching a sort of clear-view that made my problems seem easier to solve and made the world seem friendlier in general.

At the end of the day, it boils down to an openness and a desire to learn.  If you’re excited by new possibilities (not everyone is), and if you’re willing to fail in attempting to understand things (not everyone does that either), you’re going to find yourself accepting failure more peacefully and achieving success more easily.

Catch you next time



PS: Songs of the day are coming from The Bird and the Bee.  They rock.

Diamond Dave

Polite Dance Song


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