1-2 The Value of Being A Slow Learner
Have you ever watched as the teacher would ask a question in class and then before you could even understand what the question was about, some student already had their hand in the air with the answer? Some people just plain seem to have race car brains. They get to the finish line, they answer really, really fast. Other people like me have what you might call hiker brains. They get to the finish line but because they're walking, they get there much, much more slowly. With the race car driver, they do get to the finish line a lot faster, but everything goes by in a rush. [NOISE]
They're also on a set, smooth roadway. They know exactly where they're going. A hiker on the other hand, moves slowly. But while they're hiking, they can reach out. They can touch the leaves on the trees, smell the air, hear the birds. And they can easily veer off the expected path into places where people don't normally go. The race car brain and the hiker brain, in other words have two completely different experiences. And even though the hiker brain may move much more slowly sometimes, because of how it works it can see more deeply. My hero in science is a man named Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Ramon y Cajal won the Nobel Prize in 1906, for his pioneering work in helping us understand the structure of the nervous system. Ramon y Cajal is considered the father of modern neuroscience. But here is where it gets really interesting, Ramon y Cajal was not a genius. He said so himself and he wasn't just being humble. However, Ramon y Cajal worked with geniuses. He found they often shared similar problems.
For example, these geniuses with their race car brains [NOISE] were used to jumping ahead to speedy conclusions. And when they were incorrect, they weren't use to changing their minds. So they keep charging ahead with the incorrect conclusion they jumped to, their super fast brains could easily devise justification. Because they weren't really looking to prove themselves wrong. Ramon y Cajal himself though had a persistent hiker type brain. He'd come up with a hypothesis and then he'd persistently check it out in a way that would reveal whether he was wrong. Instead of just trying to prove that he was right. If he was wrong, he changed his mind and flexibly try again. So was his persistence and his flexibility in the face of what the data was truly telling him that made him superstar researcher. It wasn't his genius. This kind of phenomena is seen in many different fields. For example, super smart people don't make very good hostage negotiators. Why? Because they go into the hostage situation with their own preconceived notions, which are sometimes dead wrong. And then when critical information does reveal itself, they can't flexibly change their mind and take advantage of that information. So if you have a race car brain just be aware, one of your biggest assets can become your biggest liability if you get too used to thinking you're always right, and that you're the smartest person around. And if you have a hiker type brain rejoice, there's much for you to contribute in the world with your slow, sometimes very unexpected way of approaching things.