Passion to change the world, having the Grit to tackle tough problems

The Economist has an article that calls attention to the myth vs. reality of How Children Succeed.

School reform

Stay focused

New research on how to close the achievement gap

Jan 19th 2013 |From the print edition

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character. By Paul Tough. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 256 pages; $27. Random House; £12.99. Buy

Now that I am blogging about the book, I decided I should buy it.  Thank you Amazon Kindle, book bought the book in 10 seconds.


Why do some children succeed while others fail?

The story we usually tell about childhood and success is the one about intelligence: success comes to those who score highest on tests, from preschool admissions to SATs.

But in How Children Succeed, Paul Tough argues that the qualities that matter most have more to do with character: skills like perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

How Children Succeed introduces us to a new generation of researchers and educators who, for the first time, are using the tools of science to peel back the mysteries of character. Through their stories—and the stories of the children they are trying to help—Tough traces the links between childhood stress and life success. He uncovers the surprising ways in which parents do—and do not—prepare their children for adulthood. And he provides us with new insights into how to help children growing up in poverty.

If you have been around for a while you know that the success is based less on how smart a person is and as  Paul Tough points out the skills of perseverance, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control.

Here is a case example.  Evangelizing the platforms of Apple, Microsoft, vs. Blackberry.  In the early days getting support for the Mac was insanely hard, so was Windows while DOS, and now Blackberry pulling off the Phoenix move rising from the ashes.  One guy who has lived through the competitive environment is Bob Taniguchi and he has started to blog about the technical evangelism topic.  Bob's an old time Microsoftie who is now at Blackberry.  Here is his first post on the topic BillG (Bill Gates) creating evangelism.  The early Microsoft days we called each other by e-mail aliases.  SteveB (Steve Ballmer), PaulMa (Paul Maritz).  Mine was DaveO.  BobT writes the following in his first post.  Since Bob is a good friend I am going to put his complete 1st post below.  Note how he closes with the lesson.

Every Evangelism, Ecosystem and even Business Development teams I’ve built are made up of articulate, driven, technical, and entrepreneurial individuals.

BobT's team skills overlap with what Paul Tough points out as How Children Succeed.  Once you learn this lesson you repeat it.

In the beginning, BillG created the Evangelists in his own image

February 1, 2013

It was 1989 and Microsoft was facing down a daunting three pronged product strategy: first to continue evolving DOS, second to garner support for the nascent DOS based GUI environment named “Windows” and third building an entirely new operating system with then partner IBM called “OS/2″.  How can the company possibly deliver application software for all three operating systems?

Ever vigilant of competitors strategies and tactics, Microsoft noted the seeming success of Apple Computer’s “Evangelists”.  A team was quickly assembled to answer this Apple threat, and in what would be become a common Microsoft tactic, made the role it’s own by tweaking the title to “Technical Evangelist”.  This team was called the Microsoft Developer Relations Group and was Microsoft’s first evangelism team.  I was part of this team and the lessons we learned way back then continue to be applicable today.

From the beginning Microsoft’s Technical Evangelists were very different than Apple’s team.  First and foremost, we were all developers.  We had coded apps for Windows, Unix, workstations, mini and mainframe computers.  In contrast most of Apple’s Evangelists were MBAs and were non-technical.   Secondly, our evangelists were laser focused on helping partners deliver their code, gain distribution in the channel and market their products.  Apple Evangelists, in a weird bit of foreshadowing, delivered an “experience meeting” more like a big tent revival.  As the other Japanese American technology evangelist in the industry at that time, I was always hearing comparisons to Apple’s Guy Kawasaki.  Although he and I had the same goal, to lock up ISV platform investment, we employed very different tactics.  During these early days of evangelism I heard many times that “Guy was here last week…”  then “.. you guys are very different…” and most importantly that “… we’ve decided to do the Windows version of our app first”.

I’ve never forgotten this lesson.  Every Evangelism, Ecosystem and even Business Development teams I’ve built are made up of articulate, driven, technical, and entrepreneurial individuals.   My BlackBerry Developer Evangelism team is yet another example of hiring to this model.  Many of my current team have run their own startups and are already identified as industry luminaries in their area of specialization.  Ok, a few of them also have their MBAs, we try not to hold that against them.

Oh, yeh after spending a bunch of time in Windows Development, I took the route through Technical Evangelism too in Developer Relations Group and eventually ran the Windows XP Technical Evangelism team.  Being a Technical Evangelist taught me a lot of things.  I think sometimes the trick is to have the experience of decades, but still have the passion to change the world.  I still get up fired up thinking of a bunch of ideas, my mind racing with different things we could do. As evidenced by this morning getting up at 5:45a to work on a business plan, reading BobT's blog post, and writing my own. 6:22a, time to post this, and get back to the fun stuff.