Don't Eat the Marshmallow - Yet.

A successful person uses small indicators to make big decisions. If he explains his methods to data-worshippers, he sounds like an idiot. When it later turns out that he was right, the doubters claim he was lucky, saying, “You can’t possibly forecast a positive outcome from those numbers.”
Interesting study: A large group of 4-year old children are led into a room, one at a time. The room is equipped with a two-way mirror. Each child is seated and given a marshmallow. “You can eat the marshmallow right now if you want. But if you wait until I come back to eat your marshmallow, I’ll give you a second marshmallow to go with it.” The giver of marshmallows then leaves the child alone in the room. One third of the children ate the marshmallow immediately. One third held out for a short time, then ate the marshmallow. One third waited 15 to 20 minutes until the giver of marshmallows returned with the promised, second marshmallow.
Small indicators are valuable to a savvy person, just as they were valuable to Walter Mischel*, a scientist at Stanford 40 years ago. Fourteen years later, at the age of eighteen, each of the original 216 children was located. Those who did not eat the fluffy goodness scored an average of 10 points higher on the SAT (610 verbal and 652 math versus 524 verbal and 528 math.) At age 40, the group that did n0t eat their marshmallows had more successful marriages, higher incomes, greater career satisfaction and better health than the marshmallow eaters. The 4 year-old who eats the marshmallow is oriented toward the present. The 4 year-old who waits is oriented toward the future. Yes, we can learn big things from small indicators.
For most, 2009 is going to be a year of change, temptation, upheaval. Will you be oriented toward the future? Or are you trapped in the present? Before you eat that marshmallow, let's talk. Tell me a story about when you "ate the marshmallow" and what you learned from it -- for the story I like the best --I'll send you a bag of puffy marshmallow!
*Walter Mischel was a professor of psychology at Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia Universities and a past editor of Psychological Review. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2004 and became president of the Association for Psychological Science in 2007.

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