The Hero of the Month, Much-Appreciated Smack Talk, Hacking Self-Efficacy, and More

Bring Ambition Newsletter - January 14, 2021

Hi folks and a warm welcome to new subscribers!

In the Bring Ambition Newsletter, I share 5+ things that are fascinating me lately in the world of professional and personal development, peak performance psychology, meta-learning, side hustles, and more. You'll receive unconventional resources, cool gadgets, practical advice, and other inspiring content.


1.) Hero of the month:

How much do you really know about Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.?

MLK was one of the most important activists and leaders of not only the 20th century, but in history. In honor of MLK Day in the U.S. this coming Monday, let's take a moment to be inspired by Dr. King's ideas and contribution, and to think about how we can make our own positive impact, however large or small. (I’m aiming to read and finish his autobiography in the next 30 days and invite you to join me.)

Here are 10 interesting things I've learned this week about Dr. King's inspirational and awe-inspiring life:

  1. King, a gifted student and thinker, entered college at just 15 years old.

  2. MLK completed his Ph.D. in 1955, receiving his doctorate in systematic theology.

  3. Six years before his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech, King actually made a prior speech at the Lincoln Memorial on the topic of voting rights, helping position him as a leader in the growing civil rights movement.

  4. In the span of 11 years (1957-1968), King traveled over 6 million miles, spoke over 2,500 times, published countless articles, and wrote five books.

  5. MLK was arrested 29 times and assaulted four times.

  6. King narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in September 1958 when a crazed woman approached him at a book signing and stabbed him with a seven-inch letter opener.

  7. As King sat in recovery following his delicate life-saving surgery, he wrote from his hospital bed a statement affirming his nonviolent principles and saying he felt no ill will toward his attacker.

  8. There are only two Americans to have their birthdays observed as national holidays: Martin Luther King Jr. and George Washington.

  9. King publicly predicted his death in his last public speech, proclaiming: "I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land."

  10. King received a Nobel Peace Prize at 35 years old for fighting racial inequality through nonviolent means, at that time making him the youngest ever recipient. He donated his $54,123 reward to various nonprofit organizations.

(Sources: 1, 2)

2.) Our latest article (and some much-appreciated smack talk):

“Developing Self-Efficacy, Part 1: Enactive Mastery Experiences.” This one is getting a lot of attention - almost all positive, but one reader reached out with a question / critique: What the hell is the point?! (I'm paraphrasing, of course)

First, as we've explored before, if you want to be formidable at what you do, learn to love brutally honest feedback. I was grateful someone forced me to think more deeply about what exactly the point was, and to explain it in the cleanest way possible.

Second, it's a fair question - in fact, it's the fair question. People have less time and attention to spare than ever before. So if they spend it consuming your content, you owe it to them to provide the maximum possible value in exchange. This includes making it as practical and actionable as possible.

So let’s cut through the SAT words — here’s the point:

Self-efficacy, in plain English, is the level of belief people have in their capabilities to "get sh*t done." It's not confidence. It’s their belief in their ability to marshal the skills and internal resources necessary to exercise influence over events.

The factors that improve self-efficacy will, in turn, improve performance (among other things). So if you want to get really good at something, one option is to optimize for self-efficacy.

Most people who want to develop a skill will default to a very haphazard approach. This can be ok in the beginning, but if it continues too long, they'll fail to make progress, quickly lose motivation, and quit.

But we can engineer "enactive mastery experiences," which are the most salient sources of our efficacy beliefs. We can design a development program around the most important contributors to self-efficacy, e.g. deliberate practice, "stretch" goals, uncomfortable performance scenarios, etc. — check out the article for a full list and explanations around why these things work.

If we're methodical about our approach, we reduce the likelihood of wasted time and effort, failure, premature quitting, and disappointment. We improve and grow, and we build our self-efficacy beliefs, allowing us to do and achieve even more.

3.) Surprisingly good movie:

Instead of mindlessly browsing through streaming options the entire night, on a whim I recently put on the Disney+ movie Soul. It totally exceeded expectations for what an animated movie could be. It's rightly been described as Pixar's "most ambitiously existential" film to date. It deals with themes like death, afterlife, reincarnation, what makes you... you, meaning and meaninglessness, passion, mastery, and more. You’ll enjoy a good mix of comedy and drama, consistent entertainment value, and extraordinary animation.

Description (via Wikipedia): "The story follows a middle school music teacher named Joe Gardner, who seeks to reunite his soul and his body after they are accidentally separated, just before his big break as a jazz musician."

4.) Word of the day:

Specious (adj.) - superficially plausible, but actually wrong; misleading in appearance, especially misleadingly attractive.

5.) Two articles I found interesting (that couldn't be more different):

A Brief History of Consumer Culture

The world's most unusual banana farm

As always, I'd love feedback on this newsletter. What did you enjoy? What's the worst thing about it that needs to be fixed as soon as possible? Reply here, or you can reach me on Twitter or Instagram.

Have a great weekend!

Jon D'Alessandro

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