‘Whistling Vivaldi’ and Your Full Potential

I finished a very interesting book called Whistling Vivaldi, which is about stereotypes. Yes, we know that others stereotype us. Regardless of gender, age, or color, people see us and very likely type cast us.

But, this book is different: it’s about how we stereotype ourselves.

The author brilliantly documents study after study as to how we are prone to limiting ourselves. Here’s an example: very smart white Stanford students with high math SAT scores are divided into two groups and given the same math test. One is a control group. The other is the experiment group. The only difference is that the latter is told the following: this test is really hard and is one at which Asians often excel.

The result? The experiment group’s scores are dramatically lower.

Other permutations are documented. Two groups of high achieving female students. The experiment group is told this: this math test is really, really hard. Their scores are lower, and the author hypothesizes that some women have heard the stereotype that women are not as strong in STEM, subconsciously believe it, and thereby limit themselves.

I’ve written in the past that our greatest enemy is often ourselves. We often beat up ourselves and say things to ourselves that we wouldn’t say to an enemy (more here).

Also, I personally think that self-stereotyping has a huge impact on entrepreneurship. I think there’s a big difference between an “entrepreneur” and an “executive.” I see many talented people with great backgrounds, but the former can manage ambiguity, whilst the latter eventually cannot deal with it over long periods of time (more here). It’s how we manage the “internal dialogue” that I think allows some to become entrepreneurs.

I continue to believe that the biggest impediment to our success is not our backgrounds, bad parenting, competitors, etc. It is our own selves. Our full potential grows if we stop limiting ourselves.

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