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4 Things to Learn From One of the Greatest Psychologists of All Time

4 Things to Learn From One of the Greatest Psychologists of All Time

Paul Ekman is the world’s most famous face-reader. Every psychology student knows his name and even beyond the field of psychology, Ekman and his work is recognized. Ekman dedicated his whole career towards the understanding of emotions and the associated patterns in the human face. Due to his accomplishments he not only belongs to ‘Time’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world (2009)’ but he is also one of the 100 most influential psychologists of the 20th century.

You might know his work through TV shows like Lie To Me, which is based on his studies, or you’ve read one of his famous books Emotions Revealed and Telling Lies, which teach you how to read faces and detect lies. Besides this he works with secret agencies like the FBI or CIA and advises movie companies like Pixar. The now 80-year old Ekman already met the Dalai Lama three times and talked with him about emotions.

Despite travelling and numerous responsibilities, he took some time to talk to me. As an aspiring psychologist I am more than familiar with his work and there are already dozens of high quality interviews about his research as well as several books. Therefore I decided to reach out to him and talk with him about more universal topics. More specifically we talked about: the importance of a mentor, how to actually find one, learning, reading, writing and what it takes to become an outstanding psychologist. From our conversation I learned the following things:

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1. The Importance of a mentor and how to find one

Ekman said it is definitely very important to have a good mentor and it had a decisive influence more than once on his own life and career. His mentors led him through critical moments and supported him with guidance. Ekman also listed a lot of different qualities he learned from them, not at least he learned excitement about research and the necessary care.

Though the process of finding a mentor seemed to be rather guided by luck or the right circumstances in Ekman’s case. Robert Berryman, one of his first mentors, was running a lab at his University and Silvan Tomkins, which was his most important mentor, reached in a similar paper at the same journal. The editor of the journal then connected Ekman and Tomkins and this resulted in a long friendship and mentorship between the two.

So obviously Ekman got his mentors rather by chance as opposed to consciously reaching out to them. What needs to be considered is, that fifty years ago it was definitely harder to contact or learn about possible mentors. Nowadays this is far easier, so you shouldn’t rely just on chance, but make an effort and reach out to possible mentors (check out this video to find out how: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQPGQCeqB-I)

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2. You don’t have to have the same views as your mentor

While talking about his mentors and their impact on his life, Ekman mentioned several times that he either had different views, didn’t fully adapt a certain mindset or shook off the influence later (eg. the Skinerian influence of Berryman). Though he still said how important it was to have a mentor in order to learn things like persistence and perseverance as well as care, when it comes up to research. From Robert Berryman, Ekman especially learned about the excitement of research.

His mentors also encouraged him to take on new studies or pursue certain endeavors.  Silvan Tomkins for example led him to the decision to study cross cultural studies.

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So a lot of the learning that occurred was not simply on a content-level but rather on a meta-level. He rather learned about learning, attitudes and working habits. Tomkins even doubted that Ekman would be able to create a coding system of the face. Where in the end he succeeded (he invented the Facial Action Coding System- FACS). This shows mentors are tremendously important, but it is also necessary to free yourself and follow your own path at the right moment. Though finding this right moment, when to follow your own path and when to listen to your mentor is a hard task.

3. Learning, Reading, Writing

I asked Paul Ekman how he learns, reads and what percentage of his time is still dedicated towards learning new things. Often people are very surprised to hear, that even coryphes that accomplished everything you can think of and are already in their eighties still dedicate a significant amount of their time to mastering and learning new things. Same with Ekman, he still dedicates around 10% of his time to learning new things. A few years ago he even invested between 30-40% of his time to learning. This seems incredibly remarkable thinking of the fact that he is the greatest living-face reader, already in his 80ties and he still bothers with learning new things. But maybe this is exactly what helped him to accomplish all these things, the urge to learn and develop at all stages of life.

When he reads he always goes for hard copies to mark things. Also one effective way, as he figured out, to learn new things is writing about them. Since in order to write about something you need to have a deep understanding of the field.

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4. Four things to a great career

When I asked Ekman, “What differentiates good psychologists from those who make truly great contributions?” He answered simply that he didn’t know. Though he said there are four things that were essential to his own career.  These four things are: serendipity, perseverance, aim and timing. Serendipity is important because you sometimes need this lucky strike, where you just find something. In Ekman’s case somebody asked him a question that he hasn’t thought about himself and he didn’t know the answer to, but he thought it was interesting and followed through and researched it. At this point perseverance becomes important. You have to have the endurance to thoroughly research the question and master the necessary skills on the way (and apply deliberate practice as Cal Newport would call it – http://calnewport.com/blog/2013/04/08/deliberately-experimenting-with-deliberate-practice-looking-for-subjects-to-test-my-advice/ always talks about). Ekman further said that it is essential to have the right aim and he even emphasized that you should aim as high as you can. Though the last point is probably harder done than said, but while doing all these things the timing needs to be right.

Featured photo credit: kqedquest via flickr.com

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

30 Powerful Success and Failure Quotes That Will Lead You to Success

30 Powerful Success and Failure Quotes That Will Lead You to Success

No one can live a positive life without failing. However, many people experience a fear of failure, despite its inevitability in life. Failure, as you will see from these 30 success and failure quotes, is the key ingredient for the recipe of success!

Today’s society is obsessed with success and achievement, and failure is definitely NOT part of the equation. Failure and making mistakes is hidden away or seen as a human weakness.

However, if you avoid making mistakes in life, struggle to do everything right, and are obsessed with perfection and order, then living and experiencing a successful and happy life is going to be impossible.

Embrace your failure, whether it is one failure or many failures, because with the right attitude and a willingness to learn from your mistakes, you are guaranteed a lifetime of success. Here are some uplifting quotes about failure and success to help you get started.

1. “Never let success get to your head; never let failure get to your heart.” -Anonymous

This quote is important for those of us who feel downtrodden after every failure, heartbroken, if you will. If you let failure get you down for more than a couple of days, you’re wasting away your chance to bounce back from it.

On the other hand, if you allow yourself to build an inflated ego after every success, future failures may be even harder to cope with. Maintain a sense of humility and gratitude for each success and failure you find.

2. “Just because you fail once, doesn’t mean you’re gonna fail at everything. Keep trying, hold on, and always, always, always believe in yourself, because if you don’t, then who will, sweetie?” -Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe is spot on with this one. The first person who should be there to catch you when you fall is you. You have to be your own best advocate, the person to build you up when it feels like everything is going wrong. The others in your support system are just icing on the cake.

3. “You always pass failure on your way to success.” -Mickey Rooney

In today’s competitive world, it’s hard to understand that almost no one experiences failure before they experience genuine, lasting success. Failure is what forces you to learn in order to achieve that goal you’ve been working up to.

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4. “Failure is not falling down but refusing to get up.” -Chinese proverb

Everyone falls. Those who refuse to pick themselves back up, no matter if it’s after two days or two years, are the true failures.

5. “Successful people don’t fear failure but understand that it’s necessary to learn and grow from.” -Robert Kiyosaki

There are many success and failure quotes on this idea, and that’s because it’s so very important. Learning doesn’t happen when things are easy. It happens when things get tough and you have to find a way through challenges.

6. “The real test is not whether you avoid this failure, because you won’t. It’s whether you let it harden or shame you into inaction, or whether you learn from it; whether you choose to persevere.” -Barack Obama

No one can escape failure. If you let it keep you down and shying away from achieving your goals, you’ve failed again. If you learn from it and continue on your path toward greatness, it wasn’t a true failure but a lesson.

7. “Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough.” -Og Mandion

Determination is one of the best antidotes to failure. Even if you take two steps forward and one step back, you’re still moving forward with grit and determination. Keep going!

8. “Fear regret more than failure.” -Taryn Rose

At the end of your life, what do you think you’ll feel worst about, failing or never trying?

9. “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” -Nelson Mandela

If anyone has enough insight to offer us success and failure quotes, it’s Nelson Mandela. He learned that that path to success (and freedom) is full of setbacks. His determination, however, led him to make amazing changes in the world around him. Now that’s success.

10. “The secret of life is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.” -Paulo Coelho

Each time you get back up, it will get easier and easier, and you’ll realize each time that those failures are the greatest lessons life will ever give you.

11. “Most great people have attained their greatest success just one step beyond their greatest failure.” -Napoleon Hill

Unfortunately, many people stop trying after a large failure comes their way. They lose their confidence, determination, and will. However, success usually follows quickly behind these huge failures because you’ve inevitably learned what not to do.

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Don’t stop with the huge failure. Take a few more steps and see if it gets you where you wanted to go.

12. I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” -Thomas Alva Edison

Through his success and failure quotes, Thomas Edison shows us that failures are only truly failures if you don’t learn the lesson they offer.

13. “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” -Bill Gates

Celebrating success feels good, but learning the lessons of failure is where growth occurs[1], which can lead you to even greater successes.

14. “The only thing that separates success from failure is one last attempt. Try one more time and you will get lucky.” -Apoorve Dubey

Every success comes from an attempt. If you don’t try one more time, you’ll never know if it could’ve been your big chance at big success.

15. “Failure is a detour; not a dead-end street.” -Zig Ziglar

Many people get impatient with failure. They feel that it’s a stopping point, or a road that’s too long to walk. However, the patience to take that new road is exactly what’s necessary to find success. If success is easy to find, it likely won’t last very long.

16. “In the real world, very smart people fail, and mediocre people rise. Part of what makes people fail or succeed are skills that have nothing to do with IQ. Also, the idea that intelligence can be gauged by an IQ test is erroneous.” -Camille Paglia

Failure is not a sign of a lack of intelligence, as Paglia suggests. Failure is a sign of great intelligence and great courage. She also points out the important point that intelligence takes many forms, and it’s often the grit and maturity to accept failure for the temporary setback that it is.

17. “Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another stepping stone to greatness.” -Oprah Winfrey

Queens will always be queens, no matter if they experience success or failure. And you will always be you, so use that to your advantage, and take the risk of failure in order to reach success.

18. “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.” -J.K. Rowling

Living a life free of failure generally means you have lived a boring, uneventful life. Is it really worth it?

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19. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” -Richard Branson

If you’ve ever watched a child learn to walk, you know that Branson’s success and failure quotes are true. Children are determined. They fall, and they get back up. And then they learn, and soon they’re running.

20. “Success or failure is caused more by mental attitude than by mental capacity.” -Walter Scott

Scott knows that intelligence is less of a determining factor in success than determination or ruthless optimism. Set yourself up for success by cultivating both.

21. “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again. That is why I succeed.” -Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan knows failure, and yet we know him as an incredibly successful person. Why? Because he never let the failures stop him from moving on.

22. “There comes a time in your life, when you walk away from all the drama and people who create it. You surround yourself with people who make you laugh. Forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right, pray for the ones who don’t. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is a part of life, getting back up is living.” -José N. Harris

The secrets to success are pretty simple, and living a full life is only possible once you learn that getting up after a failure will bring a great sense of satisfaction and joy.

23. “All people fail at certain instances in their lives, the only thing that makes them different is how they manage to stand up or how they choose to fail again.” -Unknown

If you fail, you’re like the vast majority of the world. What makes you different is how you choose to respond.

24. “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” -Robert Kennedy

If you aim high, even if you fall short you’ll still likely be ahead of the majority of people. Take the time in life to fail greatly because that’s where you’ll find your true self.

25. “Failure is good as long as it doesn’t become a habit.” -Michael Eisner

If you continue to make the same mistakes, you’re not learning from your failures. This is when it becomes a destructive habit instead of a moment to propel you toward success.

26. “If you are afraid of failure, you don’t deserve to be successful.” -Charles Barkley

Only those who are willing to accept the hard emotions that come along with failure will be those who will enjoy the good feelings of genuine success.

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27. “Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. It is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead-end street.” -William A. Ward

In his success and failure quotes, Ward points out something important. Failure is often seen as a death stroke, something that stops our success. If we shift our perspective and look upon failure as a teacher instead, we will likely feel very differently about those moments in our life and see that failure is delay, not death.

28. “Courage allows the successful woman to fail and learn powerful lessons from the failure. So that in the end, she didn’t fail at all.” -Maya Angelou

We’ve been here before. Failure is only failure if you don’t learn from it. Let yourself get a bad grade on the test; you’ll study differently next time. Let yourself fail at a relationship; you know how to build a healthier relationship next time.

Every failure brings a lesson. Learn it and move on.

29. “Good people are good because they’ve come to wisdom through failure. We get very little wisdom from success, you know.” -William Saroyan

If you think of the moments you learned and grew the most, were they easy times or hard times? Challenges make us better, smarter people[2]. You don’t get wise through an easy life.

30. “Don’t fear failure—not failure, but low aim, is the crime. In great attempts it is glorious even to fail.” -Bruce Lee

If you try to achieve something great, even a failure feels like a success. At least you had the courage to try. That’s more than most can say.

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Featured photo credit: Gabrielle Henderson via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: Strategies for Learning from Failure
[2] Psychology Today: How Greater Challenges Help You Grow

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