While we’re on the topic of success…
Last week’s New Yorker had an article about a test in the 1960s that had kids sit in front of a marshmallow. They could eat it immediately or wait ten minutes and earn a second one. Of course it was torture for all, but helped divide the population into “low” delayers and “high” delayers of gratification. Further studies decades later show that the kids able to delay gratification were likely to become “successful” adults.
Carolyn Weisz [high delayer] is a textbook example of a high delayer. She attended Stanford as an undergraduate, and got her Ph.D. in social psychology at Princeton. She’s now an associate psychology professor at the University of Puget Sound. Craig [low delayer], meanwhile, moved to Los Angeles and has spent his career doing “all kinds of things” in the entertainment industry, mostly in production. He’s currently helping to write and produce a film. “Sure, I wish I had been a more patient person,” Craig says. “Looking back, there are definitely moments when it would have helped me make better career choices and stuff.
What bothers me is the value judgment. Carolyn may be “successful” but I bet Craig is a hell of a lot more fun to be with. I bet he’s spontaneous and creative. I bet he’s had some rough falls too. In short, I’d rather know Craig.
I probably would have delayed the gratification, played good girl, and rebelled 30 years later after thousands spent on the couch. But I wish I would have just eaten the marshmallow and then found a way to buy my own goddamn bag. Screw ‘em.
(Image: Claus Oldenburg, 1962)