The PERL of growth behaviours

Ian Dyason . 29 Jan 2021

To the techies reading this, I am not referring to the programming language that ultimately became Raku. Instead, PERL (as opposed to the beautiful pearls in the picture above) refers to the four key behaviours that help to develop the growth mindset in us, and collectively, in organisations. PERL refers to Purpose, Effort, Resilience and Learning.


The bad news, therefore, for anyone who wants to be successful, is that it takes effort; the good news is that EVERYONE can be a success.

In her book, Grit: Why passion and resilience are the secrets to success, Dr Angela Duckworth details her research as she uncovered the secrets to success in any endeavour. While competence is important, she says this cannot come without passion for the subject. It does not matter if you are into pottery or gymnastics, if you only know how to do something, you will not be nearly as good as one who is passionate about doing it. That passion, according to Duckworth, will drive effort, continuously doing and learning and perfecting. No one is born perfect; we have to work hard to get there, if ever at all. Hence, effort counts for a lot to make it to success. And finally, resilience, that all-important character of picking ourselves up when we fall. Since we are not born perfect, we must strive to becoming one, especially when we fall - and we will. The ability to pick ourselves up when we fall, and get back on the horse and try again, is paramount in our efforts to becoming successful. The bad news, therefore, for anyone who wants to be successful, is that it takes effort; the good news is that EVERYONE can be a success.


Following on from Duckworth's work, and layering it with our 5DGM, we have the PERL behaviours for creating sustained growth in our lives. The following paragraphs will expound each of these ideas more.


Passion


It is not as though you are dispassionate one moment, and passionate the next. It actually starts by you deciding to be passionate!

Recall your first (or current) love. Recall the time you met. Recall the excitement you felt. Recall the almost-irrational compulsion to spend each and every waking moment with him/her. Recall the insatiable desire to find out everything about the person. Well, that's passion. Passion drives us to uncover more and more about the subject matter with persistent, child-like wonder (anyone who's ever had a child can attest to such behaviour!). It drives us to work past "normal working hours" not because we have to, but because we want to. Passion sustains us when the chips are down, pushing us to the next high. And the next. Passion will make even the most dull activity exciting.


The interesting thing about passion is that it does not hit you like a bolt of lightning. It is not as though you are dispassionate one moment, and passionate the next. It actually starts by you deciding to be passionate! This decision is fuelled in part by the known and, a lot more, by the unknown. As you can tell, I am passionate about the growth mindset; what constitutes that mindset, how we can measure that in people, how we can develop that, and how we can apply that. But this passion did not come when I was first introduced to it. In fact, it was simply a means to an end for me; an element in our organic growth programme for organisations. However, the more I interacted with it, the greater the curiosity; and the more questions I had about it, the more it pulled me into the universe of the mindset until, finally, I had to create an assessment tool for it. I could easily have ignored the questions, the curiosity, and focused on my other work. But I chose not to. I decided that I would want to devote all my spare time to uncovering the depths of this fascinating topic, and this has sustained my 9-year dalliance with the subject. And I am convinced that this is just the beginning!


So, if passion is a decision, how can we decide to be passionate, and how can we manifest that decision? Here are some ways:

  1. Be deeply interested in your focus area.

  2. Uncover everything about it - no matter how small!

  3. Never be satisfied by what you know (or think you know); dig deeper

  4. Own the outcomes of your inquisitiveness

  5. Take pride in progress, not success

  6. Pivot, yes! Give up, NO!

Passion will out; there is no hiding it. And that is the manifestation. There is also no faking it; either you have it or you don't. And when you do, you inspire those around you.




Effort


"I don't fear the man who practiced 10,000 kicks. But I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times."

Next, effort. The thing about passion is that it will drive effort. Effort is not just trying to do something, it is continuously doing something and continuously getting better. The journey of the thousand miles starts with the first step, and the next, and the next. Stepping into the first step may not be difficult, may not require a lot of effort. However, maintaining those steps for the first mile, the next, the 100th mile, the next 100th mile, takes a lot of effort and determination. Hence, when we speak of effort here, we are speaking of determined effort - the continuous application of one's energies to get better at something. According to research, to master something, a person needs to devote 10,000 hours to practice. Bruce Lee, the famous martial artist, once said, "I don't fear the man who practiced 10,000 kicks. But I fear the man who practiced one kick 10,000 times." Hence, when we speak of effort, we speak of the determination to put in the time, the energy, the commitment, the intellect, onto one thing. To build growth behaviours, therefore, requires us to be consistent in applying ourselves to the task at hand, time and time again; all the while getting better. It really doesn't matter what the focus is; so long as you dive into it, constantly applying yourself, constantly correcting every nuance of error, constantly getting better.


Here are some practical ways you can take to up your effort (some are repeated from earlier)

  1. Map your daily goals and the steps you take to get there

  2. Measure your effort in getting there (time, money, steps, people)

  3. Push yourself DAILY to improve on these efforts

  4. Risk being wrong, but doing it nonetheless

  5. Never be satisfied, never settle

  6. Pivot yes, Give up NO!

  7. Take pride in progress, not in success

You will realise that determined effort is not just the act of doing, but the act of doing better!



Resilience


This reminds me of pre-Captain America Steve Rogers in the alley way, fighting a larger-sized gangster, getting knocked down, but getting up again and saying, "I can do this all day!"

This term has been bandied around a lot since Covid19 gripped its icy fingers on businesses, and for good reason. While there may be fatigue around the word, it does not make it any less important in building growth behaviours. Resilience is another important driver in sustaining effort. After all, the path to success is paved with many "failures", and it is up to us to pick up after we have "failed", dust ourselves off, and try again. This reminds me of pre-Captain America Steve Rogers in the alley way, fighting a larger-sized gangster, getting knocked down, but getting up again and saying, "I can do this all day!" That is resilience, that is grit. While a large part of resilience lies in one's psychological make-up, it also heavily relies on one's ability to muster one's resources. For example, Steve Rogers had Bucky Barnes, his good friend who constantly looked out for him, as had he the good doctor who gave him the chance to be Captain America, and the other Avengers in time. Having good connections to help you through sticky situations is very important in building resilience. He also had good competence; he trained in the army and applied his intellect (recall the time when all the cadets had to retrieve the flag from the top of the pole and all of them tried to climb it but could not; only to see Steve come from behind, unpin the flagpole, letting it fall to the ground, and picked up the flag). If we are not competent in applying ourselves, we will certainly "fail". But that failure is never final, and we learn valuable lessons from it. We uncover our blind spots, which allows us to tweak our response, and try again. Steve was also a supremely confident person, even before he was chemically enhanced. Confidence in one's abilities is important to pull ourselves up from a fall. There are times, of course, when one loses one's self-confidence, as had happened to Captain America. This is the time we need our connections to help pull us out of the rut, and back on track. Resilience, therefore, is a profoundly important growth behaviour that we need to build. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Get back up when you fall. Never give up.

  2. Even when things look like it cannot be done, do it anyway!

  3. Give no excuses, especially to yourself

  4. Choose optimism always

  5. Never be satisfied, never settle

  6. Pivot, yes; Give up, NO!

  7. Get support from your connections



Learning


Finally, we come to the last growth behaviour, learning. Despite us having had a lot to say about learning, it is still never enough! You will realise that learning drives all of the other behaviours, because if we cannot learn, or don't want to learn, then we will never improve. I have quoted Alvin Toffler in a previous article who said,


"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn"

But, learning is not simply picking up a textbook to read. Learning needs the connection between knowledge and application. There is little value in unapplied knowledge. For example, what value is it to you knowing that the square of the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle is the sum of the squares of the other two sides? If you are a civil engineer planning a walkway, or a designing a bridge, it might be important to you; but if you were a florist, it has not much value. Instead, knowing that the bud of a rose lasts 5 days in the refrigerator at 11deg Celcius is extremely relevant to you, even if this knowledge is not from any textbook but from your experience. That is how important learning is - it helps us to get better. So, what type of specific behaviours should you develop for learning?

  1. Constantly pick up new things (from books, articles, experiments, experience, questions, observation) and apply them immediately!

  2. Risk being wrong, but doing it anyway

  3. Proactively find out the answers to things you don't know - today!

  4. Uncover why things are not working out the way you expected and correct them

  5. Talk to people, be interested in what interests them

  6. Look for ways you can apply what they know



Building growth requires adopting growth behaviours


if you don't want growth, or you don't want to put in the effort for growth, then there certainly won't be any.

It makes sense, doesn't it, that if we want to build growth in our organisation, in our family, in ourselves, we need to adopt growth behaviours? PERL behaviours are the gems of your growth. But one thing is certain, if you don't want growth, or you don't want to put in the effort for growth, then there certainly won't be any. Because no matter how much we understand it cognitively, if we do not embrace it emotively, then it would only remain in the head. Speaking of "emotive", have you ever wondered about the word "emotion"? Almost the whole word comprises the word "motion", to move. Indeed, if you know about emotions, you will know that they stem from the amygdala, the seat of emotion in our brain. It is the amygdala, too, that controls the secretion of the four neurochemicals - adrenaline, cortisol, endorphin and serotonin. Together, they move us to do things - from sensing and reacting to avoid an oncoming speeding car, to forming bonds with other humans to advance the species. They control four most basic F words for humans - fight, flight, food and procreation. All these "motion" words come from the seat of "emotion" - the amygdala. So it is now up to you to emote your behaviours towards growth. Perhaps this should be Humans' next F word...


Future.