DUCKWORTH: These job descriptions suck.
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DUCKWORTH: I’m Angela Duckworth.
DUBNER: I’m Stephen Dubner.
DUCKWORTH + DUBNER: And you’re listening to No Stupid Questions.
Today on the show: Why is Angela stepping down as C.E.O. of the nonprofit she founded?
DUCKWORTH: I want everyone to use my ideas and pay attention to me, but I don’t want to do the hard work of leadership.
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DUBNER: Angela, I notice that your email sign-off has changed. It used to say: “Founder and C.E.O. of Character Lab,” and now it says: “Co-Founder and Chief Scientist.” You’re no longer C.E.O. Did you get demoted? Have you been embroiled in an unforgivable scandal we should be talking about today?
DUCKWORTH: Is there something unseemly that you therefore must know about immediately?
DUBNER: I’m sure there is.
DUCKWORTH: I mean, there have been things afoot. There’s this nonprofit that you know all about, Character Lab. Our mission is to advance scientific insights that help kids thrive.
DUBNER: And you do that by producing research, primarily? Or you do that by bribing children? What do you do?
DUCKWORTH: All we want to do is help the world’s best behavioral scientists do more and better research on kids and how they grow up in ways that are great. So, we’re really, in a way, like, stage crew for world-class psychologists — also economists. We want to execute their research for them and, in that way, make more discovery and more useful insights. That’s the mission of Character Lab. And I co-created it with these two educators that I met maybe 15 years ago — Dave Levin and Dominic Randolph. Have you ever met Dave Levin?
DUBNER: I know Dave medium-well, because he’s a co-founder of KIPP.
DUCKWORTH: KIPP charter schools.
DUBNER: Stands for “Knowledge is Power Program.” And he lives in New York. I’ve always thought it was strange to have an acronym where you use the sound of the letter that is not the actual sound of the letter.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah, I know. And I know we’ve digressed a lot, but I would just say that at my university, there are these PIK professors. It stands for Penn Integrates Knowledge.
DUBNER: Oh, boy.
DUCKWORTH: But that bothers me, too, because it’s like: “Penn integrates K-nowledge.”
DUBNER: Also, when I see “KIPP,” I think of kippers, which are delicious, and then I get hungry and I don’t think about education. I think about food. Anyway, that’s my problem.
DUCKWORTH: KIPP, as you probably know, serves some of the least advantaged kids in the country, from the poorest congressional districts. And Dominic is the headmaster of Riverdale Country School. And, as a New Yorker, you have heard of Riverdale Country School, yes?
DUBNER: Riverdale Country School is the opposite of a low-income school.
DUCKWORTH: Facts. I think it’s one of the highest-tuition schools in the world. And they walked into — actually, not my office, but the adjacent office of — yes, get out your shot glasses — Marty Seligman, my advisor. I can’t help it; he comes up in my life a lot. But they walk into his office, and they say this: “We have been teaching kids for many years, and we have hit a ceiling on what we can do to help them be happier, be healthier, be more successful. Because you’re a scientist who studies human nature, could you help us unlock that next level of performance so we can help these kids better?” And they’re coming from, if you will, totally different ends of the advantage spectrum — the kids who have the least, and the kids who have the most — but they’re asking the same question: “What does behavioral science have to teach teachers to help kids lead better lives?”
DUBNER: And you were at what stage in your teaching and research profession?
DUCKWORTH: I think I was either at the end of my Ph.D. or the beginning of — you know, I did a one-year postdoc under Marty, which is essentially being a Ph.D. student, but still under the same advisor. So, it was just in that transition from being a graduate student to being a professor.
DUBNER: Between polliwog and full frog, let’s say.
DUBNER: So, these two education leaders come to the office of Marty Seligman to say, “We want further insights into what we are doing, education.” And Marty says, “Get lost. Scram, kids! I’ve got work to do, but my polliwog friend, Angela Duckworth, can help you.” Is that what happened?
DUCKWORTH: Almost. Marty said something like, “Hold on.” And then he ran next door and grabbed me and said, “You definitely want to be in this meeting,” which I, in my experience, have found to be true about 50 percent of the time.
DUBNER: Can I just say, 50 percent is a pretty good hit rate for meetings.
DUCKWORTH: They’re never boring meetings. I will say that. The 50 percent that you don’t want to be in, you end up walking out with something to do that you didn’t really want to do.
DUCKWORTH: And in this case, he was right. This was the 50 percent where I was like, “Oh, thank God I was in that meeting.” As you know, Stephen, I was a teacher before I was a psychologist. Before graduate school, I had been a high school math teacher. Before that, I was a middle school teacher. I had, for my whole graduate school career, been thinking, “How do I turn what I’m doing into useful insights so that adults can do a better job — as teachers, as parents?” So, this was almost like I had planned it.
DUBNER: So, you’re saying that that meeting is essentially the origin story of what became Character Lab?
DUCKWORTH: That is exactly right. So, years pass, and we do different things together. But there was a moment in time — we were in Manhattan, I think it was Upper West Side, we were at a street corner. And I remember Dave saying, “We should start a nonprofit. There is something at the intersection of behavioral science and education, and we should figure it out.” And so, we decided to start Character Lab, which we named after Aristotle’s version of character, meaning: everything that you do that’s good for you and good for others.
DUBNER: Have you been the C.E.O. of Character Lab since the onset?
DUCKWORTH: Here’s what happened. When Dave, and Dominic, and I had this idea of a nonprofit, we created a 501(3)(c), we hired staff, and we were the board. And I’m in Duane Reade after the board meeting, but before my train is leaving for Philadelphia, where I live. And Feroz calls — Feroz was the board chair at the time — and I look at my phone, and I distractedly pick it up, and then I finally understand what he’s saying, which is, “Angela, you should be the C.E.O. of Character Lab,” which I thought was a preposterous idea.
DUBNER: Because why?
DUCKWORTH: Basically, my reaction to Feroz was, “How could it possibly be that I could both do my job — as a researcher, as a professor — and also run a nonprofit?” It’s just insane. And, by the way, the nonprofit was in New York. There are many reasons why I thought this was absurd. And then I convinced myself that I should do this. So, I did actually take on the role of C.E.O. And we moved the entire organization from Midtown Manhattan to the outskirts of Penn, my university, in Philadelphia.
DUBNER: You mentioned Feroz. He was the chair, correct? Or is the chair?
DUCKWORTH: Was the chair. We have a new chair, Luis von Ahn, who has been on this show. And he’s the C.E.O. of Duolingo.
DUBNER: You and I have spoken about Feroz a little bit in the past. I don’t know very much about him. What is his background in industry and business? How did he end up on the board of this nonprofit?
DUCKWORTH: He’s an investor. That is the only title I can use and not get it wrong. Every time I introduce him as something else, like a hedge fund manager, I think it’s not quite right, but I do know he’s an investor. So, he meets Dave Levin at a cocktail party just around the time that Dave, and Dominic, and I think, “Yeah, let’s start this new nonprofit.” And I think Feroz asked Dave, “What’s the best idea you’ve never executed?” And whether it’s recency bias or whatever, Dave described, in very broad brushstrokes, this idea of using behavioral science to actually help kids lead better lives. Probably before the hors d’oeuvres were passed around, Feroz said, “I also think that’s a great idea.” And I think he agreed, then and there, to be the board chair.
DUBNER: So, let me ask you a question without indicting your friend and partner Feroz. He’s a professional investor — an investor with a capital “I,” it sounds like.
DUBNER: That means that he’s used to assessing different circumstances, and companies, and leadership, and missions. Feroz made a decision that, in the moment, seemed very sensible and wise of, “Hey, Angela Duckworth — she is the perfect person to run this nonprofit.” But do you think that was a total mistake in that he was taking someone out, or at least away from, their area of true passion and expertise, and giving you a position that is prestigious, and maybe exciting, and so on, but for which it wasn’t a natural fit? Do you think, in retrospect, it was a mistake — whether on his part for asking or your part for saying yes?
DUCKWORTH: I think that it was both a mistake and the best possible thing. And here’s why: I am not someone who wants to lead. I really am not. I’m alpha. I want everyone to use my ideas and pay attention to me, but I don’t want do the hard work of leadership. So, let me tell you more about the mistake, but then let me then tell you why it was the best thing ever. I’d have these quarterly kaizen meetings with Feroz — “kaizen” meaning a continuous improvement, from the Japanese. And so, at the top of my Google Doc, which I entitled “Angela and Feroz: Kaizen Document,” I would have the goals of this meeting. And I remember what it said at the top of my list, which was, first and foremost, to be a better leader. And so, every quarter, we were supposed to sit down and do a reflection and a goal-setting exercise so that I could become a better leader. And it did become clear to me: That is not my number one goal. I didn’t want to be a better leader. I want to be a better psychologist. I want to be a better writer. I want to be a better communicator.
DUBNER: And did you ever say to Feroz, “Hey, listen, I’m really good at aspects of what this organization does, but leadership — that’s not me. I shouldn’t be doing that.”
DUCKWORTH: Because I am a zero self-monitor, I am fairly confident that, as soon as I had the trembling of that intuition, I shared it. And then, I’ll tell you what happened in a very important chapter. And this now goes back three years ago. Sean Talamas, who’s a kid I hired — and I say that because, when I hired him, he was 23, and at this point in the story, he’s something like 26, and he became the number one person. He really became the executive director, because everybody reported to him, and nobody reported to me. And I have never taken a salary from Character Lab. I was unpaid. I have been the C.E.O. until a week ago, but really Sean’s been in charge, so I don’t know what to call me.
DUBNER: Queen, perhaps?
DUCKWORTH: Yes! “Her Royal Majesty.” Maybe I should have actually made them bow and curtsy.
DUBNER: I mean, let’s be honest, we use the phrase C.E.O., but it means different things in different contexts. Especially if we were to compare the nonprofit world, including academia, with the for-profit world, being the C.E.O. of an organization like Character Lab is not remotely the same as being the C.E.O. of, let’s say, General Motors or Alphabet.
DUCKWORTH: How is the for-profit world different from the nonprofit world? And I’m not saying it isn’t, I’m just asking.
DUBNER: I think the number one difference is how you’re defining success. If I were to ask you, “How would you define success at Character Lab?,” if I understand it correctly, it would be to produce, and fund, and circulate meaningful, high-level academic research that helps raise the opportunities for children in school
DUCKWORTH: The bottom line is kids — the ultimate stakeholders — who have no capital in the nonprofit. And I think you’re going to contrast that with, like, the C.E.O. of Coca-Cola, or something, who have shareholders?
DUBNER: And also, you’re not selling anything.
DUBNER: Let me drag you down a tangent for a moment. If I think about the role of a C.E.O. and what makes a good one — whether it’s for a for-profit firm or nonprofit — you know, Peter Drucker, I’m sure? The management guru?
DUCKWORTH: I love Peter Drucker.
DUBNER: So, I’m looking at something Drucker wrote where he made a list of the eight things that make good leaders. There’s one thing I really want to focus on that I think gets to the core of who you are and, maybe, why you want to be stepping down. But the eight practices of good leaders that Peter Drucker discussed were: “They asked: ‘What needs to be done?’ They asked: ‘What is right for the enterprise?’ They developed action plans. They took responsibility for decisions. They took responsibility for communicating. They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.” That’s the one that rings a bell for me about you. “They ran productive meetings. And they thought and said, ‘we’ rather than ‘I.’” So, let’s put aside seven of those eight, and let’s focus on that one that I thought about when I think of you. “They were focused on opportunities rather than problems.” I don’t know how much problem-solving there is in Character Lab, but what I know about you is that you’re all about the opportunities. You want to figure stuff out, as opposed to run an organization or problem-solve. So, I’m curious whether, at a certain point, you felt like you just weren’t having the opportunity to search for opportunities as much as you wanted.
DUCKWORTH: I am not sure what Peter Drucker meant.
DUBNER: Do you want me to tell you? I have more.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. Why don’t you elaborate?
DUBNER: He wrote, “Focus on opportunities, not problems. You get results by exploiting opportunities, not solving problems. Identify changes inside and outside your organization — new technologies, product innovations, new market structures,” — this may or may not apply to what you’re doing — “and ask, how can we exploit this change to benefit our enterprise? And then, match your best people with the best opportunities.”
DUCKWORTH: But you can frame almost every opportunity as a problem to be solved. Like, if you ask me, like, “What does Character Lab really do?,” there is a lot of friction in doing research with young people. If you’re a scientist, and you have a really great idea about how to help kids be happier, you want to, then, test it and see whether it works. You want to have a treatment group and a control group. You want to ask them to answer surveys. And doing that is really hard, because they are minors. So, under the law, you have to get parent consent, and they’re in school all the time, so how are you ever going to get to them? What we do is: We take that friction out of the process. We’ve created this infrastructure where: I’m a scientist. I have an idea of how to help kids. I go to Character Lab, and I say, “This is my idea.” And then, Character Lab essentially runs your research study for you, and gives you the data back without any names, or addresses, or Social Security numbers. It keeps the data private. So, essentially, that’s the unglamorous magic of what this organization does. Now, whether that’s “creating an opportunity” versus “problem-solving,” I don’t know. I do want to, I guess, posthumously infer from Drucker’s writing — I mean, his posthumous, not me.
DUBNER: I kind of figured that out.
DUCKWORTH: Did you get that? I think maybe what he means is that, in psychology, there’s a distinction between approach orientation and avoidance orientation. Approach orientation is: You do things because you’re approaching a target that you’re really excited about. And avoidance orientation is: You are fleeing something that you want to not happen. And I think you’re right to say that I’m very approach-oriented versus avoidance-oriented. I think the major thing here, though, is that, in the decisions that we make, I think the best question to ask ourselves is: “What gives me energy? What makes me feel after three, four, or five hours, like I have more energy?”
DUBNER: That’s a great point.
DUCKWORTH: For me, I can tell you that the list includes reading about psychology, talking about psychology. I can put on the list of things that sap my energy: Running an organization, having kaizen meetings with people to further their professional and personal growth, developing objectives and a three-year-strategic plan. I don’t like doing that. So, that’s the misfit.
DUBNER: So, you kind of dismissed the Drucker opportunity/problem split out of hand, which I respect. But then, when you describe what you like and don’t like, to me, it sounded like you like opportunities and you don’t like problem-solving, honestly. Because when you said the things you like, that give you energy — it’s doing research, it’s reading, it’s having certain kinds of conversations. And what you don’t like are things like running an organization and having kaizen meetings — which, to me, that is about problem-solving. And the reason I think that’s an interesting dichotomy that he drew is because, if I think about being in problem-solving mode, like, even with my little company—
DUBNER: —there is an endless supply of fires one can put out. And once you get in “fire-putting-out” mode — or “problem-solving” mode — it’s pretty easy to persuade yourself that, “What’s my job? My job is to solve problems. My job is to put out fires.” And, all of a sudden, the hours that you want to be spending reading, thinking, writing, etcetera — those hours start to shrink, and shrink, and shrink. And that’s why I think it is useful to focus on this Drucker idea of searching for opportunities rather than focusing on solving problems. Some problems need to be solved. Some don’t. Some problems that need to be solved need to be solved immediately. Others don’t. And I think that’s a choice we can make.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah, I think that’s right, but I didn’t leave Character Lab because it was all about problem-solving and now I want to chase opportunities. It’s just that the kinds of opportunities that give me energy most are things that are, like, talking to Danny Kahneman about attention, and trying to figure out how to get people to stay in school because of their social network. I want to chase opportunities and solve the necessary problems, but the nature of those things that I want to do is just different. Again, I confess: I don’t fully appreciate this distinction, but I don’t think this is the reason why I’m not the C.E.O.
DUBNER: We’re going to agree to disagree on the nomenclature, because I hear something different when you say, “problem solving.” Because, to me, the kinds of problems that you are intrigued by — I would argue they have more of a positive valence to them than a reactive valence to them.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah, but I don’t think it lines up with, like, Character Lab versus academia. Like, I don’t think academia is, like, all about opportunities and running organizations is all about problems. On the contrary, that’s why Drucker is giving that advice to C.E.O.s.
DUBNER: Fair enough.
Still to come on No Stupid Questions: Why is it so difficult to find a good leader these days?
DUBNER: There are words that people would identify with leadership. And those words are “resentment, competition, blame, aggressive,” and “pushy.”
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Now, back to Stephen and Angela’s conversation about what makes a great leader.
DUBNER: I’m going to give you one more tiny piece of Drucker that you’ll also disagree with. But I think it’s worth noting for anyone who’s especially been forced into a position of leadership, like it sounds you sort of were. Drucker wrote: “Effective executives do not splinter themselves. I have never encountered an executive who remains effective while tackling more than two tasks at a time.” So, he’ll give you two, but not more than two. Has that been an issue for you? Did you feel like you were sort of serving two masters, even if they were only internal masters?
DUCKWORTH: This makes me want to reincarnate Peter Drucker even more than I did before this conversation.
DUBNER: And beat him up?
DUCKWORTH: No! Have him over for dinner! Make him my godfather! Are you kidding? And let me tell you why I agree with him. So, yes, I did feel torn. I felt like a not-so-great scientist and a not-so-great nonprofit leader during the time where I really was in the number-one seat and people did report to me. And it didn’t feel good. I am experiencing that even now. This last month, I have felt divided. I’m trying to be a professor. I’m also trying to start up a C.E.O. search, and I can’t wait to feel whole again.
DUBNER: Should we pivot this conversation into a help-wanted ad for your organization?
DUCKWORTH: Yes! Help is so wanted. So, Sean — the 23-year-old, who then became a 26-year-old, and now is, I think, 29 or 30 — he is a fantastic leader. And the only reason we’re having this transition is that he’s turning the page on a new chapter for himself. And it’s not what he wants to do in this next chapter.
DUBNER: Is going to become like a Formula One driver, or what?
DUCKWORTH: I don’t think Sean knows what he wants to do, but he’s leaving us like, you know, in the best possible circumstances.
DUBNER: So, do you have a platonic ideal of what this new C.E.O. should be or do?
DUCKWORTH: I have a particular person that, if I could clone, I would. So, one of my very best friends is named Shalinee Sharma. Shalinee was a philosophy major, but she eventually became a Bain consultant. And then, one day, she met Dave Levin. Oh, yes. The same Dave Levin. And Dave convinced Shalinee to leave Bain for another little nonprofit that he was starting. And now she’s the C.E.O. of Zearn Math. And let me tell you that this little idea? Right now, it is serving one in three elementary schools in the United States. It’s a nonprofit math curriculum. It’s enthusiastically supported by Bill Gates, and others who feel like math is a crisis in this country. And Shalinee is exactly my mental model.
DUBNER: Okay. You’ve got a mental model, you know this organization, you know the mission. Imagine now that I — or someone on the other end of the line — has the right background and qualifications to be the C.E.O. of a research-based nonprofit that’s focused on education, especially for kids who don’t have all the advantages in the world. What are the first three questions you want to ask this person?
DUCKWORTH: I don’t know exactly how I’d phrase these questions, but I can tell you the three priorities for this human being. One: thinker. Two: doer. Three: magnet. So, I can unpack those. The thinker is somebody who’s strategic — who’s a thinker par excellence. So, hopefully this C.E.O. will be really, really smart. The second thing is a doer. And I would count myself in this category of people who, like, yeah, you have a job, which is to be a thinker, but literally 99 percent of my job is “doing” as an academic. You have an idea for a study, but then all of the work of setting up the study, finding a place to do it, et cetera. So, we need a doer who’s happy to think, but also happy to execute at a very, very high level. And, by the way, I have liked this about you, Stephen. I think you’re a thinker, but Freakonomics wouldn’t be Freakonomics if you weren’t also a doer. So, that’s the first two. And then the last thing is a magnet.
DUBNER: I love that word. It’s such a good non— Well, I say it’s a non-M.B.A. sounding word. For all I know, it comes from the M.B.A school of thinking.
DUCKWORTH: I know. I hope this isn’t some hackneyed, cliché thing. Basically, I looked at all these job descriptions. I went on LinkedIn, and I almost vomited. I was like, “These job descriptions suck. They all say the same thing.” Like, “We’re looking for a visionary—” I mean, literally the same exact garbage. So, I wanted to write a job description that actually had content and wasn’t just a, like, word machine.
DUBNER: I also like that your content has nouns instead of adjectives. That’s kind of refreshing.
DUCKWORTH: I know. Fountain of nouns. Okay. So, the third noun is “magnet.” I was thinking, actually, about Shalinee. And I asked Shalinee what the most important things that she has learned about what she’s done, so that we can find the right person. And she said, “The most important thing is that you develop a team of people — a team that’s better than you.” And I think Andrew Carnegie, but I could be wrong, said something about how the secret to his success — he was a railroad tycoon or something, right?
DUBNER: Steel, and coal, and things like that.
DUCKWORTH: Oh, Carnegie Steel. That was his secret to success: Hire people who write better than you, who are smarter than you, who are more charming than you, more organized than you. So, “magnet” is: Develop a core team and try to hire people who are quite literally better than you in as many things as they can be — and certainly in the thing that they’re hired for. So, thinker, doer, magnet. I don’t know whether this person exists. I hope so. I think I am, actually, temperamentally an optimist, but I have my pessimistic moments. I’m like, “Maybe this person doesn’t exist.” And then we’ll have to figure out what to do.
DUBNER: I do think it’s worth noting that a lot of smart and extremely competent people absolutely do not want to be in a leadership role, because there are a lot of headaches that come with leadership generally.
DUCKWORTH: And maybe especially now. I really don’t think this is an easy time to be any kind of leader.
DUBNER: What are you thinking when you say that?
DUCKWORTH: I guess I’m thinking about politics, current events, the left versus the right.
DUBNER: Like, everybody-hating-everybody kind of thing.
DUCKWORTH: Yeah. At any given moment, most people are unhappy with most other people. I guess that’s what I mean.
DUBNER: I am reading here from a Harvard Business Review piece from a few years ago. It’s called “Why Capable People are Reluctant to Lead.” There are words that people would identify with leadership. And those words are: “resentment, competition, blame, aggressive,” and “pushy,” and the three big risks that people perceive as wanting to keep them from stepping up to leadership are: interpersonal risk — that becoming leader might hurt their relationships with their colleagues; image risk — that others outside might think badly of them; and then, the risk of being blamed. I share all those reluctances. I would never want to be the leader of anything. I can barely lead myself.
DUCKWORTH: You’re the leader of Freakonomics, though.
DUBNER: So nominally. But my point is that leadership, to me at least, seems to be mostly downside. There’s a lot of reasons to want to avoid it. Now, I realize there are many other people who are cut differently, but I think of this all the time, whenever we get into presidential election season, and you see these dozens of hopefuls. To me, the very fact that they want the job is practically a disqualifier for their being good at the job. Because, to me, no sane, competent person would want a leadership position of that magnitude. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you want to be president. We just don’t even know it yet. Maybe you’re resigning C.E.O. of Character Lab so that you can run for president.
DUCKWORTH: I know what you mean. If you are the kind of person who is seeking power in a time like this, either you’re unsavory or you’re just a saint.
DUBNER: You know, going back to Harvard Business Review, it says that, every year, 10 to 15 percent of corporations must appoint a new C.E.O. And yet, it says here that only 54 percent of boards were grooming a specific successor, and 39 percent had no viable internal candidates who could immediately replace the C.E.O. if the need arose. So, let me ask you this: Have you done any succession planning? Did that succession planning include a certain friend that you might be talking to right now who might be interested in this job? And, if not, why not?
DUCKWORTH: Are you asking me, Stephen, if I’ve secretly been cultivating you, Stephen Dubner, to be the next C.E.O.?
DUBNER: I’m thinking maybe this whole No Stupid Questions enterprise — which you’ve always pretended you were doing just, kind of, for fun and to spread psychological knowledge — I wonder if this has been a two-year interview and you’re about to put the crown on my head. Is that what’s happening right now?
DUCKWORTH: You know what, it’s a very good guess, Stephen, but I have to tell you: It’s not quite right. I also have to confess that, whatever that statistic was about not thinking hard enough, early enough, about succession — okay, guilty as charged. But I will say that, I also have no succession planning for No Stupid Questions. So, I hope you consider the sin to be a virtue, at least in some cases,
DUBNER: This is a permanent relationship, you’re saying. We’re locked in.
DUCKWORTH: Pretty much. ‘Til death do us part.
No Stupid Questions is produced by me, Rebecca Lee Douglas. And now here is a fact-check of today’s conversation.
In the first half of the show, Angela says that Riverdale Country School in the Bronx is one of the highest-tuition schools in the world. The Pre-K through 12 private day school costs over $51,000 in tuition, and nearly $9,000 for supplies, trips, and facilities, for a total cost of about $60,000. However, it’s not even close to the most expensive college-preparatory school in the world — or even the United States. The Forman School in Litchfield, Connecticut, costs over $70,000 a year for day students, and nearly $86,000 a year for boarding students. And Institut Le Rosey, a private boarding school in Switzerland, reportedly costs about $130,000 a year.
Later, Angela says she’s not quite sure how to describe the background of Feroz Dewan — Character Lab’s founding board chair and emeritus board member. Dewan is the C.E.O of Arena Holdings Management, an investment holdings company.
Also, Angela says that Zearn Math — the nonprofit run by her friend Shalinee Sharma — serves one out of three elementary schools in the United States. Her numbers are slightly off. Zearn is currently used by a little over one in four elementary-school students and one million middle-school students nationwide. Sharma initially joined Zearn as Chief Operating Officer before she became the company’s C.E.O.
Then, Angela says that steel magnate Andrew Carnegie’s secret to success involved surrounding himself with people who were better than him. She was likely thinking of the epitaph that Carnegie requested to have inscribed on his grave. Quote: “A man who knew how to enlist in his service better men than himself.” Stephen and Angela discuss this quote in greater detail in episode 45 of the show.
And finally, for those of you who are interested in becoming Angela’s boss, head over to our show notes, where we’ll link to more information about the Character Lab C.E.O. position.
That’s it for the fact-check.
Coming up next week on No Stupid Questions: Why are so many city-dwellers so unhappy?
DUCKWORTH: Philadelphia, to me, is like a trash tornado.
That’s next week on No Stupid Questions.
No Stupid Questions is part of the Freakonomics Radio Network, which also includes Freakonomics Radio, People I (Mostly) Admire, and Freakonomics, M.D. All our shows are produced by Stitcher and Renbud Radio. This episode was mixed by Eleanor Osborne. We had help this week from Jacob Clemente. Our staff also includes Neal Carruth, Gabriel Roth, Greg Rippin, Morgan Levey, Zack Lapinski, Julie Kanfer, Ryan Kelley, Jeremy Johnston, Jasmin Klinger, Emma Tyrell, Lyric Bowditch, and Alina Kulman. We had additional research assistance from Anya Dubner. Our theme song is “And She Was” by Talking Heads — special thanks to David Byrne and Warner Chappell Music. If you’d like to listen to the show ad-free, subscribe to Stitcher Premium. You can follow us on Twitter @NSQ_Show and on Facebook @NSQShow. If you have a question for a future episode, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more, or to read episode transcripts, visit Freakonomics.com/NSQ. Thanks for listening!
DUCKWORTH: You can have your people get in touch with my people. And when you do, consider a cover letter that emphasizes how you’re a thinker and a doer, and under the magnet part, you can say, like, “Hey, I attracted Angela Duckworth. Not bad.”
- Aristotle, Ancient Greek philosopher.
- Luis von Ahn, C.E.O. of Duolingo.
- Andrew Carnegie, Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist.
- Feroz Dewan, C.E.O. of Arena Holdings Management.
- Peter Drucker, professor of management at Claremont Graduate University.
- Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton University.
- Dave Levin, co-founder of KIPP.
- Dominic Randolph, Head of School at Riverdale Country School.
- Martin Seligman, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
- Shalinee Sharma, C.E.O. & Co-Founder of Zearn Math.
- Sean Talamas, executive director of Character Lab.
- “Why Capable People Are Reluctant to Lead,” by Chen Zhang, Jennifer D. Nahrgang, Susan J. Ashford, and D. Scott DeRue (Harvard Business Review, 2020).
- “Succession Planning: What the Research Says,” by Eben Harrell (Harvard Business Review, 2016).
- “The Hierarchical Model of Approach-Avoidance Motivation,” by Andrew J. Elliot (Motivation and Emotion, 2006).
- “What Makes an Effective Executive,” by Peter F. Drucker (Harvard Business Review, 2004).
- Character Lab C.E.O. Search.
- “What Does a C.E.O. Actually Do?” by Freakonomics Radio (2018).