That’s Not OCD, You’re Just a Slacker

Of all the random pictures floating about the internet that I’ve run into in the past few weeks, this is the one that really got me:

Psychology multiple-choice question where the correct answer is written in:

Here’s the text:

A 23-year old medical student makes lists of all the tasks that he must accomplish each day. He spends hours studying and refuses to go out with his colleagues even when there are no tests on the immediate horizon, preferring to spend his time looking at specimens in the laboratory. He keeps meticulous notes during all his classes and prefers to attend every lecture, not trusting his colleagues to take notes for him. He is doing well in school and has a girlfriend who is also a medical student. Which of the following disorders does this student most likely have?

B. Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder
C. Obsessive-compulsive traits
D. Schizoid personality disorder
E. Paranoid personality disorder

[and written in] F. Fuck you, that sounds totally normal. Asshole.

Even I, Mr. Bon Vivant, have turned down outings to do the computer programming equivalent of “looking at specimens in the laboratory”, and you know what? It paid off in spades.

The medical student in this essay question doesn’t have obsessive-compulsive disorder, it’s just that in the age of slackerdom and ADD, diligence and focus looks like OCD. The question is also a sign of the greatly mistaken notion of the primacy of talent. Yes, talent is important and can give you an edge, but a whole body of studies shows (as does centuries of observation from pundits of all stripes) that in the long run, effort trumps talent. As I should say more often, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”

If you’d like to read more about how effort trumps talent, take a look at Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, K. Anderson Ericsson’s The Making of an Expert and this bit of advice from Vince Lombardi:

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

As for making lists and preferring to take your own notes, I think they’re the best way to stay organized and to learn.

Finally, the medical student in the question is at least sociable enough to have a girlfriend. The fact that she’s also in med school shouldn’t be a surprise: in university, you’re quite likely to date someone who’s in the same field of study as you.

So bravo, unknown psych student with a blue pen. The authors of that textbook may think you have the wrong answer, but you just passed the only test that matters. I salute you with a filet mignon on a flaming sword!

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

One reply on “That’s Not OCD, You’re Just a Slacker”

Carol Dweck, in her book “Mindsets” calls this the “fixed mindset” vs. the “growth mindset.” People with the fixed mindset believe that things like intelligence are essentially fixed and unchangeable, and thus effort is not only worthless, but a sign that you don’t have a lot of intelligence or talent or ability or whatever, and so they fear it. Those with the growth mindset understand that directed effort is king.

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