Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, recalls what his Yale University psychology professor scribbled on his test paper next to a failing grade: "There is a famous Sternberg in psychology, and it is obvious from your test score that there won't be another one."
The comment spurred Sternberg, APA's 2003 president, to "turn defeats into opportunities" and prove to his professor-and himself-that he could succeed in psychology. Now a Yale University professor with a 20-year career as a creativity and intelligence researcher, Sternberg shares this and more than 100 other lessons learned in his new book, "Psychology 101 1/2: The Unspoken Rules for Success in Academia" (APA, 2003).
Drawing from his own experiences, Sternberg offers academic career advice in such areas as handling feedback constructively, overcoming adversity and planning ahead effectively.
"The book contains some of the lessons I wish I would have known when I started," Sternberg says. "It's kind of a payback, because I was fortunate to have some really good mentors who I learned a lot from."
In the book, Sternberg encourages students to believe in their work, even when they receive criticism. "That's where you will do your best work and can make a difference," he says.
He also encourages students not to take critiques, such as a negative peer review, too personally. He admits he struggled with this early in his career, but has since learned to use critiques to improve his work.
Yet another important lesson in Sternberg's book is the need to surmount obstacles by being flexible. For example, when making a presentation, he suggests having overheads, an outline and other such means of back-up on hand in case PowerPoint fails.
Also, he advises students not to follow fads in psychology, which could cause overemphasis on some ultimately dead-end areas or methods of research. Instead, he encourages students to be true to themselves and to take chances.
The book is available from APA's Order Department at (800) 374-2721 or at the book link above (Psychology 101 1/2). List price: $29.95; member price: $24.95.