Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is one of the iconic cartoon characters with whom many college students of today grew up.
But Buzz is not just any cartoon. He can be thought of as the embodiment of the three main principles of talent and development – “need, mastery and setting.”
Wade Gilbert, a sport psychology option coordinator in the kinesiology department, ended the Fresno State Talks lecture series with his presentation Tuesday night. His lecture title was inspired by Buzz’s famous line, “To Infinity… and Beyond! The Principles of Talent and Development.”
“[Buzz]’s character is that he’s constantly trying to solve problems and help the other toys,” Gilbert said. “So he’s very driven to figure things out and to solve problems.”
Buzz was also in the right setting that allowed him to be the best he could be.
“He’s surrounded by other toys that support him, and believe in him and trust him.” he said. “So it is an environment that allows him to pursue those needs.”
His first principle, ‘need’ implies that whatever we do, we have to find a reason to do it. Gilbert’s lecture focused on the idea that when you find a need, the necessary motivation, competence and autonomy will come into place.
“The basis of motivation is meeting needs – things we need to do,” Gilbert said.
In the Self-Determination Theory, there are three basic needs. These are feeling competent, having a choice (autonomy) and the need to be related or connected to other people.
Gilbert’s second principle is “mastery.” He said it takes the principle of ‘need’ to higher levels.
“It’s going beyond needs, kind of a passion in a sense,” Gilbert said.
“Mastery” allow people to drive themselves to their optimum ability in order to achieve what they require.
“Unless you’re really driven and you have the persistence and the passion for learning and doing the hard work, you probably won’t need that ‘need.’ So the need is important but you also need to have a drive.”
In order to have that drive and achieve mastery, Gilbert urged his audience to have the right mindset. He talked about the importance of cultivating the “growth mindset” instead of the “fixed mindset.”
“You are open to taking chances and investing time and effort into getting better even when you fail,” Gilbert explained of the “growth mindset.”
“So you make the connection that failure isn’t fatal. So if I fail, it’s not because I can’t do. It’s because I didn’t prepare well enough; whereas with the fixed mindset, when you fail, it’s more in your mind. It’s more permanent. ‘I fail because I’m not good in that.’”
Gilbert stressed that his last principle, “settings,” is the most important out of the three. Settings, he said, is creating a conducive and fitting environment to allow people to achieve the best of their abilities.
Gilbert said research has shown teenagers who are successful and realize their full potential grew up in a family that shows a complex setting.
“In their family environment, they were given a lot of freedom or autonomy to explore and create and try things and take risks, but within boundaries so there is structure.”
He gave an example of students not doing well in their major in college. Instead of letting them lose confidence and drop out, parents can urge them to switch majors that are better suited for them and their potential.
As the final installment of Fresno State Talks, Gilbert created a very special lecture environment for his audiences. To be as interactive as possible, he made audiences stretch and do small exercises in between sections of his lecture.
“Movement and exercise is very important for learning and developing talent,” he said. “Given that’s such an important concept in our field, that we really should try and live that. So it doesn’t really make sense to have an hour lecture where you’re sitting there stationary and all the blood’s pooling in your leg and after 15 minutes you start getting drowsy.
“We know it’s not optimum. If you really want to learn things, ideally you want to be active and fit because that will help your brain work.”
Gilbert hopes that after his lecture, the audience would always remember the three basic principles.
“Help people meet their needs, have a positive outlook and a growth mindset, and make sure you surround yourself with the right environment and people.”
Gilbert is in his 13th year teaching at Fresno State and felt honored to be nominated by Kris Westcott, a student he taught long ago.
“It’s really a special opportunity because he took the time and energy to try and recognize me, and he didn’t have to do that, so it’s really special in that sense,” Gilbert said. “That it’s genuine, it’s from the heart and obviously there’s something I did in one of my class that really stuck with him, and that’s the best you can ask for. I mean, this is kind of like my Academy Award, my Nobel Prize all together. It’s kind of like the People’s Choice Awards.”
Westcott, an exercise science major in the department, was the student who nominated Gilbert. As the chairpersn on the University Student Union Board of Directors, he instantly thought of Gilbert when he heard about Fresno State Talks.
He originally came to Fresno State with the idea of studying biology and anatomy. When he took one of Gilbert’s class three years ago, Gilbert changed his life forever. Within the first two weeks of the semester, he changed his major to kinesiology.
“He was building leaders and all of the students in the department of kinesiology are very close knit,” Westcott said. “They’re positive, and they’re active and it’s just a great environment especially if you have a professor like Dr. Gilbert there. It just feels good.”
With Fresno State Talk coming to its close, organizers Breanne Scogin, Tamar Karkazian and Andrew Esguerra were relieved that their hectic days were over. Nevertheless, they were proud and content with their achievements. They plan for the Fresno State Talk lecture series to come back in Spring of 2014.