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The Super Mario Effect for Developers

lo_victoria2666 profile image Victoria Lo Originally published at lo-victoria.com on ・4 min read

Over the weekend, I was watching some TED talk videos when I come across this talk by Mark Rober on the Super Mario Effect.

It was such a fascinating concept to me - one that I have never actually thought about but is ever-present in my daily life. And so, in this article, I would like to share some things I've learned from researching about this topic and how it can be applied to developers for self-improvement.

What is it?

The Super Mario Effect is a learning concept that takes inspiration from the game Super Mario. If you've played the game, you probably remembered that the goal of the game is to get through all the levels to save Princess Peach from Bowser.

The challenging part is that every level is teeming with pitfalls and obstacles but do you give up every time Mario falls down or fails to reach the end of the level? The answer is probably no. You will keep trying and as you fail each time, you will gradually learn how to conquer the level.

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This attitude towards learning and mastery is called the Super Mario Effect - where the focus is on the process to reach goals (i.e. saving Princess Peach), not the failures (i.e. falling down pitfalls).

Capitalizing on Mario: Growth Mindset

The Super Mario Effect can be applied to generally anyone, especially developers to improve your learning and motivation. The first is about having a growth mindset.

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If you never heard of the growth mindset, these are 2 characteristics of people with this mindset:

1. Does not fear failures

When you were 3 years old and learning to walk, you probably fall down more than a dozen times. But that won't stop you from getting back up to try again.

As we grow older, however, some people began to shift into the fixed mindset. These people see failure as a sign to give up. They think obstacles cannot be overcome. They look for ways to avoid failures.

The Super Mario effect emphasizes the "learn like a toddler" aka growth mindset. You collect experiences and learn from your mistakes without punishing yourself for it. Failure is not an obstacle, but an opportunity to learn.

2. Driven by Curiosity

Another characteristic of the growth mindset is that you are driven by curiosity. Just like a toddler, you observe your surroundings a lot, you are inspired by others, you try to learn from others and you are curious about everything.

Nothing is impossible to learn for those with a growth mindset. As a developer, being curious is an important asset. It keeps you motivated and less likely to feel burnt out. You don't just learn because you have to, but because you love to. Excellent developers are often self-driven and self-motivated because they adopt this attitude towards learning.

Capitalizing on Mario: Consistent Habits

Just like how you will repeatedly challenge Super Mario to get to the next level, the Super Mario effect can inspire one to persevere and build good habits. How do we build such habits?

1. Process First then Goals

Author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, once mentioned that we often set goals first before thinking about the process. For example, let's say you want to be a writer, you would aim to be the best-selling author. But before that, you should fall in love with the process of writing. Another example: if you aim to be a great developer, you should first fall in love with the joy of building and learning.

Fall in love with the process, the practice, the repetitive tasks and that becomes a habit to achieve any goals.

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence is therefore, not an act but a habit." - Aristotle

2. Start with a Routine

Having a routine can help make habits stick, and stick for long. The best way to start a routine to begin with something so easy that you can't say no.

For example, if you want to start exercising every day, begin your routine by drinking water. It's so easy that you can do it and you will not make excuses to not do it.

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This way, you will start developing consistent habits and stay persistent when facing pitfalls just like Mario.

That's all for today!

Thanks for reading this short article! I hope it's quite insightful. Be sure to like and share your thoughts in the comments below on how you can stay focused and motivated as a developer. If you are interested, please check out Atomic Habits by James Clear and the TED talk video by Mark Rober. Cheers!

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