My Loss is My Loss, Yours is Yours

Author - Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Author - Ryan O'Donnell, MS, BCBA

Ode to Gary Vaynerchuk

Media mogul Gary Vaynerchuk produces an immense amount of content every day across almost any social media platform that you could be interested in. He's clearly worked his butt off to put himself in a situation where he can align resources to achieve daily uploads across them all, including a summary of his day (Daily Vee) that is literally 18 hours of content smashed into a vlog-style video. I've come quite fascinated with his history and understanding how he operates day-to-day. I believe he has a lot of great ways to "get through to people" when it comes to entrepreneurship and handling the day-to-day grind that it requires to run a successful business. One piece of content that really struck a chord with me is his view on losses, and I wanted to lay a few out on the internet of mine, sort of as a way to get them off of my back. 


Call it a loss, call it a failure, whatever you'd like. Anytime you put a goal out there it's easy to misunderstand the resources that you need to actually experience success, or perhaps life throws you a curveball and you can't commit the resources towards it that you first thought, etc. Additionally, we live in a society where there's a lot of pressure to succeed or prove ourselves, whether that's because loved ones place it on us, or our mentors or bosses place it on us, or we place it on ourselves (the most common I think). There are different ways to understand goal-setting. Personally, I subscribe to the combination of a few different systems of behavior analysis, including Kantor's event field, Goldiamond's approach and Relational Frame Theory (RFT) when in practice. I've been a fan of the RFT approach to rule-governed behavior, which really brings in philosophical views different than some of the types taught in BACB course sequences as well as builds off of a lot of the traditional behavior analytic research that was completed in the early days. A nice succinct article of it is available for free here: 

Ramnerö, J., & Törneke, N. (2015). On Having a Goal: Goals as Representations or Behavior. The Psychological Record65, 89–99.

What does RFT have to do with this?  Well, I think often times I was framing my goals as pliance relations, where I should have focused on creating tracking relations instead. Learning how when to create plys instead of tracks (and vice versa) wasn't easy, and it's still a daily thing that I work towards getting better at, but it's certainly been a useful "tool" to have in the behavior analytic toolbox. A good way to use this as you read through the rest of this post is think about where I may have established the incorrect type of rule from the RFT approach, and which I could have maybe used instead. You can easily continue and get something from this post without having to read the article - so don't let that stop you from scrolling down! ;) 

My Losses to Date

SCC Chart Share

Ogden Lindsley was a student of B. F. Skinner's who found himself interested in applying what was being learned in the behavioral science laboratories to real world problems.  The result was "Precision Teaching," which came about when Og began applying four key steps (described below) in the classroom about 55 years ago (Lindsley, 1992). He defined Precision Teaching as an educational process in which decisions concerning educational interventions are based “on changes in continuous self-monitored performance frequencies displayed on ‘standard celeration charts’” (Lindsley, 1992, p. 51).  

Two parts are worthy of a little bit more elaboration: 

  1. self-monitored - meaning you can teach anyone how to use this process themselves
  2. Standard Celeration Charts - which may sound scary, but they are really easy to use and with the advent of new technology (Chartlytics) they're becoming more accessible than ever.

Although the process started in the educational realm, it's been used in a variety of different areas, including: sports, medicine, self-reflection, counseling, self-control, business, job searching, studying techniques, etc. Given the use of the process across so many different areas and not just teaching, I like to refer to the process as Precision Measurement. 

One practice of the Precision Measurement community is called a “Chart Share.” They are generally arranged as a 1 or 2 minute timed presentation that includes showing the Standard Celeration Chart with completed data and annotations along with the presenter quickly and eloquently describing the case to colleagues. It allows for praise, mentorship, and other cultural practices to occur that perpetuate the Standard Celeration Society.  The brevity and impact is always what caught my interest. Now, I've always thougth about how there's so much content out there that we don't have access to... Think about it, we probably share and read like .0000001% of the same data our entire career as a behavior analyst. All the clinics that are so busy saving lives that they don't share their results, or the pay-walls that occur with publishing services, or the language barriers that prevent interpretation of certain results. It's kind of a big deal, and it's probaly limiting the impact that our field has on various problems related to human behavior. 

Thinking about this some colleagues inspired me to create a monthly place where people could come together and share their charts with each other and learn. What happened? Check out the data: 

Monthly SCC of Chart Share Online! 

Where'd the project go?  Well as you 6 of the last 12 months that it was running there were no submissions to present. What happens when that happens? Well, no one has content to experience. There's a bunch of variables that likely affected this, and I realized that it wasn't worth the time that I was investing at that point in time, so I wrapped up the project and placed it on the shelf. Now, that doesn't mean that it's finished forever, there are just some other things to accomplish before I consider picking this project back up again. I must give a quick shout-out to the 12 or so consistent people that showed up - I haven't forgotten you, and you'll be the first I contact when I think I'm ready to pick this idea back up! ;) 

Behavior Bank 2.0

According to Carl Koenig, a graduate student of Ogden (Og) Lindsley’s in the late 1960s to early 1970s, Ogden Lindsley was approached by a parent asking how to best teach a certain concept. Og rifled through a series of charts in his hands to best answer the question, but also realized the answer should rely on a larger dataset. The Behavior Bank was a “Big Data” project about 50 years ahead of its time that housed around ~30,000 individual projects.  It was used to validate components of the Standard Celeration Chart (SCC) as one of the strongest visual tools to ever hit the market on data analysis and visualization.

The idea was that for each chart “deposit” in the bank one could “withdraw” the answer to a question that was informed by the data in the bank. It was a simple, and brilliant concept. A “Google” of data-based decision making for scientist-practitioners.  Now, they learned a lot from the experience – some of which I elaborate on here, with more to be read via (INSERT).

My thought was – “So why aren’t we doing this today?” I mean, there are so many awesome applications of behavior analysis that aren’t being communicated, and there’s been plenty of times that I’ve learned from others in the field about how to best intervene on a behavioral target for a consumer. Imagine how many were out there that we were missing!

I managed to meet Carl Koenig himself, where he showed me the old records that he had saved from the project while he said things like “The field is surely over these limitations and on to much bigger things.”

I couldn’t muster up the courage to tell him that the field hadn’t grown, but had actually shrunk by almost every indicator I had experienced (but hadn’t died!). Maybe I should have said something, but he seemed pretty content speaking about the golden days of the project and hadn’t actually asked me in a direct fashion.

I picked up the pieces that he had laying around and proceeded to run a series of 2 years worth of posters and presentations at professional conferences on the Behavior Bank concept and a possible avenue for a “Behavior Bank 2.0” (Here’s a link to the materials)

So where did the project go? Well, nowhere after the presentation circuit. I think I have an idea as to how to proceed with it but ironically I think I'm 10-20 years ahead of the time in my own professional career to begin making a product that could be Beta tested. Og was too early and dropped ~$1.3M USD into the project, and here I am around the right technology, but without the right resources. Another project I'll pick back up when the time is right!

I don't have any content on the trip to visit Carl Koenig, but I do have two videos of our trip to see the actual product of the behavior bank to share. 


Sports Psychology Online Group

In early 2017 I was watching one of the Association for Contextual Behavioral Science (ACBS) listservs on utilizing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT said as one word) in the areas of sports and health. It’s a fantastic group of people and an even greater mission. There seemed to be an opportunity to bring together an intimate group of members to discuss content, share projects, and troubleshoot issues in an online setting. So I set up a Doodle poll, we arranged the times, and I scheduled myself to attend each of the meetings (on top of a 100 hour work week, they were on Tuesdays at 9 am, Wednesdays at 12 am, and Sundays at 9 am). It was a large commitment given my other projects, but it was worth pursuing. The first week was great – I connected with people in Chile, Norway, Finland, Australia, among other places. But come week 2? No one showed. Week 3? No one showed again.

There are various ways that you can look at something like this…

  1. I could blame the learners – but that isn’t behavior analytic at all. So that’s out.
  2. I could try to provide a topical solution (e.g., write each member and try to convince them to come to the meeting)
  3. I could attempt a systemic solution (i.e., one that takes into account all of the relevant variables to reach the programmatic outcomes)
  4. I could step back from the project and wave the white flag.

I chose to do number 4. The work didn’t go underappreciated, and I’m going to continue keeping in contact with a few people who would like to keep the conversation going, but it’s just going to be in a different medium. 

At the end of it all there are a few things that I take with me:

  1. I tried.
  2. I learned.
  3. I don’t forget.
  4. I move forward.
  5. I find bigger opportunities.
  6. I sometimes land on great ideas.
  7. I have great colleagues that push me.
  8. I owned my loss and the experience was priceless.

So there are some of my "losses." Damn it feels good to lay them out to dry. I hope that everyone reading this realizes it's meant as a way to say "here's what I tried" and that I continually assess if it's the right time to pick them back up and work towards them again. I'd be stoked to hear yours, and know if you're interested in working on any of these ideas sometime in the future - throw them in the comments below!

There are some content around getting ideas to actually work (I do have those and they are coming up in future blogs) that myself and others have learned that we'll be sharing in our upcoming event - if you found this of interest, then you may also find the event of interest. Click the image below, or the button below to learn more about it.