Throughout our lives, we’re always trying to overcome the hurdles of reaching the next level, whether it’s going from junior to senior in college, getting the PE license after passing the FE, or even going from one job position to the next. The real challenge, however, lies in how we frame the situations we need to go through in order to reach such a new level and not really the situations themselves. That’s called the Super Mario Effect.
First mentioned by the Youtuber Mark Rober during his widely famous TEDx Talk, the Super Mario Effect basically says that we should keep our focus on saving the princess (our ultimate goal) instead of the traps and pits that can hold us back and force us to try again. In his experiment for this talk, Mark found out that the group of people who were not penalized for their failures and were in fact inspired to keep trying despite their shortcomings showed a 16% higher pass rate when compared to the group of people who got penalized for every failure they made.
By elaborating on this and explaining why we should see failure in a completely different light, Isaac presents the tips we can use to make the journey of studying for the FE and PE exams not only a fun experience but also a process with a rewarding and steep learning curve.
Built Bar – https://civilengineeringacademy.com/built
The Super Mario Effect: Tricking Your Brain into Learning More (TEDx Talk by Mark Rober) – https://www.ted.com/talks/mark_rober_the_super_mario_effect_tricking_your_brain_into_learning_more
Mark Rober’s Youtube Channel – https://www.youtube.com/c/MarkRober/featured
The Ultimate Civil PE Review Course – http://civilpereviewcourse.com
The Ultimate Civil FE Review Course – https://civilfereviewcourse.com
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Transcript of Show
You can download our show notes summary here or get our transcript of the show below!
Isaac Oakeson: What's up, everybody? Isaac here with Civil Engineering Academy. Excited to be with you today on this fun episode. Today we're going to talk about an awesome TED Talk that was given by Mark Rober. And he actually talked about the Mario Effect and how we can apply that to our studies, when we're studying for the FE and PE exam. I found that a fascinating TEDx Talk and wanted to share that with you. And really how it could apply to our own studies as we're trying to become professional engineers, and really looking ahead for our career and our life. If we can frame things the right way, we'll be way ahead of the game. So, it's going to be a fun episode as we talk about this. Hope you stick around with me. Give me a thumbs up if you like it. And, yeah. Excited to share it with you. See you in a minute.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, guys! So let's dive right into it. There's an awesome Ted Talk by Mark. He's got a very big following on YouTube, something like 3 million plus subscribers. And this guy does amazing things. As an engineer, he creates some awesome stuff, like the world's biggest Nerf gun, the world's biggest super soaker. And, you know, you can check that out. We'll link to it in the show notes. But very fun stuff that he does. And he usually does these builds, these awesome builds, in like two to three months where he can build this stuff. But he has learned a few lessons in doing this. With his large following, one of the things that he wanted to test out with people is he wanted to prove that everybody could program no matter what their background was.
Isaac Oakeson: So he had them go to the site where they could test out programming skills. It was a very simple box. And you were to navigate a car through a maze by using some simple programming structure and then running it. But what people didn't know is that he actually set up two different scenarios for people that actually took this exam. So for one group of people, he penalized them every time they didn't make it. And they were deducted five points from 200 every time they failed. And the other group, he didn't penalize at all and he would tell them to keep trying to get through it. So what he found out is there were some interesting statistics that came out of that. And I really think that this whole thing could apply to those studying for the FE or even the PE exam, because I know many of you are in a similar situation where you're trying to get over the hump of passing. Maybe you're a repeat taker and these things can apply.
Isaac Oakeson: So anyway, for those that were penalized, he found out that I believe it was 58% of people ended up passing and it took them on average about five tries. But what was really awesome is that those that weren't penalized for their failure, that weren't penalized for not making the car, that could just keep trying without getting points deducted, their percentage was 16 points higher than those that were penalized. So what's the takeaway from that? Well, I think there's a few things that we can talk about. One of them, I think is that if we're framing failure in the wrong light, we tend to want to give up and that's just the nature of ourselves. But if we can frame it in a way that we want to learn and we can focus on the benefits at the end and it becomes something fun to us, then we can do so much better. And we keep trying. If you think about -- He goes on to mention this, and this is very applicable to me because we have kids, but if you can think about a toddler and how they learn how to grow and walk -- You know, a toddler is never penalized for learning how to walk. They're always encouraged, it's something that they want to do, and there's just no penalty for failures there. And that also can be like into those taking, you know, the PE and FE exams. You know, what is your attitude? What are you thinking about when you fail these exams? How can we get over the hump of doing that? And it's not just, you know, having a positive attitude. It's really trying to frame things in a way that failure is not a bad thing and reframe the way that we're learning.
Isaac Oakeson: And Mark does a really good job of explaining this. One of the funnest ways to realize this effect is, he's called it, the Mario Effect. Now, I don't know about you, but I grew up in the eighties myself, and Mario is still around. But I have found with my seven-year-old girls that Mario is starting to come into light for them. And I have one of those Super NES, it's like a classic, it's one of the smaller ones, and they've started to want to play Mario with me. So they've been diving into Mario Kart and Super Mario World. And what I've noticed as they've been trying to learn this is that it's very exciting for them. You know, there's a fun character, new plumber guy, and all these cool characters in the game. But what I've noticed is that they stink at it, right? They just really stink at it. And everybody starts that way. And, you know, when I grew up and I played the first Super Mario Brothers, nobody cared how many times you failed, how many times you jumped in a pit, how many times you got whacked by a fireball. It doesn't matter. What mattered is how far you got and if you saved the princess.
Isaac Oakeson: So, the point of this is that, you know, just as a person is learning how to play Mario, just like my girls are wanting to experiment and play with it. And they have a desire to come back and try again and get a little better. Get a little better. You know, we've been playing the old Mario Kart on the Super Nintendo and it's been fun to see, you know? First of all, you know what I mean, people with the controller doing this, you know? And they're following the controller, hopefully that makes them move, and I have to teach them, "Hey, let's sit still a little bit". And, you know, you can control that with just the D-pad there. So it's been fun to watch and exciting. But they're getting better. And the point is that this Mario Effect, it doesn't really matter how many tries and how many times it takes. We need to reframe the way that we are thinking about learning and taking even these exams that we're taking if you're a repeat taker. Now, I was a repeat taker. So a lot of this stuff is applicable to me. And so when I look at what's called the Mario Effect and that desire to just keep learning, to keep trying, it really has significant impact on the way that I took these exams.
Isaac Oakeson: When I first took the FE exam, I was not very well-prepared and I ended up failing the first time I took it. I took it really early in my college career. And at that time you could pick general -- What was it? I took General Civil. And I just did not have the coursework. I didn't have all the courses. You know, I wasn't exposed to a lot of the content that was in those exams. But I later took it as general-general because that was more geared towards what I had. And I ended up passing that one. Same thing with the PE. The first time I took it, it was just -- You know, I was really ill-prepared for that one and spent a lot of money trying to pass that by trying to take it early, actually. And that just didn't work out. So, you know, you end up spending a lot of time and money for your effort, which can be very frustrating.
Isaac Oakeson: So, one of the fun things you can do and what Mark talks about is, you know, he tries to make everything fun. If you can make -- And he's made a lot of things into a game. And the same thing, you know, could be applied to Mario. He took a list of instructions that looked super boring and task-oriented. And then what he did is he compared that to -- You know, he took this set of instructions and changed them. You know, instead of inputs, he changed it to a controller that looked like an old Nintendo controller. And then instead of all these other instructions, he just flipped that into a game. Which is exactly what everyone's been doing, right? We've been following a set of inputs and trying over and over again to play a game so that we can pass it. And so that's kind of fun to watch and see. And it's really a different way of learning.
Isaac Oakeson: So if you can enjoy what you're doing and, you know, just don't give up on your goals and your dreams when you're trying to prepare to pass your FE and PE exams, I think you're going to be a good way ahead, have the right mental attitude. Just take failure as a stepping stone and I promise that you can actually get there and get this thing done. So, the Mario Effect is real. You know, people fail multiple times and they still can get through this exam. Enjoy the learning process, enjoy what you're doing, and I think that's going to carry you, definitely, a very long way.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, guys. So that's just some of the tips about, you know, finding a love for learning, reframing how you're learning. You've got to reframe the challenge. So if you're trying to pass the PE exam, let's reframe that challenge to not be such a dredge on, you know, building up so much anxiety for that end result. If we can make this a challenge that, you know, set your study patterns to meet that certain goal or challenge, have fun with it, do your best and learning, and just having a good attitude, no matter if you've taken this one time or eight times. It really doesn't matter. It doesn't mean that you are a bad engineer either. So, you know, there's a lot to learn there.
Isaac Oakeson: I would encourage anyone to go check out Mark's YouTube post about his Ted Talk. I think it's very fascinating. I think it's very applicable not only to those studying for the FE and PE exams, but it's also applicable to your career, if you're learning stuff. It's also applicable to, you know, life in general. If you want to learn something new, as long as you love doing it, it doesn't matter how many tries it takes or how many failures it takes. If you're focused on finding and saving the princess, it doesn't really matter how many times it takes to get there. So, go save the princess. Go pass the FE exam. Go pass the PE exam. If you're taking the SE exam, go pass the SE exam too. Those are all things that are awesome and that you can do. I promise you can do it.
Isaac Oakeson: If you need more resources, definitely check out our site, civilengineeringacademy.com. We have courses for the FE. We have courses for the PE. We're building a course for the California Seismic and Survey, which is exciting, and that is coming up. So go join our newsletter too, if you want to. You'll be first to know about that. Anyway guys, I hope this episode has been helpful to you. Go check out that Mario Effect and it's the real deal. And it doesn't matter how many times you try, as long as you keep going. Have a good attitude and I can promise that you will get there. So anyway, hope you have a great day. If you have any comments about anything, feel free to let me know. We have comments section. Also you can email me as well, [email protected] That's [email protected] and you can do it.
Isaac Oakeson: All right, guys. That's going to wrap it up. Thanks for joining me. We'll see you in the next one. Bye!
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