In this second edition of his popular Psychology 101½, eminent psychologist Robert J. Sternberg updates and extends a trove of wisdom gleaned from decades of experience in various academic settings and leadership positions. In his signature straightforward, intellectually honest, and pragmatic style, he imparts life lessons for building a successful and gratifying career.

This revised edition features lessons in five basic categories: identity and integrity, interpersonal relationships, institutions and academia, problems and tasks, and job and career.

Recent developments in the field are covered, and new questions at the end of each lesson prompt reader self-reflection.

Valuable to academic psychologists at any level, this book will be especially prized by graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and early-career professors.

Table of Contents


I. Identity and Integrity

  • Lesson 1: Don't Believe Things Just Because Other People Do
  • Lesson 2: When You Make Mistakes, Admit Them, Learn From Them, and Move On
  • Lesson 3: Decide What Is Important to You, and Then Be True to It
  • Lesson 4: Delay Gratification
  • Lesson 5: Do What You Believe Is Right
  • Lesson 6: Be Not a Saint, a Sinner, or a Sucker
  • Lesson 7: Believe in Yourself and Yours
  • Lesson 8: There Is Always Room To Grow
  • Lesson 9: Don't Take Yourself too Seriously
  • Lesson 10: Learn When It Is Time To Make Gracious Exits
  • Lesson 11: It Is More Important, Ultimately, to Be Wise Than Just to Be Smart
  • Lesson 12: Avoid the Major Pitfalls of the Foolish
  • Lesson 13: Reinvent Yourself on a Periodic Basis
  • Lesson 14: Practice What You Preach
  • Lesson 15: Accept Losses Graciously
  • Lesson 16: Create Your Own Style of Work to Distinguish Yourself From the Rest
  • Lesson 17: Don't Procrastinate
  • Lesson 18: Capitalize on Strengths; Correct or Compensate for Weaknesses
  • Lesson 19: Compare Yourself With Yourself Rather Than With Others
  • Lesson 20: Be Ethical All the Way
  • Lesson 21: Learn To Tolerate Ambiguity
  • Lesson 22: Don't Shoot Your Mouth Off — in Speaking or in Writing
  • Lesson 23: Control Self-Pity
  • Lesson 24: Redefine Yourself as Often as You Need to
  • Lesson 25: Don't Put Off Your Personal Happiness Forever: Enjoy Your Life

II. Interpersonal Relationships

  • Lesson 26: You Will Not Succeed in Your Relations With Everyone
  • Lesson 27: Don't Take Things Personally
  • Lesson 28: Get It in Writing
  • Lesson 29: Don't Cover Up
  • Lesson 30: Actively Seek Out Guidance and Feedback
  • Lesson 31: Avoid Defensiveness
  • Lesson 32: Make Friends in the Field
  • Lesson 33: Be True to Yourself and Let Others Be True to Themselves
  • Lesson 34: When You Make a Professional Commitment, Honor It If at All Possible
  • Lesson 35: Give Students and Colleagues Guidance, but Allow Them the Freedom to Find Themselves
  • Lesson 36: Don't Try to Please Everyone
  • Lesson 37: Don't Bad-Mouth People Behind Their Backs
  • Lesson 38: Be Generous With Your Time, but Don't Let Others Rob You of It
  • Lesson 39: Be Open and Be Straight
  • Lesson 40: Think Before You Speak
  • Lesson 41: Networking Matters — Up to a Point
  • Lesson 42: Distinguish Between More and Less Important Battles
  • Lesson 43: Don't Hold Grudges
  • Lesson 44: Stay Away From Exploiters and Parasites
  • Lesson 45: Help Each Person Find His or Her Own Niche
  • Lesson 46: Give What You Hope to Get
  • Lesson 47: Understand the Benefits and Limits of Loyalty
  • Lesson 48: Maintain Your Good Reputation
  • Lesson 49: Acceptance Is Not Necessarily Good; Rejection, Not Necessarily Bad
  • Lesson 50: Don't Accept Someone's Views Just Because He or She Is Supposed to Be an Authority
  • Lesson 51: Communicate Clearly
  • Lesson 52: Be a Little Ahead of Others, but Not too Little or too Much
  • Lesson 53: Let Others Do Your Bragging for You
  • Lesson 54: Look for Collaborators With Whom the Whole Is More Than the Sum of the Parts
  • Lesson 55: Be Respectful and Pleasant Toward Others as Much as Possible, but Don't Use Ingratiation
  • Lesson 56: Deal With the Impossible Problem of "Assassins"

III. Institutions and Academia

  • Lesson 57: Find Your Mission and Define Success in Terms of Realizing It
  • Lesson 58: The World Is Not Fair
  • Lesson 59: The Ivory Tower Is Not Spotless
  • Lesson 60: Institutional Cultures Are Slow to Change
  • Lesson 61: Fuse Teaching, Research, and Service
  • Lesson 62: Know What's Expected of You
  • Lesson 63: Know the Rules and Regulations — Both Formal and Informal — That Affect You
  • Lesson 64: Love It or Leave It
  • Lesson 65: Don't Assume That Good Ideas Sell Themselves: Sell Them
  • Lesson 66: Invent Your Own "Game"
  • Lesson 67: Nonthreatening Ideas Pay Off in the Short Run, but Threatening Ideas Often Pay Off in the Long Run
  • Lesson 68: To Persuade Is as Important as to Inform

IV. Problems and Tasks

  • Lesson 69: Never Get Stuck on Seeing a Problem in Just One Way
  • Lesson 70: Surmount Obstacles Flexibly
  • Lesson 71: Nip Problems in the Bud
  • Lesson 72: Pick Important Problems on Which to Work
  • Lesson 73: Be Guided by Problems, Not Methods or Fields
  • Lesson 74: When You Can't Start but Have to, Start Small
  • Lesson 75: Most Things Take Longer Than You Think They Will
  • Lesson 76: Seek the Action in the Interactions
  • Lesson 77: Seek Syntheses of Ideas That on the Surface Seem Incompatible
  • Lesson 78: Use Converging Operations
  • Lesson 79: Check Your Work
  • Lesson 80: Ask Colleagues for Informal Comments on Your Work
  • Lesson 81: Ask About the Best and Worst Possible Outcomes Before You Even Begin
  • Lesson 82: Sometimes the Reason We Start Doing Things Is Not the Reason We Continue Doing Them

V. Job and Career

  • Lesson 83: Be Proactive, Not Reactive
  • Lesson 84: Turn Defeats Into Opportunities
  • Lesson 85: Create Opportunities and Take Advantage of Them When They Arise
  • Lesson 86: You Can Go Very Far on Reflective Hard Work
  • Lesson 87: Balance Long-Term With Short-Term Goals
  • Lesson 88: Spread Yourself Neither too Thin nor too Thick
  • Lesson 89: Specialize, but Not to the Point of Losing the Forest for the Trees
  • Lesson 90: If You Do It Well, You'll Most Likely Do It Again
  • Lesson 91: Don't Sell Out
  • Lesson 92: Luck Seems To Come in Streaks — Both Bad and Good
  • Lesson 93: Be Patient About Making a Difference
  • Lesson 94: What May Seem Like a Crushing Blow Now May Later Seem Like a Little Tap Later
  • Lesson 95: Be Programmatic in Your Work
  • Lesson 96: All Bad Times Come to an End
  • Lesson 97: Know When To Move On in Your Work and When Not to
  • Lesson 98: Strive for Impact
  • Lesson 99: Seek To Be Remembered for Your Positive, Not Negative, Contributions
  • Lesson 100: Go Your Own Way and the Rewards Will Follow
  • Lesson 101: Knowledge Is a Double-Edged Sword
  • Lesson 101½: Don't Just Read It, Do It



About the Author

Author Bio

Robert J. Sternberg, PhD, received his BA from Yale and his doctorate from Stanford. He also is the recipient of 13 honorary doctorates. He is professor of human development at Cornell University. Prior to that, he served as a university dean, provost, and president.

Earlier, Dr. Sternberg was IBM Professor of Psychology and Education in the Department of Psychology at Yale University and director of the Yale Center for the Psychology of Abilities, Competencies, and Expertise (PACE Center). He was also the 2003 president of APA and the 2012–2013 president of the Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Sciences.

He is editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science and previously was editor of Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books and Psychological Bulletin.

He has won many awards, including the James McKeen Cattell Award of the Association for Psychological Science.

Dr. Sternberg is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Education.

Reviews & Awards

Simply stated, this new and expanded edition of Professor Sternberg's Psychology 101½ is an absolute "must" addition to community, college, and university library Modern Psychology collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Midwest Book Review

Finally, we can all have the academic mentor we always wanted. In Psychology 101½, Sternberg shares his wisdom and the secrets for success in academia and in life that he acquired over several decades as a professor and administrator. There are "little gems" scattered throughout the book and much to be learned by everyone regardless of where you are on the academic ladder.
—Diane F. Halpern, PhD, McElwee Family Professor of Psychology, Emerita, Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA

I wish I had this book during my graduate school or postdoc experience. I highly recommend it to early-career professionals. Graduate students will also find it helpful to facilitate and navigate through their formal academic relationships.
—Innocent Francis Okozi, PhD, Adjunct Professor, Emeritus, Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ

Psychology 101½ is a gem! It should be required reading for every early-career academic — grad students, postdocs, and young professors. I planned to just skim it, but 2 hours later I was still reading and hadn't skipped a page! It really is fascinating and well written. I wish I had read this 40 years ago!
—Stephen J. Ceci, PhD, H. L. Carr Professor of Developmental Psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY