What’s Your LQ (Learning Quotient)?


un-label-lq-etiketten-lq-etiketten-limited-quantity-6201In sports, business, and education these days, you can’t go a hot minute without hearing talk of “character” and “work ethic.” In an increasingly quantified world, we use these terms as a catch-all to explain unexpected patterns of success and failure.

For instance, whenever an underrated person becomes a star, you will hear about how they were propelled by their resilient character and gritty work ethic. When a “can’t-miss” superstar falls on their face? Exact same story in reverse.

I think most of us would agree that character and work ethic clearly matter, and matter hugely. But the real question is: what do those terms really mean?  More important, is it possible to translate them into a measurable, identifiable skill set?

As it happens, we get a beautiful case study of this right now in the baseball world in the form of Arizona Diamondbacks slugger Paul Goldschmidt. You might not have heard the name, but you already know the story: completely overlooked as a young player, didn’t start until his junior year of high school, drafted in 49th round, attended tiny college — and then (insert inspiring music here) worked incredibly hard, kept improving and improving and really improving, and is now one of the league’s brightest young players.

Why? That’s where it gets interesting. Because “character” and “work ethic” do not adequately describe what has propelled Goldschmidt. Instead, it’s about his remarkable ability to learn (see this story for more). Specifically, his willingness to take ownership of an intentional daily process in which he attacks his weaknesses and builds his strengths.

To the hitting coach, he would ask: How do I become a consistent major league hitter? To the infield coach: How do I become a Gold Glove first baseman? To the strength coach: How do I change my body to get in the best shape possible? Zinter said he trusted the coaches implicitly.

“A lot of kids have so much pride that they want to show the coaches and the front office that they know what they’re doing, and they don’t need the help,” Zinter said. “They don’t absorb the information because they want us to think they know it already. Goldy didn’t have an ego. He didn’t have that illusion of knowledge. He’s O.K. with wanting to learn.”

“He’s done such a great job of listening to everything and channeling how it works for him,” said Aaron Hill, a veteran second baseman. “He asks guys everything — about ground balls, footwork, counts, swings, setups, where to sit in the box, what I’m doing. You name it, he’s asking the questions.”

The picture that emerges is not of vague qualities, but rather of a highly specific set of traits — a combination of inquisitiveness, growth mindset, humility, adaptiveness, and relentlessness.

With that in mind, I’d like to suggest an idea called Learning Quotient. The idea is that our ability to learn is a measurable skill, just like IQ.

Here’s how it might work: rate yourself from 0 to 5 on the following questions according to the usual scale: 0 for strongly disagree; 5 for strongly agree.

  • 1. You work on your skills for an hour or more every day
  • 2. You are focused on process, not the immediate outcomes
  • 3. You have strong relationships with mentors/coaches, and use them as models and guidance
  • 4. You are keenly aware of how much you do not know, and the gap between your present abilities and your longterm goals
  • 5. You can accurately and precisely describe the skills you want to build
  • 6. You think about improving your skills all the time
  • 7. You approach your daily work with enthusiasm
  • 8. You are balanced between building with repetition and seeking innovations
  • 9. You are comfortable going outside of your comfort zone
  • 10. You are constantly adapting and refining your learning process

By this yardstick, a perfect LQ would be 50: the heavenly realm of John Wooden and Goldschmidt. Below 15 and you’re either comatose or Allen Iverson (an immense talent who famously didn’t believe in practice). I suspect most of us would fall in the 25-30 range or so, which, among other things, speaks to the inherent challenges of creating a daily routine and sticking to it.

What I like about the idea of LQ, however, is that it is not a fixed quality. It can be increased and grown, and profoundly affected by environment and group culture.

The real question is, what do you think? Could LQ be used to scout or develop talent? And, if so, what other questions should be added to the list?

PS – The marvelous Annie Murphy Paul, author of the forthcoming book Brilliant, has more on LQ here

Rate This

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (15 votes, average: 3.80 out of 5)

Share This

Bookmark and Share

19 Responses to “What’s Your LQ (Learning Quotient)?”

  1. Nate says:


    Another fantastic post, as usual. Those ten LQ questions are exactly the type of qualities I’d like to instill into my 10 year old. The one question that I do have for you is how to instill these qualities while making the process fun, which I feel is so important at a young age. Perhaps another way to ask this question is what is the right age to take this test, and how do you prepare a youngster for the test?

  2. Brilliant, hit the mark spot on again Daniel. In reality if people didn’t want to or were reluctant to take the survey would speak volumes about them.

    The above traits and inquisitiveness you see in the super successful time and time again and just shows there isn’t one magic bullet to success, it’s more a magazine of magic bullets used in combination

  3. Ben Sillem says:

    Thanks, Daniel, for the informative article. Great concept. A Canadian Sport Psychologist, Peter Jensen, has written a book on a similar idea: “Igniting the Third Factor”. He calls the “Third Factor” “the important role that an individual plays in his or her own ‘becoming’.”

  4. Lukas says:

    Learning how to learn or learning how to practice is definitely a key to rapid skill acquisition. And I think LQ could really make the difference between supreme and mediocre performers.

    One I would like to add:
    11. Energy management – You are aware of your energy levels throughout the day and you schedule your workouts accordingly

    Great article Daniel.

  5. Lucas says:

    Great article and idea. If I can offer my $0.02:
    – On #1, I would be sure to state clearly what working on your skills really means/feels like (the difference between being present and being engaged).
    – I would change the scale to a 4 point instead of 5. A 4 point scale doesn’t offer the comfort of an average feeling in any item. You are either closer to the ideal level or closer to the worse possible scenario. I have my swimmers feel daily logs, and find that a 4 point rubric forces them to be more honest then when I used a 5 point one.

  6. lucas says:

    Fascinating as always, hope I can get your books in Argentina.

  7. Michael says:

    I think the opening of the post is delightful in that it gives us a concrete example of the benefits of having a desire to learn and the willingness to work to make it happen.

    The LQ device is unfortunate because it doesn’t accurately measure one’s learning quotient. I think it’s a great idea to measure one’s LQ, but meany prompts are problematic.

    1. This involves arbitrarily selecting a duration. Why the one-hour mark? Do we have any evidence that shows that one hour is necessary or sufficient to achieve significant learning gains?

    Also, this neglects the fact that people can learn at different paces. Some people can work for 30 minutes and realize the same gains as others who work for 90 minutes.

    2. This implies that caring about longer term goals is preferable and I don’t know that this is tied to one’s eagerness or willingness to learn. Plus, it’s possible to aim to make incremental learning gains, some of which could be quite valuable.

    3. This neglects various sources of learning & places an unsupported premium on learning through 1-on-1 instruction. Some people are autodidacts so their response would not give an accurate LQ score. Plus, some people can make great learning gains while detesting their teachers or while liking them a lot while having a relatively thin relationship with them.

    4. This indicates one’s recognition of the limits of his knowledge & isn’t tied to learning abilities or habits. One person can accurately recognize the limitations of his knowledge while working quite hard to learn more while another can have the same recognition but have no inclination or willingness to work to learn more.

    5. This is tied to a person’s goal about learning but that isn’t necessarily tied to efforts to realize that goal. A person may desire having particular skills but do nothing to acquire those skills. Consider a person who merely wishes to eliminate procrastination.

    6. This has problems similar to those facing 5. A person can think about improving all the time while doing nothing to actually improve. Consider people who want to eliminate a bad habit and think about doing so every single day. They could do this while always thinking “I’ll start tomorrow.” This would yield a high score to this prompt but not indicate much.

    7. This neglects the fact that learning can sometimes be a chore. People can chug through hard stuff & not feel so enthusiastic about it but still make great learning gains. A person’s enthusiasm toward learning doesn’t necessarily correspond with her ability to learn or willingness to work to make it happen.

    9. Someone could feel rotten leaving his comfort zone but willing to fight through it & do it it in an attempt to learn more. Such people, I would think, should earn a higher LQ, but such people would give a response that would lower their LQ score according to this device. Also, people could feel comfortable leaving their comfort zone while being rotten at doing things outside it.

    10. It’s possible for people to find a most successful set of learning strategies. If so, they’d not be wise to keep changing approaches. If people find successful learning processes, they could be open to making multiple changes, but if such changes won’t likely yield better results, then they’d have little reason to constantly adapt. It might be better to ask about a person’s willingness to consider adapting if more promising learning processes are discovered.

    I think exploring our LQ is a nifty idea and I hope you can come up with a device that accurately measures it. These are my thoughts at first blush, so the prompts may not be as flawed as I suppose.

  8. Paulo says:

    Great article.

    I think each person has the attitude and hunger to learn. Its really how they channel that attitude.

    Could the daily routines be a result or an effect of the influence of environment, group culture or other factors (eg family life, work demands, etc)?

    Hoping for more insight and explanation. If any scientific or sociological proof to expound on this.

  9. Joe C. says:


    I am a big (and new) fan of your blog. Thank you for your dedication to this subject, and I look forward to reading your book.

    I noticed this link and thought I would send it along. It’s details how a woman learned how to dance in one year. She seemed to take many of your points to heart, and I especially loved what she about practice. In the description to her video on youtube, she wrote, “Here’s my secret: I practiced everywhere.” The idea that practice is something that can happen anywhere is a liberating notion and, frankly, one that I never thought about before.



  10. Coach Kay says:

    Yes, LQ as you describe, is a factual way to reveal, “Potential for Excellence”. Questions used to identify high LQ individuals would be the first stage of a process to ensure a high enough LQ exists or can be developed in someone.

    As a youth sports coach, it is my #1 role and assumes about 80% of my coaching efforts, to develop and identify the LQ of my players. A high LQ supports the acquisition of the 10,000 hours, in any facet of life. The beautiful part of LQ is that it can be developed by anyone at anytime. It Opens the world of possibilities instead of closing them off.

    The #1 Role of any Coach in any field (sport, music, business, etc) is to support “Equal Access to Excellence” and the LQ as Daniel has coined the term, is the way for that to happen.

    Great post Daniel, I wish every teacher/coach in the country bought into the concept.

  11. Greetings Daniel,

    I borrowed your audio book from my local library a few days ago, and have been listening to it over and over again. I have been telling every one I spend time with what a great book this is.

    My oldest daughter is 29 today and while speaking with her, told her that I wish I’d had this book when they were young.

    Thank you for your keen observations and ability to share what you learn with others. If you are in the Bloomington, Indiana area, please stop in my shop, Patricia’s Wellness Arts Cafe and sample some of my herbal teas and herbal jelly; hopefully I will have in stock some of my beer jelly and straight coffee jelly.

  12. djcoyle says:

    Hey Joe, Just watched it.
    So much to love here, but I really love how conscious she is about the process. Thanks so much for sharing this. Best, D

  13. Thanks for the link to my website, Daniel! I really love your analysis of Paul Goldschmidt’s “remarkable ability to learn”—what you call “his willingness to take ownership of an intentional daily process in which he attacks his weaknesses and builds his strengths.” I agree with you that we often use vague catchall terms, or pious banalities, to describe what is really a very practical and concrete set of practices and attitudes—to quote you again, “a combination of inquisitiveness, growth mindset, humility, adaptiveness, and relentlessness.” The best learners I know do just what Goldschmidt does, and it works.

  14. Michael says:

    It’s tremendously difficult to quantify some of our traits. The LQ device is problematic, in part, because it seems to tackle three distinct traits people may have. It might be easier/less hard to come up with separate LQ’s to measure different attributes.

    As it stands, the LQ device attempts to measure three traits:
    a) one’s desire to learn
    b) one’s willingness to work to learn more
    c) one’s ability to learn (the degree to which one’s learning strategies are effective)

    Prompts 1,4,5,6, and 10 seem related to a).
    Prompts 1 and 10 seem related to b).
    The description of the LQ states “The idea is that our ability to learn is a measurable skill, just like IQ,” but none of the current set of problems directly tie into that trait.

    I think this is a worthwhile endeavor and hope you will succeed. You may have greater success devising devices to measure separate learning traits and then you may able to combine them somehow.

  15. Doc says:

    Another very thought provoking article Dan. I think the 10 qualities listed are excellent, however, I still think there is still an “art” to coaching that science can’t completely replace. I’m not sure if the LQ was intended to be quantified or not but I would like to add the following to the list. After each entry ask yourself why or why not they are doing or not doing each particular item. I think that would give an even deeper background into how to coach each player.

  16. Richard says:

    Another great post, thought provoking and I am really keen to explore the implications for talent id. For so long in some many fields of athletic endeavor we focus purely on the physical skills in young stars assuming they will transfer into greatness down the track. The litany of wasted prodigies is sufficient evidence that physical skill alone does not guarantee success (except for Iverson and maybe a handful of others). While that is not new information, our challenge is to educate our coaches and talent scouts about what to look for, within a group of skilled players. While the desire to measure LQ is admirable, it maybe very difficult to do so accurately via a self assessment. Many of us want to be better, but how many translate that desire into actual action. From that perspective, why don’t we educate the scouts and coaches on what behaviours demonstrate a high LQ.

    Maybe the “foot speed, arm speed, good eye, vertical leap” parameters on our scouts sheet, could be replaced with:
    – demonstrates desire to be the best through their application to training
    – behaviours indicate a willingness to be better than his/her peers
    – high level of mental and physical engagement at training more often than peers
    – competitive, wants to win – in all areas
    – seeks information (Various ways) to learn to get better
    – acknowledges areas for development and spends appropriate time on them
    – plus few more.

    Keen to hear some other thoughts on this?

  17. […] that in mind, I’d like to suggest an idea called Learning Quotient. The idea is that our ability to learn is a measurable skill, just like […]

  18. It looks as though more than one person has arrived at a similar concept but by different journeys. I coined the term “LQ” 18 months ago when I was writing my first e-book “Understanding Learning Needs”. As I reflected on my teaching career and the challenges in helping people to learn I found I needed something to describe firstly my own learning journey and how I had overcome my learning barriers as well as the strategies I had used successfully as a teacher to help others learn. I describe LQ as a way of managing your learning environment to meet your own learning needs. Having tried to change education from within and seen the political pressures that are applied to it through reform and more reform it became evident that we needed to equip learners with a skill set and understanding so that they could manage their own learning environment to meet their needs. In this way no matter how toxic the learning environment they would be able to learn comfortably and with confidence.
    I have writtena great deal about LQ and I am now developing a website for young learners introduced by a character called “Mr LQ”, http://www.lq-home.com and two books are underway aimed at children.
    My blog (http://wp.me/2LphS) holds a number of articles on the link between LQ, as I define it, and aspects of learning ranging from resilience to empathy and creativity. There is a first-hand account of LQ in action at a conference I attended in the Netherlands, and at which I was asked to present a keynote speech next year on the concept of LQ, available to download on my website (www.ace-d.co.uk). I believe LQ to be a major development in the practical concept of learning with proven significant benefits for those who look to manage their own learning or guide the learning of others.
    Well there you have it, another account of LQ. If anyone wants any further information please get in touch.

  19. […] you haven’t read his book, it’s a must.  I posted his full article, “The Learning Quotient” on the articles page.   Your “Learning Quotient” is a quantitative measure […]

Comment On This