The secret of achievement is persistence – a ‘growth mindset’ over a ‘fixed mindset’

Wow does this headline sounds like so much self-help crap! But read the stories linked with an open mind. The research is thought provoking and inspiring.

Stanford Psychology professor and author of “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, Carol Dweck has spent decades researching the question “What makes a really capable child give up in the face of failure, where other children may be motivated by the failure?”.

Her research and a body inspired from it has implications for how we raise our children, how we manage employees, how we work to overcome difficulties, how we think of ourselves.

In April 2007 Stanford Magazine wrote up a profile of her titled, “The Effort Effect”.

Po Bronson referenced her work in a well-linked NY Magazine piece, “The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids”.

That Bronson’s piece came out in 2007 and it influenced what I’ve come to believe about instilling a belief in Emma that she or me isn’t ‘smart’ – but that it’s smart to try and try again to figure something out, to learn something by practice and experimentation.

Dweck believes that we tend to have one of two mindsets when it comes to seeing achievement in others and ourselves: a ‘fixed’ mindset that tells us when we see someone’s mastery over something it is from innate talent, or a ‘growth’ mindset that tells us that person must have worked hard to achieve it.

People who believe others are born with certain talents tend to do worst than those that believe we can grow and change.

In order to believe someone can grow and change, including ourselves, we need to believe that failures have lessons and that if we keep at something, we can improve.

Just keeping that as a core belief can make all the difference in our lives and in how we see others. It calls on us to give ourselves a chance, to give others a chance. To be empathetic, to empower. And to keep on keepin’ on. This may sound a bit too ‘new agey’. But its more a call to action. Because yes, the world isn’t fair, but if we try and try again, we might raise our lives to a better place, and better yet, the lives of those around us.


Recently Po Bronson has co-authored with Ashley Merryman a new book I’ve been meaning to read that incorporates some of these lessons in parenting.

Science Daily 12/10/2009: First Evidence of Brain Rewiring in Children: Reading Remediation Positively Alters Brain Tissue

NPR: 12/9/2009: Reading Practice Can Strengthen Brain ‘Highways’

Nurture Shock: Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman: 12/10/09: New Research: $13 Christmas gifts = 13 point gain in kids’ IQ

The Atlantic: David Dobbs: December 2009: The Science of Success

“Genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.” | MetaFilter

Can’t get it out of my head: A father’s yearlong quest to grasp the infant musical mind Video: “Martin Seligman on positive psychology”

New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell: “GETTING OVER IT: The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit put the war behind him. Why can’t we?”

Finally, quote from Calvin Coolidge I’ve kept in my wallet for over 10 years:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”