One of the most important concepts that I’ve come across in a number of years (thanks to a committee I was on at UND) is Carol Dweck’s “growth mindset.”
I hope to get a set for my classroom over the next few years. It’s that vital.
Here is a great TED Talk by Dweck.
But the succinct thesis is this: people tend to be either “fixed” mindset or “growth” mindset. Actually, they’re a mixture of both.
But here is how it breaks down -
Fixed mindset - You’re like Popeye. You are what you are and that’s all that you are. You have a limited amount of talent and you have to squeeze all that you can from it. This is how many American parents raise their kids. If you don’t like math or if you aren’t “good” at math, then move on to the next subject. If you aren’t good at football, then move on to the next sport that matches your optimum talent level.
Growth mindset - you realize that you have the talent to grow and learn based on effort. While you may have a limited amount of talent, how hard you work has a dramatic effect on how your talent grows and improves. This is how most Asian parents raise their kids. If you don’t like math or if you aren’t “good” at it, then too bad. Study more. After three months of two hours of math homework a day, you might not be “good” at math, but you’ll certainly be “better” at it than you were before. If you aren’t good at football, then hit the weight room and practice your ass off.
As one of my former coaches was fond of saying, “hustle is the ultimate talent.” There is no substitute for work ethic. Talent is great (and vital) but talent that doesn't work is worse than no talent at all.