Monday, May 3, 2021

Can Success Be Taught?

Success .... Is it luck? Timing? Purely based on abilities and talents we are born with? Can it be learned? Can we teach it to our children? Why are some more successful than others? Can it be taught and learned  Hmmmmm….

Bill Murphy wrote something back in 2016 over at that I’ve had bookmarked titled Want to Raise Successful Kids? Science Says Praise Them Like This (but Most Parents Do the Opposite) with the tag line Stop praising kids for their innate or God-given abilities, and instead focus on their effort.

In the piece, Bill describes the work of Dr Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Psychology professor that did a couple of studies involving school age children and learning. In both studies Dr Dweck examines the difference between a growth mindset (belief that achievement is variable and intelligence and problem-solving abilities can be developed over time ) and a fixed mindset (belief that intelligence is almost entirely innate and you are born with it) and how that can impact success, arguing growth mindsets can have a much larger impact on success compared to fixed mindsets.

What does this mean? Let’s use a sports analogy. A person with a fixed mindset might say, "Tom Brady was born with super athletic ability" while a person with a growth mindset might say “Tom Brady has worked incredibly hard to get to where he is today.”  

Bill Murphy breaks things down pretty nicely from a parent perspective. I’ll tweak his writing, approaching as an educator with a focus on students.
  • Praising students merely for their innate abilities, such as their intelligence, actually makes it less likely that they'll grow up to enjoy learning and to excel.
  • Praising students instead for the strategies and processes they develop to solve problems--even when they don't fully succeed--makes them more likely to try harder and ultimately achieve.
Can success be taught? No doubt - yes. Take a look at Dr Dweck’s research and check out some of Bill Murphy’s writing for more.

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