Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.
Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life.
Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.
I certainly was a prodigiously smart kid in school, and sailed through most of my classes. But I never really learned diligence and persistence, and I had some big troubles year after year on long-term projects that couldn't be handled by sheer smarts.
I remember my father telling me stories about how he wasn't the smartest kid at CalTech, but he held a solid B through dogged work when people who were used to sailing through high school with As floundered because they couldn't handle the new need for sustained work. I didn't hit that wall with most of my college education--I was able to skip class, suck down the textbook during Dead Week, and do well on the test with last-minute study. But it's been a continuing shame to that I've been trying to use brilliance to compensate for lack of diligence--especially when lack of diligence caused me to drop out of grad school.