Monthly Archives: December 2014

Brains Versus Work Ethic

growth mindset

Hard Work is the Soil for a Growing Mind

Would you rather someone tell you, “you must be really smart,” or do you prefer to hear, “you must work really hard?”

Whichever one sounds better to your ear, it turns out that those who pride themselves on their work ethic over their intelligence not only have more success, they also have more self-confidence, enjoy their work more, and become more intelligent over time.

The Growth Mindset

In a series of studies by Dr. Carol Dweck, 5th grade students worked on a set of problems and were either praised for their intelligence (“You must be smart at these problems”) or their effort (“You must have worked hard at these problems”).

Next, the students were given a more difficult set of problems. Students who had been praised for their intelligence lost their confidence as soon as they began to struggle and gave up before finding the right answers. Since success meant they were smart, then struggling must mean they were dumb.

Students who had been praised for their effort, on the other hand, also struggled with the difficult problems…but they felt more confident that they could handle them, and kept trying to solve them. Not only were they more successful at finding the right answers, they actually enjoyed the process more than their counterparts.

Work Harder To Get Smarter

It seems that our attempts at “working smarter, not harder” are misguided.  Instead, we should work harder to get smarter.  Of course we should always find smarter ways to do things, but more often than not, that requires hard work, especially in the beginning.

Struggle is a sign that you’re learning, and people who work harder grow their intelligence more than those who do not.  Over time, those with the confidence to struggle through difficulty gain the confidence they need to take on bigger and bigger challenges, leaving behind those who see struggle as a sign that they’re not good in a given subject, whether it’s math, technology, or marketing.

We see this same dichotomy playing out with our own customers all the time. In facing a similar challenge, one customer might say, “I’ll figure it out,” while another says, “I’m just not ready yet” and gives up. Can you guess which one has the more successful coaching practice?

The Law of Attraction = The Law of Effort

Entrepreneurs’ fascination in recent years with the “Law of Attraction” is revealing. Those who (in my opinion) misinterpret the Law believe that somehow, if they believe enough or meditate the right way, life will be easy and they’ll achieve all of their health, relationship, and health goals, no effort required.

But as soon as they face a setback, they burn inside that the Universe is somehow against them, that they’re not smart enough, or that they’re just not meant for success. I’ve seen this very story play out not only with some of our customers, but with some of my closest friends and relatives.

The appropriate way to think about the Law of Attraction is that it’s a direct reflection of the “Law of Effort.” In other words: work your butt off! It’s only after we overcome the difficult challenges because we’ve put in the work that things become easy, and we seem to attract success at will.

Start Praising Yourself The Right Way

As we mature beyond childhood and leave the classroom for the working world, the habits we picked up in school remain with us throughout life – unless we make a conscious effort to change them. We can be our own best teachers when we talk to ourselves the right way.

The next time you find yourself dealing with a difficult subject or problem, instead of telling yourself, “I’m smart enough to figure this out,” say, “I’ll work hard enough to figure this out.”

Then see what you’re able to achieve with your hard work and struggle.