Daily Inspirations and Adventures

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Struggle To Get Smarter

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The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart

Salman Khan for The Huffington Post

Posted: 08/19/2014 12:19 pm
My 5-year-­old son has just started reading. Every night, we lay on his bed and he reads a short book to me. Inevitably, he’ll hit a word that he has trouble with: last night the word was “gratefully.” He eventually got it after a fairly painful minute. He then said, “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.” I smiled: my son was now verbalizing the tell­-tale signs of a ‘growth­ mindset.’ But this wasn’t by accident. Recently, I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years, and I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach.

Researchers have known for some time that the brain is like a muscle; that the more you use it the more it grows. They’ve found that neural connections form and deepen most when we make mistakes doing difficult tasks rather than repeatedly having success with easy ones. What this means is that our intelligence is not fixed: and the best way that we can grow our intelligence is to embrace tasks where we might struggle and fail.

However, not everyone realizes this. Dr. Carol Dweck of Stanford University has been studying people’s mindsets towards learning for decades. She has found that most people adhere to one of two mindsets: fixed or growth. Fixed mindsets mistakenly believe that people are either smart or not; that intelligence is fixed by genes. People with growth mindsets correctly believe that capability and intelligence can be grown through effort, struggle and failure. Dweck found that those with a fixed mindset tended to focus their effort on tasks where they had a high likelihood of success and avoided tasks where they may have had to struggle, which limited their learning. People with a growth mindset, however, embraced challenges, and understood that tenacity and effort could change their learning outcomes. As you can imagine, this correlated with the latter group more actively pushing themselves and growing intellectually.

The good news is that mindsets can be taught; they’re malleable. What’s really fascinating is that Dweck and others have developed techniques that they call ‘growth mindset interventions’ which have shown that even small changes in communication or seemingly innocuous comments can have fairly long­-lasting implications for a person’s mindset. For instance, praising someone’s process (“I really like how you struggled with that problem”) versus praising an innate trait or talent (“You’re so clever!”) is one way to reinforce a growth ­mindset with someone. Process­ praise acknowledges the effort; talent­ praise reinforces the notion that one only succeeds (or doesn’t) based on a fixed trait. And we’ve seen this on Khan Academy as well: students are spending more time learning on Khan Academy after being exposed to messages which praise their tenacity and grit and that underscore that the brain is like a muscle.

I really want to start a national conversation that examines how we as a society can help people develop a growth mindset. In fact, the Internet is a dream for someone with a growth mindset. Between Khan Academy, MOOCs and others, there is unprecedented access to endless content to help you grow your mind. However, society isn’t going to fully take advantage of without growth mindsets being more prevalent. So what if we actively tried to change that? What if we began using whatever means at our disposal to start performing growth mindset interventions on everyone we cared about? This is much bigger than Khan Academy or algebra it applies to how you communicate with your children, how you manage your team at work, to how you learn a new language or instrument. If society as a whole begins to embrace the struggle of learning, there is no end to what that could mean for global human potential.

And now here’s a surprise for you. By reading this article itself, you’ve just undergone the first half of a growth­-mindset intervention. The research shows that just being exposed to the research itself ­­for example knowing that brain grows most by getting questions wrong, not right­­ can begin to change a person’s mindset. The second half of the intervention is for you to communicate the research with others. We’ve made a video (above) that celebrates the struggle of learning that will help you do this. After all, when my son, or for that matter, anyone else asks me about learning, I only want them to know one thing. As long as they embrace struggle and mistakes, they can learn anything.

Written by bevanddara

August 20, 2014 at 9:31 am

Such a Touching Tribute

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Written by bevanddara

August 19, 2014 at 3:52 pm

FEED Your Mind

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I follow FEED on Instagram (I follow a lot of non-profit organizations on Instagram that are doing things to make this World a better place . . . well, and then I also follow Kim Kardashian . . . I mean, I need to be up to date on her life of course!  It makes me feel better for some reason. Hopefully one day I’ll win the lottery and can devote my life to helping others . . .).  ANYWAY, back to FEED, They had this post today and its a post that I really needed . . . today . . . so I thought I would share (that’s the beautiful Lauren Lauren – the co-founder of FEED, granddaughter of George Bush, Sr and wife of David Lauren, the son of Raph Lauren . . . did you get all that?!?).


FEED’s mission is to create good products that help FEED the world. They have pretty cute stuff.   Love this little beach bag to put your phone, money, etc in while you’re in the sand (which will provide 25 school meals).

And this beach blanket (which provides 50 school meals).

And this reusable shopping back (which will feed 1 child’s school meals for 1 year)

Love this tee-shirt too (which provides 10 school meals)

Written by bevanddara

August 7, 2014 at 2:30 pm

A Little Reminder . . .

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I need to remember this every once in a while.  Especially because people in NY are generally meanies . . . in a hurry . . . and could care less about everyone around them.  Happy Hump Day!


Written by bevanddara

July 9, 2014 at 10:28 am


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One of Ellen’s MANY projects is Refugee Artisans of Worcester (RAW) whose mission is to identify refugee artisans and assist them to self-sufficiency through the sale of their art.  There was recently an article published in the Worcester Magazine (where Ellen and Richard live).  check it out


Written by bevanddara

June 4, 2014 at 10:34 am

Pink and Red

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(I’m sorry, in advance, for the debbie downer post I’m about to write)


As you know, Mom, growing up I was very close with my friend Crystal . . . and if anyone is a close friend to Crystal that meant they were close friends with her big sister, Kimi.  They were two peas in a pod, whether they wanted to be or not.  They were as close as two people could be . . . even as  they grew older and started to live their own lives.


A few weeks ago, when Kimi’s health took a turn for the worst, Crystal reached out to all of her friends and family members for stories, inspirational quotes, pictures, etc. that she could share with Kimi.  I sent her the following note.

I don’t know what it’s like to have a sister but I can imagine that the thought of losing her feels like you will also lose a part of yourself.  I remember coming over to your house and spending hours with you and Kimi . . . talking about boys and shopping and fashion.  I loved going to the mall with you and her and all of our friends.  Riding in the van . . . going out to eat . . . she was always so giving  . . . buying things for everyone else.  I also remember spending nights at Immaculata and being so impressed at the awesome friends she had made there. She never let her condition stop her from living . . . from graduating from high school and then college . . . from beating all odds.  It’s truly inspiring. 

It’s unfair that some of us get to walk around . . . drive cars . . . write on a keyboards using two hands while others struggle to do . . . well, everything.  It’s heartbreaking to know that her life on Earth will be short but she will continue to live on through all of you.  She will be with other loved ones and will be able to walk freely and eat all of her favorite foods and shop at her favorite stores and be able to spend her days at peace.

Kimi is inspiring but so are you and her other constant companions.  Part of the reason she is such a fighter is because she has incredible champions of strength around her every day.  You all have given her a life that has been full of love, adventure, laughter and tears of joy . . . and in turn she has given you the same.  I wish you peace to remember those moments now instead of her in her current state. 

Please tell Kimi that I will continue to pray for her and will think of her always  . . . just as I have since meeting her decades ago.  She is the type of person that leaves an imprint on your heart . . . one that will not fade with time.  Please give her a kiss from me.

Kimi lost her 35 year battle with muscular dystrophy this past Friday. The viewing was last night and service was today.  I couldn’t make it but have been thinking about her and Crystal and their family constantly.  Even when I didn’t even know I was . . . everyone was asked to wear pink to the funeral today, since that was Kimi’s favorite color . . .  I was going to wear pink to work today to honor her but totally forgot when I was getting ready this morning and walked out the door in my normal black on black on black . . . but something made me go back and get a pink scarf to jazz my outfit up a little bit . . . it wasn’t until I was on the subway that I realized who made me go back and grab it.


Also while on the subway this morning I read about a family in Cali that lost their 3.5 year old little boy on Friday and I can’t get it out of my mind.  The little boy’s name is Ryan and his mom has a blog that is very well followed.  He was at a family members house and was playing frisbee . . . ran into the street to grab it and a truck killed him instantly.  (ugh, i know . . . makes you feel sick to your stomach – their best friend posted the story here :().

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Since then the blogging/mommy instagram community has rallied around his parents providing support, donations for his service, sharing pictures of them, just letting them know that we are all aching for them as well.  They created the hashtag #redballonsforryan and so far 19k pictures have been posted using that hashtag.  Its incredible.


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So today, I just wanted to spend some time remembering Kimi . . . and thinking of Ryan . . . and their families.  Sending them strength and support as they navigate their new lives without their loved ones.

It’s amazing how much witnessing the miracle of life can also make you truly understand the incomprehensible grief that comes with death of a child. Going to give Julian a lot of extra kisses tonight.

Written by bevanddara

May 7, 2014 at 2:44 pm

Prank It Forward

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Cute 🙂

Written by bevanddara

April 2, 2014 at 9:20 am