As a teenager my dad would haul my brother and me all over town on evenings and weekends to help random people out. It was always some form of manual labor, often in less than desirable weather. There was never much speaking beyond the instructions needed to accomplish the task. Sadly, initially, as a teenager, I saw zero value in it for me, and was resentful that my evenings and weekends were occupied with what I perceived to be mindless work.
I have realized over the years that my dad was teaching us, in an almost elemental way, mental fortitude and grit. I was developing an ability to mentally grind out a situation (which I perceived as less than ideal) to come out on the other side with a stronger resolve to overcome obstacles. Sidebar, Angela Lee Duckworth has a great TED talk on the subject of grit and how it’s possibly a better indicator of success than IQ:
In reading the article about Adam Grant’s approach to his professional life, I realized another life concept I gleaned from doing that voluntary labor with my dad. The concept of attaching your efforts to a cause which benefits someone or something else can increase the personal success of the individual. Based on Adam Grant’s findings from the call center experiment, this concept seems to resonate with many people, even if it is at a subconscious level.
I attribute a lot of the success I have had so far in life to the continual development of these two qualities: mental grit and working for a cause. Both of these skills were developed independent of formal education, as they seem to be for many people who develop them.
I would argue that this is one of the biggest short comings of the US education system. I propose re-structuring primary education curriculum around Growth Mindset Theory. This can empower individuals to have a more positive influence on their own lives and the lives of others as they enter into adulthood. For an idea of what the structure could look like, here is a link: