"Can't Knock the Hustle"

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"Achievement is talent plus preparation.  The problem with this view is that the closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play."  - Malcolm Gladwell

New research tells us that achievement and success in life depends more on a person's drive, hard work and dedication, rather than innate talent, skill or intelligence.  In fact, Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Outliers, is convinced that effort is one of the most important factor of success.  What's more, the magic number of practice and effort to become an expert in anything seems to be at least 10,000 hours of hard work.[3]

Ironically, Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ believes that, "Without denying individual differences in children's intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence."[2]  In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck argues that "The hand you're dealt is just the starting point for development.  This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts."[2]

This concept is so vital to education because students who are associated with negative labels can develop self-esteem issues and believe that they have limitations for success.  For example, "People who believe that they are at an intellectual disadvantage based on stereotypes [or based on test scores and tracking] have a fixed-mindset and will inhibit their learning and success."[2]  What's more, kids today often think that if they have to work hard at something, that must mean they’re not smart.[1]

On the other hand, praising students for grades and final products can actually give them a false sense of security in terms of achievement.  For example, "To a kid, Good job means You’re smart or You’re talented — the praise goes to inherent, natural-born abilities or intelligence. But that immediate spark of self-pride will turn into deep self-doubt when the child invariably comes across a bigger challenge and doesn't immediately succeed."[1]

As educators, we need to build capacity in all of our students and inspire them to believe that they can achieve anything in life, if they work hard enough and long enough.  In other words, we need our students to believe and value hard work and dedication if they are going to be successful as global citizens in the 21st century.

Ben Haggerty (better known as Macklemore) is a perfect example of this life lesson. In his first song, Ten Thousand Hours, on his album, The Heist, he demonstrates his passion for the love of music by poetically depicting how his hard work and dedication finally paid off for him:

I stand here in front of you today all because of an idea
I could be who I wanted if I could see my potential
And I know that one day I'mma be him
Put the gloves on, sparring with my ego
Everyone's greatest obstacle, I beat him, celebrate that achievement
Got some attachments, some baggage I'm actually working on leaving
See, I observed Escher, I love Basquiat
I watched Keith Haring, you see I studied art
The greats weren't great because at birth they could paint
The greats were great because they'd paint a lot
I will not be a statistic, just let me be
No child left behind, that's the American scheme
I make my living off of words
And do what I love for work
And got around 980 on my SATs
Take that system, what did you expect?
Generation of kids choosing love over a desk
Put those hours in and look at what you get
Nothing that you can hold, but everything that it is

Ten thousand hours felt like ten thousand hands
Ten thousand hands, they carry me

Put simply, no matter what our role is in education, we need to make sure that our students understand that "… personal success is when you work your hardest to become your best…".[2]  That practice doesn't make perfect ... perfect practice makes perfect.  That you can do it, if you put your mind to it. And that you get out of life, what you put into it!

In other words, its the hustle and grind that will determine the success of our students.  And as Jay-Z would say, "Can't Knock the Hustle".

You might also like

How to Foster Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance: An Educator’s Guide
Can Everyone Be Smart at Everything?
How Many Hours Does It Take To Become An Expert? [Infographic]

  1. Barseghian, T. (December 29, 2011). Can everyone be smart at everything? Retrieved from http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/07/blogging-is-the-new-persuasive-essay/
  2. Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: the new psychology of success. New York: Random House.
  3. Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: the story of success. New York: Little, Brown and Co..
  4. Ten Thousand Hours. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The Heist. Macklemore LLC. 2012.