We think we want smart kids. That’s why we monitor their grades, that’s why we hire tutors, why we help them study for the SATs. It’s even how we find ourselves praising them: You are so smart!
But is this really setting them up for success in life? When you look at intelligence through the lens of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset, can we really say that smart people are always successful? Or is it closer to the truth to say that just being smart is a fast track to the middle of the pack?
“The ‘C’ students run the world,” as Harry Truman said. The ‘A’ students? They’re in the room, to be sure, but they’re not the ones making the call.
The essayist and investor Paul Graham (as we’ve talked about before) warns parents against fighting the last war—trying to get their kids into good colleges to then get good jobs available to smart people. Einstein wasn’t special because he was smart, Graham writes, it’s that he had original ideas. You could say the same about Monet, Mark Zuckerberg, JK Rowling, or Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the Nobel Prize-winning discoverers of CRISPR/Cas9.
Think of the people we admire most, they share that. It wasn’t that they were smart—it’s that they had a different way of looking at the world, it’s that they were unique and from this uniqueness (which was often coupled with intelligence) they did great things. So as you try to mold your child…well, maybe stop trying to mold them and just help them grow.
Let them be who they are. Encourage them to be their original, unique selves. Encourage them to explore, to find new things. The world is full of smart people…and most of them are insufferably boring and unimpressive.
What we need are fresh thinkers, creative people, what we need are originals.