The following notes are highlights quoted directly from the book:


In U.S. intelligence agencies, if you want to predict which teams will produce the best work, the most important factor to consider is how often colleagues teach and coach one another.

My colleague Angela Duckworth finds that instead of relying on willpower to push through a strenuous situation, they change the situation to make it less strenuous.

We need to embrace the discomfort of getting lost.

The drawback of a compass is that it only gives you direction—not directions.

The pattern was robust across fields: students learned less from introductory classes taught by experts12 in every subject.

It turns out that if you’re taking a new road, the best experts are often the worst guides.

It’s called the curse of knowledge: the more you know, the harder it is for you to fathom what it’s like to not know.

To excel on the exam, the students still had to master all the content—it wasn’t as simple as dividing and conquering the material. But if they wanted the extra credit on one question, they had to find out who knew what. So instead of cramming solo, they opted to study together. They started meeting in small groups to synthesize the key concepts.

The students had created their own scaffolding.

Tadao Ando is the only architect ever to win all four of the field’s most prestigious prizes. Known as the master of light and concrete, he’s revered for pioneering minimalist, sturdy structures—from homes to temples to museums—that amplify the natural world around them. His buildings have been described as earthquake-proof, and his designs have been called visual haikus.

In a meta-analysis, the average correlation between perfectionism and performance at work was zero.

They fail to realize that the purpose of reviewing your mistakes isn’t to shame your past self. It’s to educate your future self.

It’s easy for people to be critics or cheerleaders. It’s harder to get them to be coaches.

Feedback tends to focus on how well you did last time. Advice shifts attention to how you can do better next time.

If they were singled out by their coaches, it was not for unusual aptitude but unusual motivation. That motivation wasn’t innate; it tended to begin with a coach or teacher who made learning fun.

What look like differences in natural ability are often differences in opportunity and motivation.

People who make major strides are rarely freaks of nature. They’re usually freaks of nurture.

I want to explain how we can improve at improving.

Growth requires much more than a mindset—it begins with a set of skills that we normally overlook.

When students were taught by more experienced kindergarten teachers, their fourth-grade teachers rated them higher on all four of these attributes. So did their eighth-grade teachers. The capacities to be proactive, prosocial, disciplined, and determined stayed with students longer.

I now see character less as a matter of will, and more as a set of skills. Character is more than just having principles. It’s a learned capacity to live by your principles.

Practice is incomplete without play.

Character skills training had a dramatic impact. After founders had spent merely five days working on these skills, their firms’ profits grew by an average of 30 percent over the next two years.

If personality is how you respond on a typical day, character is how you show up on a hard day.

Personality is not your destiny—it’s your tendency.

With technological advances placing a premium on interactions and relationships, the skills that make us human are increasingly important to master.

Summoning the nerve to face discomfort is a character skill—an especially important form of determination. It takes three kinds of courage: to abandon your tried-and-true methods, to put yourself in the ring before you feel ready, and to make more mistakes than others make attempts. The best way to accelerate growth is to embrace, seek, and amplify discomfort.

Around the world, 89 percent of teachers believe in matching their instruction to students’ learning styles. “There is no adequate evidence base to justify incorporating learning styles assessments into general educational practice,” the researchers conclude.

When you procrastinate, you’re not avoiding effort. You’re avoiding the unpleasant feelings that the activity stirs up.

But learning is not always about finding the right method for you. It’s often about finding the right method for the task.

Practicing it before you master it is uncomfortable, so you often avoid it.

“Your goal is to feel awkward and uncomfortable … it’s a sign the exercise is working,”

When discomfort is a signal of progress, you don’t want to run away from it.

being brave enough to make more mistakes.

Becker and Woessmann argued that the engine of the Protestant Reformation wasn’t work ethic so much as literacy.

That’s been a dominant theme in Tadao Ando’s architecture and his life. He’s an imperfectionist: he’s selective about what he decides to do well.

If this was the only work people saw of yours, would you be proud of it?

Fueled by what psychologists call harmonious passion. Harmonious passion is taking joy in a process rather than feeling pressure to achieve an outcome.

They delayed gratification longer when they knew caving in would also deprive another child of an extra cookie.30 Having a partner can prevent rumination about your own abilities (Can I do this?) and boost determination (I won’t be the reason you fail).

As Maya Angelou wrote, “I do my best because I’m counting on you counting on me.”

It’s more important to be good ancestors than dutiful descendants. Too many people spend their lives being custodians of the past instead of stewards of the future. We worry about making our parents proud when we should be focused on making our children proud. The responsibility of each generation is not to please our predecessors—it’s to improve conditions for our successors.

Being disadvantaged was less of a disadvantage in Finland than anywhere else: along with the highest rate of high performers, they had the lowest rate of low performers. In Finnish schools, a popular mantra is “We can’t afford to waste a brain.”7 This ethos makes their educational culture distinct. They know that the key to nurturing hidden potential is not to invest in students who show early signs of high ability. It’s to invest in every student regardless of apparent ability. THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY Our experiences in school can either fuel or flatten our growth. Using whatever resources they have, some schools and teachers manage to create learning environments that bring out the best in us. Around the world, evidence shows that whether children get ahead or fall behind depends in part on the cultures created in schools and classrooms. In organizational psychology, culture has three elements: practices, values, and underlying assumptions. Practices are the daily routines that reflect and reinforce values. Values are shared principles around what’s important and desirable—what should be rewarded versus what should be punished. Underlying assumptions are deeply held, often taken-for-granted beliefs about how the world works.

Instead of just specializing in their subjects, teachers also get to specialize in their students.

Because Finnish educators assume the most important lesson to teach children is that learning is fun.

“The work of a child is to play.”


Richard Hackman, and he was the world’s leading expert on teams.

Anita Woolley, to study how to make teams smarter. Eventually, Anita and her collaborators made a breakthrough. They revealed something vital to making teams more than the sum of their parts. More than having the best pieces—it’s about having the best glue.

When teams were relatively reactive, waiting for direction from above, extraverts drove the best results. They asserted their visions and motivated teams to follow their lead. But when teams were proactive, bringing many ideas and suggestions to the table, it was introverts who led them to achieve greater things. The more reserved leaders came across as more receptive to input from below.

Lattice system rejects two unwritten rules that dominate ladder hierarchies: don’t go behind your boss’s back or above your boss’s head.

Weak leaders silence voice and shoot the messenger. Strong leaders welcome voice and thank the messenger.

It’s often said that talent sets the floor, but character sets the ceiling.

Malone, and Anita Williams Woolley, “Quantifying Collective Intelligence in Human Groups,”

How they respond in a do-over is a more meaningful window into their character than how they handle the first try.

Not long ago, it dawned on me that impostor syndrome is a paradox: Others believe in you You don’t believe in yourself Yet you believe yourself instead of them.

I now believe that impostor syndrome is a sign of hidden potential. It feels like other people are overestimating you, but it’s more likely that you’re underestimating yourself.