Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Everyone has something to teach you, if only you can find the right question to ask.  To learn, you have to focus.  Too often we think that being present is enough. It is not. You have to be more than present; you have to be engaged.  Remember your grade-school math teacher, who used to tell you that learning requires not only memorizing equations, but understanding why they work. 

When failure happens, it is not only an obstacle to be expected and overcome; it is an opportunity to learn. How you perceive failure will determine how you react to failure when it happens.  Learning from failure is important.

Carol Dweck talks about the importance of our beliefs regarding failure in her book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.”  According to Dr. Dweck, a person’s belief in their ability to affect intelligence might be more important than their actual intelligence. Students who have a growth mindset believe that "intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work," she writes. The ones who hold a fixed mindset "believe that intelligence is a fixed trait." 

In studies Dweck conducted, when failure occurred, "students with a growth mindset said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material." Their belief that they had an impact on the outcome through the application of their effort led them to work harder or create a new approach.  

The important lesson is not that people are smart or stupid but that, through effort and hard work, brains can grow and people can change.  “Learning is not attained by chance,” wrote Abigail Adams, “it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”

Adams was the wife of President John Adams. She made those comments back in 1780, but they still apply today.  Reading and learning has always been fun for me.  I was the girl who sat at the back of the room and read novels during math class.  Most of my lunch periods at Robert Frost Junior High School in Fairfax, Virginia were spent reading in the library rather than eating in the cafeteria. 

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.