Enter, Carol Dweck, famous for her research about growth mindset. Duckworth refers to one of Dweck's studies in particular, in which one group of students received praise for doing well, no matter how many problems they successfully completed, and students in a second group were occasionally told they hadn't solved enough problems and they should have tried harder.
What Carol found is that the children in the success only program gave up just as easily after encountering very difficult problems as they had before training. In sharp contrast, children in the attribution retraining program tried harder after encountering difficulty. Is seems as though they'd learned to interpret failure as a cue to try harder rather than as confirmation that they lacked the ability to succeed.
I like to think of a growth mindset this way: Some of us believe, deep down, that people really can change. These growth-oriented people assume that it's possible, for example, to get smarter if you're given the right opportunities and support and if you try hard enough and if you believe you can do it. Conversely, some people think you can learn skills, like how to ride a bike or do a sales pitch, but your capacity to learn skills - your talent - can't be trained. The problem with holding the latter fixed-mindset view - and many people who consider themselves talented do - is that no road is without bumps. Eventually, you're going to hit one. At that point, having a fixed mindset becomes a tremendous liability. This is when a C-, a rejection letter, a disappointing progress review at work, or any other setback can derail you. With a fixed mindset, you're likely to interpret these setbacks as evidence that, after all, you don't have "the right stuff" - you're not good enough. With a growth mindset, you believe you can learn to do better.
There is, of course, a fine line between doing the latter and being a dry-nosed, thick-skinned jerk. Once again, I defer to the idea that we must achieve balance.
Mrs. Duckworth found that students come to us with either a fixed or a growth mindset. They have learned by watching the adults around them react to failure in themselves and disappointments in others. They have absorbed the mindsets and ideas from the people they have been around.
And no one is immune to that absorption. The child who lives in a house of poverty is in danger of observing too much helplessness from their parents who find it hard to survive and thrive. Then, there are also those students who more naturally succeed:
...I also worry about people who cruise though life, friction-free, for a long, long time before encountering their first real failure. They have so little practice falling and getting up again...
I see a lot of invisibly vulnerable high-achievers stumble in young adulthood and struggle to get up again. I call them the "fragile perfects."
Returning to the chapter title, I realize that hope comes with effort and not with success. The more we are pressed downward, the more we are likely to reach for our goals, and the more we reach, the more we hope for those goals. Those souls who naturally succeed, with little effort, seem to have less hope since their goals are more easily fulfilled. Usually. We need to exercise our hope in order to strengthen it.