The Smartest Kid in Class

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Hank and John Green are two of the best known names in the world of YouTube, having spawned several channels and projects over the years. They made their mark with Vlogbrothers starting way back in 2007 (which remains hugely popular to this day), expanding their empire to include such notable YouTube channels as Crash Course, huge events like VidCon, popular podcasts like Delete This, and so much more.

As I was making my way through the Internet one day, as I am apt to do, I came across this episode of SciShow Psych, hosted by Hank Green. SciShow aims to discuss scientific topics and issues in a manner that is both educational and entertaining, as well as more easily digestible by the general population. As you might imagine, SciShow Psych focuses on matters relating to psychology and the human experience.

An Intelligent Orientation

In the episode, Hank describes how even children from a very young age start to gravitate toward one of two types: those with entity orientation and those with incremental orientation. A large part of how kids end up one way or the other leads back to the type of praise that the children would receive.

In the case of an entity orientation, students are more motivated by performance goals. They strive to get the best grades at what they do, because those grades are an indication of performance. These goals also relate to what other people think of them. They want to be seen as “gifted” or “smart.” They want to be recognized for their accomplishments.

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Those with an entity orientation tended to receive feedback from parents and teachers wherein they were praised for getting good test scores. This reinforces a behavior wherein the children would gravitate toward things they were already good at (and avoid activities where they weren’t so great). What’s more, they would have a perspective such that you are naturally “gifted” at certain things. Some people are born with it, and some people are not.

With Room to Grow

On the other hand, children who developed more of an incremental orientation are more motivated to master new skills. They got more of a positive association with the notion of growth or improvement over time, rather than pure performance on an absolute scale. Performance to them is relative, comparing how much better they are at something today than they were yesterday.

To this end, the incremental orientation is one that is far more accepting of failure and shortcomings. The belief is that no one is necessarily “born” with a certain gift, per se, but rather that anyone can accomplish anything if they put in enough time and effort.

The thing is that the kid with the entity orientation is much more likely to be singled out as “the smart kid” in class than the one with an incremental orientation. It’s good to focus on your strengths, most assuredly, but it’s also good to explore new skills, projects, and areas of interest too. But you don’t want to flounder about in a million different directions either.

You Need Both

An entity orientation can drive you to further develop your strengths. Some of the most successful people will remind you that your time is far better spent focusing on what you can take from “good” to “great” to “outstanding” than spending your time trying to upgrade something from “terrible” to “barely mediocre.” You’ll get more mileage that way.

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On the other hand, an entity orientation can also discourage you from exploring things outside of your normal wheelhouse. You get much more nervous and apprehensive about coming up short, so you avoid those situations altogether. This can also stunt your growth.

An incremental orientation values growth, but it could distract you from doing what you actually do best. And doing what you do best is how you’ll be able to extract maximum value out your time, effort and energy.

Truly, the smartest kid in class is the one who can wear both hats. And this is just as true in the world of blogging, Internet marketing, and online business as it is with algebra, geography, and organic chemistry. That’s just psychology at work.





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