A four-year-old boy sits at home, playing with his toys. He’s hungry, but he doesn’t tell anyone. He’s tired, but only his posture reveals it. Four years old and he can’t (or won’t) speak. Every day, his family wonders, “What’s wrong with this boy? Is he mentally disabled?”
When he starts school, his teachers and classmates think him a dunce. They try to teach him art and languages, but he doesn’t pick them up like the other kids. He’s only learned enough German to get by.
In high school, he repeats his sentences to himself. Everyone thinks he’s slow. He applies to college, but fails the entrance exams. Eventually, he earns his degree, but can’t get the teaching job he wants, so he spends his days working in a boring patent office.
But, through the many years growing up and thought of as a nobody capable of nothing, the young man told himself a different story. He knew he was good at something, and that something was science. He spent all his free time and energy honing his thoughts until he had something worth sharing.
The young man was Albert Einstein and, in 1905, he shared four ideas that would become the foundation of modern physics.  
Einstein was a genius. We all know that today, but it couldn’t have been further from obvious in his formative years.
Did he make the impact on the world he did just because he was smart? Does intelligence shine through despite the odds? Probably not. There are lots brilliant people who never overcome the hurdles of being misunderstood and made to feel they don’t belong.
Brilliance was one critical ingredient in the Einstein formula, but an equally important element was likely how he thought about himself—his ability to keep working and see his own worth when everything around him suggested he didn’t have any.
Today, there’s convincing evidence from the psychological study of high schoolers that how well you perform in life depends a lot on how much you believe you can improve when it seems like you’re not achieving anything. Continue Reading →