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The Secret to Student Success | Arel Moodie | TEDxYouth@ClintonSquare

so what if I told you you’ve been lied

to your whole life what if I told you

that what you’ve been told since you

were a kid about what it takes to become

successful is completely wrong what if I

told you that you did not have to be so

many of the things you thought you did

now you’ve been lied to and just for

clarity you weren’t lied to by your

teachers by your parents by the adults

in your life because they hate you

you’ve been lied to because they would

just misguided for example what if I

told you you do not have to be smart to

be successful there are a bunch of

but this is what we’re told

ever since we’re younger we want to be

in a smart class don’t we have you ever

heard a teacher say something like this

too maybe you are one of your classmates

Wow you finished your work really really

quickly you must be really smart do you

know what’s being said and implied in

that statement what’s being implied is

if it takes you a long time to do

something then you are not smart so when

we’re younger if we come up to an

obstacle we don’t go oh this is awesome

we go well I don’t want people to know

I’m not smart but as adults we all know

that anything worth doing takes a lot of

time but we keep saying you have to be

smart now I will prove to you that being

smart is not a precursor to success with

a simple question how many of you know

someone you know someone who’s really

really smart but they’re not doing

anything productive with how smart they

are does anyone know something like that

all of us

so being smart that can’t be what it is

oh good news you know what else you

don’t need to be talented talent

completely overrated we talk about

talent oh you you’re gonna go so far you

have so many natural abilities you’re so

gifted doesn’t mean anything and I’ll

prove it to it the same question I just

asked you a few moments ago how many of

you know someone I want you to really

think who is really really talented

maybe they’re amazing poet or musician

or artist or whatever it is but they’re

not doing anything to the level they

should with the natural talent that they

have does anyone else someone like that

so whoohoo oh this isn’t a science wait

a minute so we all know someone who is

smart we all know someone who’s talented

that’s not doing anything so it can’t be

smart intelligence talent gifts and by

the way it’s also not being born into

the right family being born rich or any

of those things it’s one thing that

nobody can give to you it’s the only

thing you can give to yourself that

makes the biggest difference

and that word is effort effort is

everything whatever you’re not good at

with the right amount of effort you

become good at it now this old concept

was very fascinating to me because when

I grew up in the projects in Brooklyn

New York I was in the smart class in

elementary school I was in the top class

and you know what we all knew we were in

the top class oh and to make it even

better does anyone remember the days

when you didn’t even have to study for a

test and you got good grades I loved it

and everyone kept telling me around

you’re so smart and I was like I am

smart until I hit junior high and then

all of a sudden I became really dumb the

craziest thing happened I would be in

class and the teachers will be talking

and I’ll be like you ever had that face

where on the outside you look like

you’re 100% paying attention but on the

inside you have no idea what’s been

happening I mastered that but I couldn’t

ask for help because I was the smart kid

because if I asked for help it would

prove I didn’t grasp things quickly so

therefore I’m not smart dr. John Medina

and his work of brain roles and brain

rules for babies talks about when we

connect our concept of who we are to

innate abilities we have no control over

we don’t become successful but when we

attach them to things like hard work and

effort we control those but I didn’t

know that there so I did like what I

thought was the right thing to do and I

just shut my mouth and it went on into

high school I just got WAY worse

I started failing and I was not a

science person where my people science

chemistry biology is just not your thing

like I look at it and you just might as

well be speaking a different language

where are the people math you just suck

at math like it’s just not going to be a

good experience right I got you I was

with that okay so for me science was my

hard subject and I failed and I was told

I want to be able to graduate on a side

past my science classes

so now I’m facing not being able to

graduate having no skills or talents

that I could know of in fact I played

three sports in high school and sat on

the bench on all three of them so my

professional athlete goes out the window

I was in a tough environment I witnessed

people get murdered I’ve been robbed

beat up made fun of and I thought I have

no future what’s the point so when I was

16 I thought it’d be better to be dead

than to be alive because what what’s the

point so when I was 16 I went to the

roof of my building I stood on the roof

and I looked down I imagined what would

feel like to not have to deal with the

pain that I had inside of me because

what was the point not smart not


luckily I stepped back from the ledge

that day because I heard this still

voice inside of me and all they said was

not yet and his voice had to come from

being much greater than me because again

I’m not smart enough to think this on my

own so with that thought of not yet I

went back into my room and was just

depressed and I am lucky to have people

care about me I have an amazing mother

awesome brother fantastic father and my

father song and he said get up we gotta

go for a ride looks like I jump in his

car he starts driving it takes me to

this beautiful neighborhood that I never

seen before it was over like 15-20

minutes from our house and he said you

see this house you see these cars he

said one day if you want it you can have

these things you know because as a

teenager we know success is the big

house and a big car right and I was like

yo there’s no way I’m gonna be able to

have these things and then he said

something things that changed the course

of my life what he said was we were all

given the problems we were supposed to

be given so that we can face

them overcome them and that’s where we

become the person we were meant to be

you said what most people do is they

face their problems and then they go oh

this is proof I don’t deserve it

this is proof I’m not supposed to have

it look at these problems in my life so

they quit but he said when you put in

effort you get to the other side and on

the other side is where the magic


that’s where success comes from so I

started getting excited I said well how

could I apply this in my life I was like

what better place to apply it then than

with science so what’s my chemistry

teacher I said look I’d like to graduate

I’m not gonna graduate came past this

class I’ll make a deal with you if I can

pass the final exam you give me a

passing grade in the class with the

final grant final exam was cumulative

she said deal so I started doing some

strange things during lunch I would go

to tutoring and I would work with my

tutor understand concepts before I went

home before I left school I would do the

blue I would do more tutoring then on my

way to school and from school I would

get practice problems and I would go

over the practice problems every single

day to and from school the craziest

thing happened after I did that for a

few months I passed the class I passed

the test I graduated so from there I

decided to sneak into college I like to

say I snuck into college because I went

to the college that my brother got

accepted to because he’s smart I got in

and I said listen I’m not going to be

the smartest student by no means I’m not

going to be the most talented student

it’s impossible so how am I going to

succeed here I made a decision early on

that I was just going to outwork

everyone because I’m not smart I’m not

smart I’m not talented so if I was in

class and I didn’t understand something

I would raise my hand until I got it I

would go to office hours and meet with

the professor to make sure I understood

the concepts not just when the tests

were coming out I would meet with the

teachers assistants to go over the

course curriculum to make sure I

understood it from that particular

professor’s perspective I never handed

in a paper without a second set of eyes

looking at it I met up with all the

smart kids in class and by the way you

want to find a smart kids they sit in

the front they got highlighters make

friends with them okay I made friends

with them and I studied in groups with


and the funniest thing happened at a

16,000 students I was named one of the

top five exemplary students this is me

back in the day when I had hair I like

to call it the glory days right I was an

educational opportunity program student

ELP student at Binghamton University yes

yes I was needed most outstanding

graduating senior in my class president

of for student organizations when I

graduated I applied the same concepts to

my entrepreneurship endeavors in my

businesses so if I ever that was a

problem like I don’t know how to manage

people I’m not good at it I would change

it to I just need to put more effort

into managing people and I would get

good at it

and it’s amazing because I started

travelling to high schools and colleges

and sharing this idea of effort and

effort is everything an amazing thing

happens now we have a shared language

the students have a language they can

communicate to the teachers and the

teachers have a language they can

communicate to the students so no longer

is it oh I’m just dumb in math look I

got a bad grade it becomes oh I got a

bad grade I guess I need to put in more

effort in math teachers instead of

saying hey better luck next time they

can say hey you didn’t get a good grade

we just need to do more effort let’s

figure it out the language became

created and it’s a mindset that moves

away from this natural innate ability

and move it to something we can control

Cal Dweck has a great book on mindset

which talks about growth mindset and

fixed mindset growth mindset says I can

learn and do anything fixed mindset says

everything I got I already got it’s not

going to get better I believe and many

educators do that the growth mindset is

the way to success and I believe the

pathway to the growth mindset is effort

effort is everything and you’ve

experienced this how many people

remember what it was like to learn how

to tie your shoes does anybody remember

this have you ever seen a little kid

trying to tie their shoes it’s the most

frustrating process in the world your

fingers won’t do what your mind’s

telling it to do you can’t get the bunny

ears just right and then you take your

shoe you throw dr. Whibley

I just with Velcro and you just be done

with it right just me and TOMS shoes for

the rest of my life right but the funny

thing happens you don’t give up

you believe it’s possible one day and

you keep doing it and then something

happens your brain clicks and now I’m

confidence you can tie your shoelaces in

the dark because of effort no one’s born

naturally gifted at tying your shoes do

you get that no one is born naturally

smart at the ways of tying shoes you put

an effort you learn you get it that

neuro plasticity of the brain does not

go away barring a healthy functioning

brain of course you have to move from

this idea that you have to be naturally

good at something to succeed at it you

don’t you have to put in effort effort

is everything effort is more important

than where you’re born it’s more

important than the money you have in

your bank account so I have full

confidence that if I ever lost it and

God really we got to do what I have my

effort will see me through you’re not

good at math start printing effort

towards math you’re not good at science

start putting effort towards science you

want to start a business put an effort

into starting a business you want a

great marriage put in the effort to have

a great marriage people think well if

it’s supposed to be is just going to

happen no if it’s supposed to be you’re

going to put in the effort to make it be

there’s a great quote that I love from

Thomas Edison that says opportunity is

missed by most people because it’s

dressed in overalls and it looks like

work with effort you’ll take advantage

of every opportunity that’s in front of


effort is everything and when you put in

effort not only will you take advantage

of the opportunities that’s in front of

you you’ll take advantage and create

opportunities you didn’t even know

existed thank you [Applause]

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