That’s the question at the center of a fascinating new book by New York Times Magazine and This American Life contributor Paul Tough. It’s called How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character (Buy it at Amazon,, or IndieBound). And Tough will be talking about it, and taking your questions, on the Friday edition of Office Hours, our monthly radio-ish program that we call “Car Talk . . . for the human engine.”

The book takes on what Tough calls the “cognitive hypothesis,” the idea that success hinges on mental processing speed and traditional brainpower. Instead, citing lots of interesting research, Tough shows that “non-cognitive skills” – perseverance, optimism, self-control, and so on – are actually what matter most.

To listen to an interview with Tough – and to ask him any question at all about kids, education, or your own career – tune in this Friday September 14 at 1pm, EDT.

Just dial (703) 344-2171 x203373 at the appointed hour to listen live and participate in a lively back-to-school conversation about preparing our kids and ourselves for the future.

10 Responses to “Friday on Office Hours: Why do some kids succeed and others fail?”

  1. Randy Zeitman says:

    Lovely … hear you Friday.

  2. Nate says:


    As a teacher (and future educational leader) this sounds amazing! It seems like every decision we make in education tends to ignore the research and what SHOULD be done.

    I am looking forward to this.

  3. liz says:

    I cannot listen live… please, please put this on your podcast menu ASAP. Many thanks.

  4. Laura Nurzynski says:

    Will this be recorded and available for replay?

  5. Avatar photo Dan Pink says:

    Folks —

    The recording will be up in a few days on both the Office Hours page and on ITunes.

  6. Kent says:

    Thanks for the book. Will recommend to people.

  7. Sheryl Morris says:

    Thank you so much, Wendy from North Brook, Illinois for speaking about Montessori!! We’ve got to get Montessori to more children! Find National Center for Montessori in the Public Sector if you are interested. Thank you, Daniel Pink. Thank you, Paul Tough.

  8. Sheryl Morris says:

    In regard to helping children develop grit and character as well as helping them to be happy, I wish that there was more understanding on the part of adults about the dangers of both, too high or too low control, and the dangers of too high or too low warmth. This is presented in Montessori – The Science Behind the Genius. The authors of Positive Discipline and Raising Self-Reliant Children use the words firm and kind; there are dangers of both, too high or too low firm, and the dangers of too high or too low kind. A parent or teacher needs to show both warmth and firmness. Think of a child’s life where there are few adults with warmth and also lack skills in being firm; the child experiences apathy, neglect or abuse and violence. Think of a child’s life where there are few adults with warmth but are overly firm; the child experiences dominating adults, threats, bribes/rewards, fear, arguments, manipulation, no respect, guilt. Think of a child’s life where adults are overly warm/kind and also lack skills in being firm; the child experiences unclear boundaries, little focus, confusion, chaos. Now think of a child’s life where adults are balancing well their kind yet firm skills; the child experiences clear boundaries, focus, happiness, confidence, order, cooperation and feels safe, supported, love, and peace. It’s quite the balancing act, but so important.

  9. Estou ansiosa para ler este livro!
    I’m excited to read this book !

  10. Allan Katz says:

    It is always useful to ask what the likes of Alfie Kohn or deborah Meier would say about a book like how children succeed. Kipp Character education is more about meeting adult expectations and getting compliance.Kids concerns or expectations are ignored, and ‘learning ‘ itself only has value as far as achievement achievement ‘ and pay-offs down the line.