Head to Head

​Book review: You are awesome

Two years ago at the AHDS Annual Conference we heard from Matthew Syed, best-selling author of ‘Black Box Thinking’ and ‘Bounce’ and former British Number 1 table tennis player.  He talked about growth and fixed mindsets and rehearsed the arguments in his book which aligned closely with the work of Carol Dweck.  He recently published a new book on the same theme but this time it is targeted at young people.  The cover of ‘You are awesome’ has more in common with books like ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ than with his other books on mindsets.

With the target audience for the book in mind, our General Secretary asked his daughter to review the book.  Here are her thoughts.

My name is Eve.  I am 11 years old and am in P7.  I had heard about growth mindset at school and understood quite a bit about it.  The cover of this book is pretty cool and it made me interested to read it.  Also, I was excited that if I read it and wrote what I thought about it then it would appear in your magazine!

Mr Syed speaks a lot about himself in the first few chapters (in fact he speaks about himself a lot all the way through!) but it was interesting, and I found it easy to keep reading.  Some chapters sounded a bit weird: “Your Fantastic, Elastic (&Plastic) Brain”.  That chapter was all about growth and fixed mindsets.  He kept trying hard to spell brain properly but wrote brian a lot and had to score it out.  

My favourite thing to do is ice-skating and this book has helped me to be more confident about learning new moves and worrying less about falling over.  Falling over means you made a mistake, mistakes mean you are learning.  As my teacher says “FAIL means First Attempt In Learning”.

The three things I particularly remember from the book are:
-    Growth mindset = Hard work.  “You thought you were getting a growth mindset and instead you are now thinking about a weight-lifting regime for the jelly-like stuff in your skull.”
-    Famous failures who didn’t give up. “Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way.  I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had expected.”  JK Rowling.  This stood out for me as it was printed on a bright yellow page…and JK Rowling is one of my favourite authors.  I hadn’t realised quite how many times she had been rejected before Bloomsbury realised she was awesome!
-    Matthew’s journey from being ‘kid average’ to ‘kid awesome’ in table tennis was inspiring and made me want to keep trying harder in all the sports I do, particularly ice-skating and judo (I’m not very good at judo…yet).

It is worth a read.  Even Carol Dweck (who I’d never heard of until my Dad wrote the bit at the top of this page) said so: “An awesome book about becoming awesome.  How inspiring it is to know that there’s a path to awesomeness and that anyone – absolutely anyone – can go down that path.  This book shows you how.”
Eve Dempster
(I also found out that a Cheese Sprayer is a real job – but I still don’t really understand what they do!)