The learn-it-all does better than the know-it-all

Satya Nadella on growth mindsets: “If you take two kids at school, one of them has more innate capability but is a know-it-all. The other person has less innate capability but is a learn-it-all. The learn-it-all does better than the know-it-all.”

Satya Nadella has been an advocate of the growth mindset for a while, often referencing the work of Carol Dweck and her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.

Dweck has long been writing about what a growth mindset is and how individuals and companies can benefit. In her terminology, a “fixed mindset” applies to those who view talent as a given quality, something they either have or lack, whereas a “growth mindset” refers to those who enjoy challenges, seek to learn, and always see potential to develop new skills. She even wrote about the work Nadella was doing at Microsoft[2] a year before Hit Refresh was published.


The fact is that we all want to know everything and become experts in our field, this is probably why we learn, practice and master a topic or skill. But it is almost impossible to know everything, especially these days when knowledge is expanding so rapidly.

We cannot know everything as a practical matter, so we must instead dedicate ourselves to being lifelong learners.



Be kind be useful

The purpose of life is not happiness, it’s usefulness.

I think nobody can define the meaning of life in a general sense. Everyone lives their own life and defines their own meaning.

In September 1965 Leo Rosten published an essay titled “The Myths by Which We Live” in “The Rotarian” magazine, and he included an instance of the saying[1]:

Finally there is the myth which gives me the greatest pain: the myth that the purpose of life is happiness, and that you ought to have fun, and that your children ought to have fun. Where was it written that life is so cheap? Where was it written that life is, or should be, or can ever be free of conflict and effort and deprivation and sacrifice?…

…the purpose of life is not to be happy at all. It is to be useful, to be honorable. It is to be compassionate. It is to matter, to have it make some difference that you lived.

Source: (google books) “The Myths by Which We Live”, The Rotarian(Evanston, Illinois) volume 107, number 3 (September 1965) 32–33 etc, page 55.

A version of this quotation is sometimes attributed, falsely[2], to Ralph Waldo Emerson:

The purpose of life is not to be happy.
It is to be useful,
to be honorable,
to be compassionate,
to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Got similar advice while listening to an interview Barack Obama did with Bear Grylls, when asked what advice Obama gives his daughters, he rhymed off this mantra: they should be useful, and be kind.

Be kind, be useful.

It’s a piece of advice that’s simple, easy to remember and internalize, and one that helps you consider other people as you act and make decisions. And it’s a nice reminder to consider what you’re able to contribute to any situation.

As far as sayings go, it’s a pretty good one to live by.

Be kind, be useful.

Read more: