Three traits of successful students

What does it take to succeed as a successful student? What qualities do you need to get ahead in school, secure a great career, and lead a fulfilling life?

Tony Ngo, Chairman and co-CEO of Everest Education, shares a few words to reveal what matters to students on their personal journeys to success. In particular, he explains the formula “E2=MC2” that Everest Education applies in their learning methodology.


To be successful in academics and in life, students have to be able to do so much more than being able to memorize answers for a test. We have found that students perform much better over a longer period of time when they genuinely develop their curiosity for particular topics and build a sense of personal growth.

“After every assignment, I always ask my 7-year old son to rate himself on effort and strategy, no matter what his grades are. This builds a self-awareness that his work is directly linked to his grades, not whether he is naturally smart or not.”

Tony Ngo

Chairman and Co-CEO, Everest Education

A growing body of research by social scientists supports this view. For example, Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University, is a vocal proponent on the value of a “Growth Mindset.” One of the most important takeaways from her work is that telling kids they are smart is actually very, very destructive! Ironically, students who are told they are “smart” feel that they have a gift, so they don’t need to try hard. Even worse, when you tell kids that they are smart, then they fail at a challenge, they frequently don’t know how to turn that experience into a learning opportunity. Instead, they frequently become afraid of trying hard things because a “smart” student wouldn’t fail.

According to Character Lab, an organization founded by psychology Professor Angela Duckworth Lee at University of Pennsylvania, there are three kinds of strengths that all successful students are required to have: “interpersonal strengths like gratitude, which enable harmonious relationships with other people; intrapersonal strengths like grit and self-control, which enable achievement; and intellectual strengths like curiosity, which enable a fecund and free life of the mind.”

These three strengths are reflected in E2’s state of values: E2=MC2. Why is that?

When you praise a student’s effort (not her grades), she becomes more resilient, and this helps to focus her attention on the process, not the outcome. This focus is the foundation of grit. This doesn’t mean that as a parent you don’t care about grades, but that you have to study why your child earned that mark.  “After every assignment, I always ask my 7-year old son to rate himself on effort and strategy, no matter what his grades are. This builds a self-awareness that this his work is directly linked to his grades, not whether he is naturally smart or not”.

“I Max Out” is the Everest way to frame the growth mindset, and it refers to our attitudes towards learning.  We want students to persevere when they “fail,” by studying the reason for their outcome.  Through reflection, students learn to believe that failure is not a permanent condition, and they grow through challenges.

Yes, we don’t praise you because you’re smart. We praise you when you have put in your full effort.  We feel so strongly that this effort will result in clear improvement and progress. This growth personally and academically is reflected in “I Can”.

Students have tremendous potential to learn and make a lot of progress, but the primary measurement for that is not how well they compare to others, but to themselves.

When students learn from challenges, they feel a sense of progress, and they will enjoy learning so much more than memorizing facts. There is a natural pleasure that builds a lifelong love of learning and fuels long-term success in school and beyond.

So “I Can” is the result of a growth mindset.

The third Everest Education value is “I Contribute.

Success in life requires far more than just good grades. We need so many other skills. Someone may be a good communicator, someone else may be a good listener, while another person might be especially effective in helping others. In the real world and at Everest, we strive to amplify the strengths of everyone. It’s not sufficient to only have good grades yourself.  You are expected to help your peers and the entire class improves by being a great teammate and contributor. This fosters all the 21st century soft skills through just a simple phrase.

“I Contribute” reminds students that none of us ever reach the summit by ourselves and that we all rely on others to be successful.  

True since 2011

When Don and Tony founded Everest, they tried to imagine what would make Everest an exceptional learning environment. Looking around, they saw so many other centers focus on “drilling and killing:” where students go, do worksheets, and crank through many calculations but without thinking about why.

This traditional approach is effective at learning basic calculations, but it literally beats the love of learning out of every student. After a few years, no student wants to complete more worksheets or workbooks.

In response, Don and Tony asked themselves, “How do we nurture a love of learning, creativity, and teamwork that we want our students to have?”. Thus, Everest Education was born.

The first class started with just 12 students in the summer of 2011, and since then, Everest Education has worked with over 2,000 students in Saigon.  


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