In 1988, the founding members of our team began teaching life skills to at-risk youth in New York City public schools. For the next 20 years, we created award-winning curriculum and youth empowerment programs that served hundreds of thousands of students throughout the country.
During this time, we worked with thousands of schools, youth organizations, non-profits and public service groups all dedicated to helping young people live to their potential. But something was wrong.
In 2007, we came across some alarming statistics. Teenage depression and suicide had become 10 times more prevalent than in 1960, and the average onset age of depression had dropped from 29 years old to just 14. In addition, one out of every three students was either dropping out or failing out of school.
For a team of individuals whose lives were dedicated to youth empowerment, this was a major blow. In a world of unparalleled opportunity, unlimited access to knowledge, and thousands of well-intended programs such as ours, the human condition seemed to be in decline.
These weren’t just problems of adolescents, either. The Gallup Organization conducted several studies which showed that over 80% of adults weren’t passionate about their jobs, and that anti-depressants had become the single most-prescribed drug among American adults.
Motivated by these circumstances, we decided to undertake a research project to determine why some individuals find happiness and success while so many others struggle and suffer through life.
The 3-year effort was extensive. We directly interviewed over 500 people, reviewed numerous major studies on global happiness and success, examined hundreds of renowned books, and analyzed thousands of individuals who had achieved great significance and meaning with their lives.
The question was simple: what separated those individuals from everyone else? Over the course of our research, the answer became clear.
Happiness and success aren’t predicated on what we know or where we come from… they’re rooted in how we think. It’s our mindsets that define our lives. And, in particular, we identified 7 Mindsets connected with lives of great joy and fulfillment.
With this knowledge in hand, our next challenge was to translate the concepts into a language that would engage youth and make the principles easy to absorb and apply. We would then use that language as the basis of a learning model to teach the 7 Mindsets to young people of all ages and backgrounds.
We began by testing our research in 2009 at a summer program we launched called the Ultimate Life Summit.
For three years, we invited hundreds of students from over 20 countries to participate and learn the 7 Mindsets. Each year, we tested new methodologies and invited hundreds of teachers and youth workers to observe and contribute to our progress. We developed and refined lessons, created inspirational videos, educational games and activities, and developed a student life-planning guide.
We began to see an amazing transformation not just with the students, but also with the teachers. The students were connecting to the program much more deeply than to anything else we’d ever taught. They were staying engaged, eager to learn more and excited to apply the 7 Mindsets in their lives. And the educators were reconnecting with their original reason for getting into education: to inspire and powerfully impact the lives of students.
In 2011, we published our research findings in a book called The 7 Mindsets to Live Your Ultimate Life. It had an instant impact. Schools were ordering copies by the case to conduct book studies, and we began receiving requests to deliver keynote speeches and professional development workshops.
Shortly after the book’s launch, we were introduced to Dr. Mimi Gamel, the graduation coach at Crabapple Middle School in Roswell, GA. Mimi was searching for an effective intervention strategy for a group of 51 at-risk students.
Our staff modified our successful summer curriculum into a program we could teach at Crabapple once a week in 30-minute sessions throughout the school year. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were piloting the first 7 Mindsets Academy program.
Prior to the start of the course, all the students took the Georgia state standardized CRCT test, with less than 24% of them passing.
At the end of the program, the students retook their test and over 80% passed. It was a tremendous improvement, and demonstrated real educational impact.
Fox News came to do a story, while other schools were calling Mimi to ask about the new math program that was generating such amazing results. Mimi told them it wasn’t a new math program, but rather a mindset program that made math relevant to her students, and that sparked even more interest.
Our next step was a professional development workshop through which we could teach the 7 Mindsets to an entire school, including educators. Then we created lesson plans so those teachers could teach their own students directly.
We piloted this approach at several more middle schools. Each of them experienced increased student engagement, improved attendance, reduced behavior issues and various academic achievements. By this point, we recognized that we were onto something big; something that needed to be shared with educators everywhere.
Dozens of new schools joined us to launch 7 Mindsets Academy programs. The 7 Mindsets were taught during advisory periods, house meetings, assemblies, and in dedicated sessions.
It wasn’t long before Tracey Smith, the principal at Mashburn Elementary School, approached us with the idea to develop a 7 Mindsets Academy curriculum for K-5 students. With Tracey’s help, we soon launched an elementary school model to follow in the successful footsteps of our middle and high school programs. Today, elementary schools represent the fastest-growing school segment of 7 Mindsets Academy adopters.
We were also contacted by Early King, program director for K-12 Virtual Schools, who asked if we could create a 7 Mindsets Academy iteration that students could participate in from any location at any time. The resulting virtual program has been so successful that we now have three course levels (and more coming) that serve thousands of students throughout the K-12 network.
The success of the K-12 virtual program also inspired us to establish a standalone home-study course for parents and other individuals to learn the 7 Mindsets directly on their own.
As school after school put the 7 Mindsets Academy program into place, principals observed dramatic shifts in school climate. More students flourished, and more teachers were invigorated through deeper connections and a greater sense of impact on student lives.
7 Mindsets Today
In 2016, overwhelmed by the number of schools requesting our program, we decided to scale the 7 Mindsets nationwide. We doubled the size of our team and welcomed Lupita Knittel to lead a rapidly growing company.
In March of 2017, 7 Mindsets announced its acquisition of The Good Life Alliance, a social emotional learning company organization that builds capacity in local leaders to support the positive development of youth. Led by Roberto Rivera, this merger of ideas and dreams prepares our team to scale its Unified Framework into a more diversified and rapidly changing urban landscape.
The 7 Mindsets represent a solution that transforms thinking and energizes the educational experience for all stakeholders. To date, we’ve served over 5,000 teachers and 100,000 students through over 160 Academy programs in more than 17 states – numbers that continue to expand each year.
We owe tremendous gratitude to the educators who’ve helped us develop and refine our process. They’ve been open and honest, they’ve challenged us, and they’ve allowed the 7 Mindsets to be expressed wonderfully within the educational environment.
Every educator is capable of transforming lives, and every student has the ability to live a life they can be proud of. We hope you'll join us in helping bring the 7 Mindsets to your school and community.