When my sister and I decided our next album of classroom songs should cover Growth Mindset, we knew we'd found a timely, important subject and we hoped our music would help kids learn new skills. Little did we know that the process of creating the album would teach us as well!
Nancy is an elementary school teacher, and I'm a songwriter and freelance music teacher. The process for creating our previous albums involved Nancy giving me topics for which she needed songs, and then I would write and record them. We certainly enjoyed the work but never felt particularly changed by it. However, this album has been completely transformative, as the process illustrated the very messages we were writing about.
For example, Nancy teaches the 'bucket filler' concept, where kids learn that helping and encouraging each other also 'fills their own buckets' with positive feelings, so she suggested a song on that topic. Every time I sent her a new set of lyrics or a draft, she would leave me a text or voicemail telling me how much she liked what I'd come up with, and then I would respond in kind by thanking her for her great idea - and both of us ended up feeling terrific about our collaboration. Plus, her encouragement gave me a much-appreciated boost of confidence as I recorded the vocal for the song.
A big part of growth mindset is the idea of embracing failure and risk-taking, and realizing we learn from our mistakes. In an interview, Sara Blakeley, the founder of Spanx, attributes her success to her father, who would always ask her and her siblings at dinner, "So kids, how did you fail at school today?" I loved the idea of a song titled "How Can I Fail Today?" but felt doubtful I could come up with music that would fit. On other albums I discarded songs I wasn't sure would work, but I gave myself permission to fail, tried a few different tunes that weren't quite right, and finally got one we both liked.
We decided fairly early on that the title track would be 'The Power of Yet'. Nancy is constantly reminding her students to add 'yet' to statements such as, "I don't understand that - YET!" or "I haven't finished - YET!", which I thought was great for elementary school students. Pretty soon I found myself saying it to myself as my own doubts would come up - "I haven't fixed that problem in the 3rd verse - YET!" or "We haven't found the right guitar sound for this song - YET!" And sure enough, once I started giving myself that message, I was able to resolve those concerns.
Nancy also applied 'The Power of Yet' to her current weight loss journey. For years she had tried just about everything without success. While we were working on this album, she found herself applying the same message that she'd taught her students. She reminded herself that even when she hit plateaus or setbacks, instead of thinking "I'll never succeed", she could reframe that thought as "I'm not where I want to be - yet." And for the first time in her life, she achieved her goal weight.
Growth mindset is also an invaluable tool for marketing. We are a truly small business, just me and my sister and whatever time we have after working full time, so it's easy to get mired down in 'fixed mindset' thoughts such as, "No one knows who we are so how will they find our music?" or "We don't have the budget to promote this new album." In fact, contacting Mindset Works felt like a real shot in the dark to us. Although we are both huge fans of Carol Dweck's writing, we thought there was no chance this company would want to hear from us; but then I had "How Can I Fail Today" stuck in my head and decided to take a chance - and we received a lovely response, expressing interest and inviting us to write this blog post.
So not only do we have an album we hope will have a positive impact on kids, the process of writing it has had a positive impact on us, both personally and professionally, proving there's no age limit to developing a growth mindset.
About the Author…
Lauren Mayer is an award-winning songwriter who is a summa cum laude graduate of Yale University and a 5-time recipient of the San Francisco Cabaret Gold Award. She is also a vocal coach, theatrical music director, cabaret performer, and freelance music teacher. She co-founded Curriculum Rocks with her sister, Nancy Mayer, and they have written and recorded 7 albums and 2 classroom musicals, with more to come.
"The Power of Yet", classroom songs for grades K-5 is available for purchase directly on the Curriculum Rocks website, Amazon, Apple Music, and CDBaby. Growth mindset means encouraging students to make mistakes, to take risks, and to reframe 'failure' as valuable data, and this album reinforces those lessons, with songs like "Face My Fears", "Be a Bucket Filler", and "How Can I Fail Today?" plus the title track.