I'm here because I have a very important message: I think we
have found the most important factor for success. And it was
found close to here, Stanford.
Psychology professor took kids that were four years old and put
them in a room all by themselves. And he would tell the child, a
four-year-old kid, "Johnny, I am going to leave you here with a
marshmallow for 15 minutes. If, after I come back, this
marshmallow is here, you will get another one. So you will have
To tell a four-year-old kid to wait 15 minutes for something that
they like, is equivalent to telling us, "We'll bring you coffee in two
hours." (Laughter) Exact equivalent.
So what happened when the professor left the room? As soon as
the door closed... two out of three ate the marshmallow. Five
seconds, 10 seconds, 40 seconds, 50 seconds, two minutes, four
minutes, eight minutes. Some lasted 14-and-a-half minutes.
(Laughter) Couldn't do it. Could not wait.
What's interesting is that one out of three would look at the
marshmallow and go like this ... Would look at it. Put it back.
They would walk around. They would play with their skirts and
That child already, at four, understood the most important
principle for success, which is the ability to delay gratification.
Self-discipline: the most important factor for success.
15 years later, 14 or 15 years later, follow-up study. What did
they find? They went to look for these kids who were now 18 and
19. And they found that 100 percent of the children that had not
eaten the marshmallow were successful. They had good grades.
They were doing wonderful. They were happy. They had their
plans. They had good relationships with the teachers, students.
They were doing fine.
A great percentage of the kids that ate the marshmallow, they
were in trouble. They did not make it to university. They had bad
grades. Some of them dropped out. A few were still there with
bad grades. A few had good grades.
I had a question in my mind: Would Hispanic kids react the same
way as the American kids? So I went to Colombia. And I
reproduced the experiment. And it was very funny. I used four,
five and six years old kids. And let me show you what happened.
So what happened in Colombia? Hispanic kids, two out of three
ate the marshmallow; one out of three did not. This little girl was
interesting; she ate the inside of the marshmallow. (Laughter) In
other words, she wanted us to think that she had not eaten it, so
she would get two. But she ate it. So we know she'll be
successful. But we have to watch her. (Laughter) She should not
go into banking, for example, or work at a cash register. But she
will be successful.
And this applies for everything. Even in sales. The sales person
that -- the customer says, "I want that." And the person says,
"Okay, here you are." That person ate the marshmallow. If the
sales person says, "Wait a second. Let me ask you a few
questions to see if this is a good choice." Then you sell a lot
more. So this has applications in all walks of life.
I end with -- the Koreans did this. You know what? This is so
good that we want a marshmallow book for children. We did one
for children. And now it is all over Korea. They are teaching these
kids exactly this principle.
And we need to learn that principle here in the States, because
we have a big debt. We are eating more marshmallows than we
Thank you so much.
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