Mindset Summary10 min read

Categories Behaviour, Mindfulness & HappinessPosted on

Mindset takes a look at the difference between people with a fixed and a growth mindset, how one trumps the other and what you can do to adopt the right one.

Look at your hands. How long have been this way? As long as you can remember, right?

That’s because we have almost no control over our appearance and features, such as height, the shape of our nose, or the color of our eyes.

What we do control, however, are our skills and abilities, at least according to the latest research.

Carol Dweck is one of those researchers and in her book Mindset she discerns between two attitudes: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

People with a fixed mindset believe talent is everything. If they’re not gifted with the ability to do something, they think they’re doomed to be a failure. Their skills seem to be written down in their genes, just like their looks, which is why they never try to improve in something they suck at.

To contrast that, people with a growth mindset believe that whatever they want to achieve is theirs for the taking, as long as they work hard for it, dedicate themselves to their goal and practice as much as they can.

Since our mindset has a big influence on our performance, both are worth taking a closer look at.

You might have heard the quote “Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” People with a fixed mindset take a different view. In their world talent is king.

Naturally, they want to look talented all the time. The hiring practices of big corporations like McKinsey or Goldman Sachs make this evident. They hire the best graduates in the world and then expect them to perform perfectly and instantly.

Instead of being trained on the new job, employees are thrown into cold water and monitored closely for errors. Whoever doesn’t do a great job right away is instantly fired. This is hurtful for both sides.

Not only do the employers rob themselves of some great people, their black-and-white thinking also cultivates a fixed mindset in others. Since the applicants already assume they’re always being judged as good or bad, the employers behavior turns it into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

As a result, most employees spend their time trying not to look stupid (instead of working productively), in order to not be branded as a failure forever.

Compare that to the growth mindset, where, if you give kids hard math problems, they love working on them and want more of the same kind.

Their desire to face more and tougher challenges doesn’t necessarily come from wanting better grades, but from the satisfaction they get from pushing themselves as much as they can.

They take any chance they get to learn from the best, always try and test new strategies and adopt the mantra “Practice makes perfect“.

Two famous examples are Lee Iacocca, who ran Chrysler, and Lou Gerstner, former CEO of IBM.

Both came in when the companies were down in the dumps, and both successfully turned them around. The difference lies in what happened afterwards.

Iacocca became complacent, he took all the credit, surrounded himself with worshippers and worried more about his own image than about the company. Seeking approval from others to compensate his low self-esteem led him to making bad decisions, like ignoring dwindling sales and even firing innovative designers, which brought the company right down again.

Gerstner, on the other hand, recognized the internal battles at IBM were taking away from teamwork and customer service, so he broke up old hierarchies and even put himself on an employee level to communicate well with anyone and everyone. By focusing on teamwork and learning from past failures he showed a true growth mindset and brought sustainable success to IBM.

In a similar manner, a furious, fixed mindset golfer might fire his caddy or throw his shoes into the crowd. Michael Jordan, on the other hand, never let a mistake stop him.

He says: “I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

His Airness has spoken!

Note: Michael Jordan has recently become the first billionaire basketball player in history.

Trying to avoid difficult situations is characteristic of the fixed mindset, because the longer you spend time working on something, the less of an excuse you have to fail.

Had Christopher Reeve (actor of the original Superman movies) adopted this kind of mindset, he probably would have died soon after his riding accident, which paralyzed him from the neck down. Instead, he put up a tremendous fight, became an activist for spinal cord research and was finally able to move his arms, legs and even upper body.

Eventually, he even walked across the bottom of a swimming pool.

Surprisingly, we are all born with a growth mindset. Babies know no limits, they want to learn anything and everything. However, between the ages of 1 to 3 a mindset can already be determined.

Babies with a growth mindset tend to try and help other crying babies, while fixed mindset babies are disturbed by it.

Apart from our parents, our teachers also play a major role in how our mindset turns out. A bad teacher might tell a D student that she’ll never amount to anything, whereas a good teacher would encourage her to study more and do better on the next test.

Lastly, anyone can develop a growth mindset.

For starters, try this: The next time you spill your coffee, don’t say: “I’m clumsy!” and associate the failure with your identity.

Instead, see it as an external, one-time event and resolve to do better the next time, for example by saying: “What’s done is done, I’ll just mop it up and pay more attention the next time.”

This way you’ll spend more time working towards your goals and dreams, and less time worrying about what’s wrong with you. You’ll develop a growth mindset soon and be well on your way to reaching your full potential.

Final thoughts

This reminded me a lot of the book Learned Optimism, where the difference between success and failure is mostly determined by the perspective you choose to take on it.

I love the topic and have written about it before. 3 things I found valuable in cultivating a growth mindset are reading, learning about other people’s stories and going on a quest for love.

I wish the summary had quoted the original study Dweck did to make her discovery, but even without it it did a great job at explaining where these mindsets come from, what consequences they have and a lot of real-world examples.

Who would I recommend the Mindset summary to?

The 37 year old who thinks it’s too late to change careers, the 16 year old, cocky high school student, who never studies because good grades fall into his lap and anyone who believes talent is all you need and if you don’t have it, you’re screwed.

The Book in Three Sentences

  • Skills can be cultivated through effort.
  • People with a growth mindset thrive on challenges.
  • The fixed mindset: “I can’t do it”. The growth mindset: “I can’t do it yet”.

The Five Big Ideas

The view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life.

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over”.

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it”.

“The growth mindset does allow people to love what they’re doing—and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties”.

“Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions”.

Mindset Summary

“[Children with a growth mindset] knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated through effort”.

“Not only were [the children with a growth mindset]not discouraged by failure, they didn’t even think they were failing. They thought they were learning”.

“What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?”

“Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise ‘is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement’.”

“For twenty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life”.

“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone—the fixed mindset—creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over”.

“This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way—in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments—everyone can change and grow through application and experience”.

“Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them?”

“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset”.

“The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how you’ll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving”.

“When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself”.

“Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, once said, ‘I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures…. I divide the world into the learners and non-learners’.”

“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it”.

“We gave fifth graders intriguing puzzles, which they all loved. But when we made them harder, children with the fixed mindset showed a big plunge in enjoyment”.

“For it’s not about immediate perfection. It’s aboutlearning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress”.

“‘Becoming is better than being’. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be”.

“People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower”.

“College students, after doing poorly on a test, were given a chance to look at tests of other students. Those in the growth mindset looked at the tests of people who had done far better than they had. As usual, they wanted to correct their deficiency. But students in the fixed mindset chose to look at the tests of people who had done really poorly. That was their way of feeling better about themselves”.

“John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you aren’t a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them”.

“French executive Pierre Chevalier says, ‘We are not a nation of effort. After all, if you have savoir-faire [a mixture of know-how and cool], you do things effortlessly’.”

“People with the growth mindset, however, believe something very different. For them, even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements”.

“They may appreciate endowment, but they admire effort, for no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment”.

“The growth mindset does allow people to love what they’re doing—and to continue to love it in the face of difficulties”.

“Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions”.

“Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake-up call”.

“People with the growth mindset in sports (as in pre-med chemistry) took charge of the processes that bring success—and that maintain it”.

Recommended Reading

If you like Mindset, you may also enjoy the following books:

Drive by Daniel Pink

The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor

The Obstacle Is the Way by Ryan Holiday

Buy The Book: Mindset

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