The Growth Mindset

I love to read on the topic of entrepreneurship. I especially love biographies and autobiographies.  There are two big themes I have seen in all successful people.  One consistent theme is overcoming adversity. The second theme consistent with success is it’s sister, the Growth Mindset.

The Growth Mindset, as framed by Carol Dweck in the book Mindset, is the ability to look at life as a series of learning opportunities. It’s the idea that we are malleable beings, capable of significant change.  All we have to do is learn.

In Josh Waitzkins, The Art of Learning, The Growth Mindset is demonstrated by becoming better through going deep.  Josh’s Growth Mindset took him to be a world chess master as well was a Tai Chi champion.

The author of Dilbert, Scott Adams, failed often, at many things, on his way to success.  He suggests learning many skills, different from the “Going Deep” mentality.

In Mastery, Robert Greene accounts how the Growth Mindset kept the greatest luminaries in mankind’s history pushing forward beyond mediocrity.  Mastery suggests hacking through these days, through apprenticeships and learning many skills, much like Scott Adams.

The opposite of the Growth Mindset, the Fixed Mindset is often brought on by early success, ego or simply way too much encouragement.  The Fixed Mindset thinks we are the way we are.  Symptoms of the Fixed Mindset are self-talk like “I was never good at math” or “I just don’t get Twitter.” The Fixed Mindset deals in absolutes.  Recent developments in neuroscience, specifically neuroplasticity, have proven that our brain, personalities and capabilities are far from fixed. The result of the Fixed Mindset is the fear of failure and a disdain for learning.

The Growth Mindset is the fundamental mindset of Mindset Mondays.  Every time you read about a mindset and apply it, you are growing.  Every time you identify a place where you could have done better, then think how you learned from that experience, you are growing.

There are so many stories to inspire the growth mindset. There is Edison and his light bulb failures, Einstein and his unified theory of relativity, Disney’s bankruptcy, Benjamin Franklin’s tales of youth in London. They were always looking to grow facing failure.

Scott Adams’ entire book is the telling of every experience and the knowledge he gained though failure. It’s fantastic.

When you come to almost any story of success, you will find the Growth Mindset.

One of my favorites that I have read recently is Josh Waitzkin’s learning to deal with anger. In the sport he competed in – Tai Chi push hands – there were rules against extreme physical violence.  The rules in competition were often broken at the threat of serious bodily harm, possibly even death. Punches to the throat and knee jabs were commonplace.

Anyone that has ever participated in martial arts or even been in physical altercations knows that when someone threatens you with true harm outside the realms of rules, it triggers the fight mechanism in your brain. Because of the fight mechanism, it is easy to become overwhelmed with anger and then frustration if you are in a competitive environment.

Josh, instead of simply whining and becoming frustrated, sought out this frustration.  He found sparring partners and competitors that did not play fair, especially in the hottest of moments.  Josh learned how to deal with these people and these situations, making their advantages into disadvantages. See Malcolm Gladwell’s David and Goliath for a longer description of this.

Overcoming obstacles without an obvious answer is the essence of the Growth Mindset.   You must keep growing, know you always need to learn, and embrace. Know you will not be good at things at first, and often be frustrated well into the process. Know on the other side, when you think you can go no further, is success.

When you are frustrated because your marketing sucks, or you are overwhelmed by the Digital Age and it’s unfair for this reason or that, pushing through when your ego is destroyed is the essence of winning and the Growth Mindset.