Mindset Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Mindset explains the difference between having a fixed and a growth mindset, why one trumps the other, and what you can do to adopt the right one.

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Mindset Summary


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Look at your hands. How long have they 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. 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.

Here are my three favorite lessons from the book:

  1. The corporate world turns most of us into fixed-mindset drones.
  2. The growth mindset mostly stems from a strong, genuine desire to learn.
  3. We are all born with a growth mindset, and we can relearn it anytime.

Let’s take a look at these two mindsets and see how you can go from one to the other!

Mindset Summary

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Lesson 1: The corporate world turns most of us into fixed-mindset drones.

Big corporations like McKinsey or Goldman Sachs hire the best graduates and then expect them to perform perfectly and instantly. Instead of being trained on the job, employees are thrown into cold water and monitored closely for errors. Whoever doesn’t do a great job right away gets fired. This breeds a fixed mindset.

In a fixed mindset world, talent is king. Naturally, people want to look talented all the time.

By pushing people into mainly window-dressing their performance instead of actually performing, not only do the employers rob themselves of 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 so their leaders won’t brand them as a failure.

Lesson 2: The growth mindset mostly stems from a strong, genuine desire to learn.

If you give kids hard math problems, they love working on them and want more of the same kind. This is the growth mindset in a nutshell. The kids’ desire to face more and tougher challenges doesn’t necessarily come from wanting better grades. Instead, it comes from the satisfaction they get from pushing themselves as much as they can. They adopt the mantra “Practice makes perfect.”

Two famous examples of a fixed and growth mindset 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 for his low self-esteem led him to make bad decisions. He ignored dwindling sales and even fired innovative designers, which brought the company right down again.

Gerstner, on the other hand, recognized the internal battles at IBM didn’t help teamwork and customer service. So he broke up old hierarchies and even put himself on an employee level to communicate well. 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.

“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 – and he’s become the first billionaire basketball player in history.

Trying to avoid difficult situations is characteristic of a fixed mindset. 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 and became an activist for spinal cord research. Eventually, he could move his arms, legs, and upper body again. He even walked across the bottom of a swimming pool.

Lesson 3: We are all born with a growth mindset – and we can relearn it anytime.

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 it disturbs and annoys fixed mindset babies.

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. But 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, try saying: “I can’t change what’s 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.

Mindset Review

Mindset reminded me a lot of the book Learned Optimism, where the difference between success and failure lies in the perspective you choose to take. This book does a great job at explaining where the two mindsets come from, what consequences they have, and how to adopt a growth mindset yourself.

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Who would I recommend the Mindset summary to?

The 37-year-old actor, 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.

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