Author: Carol S. Dweck
Date Published: December 26th, 2007
Mindset explores how we view and respond to challenges, setbacks, effort as it relates to success, criticism and the success of others. The fixed mindset responds poorly to these things where the growth mindset not only takes these in stride but uses them as fuel for success. It’s about becoming the best you possible and maximizing your level of achievement.
Chapter 1: The Mindsets
This chapter gives us the framework of two mindsets. The fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset is the belief that your qualities and intelligence are set in stone. This creates the urgency to prove yourself over and over. The growth mindset on the other hand is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and through help from others.
“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a persons’ true potential is an unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.”
The rest of this book will explore how these two mindsets affect students, relationships, athletes and the world of business.
Chapter 2: Inside the Mindsets
Is success about learning or simply proving how smart you are? Children with the fixed mindset will frequently choose a task they know they can succeed at rather than challenging themselves.
“So children with the fixed mindset want to make sure they succeed. Smart people should always succeed. But for children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves. It’s about becoming smarter.”
On potential and can experts predict it?
“The fixed mindset says yes. You can simply measure the fixed ability right now and project it into the future. Just give the test or ask the expert. But isn’t potential someones capacity to develop their skills with effort and coaching over time? And that’s just the point. How can we know where effort, coaching and time will take someone?
On defining moments, confidence and dealing with adversity.
“Even in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesn’t define you. It’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.”
“People with the fixed mindset can have just as much confidence as people with the growth mindset — before anything happens, that is. But as you can imagine, their confidence is more fragile since setbacks and even effort can undermine it.”
Chapter 3: The Truth About Ability and Accomplishment
Our society loves stories of natural-born effortless talent. Often times these stories omit details of the massive supporting teams and the countless hours of hard work that went into these success stories. This chapter is about achievement and why some people achieve less than expected and some people achieve more.
When it comes to students, having the right mindset matters immensely. Students were surveyed on how they viewed intelligence as they transitioned from elementary school to middle school where grading, competition and complexity all ratchet up a notch. Was it fixed or variable based on effort and hard work?
“In our study, only the students with the fixed mindset showed the decline. The students with the growth mindset showed an increase in their grades over the next two years.”
The dangers of praise and positive labels. Telling students the are smart or talented subconsciously informs them that their success is based on given traits and abilities, not as a result of effort.
“So telling children they’re smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim they were smarter. I don’t think this is what we’re aiming for when we put positive labels — “gifted,” ‘talented,” “brilliant” — on people. We don’t mean to rob them of their zest for challenge and their recipes for success. But that’s the danger.’
Negative labels, discrimination and prejudice. The growth mindset also allows individuals to overcome obstacles.
“Prejudiced is a deeply ingrained societal problem, and I do not want to blame the victims of it. I am simply saying that a growth mindset helps people to see prejudice for what it is — someone else’s view of them — and to confront it with their confidence and abilities intact.”
Chapter 4: The Mindset of a Champion
Sports is where the belief in natural talent is most abundant. Its visible. Big, fast, strong and agile are all things that can be seen with the eye and measured fairly easily. But, physical gifts and the mindset of a champion do not always go hand in hand, in fact, as this chapter explores, often times these talents are as much of a hindrance as they are a help in the long run.
Billy Bean vs. Michael Jordan. Both of these athletes had incredible talent but one breezed through with it, one was cut from the varsity high school team. One had the mind of a warrior, a growth mindset, one didn’t. It served them both very differently through their careers.
“[Beane] was the highest scorer on the basketball team, the quarterback of the football team and the best hitter on the baseball team, batting .500 in one of the toughest leagues in the country. But, the minute things went wrong, Beane searched for something to break. “It wasn’t merely that he didn’t like to fail; he didn’t know how to fail.”
“Once, after the team lost the last game of the season, Jordan went and practiced his shots for hours. He was preparing for the next year. The mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. I’ve always said that.”
Some teams rise to the top, other teams get to the top and stay there. The difference? Character. We’re learning that character grows out of mindset.
“Character, heart, will and the mind of a champion. It goes by different names, but it’s the same thing. It’s what makes you practice, and it’s what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you need it most.”
“When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, ‘more than ability, they have character’.”
Success, Failure and taking charge of Success.
“In the fixed mindset, you don’t take control of your abilities and your motivation. You look for your talent to carry you through, and when it doesn’t, well then, what else could you have done? You are not a work in progress, you’re a finished product. And finish products have to protect themselves, lament, and blame. Everything but take charge.”
The Superstar Syndrome
“When some star players are interviewed after a game, they say we. They are part of the team and they think of themselves that way. When others are interviewed, they say I and they refer to their teammates as something apart from themselves — as people who are privileged to participate in their greatness.”
Chapter 5: Business: Mindset and Leadership
Business is another prime area for mindset research. Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great set out to discover exactly this. What made some businesses good and others great? The most important variable was the leader who was running these organizations.
“They were self-effacing people who constantly asked questions and had the ability to confront the most brutal answers — that is, to look failures in the face, even their own, while maintaining faith that they would succeed in the end.”
On CEO Disease, Leadership and the Fixed Mindset, the “genius with a thousand helpers” model.
“Instead of building an extraordinary management team like the good-to-great companies, they operated on the fixed-mindset premise that great geniuses do not need great teams. They just need little helpers to carry out their brilliant ideas.”
Controlling leaders, bosses and forcing the fixed mindset.
“When bosses become controlling and abusive, they put everyone into a fixed mindset. This means that instead of learning, growing, and moving the company forward, everyone starts worrying about being judged. It starts with the bosses’ worry about being judged, but it winds up being everybody’s fear about being judged. It’s hard for the courage and innovation to survive a company wide fixed mindset.”
A growth mindset CEO, lessons from Jack Welch, famous CEO of General Electric.
“I hate having to use the first person. Nearly everything I’ve done in my life has been accomplished with other people. Please remember that every time you see the word I in these pages, it refers to all those colleagues, friends and some I might have missed.”
“True self-confidence is “the courage to be open — to welcome change and new ideas regardless of their source.” Real self-confidence is not reflected in a title, an expensive suit, a fancy car, or a series of acquisitions. It is reflected in your mindset: your readiness to grow.”
Chapter 6: Relationships: Mindsets In Love (Or Not)
This chapters discusses the course of true love and how people with different mindsets handle the absolutely inevitable “rocky patches” that all relationships have.
“When people had the fixed mindset, they felt judged and labeled by the rejection. Permanently labeled. It was as though a verdict had been handed down and branded on their foreheads: UNLOVABLE! And they lashed out. Because the fixed mindset gives them no recipe for healing their wounds, all they could do was hope to would the person who inflicted it.”
Chapter 7: Parents, Teachers and Coaches: Where Do Mindsets Come From?
This chapter discusses how parents, teachers and coaches can have positive and negative effects on mindsets.
A note about parents and teachers and obsession with intelligence and talent.
“After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance. Praise really does give them a boost, a special glow — but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom.”
Does that mean we should not praise our kids?
“Not at all. It just means that we should keep away from a certain kind of praise — praise that judges their intelligence or talent. Or praise that implies that we’re proud of them for their intelligence or talent rather than for the work they put in.”
What makes great teachers and parents? High standards and a nurturing environment.
“The great teachers believe in the growth of the intellect and talent, and they are fascinated with the process of learning.”
Coaches: Discipline vs. Preparation for Life, a story of Bobby Knight and John Wooden. Both of these coaches won national championships. However, Wooden won 10, Knight only won 1.
“Knight was incapable of accepting failure. Every defeat was personal; his team lost, a team he had selected and coached. Failure on any level destroyed him.”
“Wooden didn’t ask for mistake free games. He didn’t demand that his players never lose. He asked for full preparation and full effort from them. Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort? If so, you many be outscored but you will never lose.”
How do you pass on a growth mindset?
“Every single day parents are teaching their children whether mistakes, obstacles, and setbacks are bad things or good things. The parents who treat them as good things are more likely to pass on a growth mindset to their children.”
Chapter 8: Changing Mindsets
Like it or not, we’re all products of fixed and growth mindsets. Both come into play in various areas of our lives and at various times. Learning to change is difficult and unfortunately we’re not replacing an old skill with a new one.
“Even when you change, the old beliefs aren’t just removed like a worn-out hip or knee and replaced with better ones. Instead, the new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel and act.”