Josh Bavari's Thoughts

Thoughts on technology and philosophy

Mindset - Book Review

about a 13 minute read

I just finished reading Mindset: The psychology of success. I picked it up because it has been high on my list of books to read in the last year. The final driving point to read the book came after reading Switch: How to change things when change is hard.

I really enjoyed reading about the different mindsets we carry and how they affect our lives. The two main mindsets Dr. Dweck points out is the fixed and growth mindsets. What defines the fixed mindset is one of stasis. That stasis defines how the mind locks onto an idea and believes it is fixed in place. The growth mindset, however, is one that believes that growth came come with effort. An example here is intelligence. The fixed mindset believes one is born with a certain intelligence and it cannot change; the growth mindset believes with effort intelligence can blossom.

This book review will differ from my last, in that I’m adopting a new format that I picked up from Michael Lynch’s blog and his book reports section.

What I liked

  • Overall, the stories being shared about the mindsets and how they infiltrate our every actions.
  • The mindset you choose is paramount to your ability to grow and learn. If you think you know everything, you cannot learn anything.
  • Effort is more important than ability. Ability can be gained from effort. No one is born a surgeon.
  • The journey one can take to be more in the growth mindset more. Personally, I find myself in the fixed mindset sometimes. I’ve since labeled this fixed mindset persona, Bob. Now that I’m more aware, I can label Bob, I know when he comes out, and I can invite him to be more patient with me.
  • The many stories of John Wooden, Jack Welch, and other leaders who embodied the growth mindset and help pave a way for better leaders through the growth mindset.
  • Looking at others with compassion and knowing they may be facing their fixed-mindset persona in that moment.

What I didn’t like

  • The book exposing the parts of myself that fall into the fixed mindset. I didn’t like being labeled so clearly. It goes to show how important psychology is in our everyday life.

Key Takeaways

The Mindsets

  • A quote from the book: “it is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful’s not always the people who start out the smarteset who end up the smartest”.
  • “The hallmark of the growth mindset is the passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well”.

Inside the mindsets

  • “Believing that success is about learning, students with the growth mindset seized the chance. But those with the fixed mindset didn’t want to epose their deficiencies. Instead, to feel smart in the short run, they were willing to put their college careers at risk. This is how the fixed mindset makes people into nonlearners.”.
  • There was a popular phrase in the 1960s: ‘becoming is better than being’. I could use more of this reminder in my day to day life.
  • People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower.
  • There is nothing wrong with being ‘special’. The problem is when ‘special’ begins to mean ‘better than others’. A more valuable human being. A superior person. An entitled person.
  • Lurking behind the self-esteem of the fixed mindset is a simple question: “if you’re somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful?”
  • Even in the growth mindset, failure will still hurt. But it doesn’t define you – it’s a problem to be faced, dealth with, and learned from.
  • Even geniuses still have to work hard for their achievements. No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.
  • “Why is effort terrifying? Two reasons – one is that in the fixed mindset, great geniuses are not supposed to need it. So just needing it casts a shadow on your ability. The second is that, as Nadja suggests, it robs you of all your excuses. Without effort, you can always say, ‘I could have been [fill in the blanks]’”.

The truth about ability and accomplishment

  • In the fixed mindset, things are fixed forever. This is not true. The world is comprised of change at every moment. In the fixed mindset, a loser is forever.
  • A story shared here captures the spirit of this book: “All at once Jimmy – the most hard core turned-off low-effort kid in the group – looked up with tears in his eyes and said, ‘You mean I don’t have to be dumb?’ From that day on, he worked. He started staying up late to do his homework, which he never used to bother with at all.” Just having the mindset of growth can push us to apply effort.
  • From the book: “Is it ability or mindset? Was it Mozart’s musical ability or the fact that he worked till his hands were deformed? Was it Darwin’s scientific ability or the fact that he collected specimens nonstop from an early childhood?”
  • “Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training”
  • “Telling children they are smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim they were smarter. We don’t mean to rob others of their zest for challenge and recipe for success. But that’s the danger”
  • Labels can be dangerous. A story is shared that before tests, if students had to mark a checkbox of their label (say, african american) they were then set up with subconscious thoughts that harmed their achievements. Anything that could remind you of a stereotype could potentially rob you of your power. This doesn’t happen to everyone, however, mainly those who are in the fixed mindset. When people are in the growth mindset, the stereotype doesn’t disrupt their performance.
  • Try to find the tremendous effort tht went into others accomplishments – and admire them more for that.

Sports: The Mindset of a champion

  • A champion is someone who could raise their level of play when they needed to. When the match is on the line, they suddenly “get around three times tougher”.
  • Character is the ability to dig down and find the strength even when things are going against you.
  • An excerpt that hit me hard: “All of these people had character. None of them thought they were special people, born with the right to win. They were people who worked hard, who learned how to keep their focus under pressure, and who stretched beyond their ordinary abilities when they had to.”.
  • “How good you are at sports will always improve if you work harder at it.”
  • Mia Hamm tells us, “after every game or practice, if you walk off the field knowing that you gave everything you had, you will always be a winner.”
  • “Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. They’re informative. They’re a wake up call.”
  • Be aware of the somebody-nobody syndrome. “If I win, I’ll be somebody; if I lose, I’ll be nobody”. Worrying about being a nobody is not the mindset that motivates and sustains champions. Somebodies are not determined by whether they won or lost. Somebodies are people who go for it with all they have. If you go for it with all you have, you will already be a somebody.

Business: Mindset and Leadership

  • “The best leaders were ones not constantly trying to prove they’re better than others. They don’t highlight the pecking order with themselves at the top, they don’t claim credit for other people’s contributions, and they don’t undermine others to feel powerful”
  • Comparison leaders were typically concerned with their reputation for personal greatness, such so that they put companies up to fail after their regime ended. Collins put it: “After all, what better testament to your own personal greatness than that the place falls apart after you leave.”
  • The story here about Lee Iacocca, his time at Ford Motor Company, and his reign at the Chrystler corporation, where he rose and fall. His obsession with the fixed mindset and ‘being the person in charge’ drove him to ultimately be pushed out.
  • Dr Dweck highlights an excerpt from the book “Brutal Bosses”, that represents the kind of abuse of power via the bosses’ desire “to enhance their own feelings of power, competence, and value at the subordinate’s expense”. “These types of bosses have the power to make people worse off. And when they do, they feel better about themselves”
  • Fixed mindset bosses are most threatened by competent people, because they are the ones who pose the greatest threat to the boss.
  • “The minute a leader allows himself to become the primary reality people worry about, rather than reality being the primary reality, you have a recipe for mediocracy, or worse”
  • Dr. Dweck outlines a story of Jack Welch, CEO of GE, who would frequent the front-line employees to get a better story of what his employees were facing. By doing this, he was more in touch with the company and garnered more respect from his employees. Dr. Dweck also shares the story of Jack Welch as a young engineer at GE, where he caused a chemical explosion. He immediately drove the hundred miles ot the company headquarters to face the music and explain himself to the boss. When he got there, the treatment he got was understanding and supportive. Jack Welch stated, “Charlies reaction made a huge impression on me.. if we’re managing good people who are clearly eating themselves up over an error, our job is to help them through it.”. This type of leadership is the type of leadership I want to learn more of and act upon.
  • When leading a company, state that the company is about growth, not self-importance.
  • Companies should be in the business of “not crowning a few princes, we need to work as a team. Genius is not enough; we need to get the job done.”
  • Fixed mindset leaders are full of bitterness; growth mindset leaders are full of gratitude.
  • “Managers with a growth mindset think it’s nice to have talent, but that’s just the starting point. These managers are more committed to their employees’ development, and to their own.”
  • Look for managers that embody the growth mindset, and they will grow others as well.

Relationships: Mindsets in love

  • A good french quote: “Tout comprendre c’est tout pardoneer” – “To understand all is to forgive all”.
  • There is no such thing as a ‘no effort relationship’. “It takes great work to communicate accurately and it takes work to expose and resolve conflicting hopes and beliefs. It doesn’t mean there is no ‘they lived happily ever after’, but it’s more like, ‘they worked happily ever after’”.
  • “People with fixed mindsets see faults in their partners, become contemptuous of them and dissatisfied with the whole relationship. People with the growth mindset, on the other hand, can see their partners’ imperfections and still think they have a fine relationship.”
  • Couples that learned to respond to each other not with angry labels, but with helpful actions, were able to weather any storm.
  • Try to avoid thinking your partner is incapable of change. Once you do, nothing can improve the relationship.
  • Avoid people who make you feel bad about yourself.

Parents, teachers, and coaches

  • Try to plant the seed of the growth mindset in others; celebrate their efforts, downplay the ability.
  • Remember that when you compliment someone on their fixed ‘ability’, you may set them up for high expectations and trigger their fixed mindset thought patterns.
  • Stay away from praise that judges others intelligence or talent.
  • Drive home the idea that skills and achievement come through commitment and effort.
  • Help others see grades not as an end in themselves, but as means to continue to grow.
  • Focusing on others fixed traits worries them and makes them complicated; they then focus on maintaining the fixed traits instead of applying effort to grow.
  • “Compassion and consideration are the priorities of the highest order.”
  • Lessons here from the basketball coaches: Wooden – where people become “infected with success”. Pat Riley calls it the “disease of me” – “which is thinking one is the success and chucking the discipline and the work that got you there”. “Success lulls you. It makes the most ambitious of us complacent and sloppy.”
  • Be aware of success – it can knock you into the fixed mindset. The idea of “I won because I have talent. Therefore I will keep winning.”

Changing mindsets

  • CH 8 – Dr. Dweck outlines a system to gaining more of the growth mindset. The first is knowing that everyone has a mix of the fixed and growth mindsets already; we must all acknowledge that fact, welcome to the human race.
  • The second step is becoming aware of what triggers the fixed mindset persona.
  • The third step is to give your fixed mindset persona a name. Maybe it was someone in your earlier life. Maybe it was from a book or a movie.
  • The fourth step is to accept it and invite it along on your journey to grow. Thank it for it’s input, ask it to come along with you, allow it to subside. Accept that others have it and it may be a part of their struggles.
  • Look at others in a new light – maybe the times you think they are incompetent, stubborn, or defiant when they just don’t know how to function in the current conditions. Perhaps they are battling their fixed mindset personas at that time. Offer to help. Learn and help learn.
  • Continue to ask yourself, ‘what do I have to do to maintain and continue the growth?’