What do you think is the most important factor in achieving success and accomplishing our goals?
Hint: Externals are def at play here – our environment, resources, and access matter – I get that.
There is something we can control. And this something matters even more than the externals…
In college I dropped out (more accurately: flunked out) of Intro to Chemistry.
Each day I sat in the back of the classroom feeling like I wasn’t smart enough to figure it out, that science wasn’t my thing, and that I didn’t belong in that class. After about a month of that + two failed tests, I walked out of a lecture and never returned.
There was (and still is) a group of men in Kansas who spend their time reading and discussing books on science, philosophy, learning, and life.
They share their discoveries, write business plans, poetry, and even art of their own. They are learning machines.
These men, who are part of a reentry program called Brothers in Blue, live in Lansing State Penitentiary and I was at Duke University.
I was at a place literally designed for learning. My professor was renowned in the world of science. I had all of the tools and resources for learning at my fingertips – the Brothers in Blue do not.
We were in two different arenas but our mindsets made all of the difference – I believed that I couldn’t learn and the Brothers in Blue knew that they could.
Carol Dweck, a professor at Stanford, has been researching these mindsets for decades and what she’s discovered is so simple but so incredibly powerful:
First: She found that arguably the most important factor in achieving success, in any arena, is our capacity to learn grow and adapt.
Second: The key to becoming a great learner is our mindset and attitude towards learning. Her work shows that there are really two mindsets we can adopt: A fixed mindset or a growth mindset
Fixed mindset = A belief that skills are something that you’re born with, that you either have them or you don’t – that you can’t (or don’t have to) learn and grow.
Growth mindset = A belief that skills are built, that you can grow and develop them – that you can learn.
For those of you keeping score; I was operating in a fixed mindset in my chemistry class while the Brothers in Blue were running with a strong growth mindset on the inside – which is why they learned and why I didn’t.
These two mindsets have a powerful influence on our ability to learn – no matter where we are.
The proof is in both the research AND the applications.
Dweck did an important study with hundreds of 7th grade students from Chicago. First, they gave the students a mindset analysis to determine if they had a growth or fixed mindset when it came to math. Then, they simply tracked the students’ scores for two years. The results looked something like this:
I’ve had the honor of working with some pretty incredible groups through our workshops:
A computer company in Seattle
One of the biggest Fast-Casual restaurant chains
A MLB organization
An Italian company that makes really fast cars, and
Hundreds of schools and organizations across the country
Through these experiences it’s become clear that great learners (jungle tigers) can do serious damage in ANY arena. And the key to being a great learner is to first believe that you can.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not sitting here telling you that you just have to believe and then it magically happens. Our mindsets influence our behaviors, and it’s our action and behaviors that determine if we learn or not.
This video explains: