My youngest daughter Brooke turned 17 last week and received a new stereo for her Jeep. When I asked who was installing this new kickin sound system, I was told, “You are.” Oh boy. I’ve never been the go to guy for fixing, building or installing (and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night) but I have been learning this year that new experiences are learning opportunities. And the installation instructions said something like, “so easy a monkey could do it.” So I gave it a try. After unpacking the stereo, the antennae adapter, the steering wheel control connector, the hands free mic, the special tools needed, and an endless number of wires, this baboon was feeling a bit light headed.
I found a youtube video showing how easy this was and two hours later this 30 minute job was complete. I tested the stereo by turning the key one click and was overjoyed to hear sound pumping through the speakers. I tuned in to Brooke’s favorite country station, tightened the last screws, took a picture and sent my wife a text saying “Success.”
Thirty minutes later Brooke sends a text to my wife saying “my car won’t start.” &%$#@$%!
How do you respond when things don’t go your way? Sometimes you give your best effort and it’s not enough. Other times you are treated unfairly. Relationships that once showed great promise have turned south. You give a flawless sales presentation but there are no buyers. Stereo installations go horribly wrong.
There are two types of responses you can choose in such situations. The first is to conclude you are just not good at relationships or sales or electronics. The second is to determine to find out how you can do things differently and better the next time. The first response is a fixed mindset and the second is a growth mindset. Carol Dweck writes about these approaches in her wonderful book Mindset.
Dweck’s research shows that fixed mindset people gain their self worth from their success. This results in them only venturing into areas where they already feel confident. She points out that fixed mindset people can be highly successful, often because of natural talents. But when a person with a fixed mindset fails he blames someone else to avoid looking like a failure. John McEnroe is listed as having a fixed mindset. He was an amazing tennis player but is perhaps more well known for his tirades in the middle of matches.
Michael Jordan has a growth mindset. When he failed to make the varsity basketball team in High School he decided not to quit, but to work harder than anyone else to make it the next season. Even as a professional Jordan was often the first to arrive at practice and the last to leave. He took defeat as a challenge to get better. The record books and the championships say that he did just that.
Each of us is display some fixed and some growth mindset characteristics. A key to becoming all you can be is to continually feed your growth mindedness and reject fixed thinking. While Dweck doesn’t believe you can become anything you want, she does believes the potential of a growth minded person in unknowable. I might even become a stereo installer one day.
Where do you need to adopt a growth mindset this week? Where have you been feeling defeated? What would it look like if you looked at your challenge not as failure but as an opportunity to grow?