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Thursday, November 04, 2021

Review: Mindset - The Psychology of Success

 In recent years, you might have heard of or been encouraged to take a Growth Mindset. Well, Mindset is the book that kicked off this trend. To some extent, the book is similar in philosophy to something that I said about startup a few decades ago: "Your success as a startup is dependent on luck, market factors, and all sorts of vicissitudes you have no control over. However, you might as well plan for success, because if you planned for failure you will achieve it."

Similarly, the book basically eliminates discussion of fixed traits such as IQ, body shape, etc., but basically says: "you should plan as though there are no fixed traits, since no matter what traits you have, you can improve your success at a task through the right kind of work, and the evidence is that the people who approach life with this attitude are much more successful than the people who adopt the idea that their major attributes are fixed with no hope of changing them."

Put in those terms, the book is pretty much common sense. But there are several subtleties that I wouldn't have realized that the book points out. For instance, the book points out that women are much more dependent on external validation/evaluation of their performance than boys/men are:

Boys are constantly being scolded and punished. When we observed in grade school classrooms, we saw that boys got eight times more criticism than girls for their conduct. Boys are also constantly calling each other slobs and morons. The evaluations lose a lot of their power. (kindle loc 1344)

A male friend once called me a slob. He was over to dinner at my house and, while we were eating, I dripped some food on my blouse. “That’s because you’re such a slob,” he said. I was shocked. It was then that I realized no one had ever said anything like that to me. Males say it to each other all the time. It may not be a kind thing to say, even in jest, but it certainly makes them think twice before buying into other people’s evaluations. (kindle loc 1346)

That boys constantly "neg" each other actually gives them power --- control over how they view other people's opinions and evaluation. Similarly, Dweck points out there it's possible to have a fake growth mindset, where the focus isn't really on growth and personal improvement, but on external achievements --- she describes a high achieving high schooler who succumbs to ulcers and other health problems due to the pressure put upon her by her parents.

Dweck also points out that growth mindset is contextual. You might have a fixed mindset about your drawing abilities while adopting a growth mindset about your engineering skills. There's nothing wrong with that unless your approach percolates to your family and children, where they start emulating your mindset. Plenty of examples (long-winded, unfortunately) are scattered throughout the book to drive home her points.

I thought the book was worth reading, common sensical as it was, but maybe that's an indicator of how successful the book was --- you'll read it and kinda think well, of course! But as with everything else in life, adopting that common sense is much harder.


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