Author: Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D.
Dr. Dweck, on the basis of decades of research, asserts that the key to sustained success in any endeavor comes not from talent but from mindset. In the fixed mindset, one believes that our personal qualities can never change. We're only as intelligent as we're ever going to be. However, in the growth mindset, we believe that personal qualities can be developed over a lifetime. Some of the book documents her clinical studies but most of the text is devoted to anecdotal demonstrations of the two mindsets in action. The sections on education and parenting are the most obvious applications to my own line of work but Dweck also explores the worlds of business, sports and interpersonal relationships.
For me, the chapter on sports is the most fun. Throughout the book, John McEnroe - a tennis player notorious for extraordinary talent paired with terrible attitude and work ethic - is Dweck's punching bag for the fixed mindset. The more successful Pete Sampras is presented as an exemplar of the growth mindset. She also compares three Hall of Fame basketball coaches. Bob Knight is the tyrant, shaming his players when they fail to live up to his expectations and thereby threaten his own sense of self-worth (fixed mindset). John Wooden is the interpersonal master who won ten national titles over twelve years by investing in demanding but respectful relationships with all of his players, from all-time superstars like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton to the last guy on the bench (growth mindset). Pat Summitt is the extraordinary leader behind Tennessee's Lady Vols, one of the most successful programs in women's college ball. She started off in the fixed mindset but found greater success once she embraced the growth mindset.
Summitt's experience is really the whole point of the book. Most people live with a combination of both mindsets rather than one or the other. The growth mindset is something we can learn. By doing so, we can find greater success and meaning in any endeavor.
I have read better-written books, though not many that make me think so deeply. I expect I'll keep Mindset handy as I approach my relationship with my daughter, my job, my own personal goals, perhaps even the 2016 election. I'd like to believe that I have more of a growth mindset than a fixed one but I know better than to believe that I always do. I am grateful for having been "forced" to read the book. I hope my colleagues will give it a chance. I'm even thinking of sending copies to my extended family.