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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success / (by Carol Dweck, 2010) -

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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success /   (by Carol Dweck, 2010) -

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success / . (by Carol Dweck, 2010) -

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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success / (by Carol Dweck, 2010) -
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2010
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Carol Dweck
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Marguerite Gavin
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upper-intermediate
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08:34:50
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64 kbps
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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success / . :

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INTRODUCTION One day, my students sat me down and ordered me to write this book. They wanted people to be able to use our work to make their lives better. It was something Id wanted to do for a long time, but it became my number one priority. My work is part of a tradition in psychology that shows the power of peoples beliefs. These may be beliefs were aware of or unaware of, but they strongly affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it. This tradition also shows how changing peoples beliefseven the simplest beliefscan have profound effects. In this book, youll learn how a simple belief about yourselfa belief we discovered in our researchguides a large part of your life. In fact, it permeates every part of your life. Much of what you think of as your personality actually grows out of this mindset. Much of what may be preventing you from fulfilling your potential grows out of it. No book has ever explained this mindset and shown people how to make use of it in their lives. Youll suddenly understand the greatsin the sciences and arts, in sports, and in businessand the would-have-beens. Youll understand your mate, your boss, your friends, your kids. Youll see how to unleash your potentialand your childrens. It is my privilege to share my findings with you. Besides accounts of people from my research, Ive filled each chapter with stories both ripped from the headlines and based on my own life and experience, so you can see the mindsets in action. (In most cases, names and personal information have been changed to preserve anonymity; in some cases, several people have been condensed into one to make a clearer point. A number of the exchanges are re-created from memory, and I have rendered them to the best of my ability.) At the end of each chapter and throughout the last chapter, I show you ways to apply the lessonsways to recognize the mindset that is guiding your life, to understand how it works, and to change it if you wish. A little note about grammar. I know it and I love it, but I havent always followed it in this book. I start sentences with ands and buts. I end sentences with prepositions. I use the plural they in contexts that require the singular he or she. Ive done this for informality and immediacy, and I hope that the sticklers will forgive me. A little note on this updated edition. I felt it was important to add new information to some of the chapters. I added our new study on organizational mindsets to chapter 5 (Business). Yes, a whole organization can have a mindset! I added a new section on false growth mindset to chapter 7 (Parents, Teachers, and Coaches) after I learned about the many creative ways people were interpreting and implementing the growth mindset, not always accurately. And I added The Journey to a (True) Growth Mindset to chapter 8 (Changing Mindsets) because many people have asked for more information on how to take that journey. I hope these updates are helpful. Id like to take this chance to thank all of the people who made my research and this book possible. My students have made my research career a complete joy. I hope theyve learned as much from me as Ive learned from them. Id also like to thank the organizations that supported our research: the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Education, the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the Spencer Foundation, and the Raikes Foundation. The people at Random House have been the most encouraging team I could wish for: Webster Younce, Daniel Menaker, Tom Perry, and, most of all, Caroline Sutton and Jennifer Hershey, my editors. Your excitement about my book and your great suggestions have made all the difference. I thank my superb agent, Giles Anderson, as well as Heidi Grant for putting me in touch with him. Thanks to all the people who gave me input and feedback, but special thanks to Polly Shulman, Richard Dweck, and Maryann Peshkin for their extensive and insightful comments. Finally, I thank my husband, David, for the love and enthusiasm that give my life an extra dimension. His support throughout this project was extraordinary. My work has been about growth, and it has helped foster my own growth. It is my wish that it will do the same for you. Chapter 1 THE MINDSETS When I was a young researcher, just starting out, something happened that changed my life. I was obsessed with understanding how people cope with failures, and I decided to study it by watching how students grapple with hard problems. So I brought children one at a time to a room in their school, made them comfortable, and then gave them a series of puzzles to solve. The first ones were fairly easy, but the next ones were hard. As the students grunted, perspired, and toiled, I watched their strategies and probed what they were thinking and feeling. I expected differences among children in how they coped with the difficulty, but I saw something I never expected. Confronted with the hard puzzles, one ten-year-old boy pulled up his chair, rubbed his hands together, smacked his lips, and cried out, I love a challenge! Another, sweating away on these puzzles, looked up with a pleased expression and said with authority, You know, I was hoping this would be informative! Whats wrong with them? I wondered. I always thought you coped with failure or you didnt cope with failure. I never thought anyone loved failure. Were these alien children or were they on to something? Everyone has a role model, someone who pointed the way at a critical moment in their lives. These children were my role models. They obviously knew something I didnt and I was determined to figure it outto understand the kind of mindset that could turn a failure into a gift. What did they know? They knew that human qualities, such as intellectual skills, could be cultivated. And thats what they were doinggetting smarter. Not only werent they discouraged by failure, they didnt even think they were failing. They thought they were learning. I, on the other hand, thought human qualities were carved in stone. You were smart or you werent, and failure meant you werent. It was that simple. If you could arrange successes and avoid failures (at all costs), you could stay smart. Struggles, mistakes, perseverance were just not part of this picture. Whether human qualities are things that can be cultivated or things that are carved in stone is an old issue. What these beliefs mean for you is a new one: What are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait? Lets first look in on the age-old, fiercely waged debate about human nature and then return to the question of what these beliefs mean for you. WHY DO PEOPLE DIFFER? Since the dawn of time, people have thought differently, acted differently, and fared differently from each other. It was guaranteed that someone would ask the question of why people differedwhy some people are smarter or more moraland whether there was something that made them permanently different. Experts lined up on both sides. Some claimed that there was a strong physical basis for these differences, making them unavoidable and unalterable. Through the ages, these alleged physical differences have included bumps on the skull (phrenology), the size and shape of the skull (craniology), and, today, genes. Others pointed to the strong differences in peoples backgrounds, experiences, training, or ways of learning. It may surprise you to know that a big champion of this view was Alfred Binet, the inventor of the IQ test. Wasnt the IQ test meant to summarize childrens unchangeable intelligence? In fact, no. Binet, a Frenchman working in Paris in the early twentieth century, designed this test to identify children who were not profiting from the Paris public schools, so that new educational programs could be designed to get them back on track. Without denying individual differences in childrens intellects, he believed that education and practice could bring about fundamental changes in intelligence. Here is a quote from one of his major books, Modern Ideas About Children, in which he summarizes his work with hundreds of children with learning difficulties: A few modern philosophersassert that an individuals intelligence is a fixed quantity, a quantity which cannot be increased. We must protest and react against this brutal pessimism.With practice, training, and above all, method, we manage to increase our attention, our memory, our judgment and literally to become more intelligent than we were before. Whos right? Today most experts agree that its not eitheror. Its not nature or nurture, genes or environment. From conception on, theres a constant give-and-take between the two. In fact, as Gilbert Gottlieb, an eminent neuroscientist, put it, not only do genes and environment cooperate as we develop, but genes require input from the environment to work properly. At the same time, scientists are learning that people have more capacity for lifelong learning and brain development than they ever thought. Of course, each person has a unique genetic endowment. People may start with different temperaments and different aptitudes, but it is clear that experience, training, and personal effort take them the rest of the way. Robert Sternberg, the present-day guru of intelligence, writes that the major factor in whether people achieve expertise is not some fixed prior ability, but purposeful engagement. Or, as his forerunner Binet recognized, its not always the people who start out the smartest who end up the smartest. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN FOR YOU? THE TWO MINDSETS Its one thing to have pundits spouting their opinions about scientific issues. Its another thing to understand how these views apply to you. For thirty years, my research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life. It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value. How does this happen? How can a simple belief have the power to transform your psychology and, as a result, your life? Believing that your qualities are carved in stonethe fixed mindsetcreates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you have only a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral characterwell, then youd better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldnt do to look or feel deficient in these most basic characteristics. Some of us are trained in this mindset from an early age. Even as a child, I was focused on being smart, but the fixed mindset was really stamped in by Mrs. Wilson, my sixth-grade teacher. Unlike Alfred Binet, she believed that peoples IQ scores told the whole story of who they were. We were seated around the room in IQ order, and only the highest-IQ students could be trusted to carry the flag, clap the erasers, or take a note to the principal. Aside from the daily stomachaches she provoked with her judgmental stance, she was creating a mindset in which everyone in the class had one consuming goallook smart, dont look dumb. Who cared about or enjoyed learning when our whole being was at stake every time she gave us a test or called on us in class? Ive seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselvesin the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser? But doesnt our society value intelligence, personality, and character? Isnt it normal to want these traits? Yes, but Theres another mindset in which these traits are not simply a hand youre dealt and have to live with, always trying to convince yourself and others that you have a royal flush when youre secretly worried its a pair of tens. In this mindset, the hand youre dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, your strategies, and help from others. Although people may differ in every which wayin their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperamentseveryone can change and grow through application and experience. Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a persons true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that its impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training. Did you know that Darwin and Tolstoy were considered ordinary children? That Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers of all time, was completely uncoordinated and graceless as a child? That the photographer Cindy Sherman, who has been on virtually every list of the most important artists of the twentieth century, failed her first photography course? That Geraldine Page, one of our greatest actresses, was advised to give it up for lack of talent? You can see how the belief that cherished qualities can be developed creates a passion for learning. Why waste time proving over and over how great you are, when you could be getting better? Why hide deficiencies instead of overcoming them? Why look for friends or partners who will just shore up your self-esteem instead of ones who will also challenge you to grow? And why seek out the tried and true, instead of experiences that will stretch you? The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when its not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives. A VIEW FROM THE TWO MINDSETS To give you a better sense of how the two mindsets work, imagineas vividly as you canthat you are a young adult having a really bad day: One day, you go to a class that is really important to you and that you like a lot. The professor returns the midterm papers to the class. You got a C . Youre very disappointed. That evening on the way back to your home, you find that youve gotten a parking ticket. Being really frustrated, you call your best friend to share your experience but are sort of brushed off. What would you think? What would you feel? What would you do? When I asked people with the fixed mindset, this is what they said: Id feel like a reject. Im a total failure. Im an idiot. Im a loser. Id feel worthless and dumbeveryones better than me. Im slime. In other words, theyd see what happened as a direct measure of their competence and worth. This is what theyd think about their lives: My life is pitiful. I have no life. Somebody upstairs doesnt like me. The world is out to get me. Someone is out to destroy me. Nobody loves me, everybody hates me. Life is unfair and all efforts are useless. Life stinks. Im stupid. Nothing good ever happens to me. Im the most unlucky person on this earth. Excuse me, was there death and destruction, or just a grade, a ticket, and a bad phone call? Are these just people with low self-esteem? Or card-carrying pessimists? No. When they arent coping with failure, they feel just as worthy and optimisticand bright and attractiveas people with the growth mindset. So how would they cope? I wouldnt bother to put so much time and effort into doing well in anything. (In other words, dont let anyone measure you again.) Do nothing. Stay in bed. Get drunk. Eat. Yell at someone if I get a chance to. Eat chocolate. Listen to music and pout. Go into my closet and sit there. Pick a fight with somebody. Cry. Break something. What is there to do? What is there to do! You know, when I wrote the vignette, I intentionally made the grade a C , not an F. It was a midterm rather than a final. It was a parking ticket, not a car wreck. They were sort of brushed off, not rejected outright. Nothing catastrophic or irreversible happened. Yet from this raw material the fixed mindset created the feeling of utter failure and paralysis. When I gave people with the growth mindset the same vignette, heres what they said. Theyd think: I need to try harder in class, be more careful when parking the car, and wonder if my friend had a bad day. The C would tell me that Id have to work a lot harder in the class, but I have the rest of the semester to pull up my grade. There were many, many more like this, but I think you get the idea. Now, how would they cope? Directly. Id start thinking about studying harder (or studying in a different way) for my next test in that class, Id pay the ticket, and Id work things out with my best friend the next time we speak. Id look at what was wrong on my exam, resolve to do better, pay my parking ticket, and call my friend to tell her I was upset the day before. Work hard on my next paper, speak to the teacher, be more careful where I park or contest the ticket, and find out whats wrong with my friend. You dont have to have one mindset or the other to be upset. Who wouldnt be? Things like a poor grade or a rebuff from a friend or loved onethese are not fun events. No one was smacking their lips with relish. Yet those people with the growth mindset were not labeling themselves and throwing up their hands. Even though they felt distressed, they were ready to take the risks, confront the challenges, and keep working at them. SO, WHATS NEW? Is this such a novel idea? We have lots of sayings that stress the importance of risk and the power of persistence, such as Nothing ventured, nothing gained and If at first you dont succeed, try, try again or Rome wasnt built in a day. (By the way, I was delighted to learn that the Italians have the same expression.) What is truly amazing is that people with the fixed mindset would not agree. For them, its Nothing ventured, nothing lost. If at first you dont succeed, you probably dont have the ability. If Rome wasnt built in a day, maybe it wasnt meant to be. In other words, risk and effort are two things that might reveal your inadequacies and show that you were not up to the task. In fact, its startling to see the degree to which people with the fixed mindset do not believe in putting in effort or getting help. Whats also new is that peoples ideas about risk and effort grow out of their more basic mindset. Its not just that some people happen to recognize the value of challenging themselves and the importance of effort. Our research has shown that this comes directly from the growth mindset. When we teach people the growth mindset, with its focus on development, these ideas about challenge and effort follow. Similarly, its not just that some people happen to dislike challenge and effort. When we (temporarily) put people in a fixed mindset, with its focus on permanent traits, they quickly fear challenge and devalue effort. We often see books with titles like The Ten Secrets of the Worlds Most Successful People crowding the shelves of bookstores, and these books may give many useful tips. But theyre usually a list of unconnected pointers, like Take more risks! or Believe in yourself! While youre left admiring people who can do that, its never clear how these things fit together or how you could ever become that way. So youre inspired for a few days, but basically the worlds most successful people still have their secrets. Instead, as you begin to understand the fixed and growth mindsets, you will see exactly how one thing leads to anotherhow a belief that your qualities are carved in stone leads to a host of thoughts and actions, and how a belief that your qualities can be cultivated leads to a host of different thoughts and actions, taking you down an entirely different road. Its what we psychologists call an Aha! experience. Not only have I seen this in my research when we teach people a new mindset, but I get letters all the time from people who have read my work. They recognize themselves: As I read your article I literally found myself saying over and over again, This is me, this is me! They see the connections: Your article completely blew me away. I felt I had discovered the secret of the universe! They feel their mindsets reorienting: I can certainly report a kind of personal revolution happening in my own thinking, and this is an exciting feeling. And they can put this new thinking into practice for themselves and others: Your work has allowed me to transform my work with children and see education through a different lens, or I just wanted to let you know what an impacton a personal and practical levelyour outstanding research has had for hundreds of students. I get lots of these letters from coaches and business leaders, too. SELF-INSIGHT: WHO HAS ACCURATE VIEWS OF THEIR ASSETS AND LIMITATIONS? Well, maybe the people with the growth mindset dont think theyre Einstein or Beethoven, but arent they more likely to have inflated views of their abilities and try for things theyre not capable of? In fact, studies show that people are terrible at estimating their abilities. Recently, we set out to see who is most likely to do this. Sure, we found that people greatly misestimated their performance and their ability. But it was those with the fixed mindset who accounted for almost all the inaccuracy. The people with the growth mindset were amazingly accurate. When you think about it, this makes sense. If, like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then youre open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if its unflattering. Whats more, if youre oriented toward learning, as they are, you need accurate information about your current abilities in order to learn effectively. However, if everything is either good news or bad news about your precious traitsas it is with fixed-mindset peopledistortion almost inevitably enters the picture. Some outcomes are magnified, others are explained away, and before you know it you dont know yourself at all. Howard Gardner, in his book Extraordinary Minds, concluded that exceptional individuals have a special talent for identifying their own strengths and weaknesses. Its interesting that those with the growth mindset seem to have that talent. WHATS IN STORE The other thing exceptional people seem to have is a special talent for converting lifes setbacks into future successes. Creativity researchers concur. In a poll of 143 creativity researchers, there was wide agreement about the number one ingredient in creative achievement. And it was exactly the kind of perseverance and resilience produced by the growth mindset. You may be asking again, How can one belief lead to all thisthe love of challenge, belief in effort, resilience in the face of setbacks, and greater (more creative!) success? In the chapters that follow, youll see exactly how this happens: how the mindsets change what people strive for and what they see as success. How they change the definition, significance, and impact of failure. And how they change the deepest meaning of effort. Youll see how these mindsets play out in school, in sports, in the workplace, and in relationships. Youll see where they come from and how they can be changed. Grow Your Mindset Which mindset do you have? Answer these questions about intelligence. Read each statement and decide whether you mostly agree with it or disagree with it. 1. Your intelligence is something very basic about you that you cant change very much. 2. You can learn new things, but you cant really change how intelligent you are. 3. No matter how much intelligence you have, you can always change it quite a bit. 4. You can always substantially change how intelligent you are. Questions 1 and 2 are the fixed-mindset questions. Questions 3 and 4 reflect the growth mindset. Which mindset did you agree with more? You can be a mixture, but most people lean toward one or the other. You also have beliefs about other abilities. You could substitute artistic talent, sports ability, or business skill for intelligence. Try it. Its not only your abilities; its your personal qualities too. Look at these statements about personality and character and decide whether you mostly agree or mostly disagree with each one. 1. You are a certain kind of person, and there is not much that can be done to really change that. 2. No matter what kind of person you are, you can always change substantially. 3. You can do things differently, but the important parts of who you are cant really be changed. 4. You can always change basic things about the kind of person you are. Here, questions 1 and 3 are the fixed-mindset questions and questions 2 and 4 reflect the growth mindset. Which did you agree with more? Did it differ from your intelligence mindset? It can. Your intelligence mindset comes into play when situations involve mental ability. Your personality mindset comes into play in situations that involve your personal qualitiesfor example, how dependable, cooperative, caring, or socially skilled you are. The fixed mindset makes you concerned with how youll be judged; the growth mindset makes you concerned with improving. Here are some more ways to think about mindsets: Think about someone you know who is steeped in the fixed mindset. Think about how theyre always trying to prove themselves and how theyre supersensitive about being wrong or making mistakes. Did you ever wonder why they were this way? (Are you this way?) Now you can begin to understand why. Think about someone you know who is skilled in the growth mindsetsomeone who understands that important qualities can be cultivated. Think about the ways they confront obstacles. Think about the things they do to stretch themselves. What are some ways you might like to change or stretch yourself? Okay, now imagine youve decided to learn a new language and youve signed up for a class. A few sessions into the course, the instructor calls you to the front of the room and starts throwing questions at you one after another. Put yourself in a fixed mindset. Your ability is on the line. Can you feel everyones eyes on you? Can you see the instructors face evaluating you? Feel the tension, feel your ego bristle and waver. What else are you thinking and feeling? Now put yourself in a growth mindset. Youre a novicethats why youre here. Youre here to learn. The teacher is a resource for learning. Feel the tension leave you; feel your mind open up. The message is: You can change your mindset. Chapter 2 INSIDE THE MINDSETS When I was a young woman, I wanted a prince-like mate. Very handsome, very successful. A big cheese. I wanted a glamorous career, but nothing too hard or risky. And I wanted it all to come to me as validation of who I was. It would be many years before I was satisfied. I got a great guy, but he was a work in progress. I have a great career, but boy, is it a constant challenge. Nothing was easy. So why am I satisfied? I changed my mindset. I changed it because of my work. One day my doctoral student, Mary Bandura, and I were trying to understand why some students were so caught up in proving their ability, while others could just let go and learn. Suddenly we realized that there were two meanings to ability, not one: a fixed ability that needs to be proven, and a changeable ability that can be developed through learning. Thats how the mindsets were born. I knew instantly which one I had. I realized why Id always been so concerned about mistakes and failures. And I recognized for the first time that I had a choice. When you enter a mindset, you enter a new world. In one worldthe world of fixed traitssuccess is about proving youre smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the otherthe world of changing qualitiesits about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself. In one world, failure is about having a setback. Getting a bad grade. Losing a tournament. Getting fired. Getting rejected. It means youre not smart or talented. In the other world, failure is about not growing. Not reaching for the things you value. It means youre not fulfilling your potential. In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means youre not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldnt need effort. In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented. You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs. Theyre powerful beliefs, but theyre just something in your mind, and you can change your mind. As you read, think about where youd like to go and which mindset will take you there. IS SUCCESS ABOUT LEARNINGOR PROVING YOURE SMART? Benjamin Barber, an eminent political theorist, once said, I dont divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures.I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners. What on earth would make someone a nonlearner? Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn. Infants stretch their skills daily. Not just ordinary skills, but the most difficult tasks of a lifetime, like learning to walk and talk. They never decide its too hard or not worth the effort. Babies dont worry about making mistakes or humiliating themselves. They walk, they fall, they get up. They just barge forward. What could put an end to this exuberant learning? The fixed mindset. As soon as children become able to evaluate themselves, some of them become afraid of challenges. They become afraid of not being smart. I have studied thousands of people from preschoolers on, and its breathtaking how many reject an opportunity to learn. We offered four-year-olds a choice: They could redo an easy jigsaw puzzle or they could try a harder one. Even at this tender age, children with the fixed mindsetthe ones who believed in fixed traitsstuck with the safe one. Kids who are born smart dont do mistakes, they told us. Children with the growth mindsetthe ones who believed you could get smarterthought it was a strange choice. Why are you asking me this, lady? Why would anyone want to keep doing the same puzzle over and over? They chose one hard one after another. Im dying to figure them out! exclaimed one little girl. So children with the fixed mindset want to make sure they succeed. Smart people should always succeed. But for children with the growth mindset, success is about stretching themselves. Its about becoming smarter. One seventh-grade girl summed it up. I think intelligence is something you have to work forit isnt just given to you.Most kids, if theyre not sure of an answer, will not raise their hand to answer the question. But what I usually do is raise my hand, because if Im wrong, then my mistake will be corrected. Or I will raise my hand and say, How would this be solved? or I dont get this. Can you help me? Just by doing that Im increasing my intelligence. Beyond Puzzles Its one thing to pass up a puzzle. Its another to pass up an opportunity thats important to your future. To see if this would happen, we took advantage of an unusual situation. At the University of Hong Kong, everything is in English. Classes are in English, textbooks are in English, and exams are in English. But some students who enter the university are not fluent in English, so it would make sense for them to do something about it in a hurry. As students arrived to register for their freshman year, we knew which ones were not skilled in English. And we asked them a key question: If the faculty offered a course for students who need to improve their English skills, would you take it? We also measured their mindset. We did this by asking them how much they agreed with statements like this: You have a certain amount of intelligence, and you cant really do much to change it. People who agree with this kind of statement lean toward a fixed mindset. Those who lean toward a growth mindset agree that: You can always substantially change how intelligent you are. Later, we looked at who said yes to the English course. Students with the growth mindset said an emphatic yes. But those with the fixed mindset were not very interested. Believing that success is about learning, students with the growth mindset seized the chance. But those with the fixed mindset didnt want to expose 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. Brain Waves Tell the Story You can even see the difference in peoples brain waves. People with both mindsets came into our brain-wave lab at Columbia. As they answered hard questions and got feedback, we were curious about when their brain waves would show them to be interested and attentive. People with a fixed mindset were only interested when the feedback reflected on their ability. Their brain waves showed them paying close attention when they were told whether their answers were right or wrong. But when they were presented with information that could help them learn, there was no sign of interest. Even when theyd gotten an answer wrong, they were not interested in learning what the right answer was. Only people with a growth mindset paid close attention to information that could stretch their knowledge. Only for them was learning a priority. Whats Your Priority? If you had to choose, which would it be? Loads of success and validation or lots of challenge? Its not just on intellectual tasks that people have to make these choices. People also have to decide what kinds of relationships they want: ones that bolster their egos or ones that challenge them to grow? Who is your ideal mate? We put this question to young adults, and heres what they told us. People with the fixed mindset said the ideal mate would: Put them on a pedestal. Make them feel perfect. Worship them. In other words, the perfect mate would enshrine their fixed qualities. My husband says that he used to feel this way, that he wanted to be the god of a one-person (his partners) religion. Fortunately, he chucked this idea before he met me. People with the growth mindset hoped for a different kind of partner. They said their ideal mate was someone who would: See their faults and help them to work on them. Challenge them to become a better person. Encourage them to learn new things. Certainly, they didnt want people who would pick on them or undermine their self-esteem, but they did want people who would foster their development. They didnt assume they were fully evolved, flawless beings who had nothing more to learn. Are you already thinking, Uh-oh, what if two people with different mindsets get together? A growth-mindset woman tells about her marriage to a fixed-mindset man: I had barely gotten all the rice out of my hair when I began to realize I made a big mistake. Every time I said something like Why dont we try to go out a little more? or Id like it if you consulted me before making decisions, he was devastated. Then instead of talking about the issue I raised, Id have to spend literally an hour repairing the damage and making him feel good again. Plus he would then run to the phone to call his mother, who always showered him with the constant adoration he seemed to need. We were both young and new at marriage. I just wanted to communicate. So the husbands idea of a successful relationshiptotal, uncritical acceptancewas not the wifes. And the wifes idea of a successful relationshipconfronting problemswas not the husbands. One persons growth was the other persons nightmare. CEO Disease Speaking of reigning from atop a pedestal and wanting to be seen as perfect, you wont be surprised that this is often called CEO disease. Lee Iacocca had a bad case of it. After his initial success as head of Chrysler Motors, Iacocca looked remarkably like our four-year-olds with the fixed mindset. He kept bringing out the same car models over and over with only superficial changes. Unfortunately, they were models no one wanted anymore. Meanwhile, Japanese companies were completely rethinking what cars should look like and how they should run. We know how this turned out. The Japanese cars rapidly swept the market. CEOs face this choice all the time. Should they confront their shortcomings or should they create a world where they have none? Lee Iacocca chose the latter. He surrounded himself with worshipers, exiled the criticsand quickly lost touch with where his field was going. Lee Iacocca had become a nonlearner. But not everyone catches CEO disease. Many great leaders confront their shortcomings on a regular basis. Darwin Smith, looking back on his extraordinary performance at Kimberly-Clark, declared, I never stopped trying to be qualified for the job. These men, like the Hong Kong students with the growth mindset, never stopped taking the remedial course. CEOs face another dilemma. They can choose short-term strategies that boost the companys stock and make themselves look like heroes. Or they can work for long-term improvementrisking Wall Streets disapproval as they lay the foundation for the health and growth of the company over the longer haul. Albert Dunlap, a self-professed fixed mindsetter, was brought in to turn around Sunbeam. He chose the short-term strategy of looking like a hero to Wall Street. The stock soared but the company fell apart. Lou Gerstner, an avowed growth mindsetter, was called in to turn around IBM. As he set about the enormous task of overhauling IBM culture and policies, stock prices were stagnant and Wall Street sneered. They called him a failure. A few years later, however, IBM was leading its field again. Stretching People in a growth mindset dont just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow. Mia Hamm, the greatest female soccer star of her time, says it straight out. All my life Ive been playing up, meaning Ive challenged myself with players older, bigger, more skillful, more experiencedin short, better than me. First she played with her older brother. Then at ten, she joined the eleven-year-old boys team. Then she threw herself into the number one college team in the United States. Each day I attempted to play up to their leveland I was improving faster than I ever dreamed possible. Patricia Miranda was a chubby, unathletic high school kid who wanted to wrestle. After a bad beating on the mat, she was told, Youre a joke. First she cried, then she felt: That really set my resolveI had to keep going and had to know if effort and focus and belief and training could somehow legitimize me as a wrestler. Where did she get this resolve? Miranda was raised in a life devoid of challenge. But when her mother died of an aneurysm at age forty, ten-year-old Miranda came up with a principle. When youre lying on your deathbed, one of the cool things to say is, I really explored myself. This sense of urgency was instilled when my mom died. If you only go through life doing stuff thats easy, shame on you. So when wrestling presented a challenge, she was ready to take it on. Her effort paid off. At twenty-four, Miranda was having the last laugh. She won the spot for her weight group on the U.S. Olympic team and came home from Athens with a bronze medal. And what was next? Yale Law School. People urged her to stay where she was already on top, but Miranda felt it was more exciting to start at the bottom again and see what she could grow into this time. Stretching Beyond the Possible Sometimes people with the growth mindset stretch themselves so far that they do the impossible. In 1995, Christopher Reeve, the actor, was thrown from a horse. His neck was broken, his spinal cord was severed from his brain, and he was completely paralyzed below the neck. Medical science said, So sorry. Come to terms with it. Reeve, however, started a demanding exercise program that involved moving all parts of his paralyzed body with the help of electrical stimulation. Why couldnt he learn to move again? Why couldnt his brain once again give commands that his body would obey? Doctors warned that he was in denial and was setting himself up for disappointment. They had seen this before and it was a bad sign for his adjustment. But, really, what else was Reeve doing with his time? Was there a better project? Five years later, Reeve started to regain movement. First it happened in his hands, then his arms, then legs, and then torso. He was far from cured, but brain scans showed that his brain was once more sending signals to his body that the body was responding to. Not only did Reeve stretch his abilities, he changed the entire way science thinks about the nervous system and its potential for recovery. In doing so, he opened a whole new vista for research and a whole new avenue of hope for people with spinal cord injuries. Thriving on the Sure Thing Clearly, people with the growth mindset thrive when theyre stretching themselves. When do people with the fixed mindset thrive? When things are safely within their grasp. If things get too challengingwhen theyre not feeling smart or talentedthey lose interest. I watched it happen as we followed pre-med students through their first semester of chemistry. For many students, this is what their lives have led up to: becoming a doctor. And this is the course that decides who gets to be one. Its one heck of a hard course, too. The average grade on each exam is C , for students whove rarely seen anything less than an A. Most students started out pretty interested in chemistry. Yet over the semester, something happened. Students with the fixed mindset stayed interested only when they did well right away. Those who found it difficult showed a big drop in their interest and enjoyment. If it wasnt a testimony to their intelligence, they couldnt enjoy it. The harder it gets, reported one student, the more I have to force myself to read the book and study for the tests. I was excited about chemistry before, but now every time I think about it, I get a bad feeling in my stomach. In contrast, students with the growth mindset continued to show the same high level of interest even when they found the work very challenging. Its a lot more difficult for me than I thought it would be, but its what I want to do, so that only makes me more determined. When they tell me I cant, it really gets me going. Challenge and interest went hand in hand. We saw the same thing in younger students. We gave fifth graders intriguing puzzles, which they all loved. But when we made them harder, children with the fixed mindset showed a big plunge in enjoyment. They also changed their minds about taking some home to practice. Its okay, you can keep them. I already have them, fibbed one child. In fact, they couldnt run from them fast enough. This was just as true for children who were the best puzzle solvers. Having puzzle talent did not prevent the decline. Children with the growth mindset, on the other hand, couldnt tear themselves away from the hard problems. These were their favorites and these were the ones they wanted to take home. Could you write down the name of these puzzles, one child asked, so my mom can buy me some more when these ones run out? Not long ago I was interested to read about Marina Semyonova, a great Russian dancer and teacher, who devised a novel way of selecting her students. It was a clever test for mindset. As a former student tells it, Her students first have to survive a trial period while she watches to see how you react to praise and to correction. Those more responsive to the correction are deemed worthy. In other words, she separates the ones who get their thrill from whats easywhat theyve already masteredfrom those who get their thrill from whats hard. Ill never forget the first time I heard myself say, This is hard. This is fun. Thats the moment I knew I was changing mindsets. When Do You Feel Smart: When Youre Flawless or When Youre Learning? The plot is about to thicken, for in the fixed mindset its not enough just to succeed. Its not enough just to look smart and talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away. We asked people, ranging from grade schoolers to young adults, When do you feel smart? The differences were striking. People with the fixed mindset said: Its when I dont make any mistakes. When I finish something fast and its perfect. When something is easy for me, but other people cant do it. Its about being perfect right now. But people with the growth mindset said: When its really hard, and I try really hard, and I can do something I couldnt do before. Or [When] I work on something a long time and I start to figure it out. For them its not about immediate perfection. Its about learning something over time: confronting a challenge and making progress. If You Have Ability, Why Should You Need Learning? Actually, people with the fixed mindset expect ability to show up on its own, before any learning takes place. After all, if you have it you have it, and if you dont you dont. I see this all the time. Out of all the applicants from all over the world, my department at Columbia admitted six new graduate students a year. They all had amazing test scores, nearly perfect grades, and rave recommendations from eminent scholars. Moreover, theyd been courted by the top grad schools. It took one day for some of them to feel like complete imposters. Yesterday they were hotshots; today theyre failures. Heres what happens. They look at the faculty with our long list of publications. Oh my God, I cant do that. They look at the advanced students who are submitting articles for publication and writing grant proposals. Oh my God, I cant do that. They know how to take tests and get As but they dont know how to do thisyet. They forget the yet. Isnt that what school is for, to teach? Theyre there to learn how to do these things, not because they already know everything. I wonder if this is what happened to Janet Cooke and Stephen Glass. They were both young reporters who skyrocketed to the topon fabricated articles. Janet Cooke won a Pulitzer Prize for her Washington Post articles about an eight-year-old boy who was a drug addict. The boy did not exist, and she was later stripped of her prize. Stephen Glass was the whiz kid of The New Republic, who seemed to have stories and sources reporters only dream of. The sources did not exist and the stories were not true. Did Janet Cooke and Stephen Glass need to be perfect right away? Did they feel that admitting ignorance would discredit them with their colleagues? Did they feel they should already be like the big-time reporters before they did the hard work of learning how? We were starsprecocious stars, wrote Stephen Glass, and that was what mattered. The public understands them as cheats, and cheat they did. But I understand them as talented young peopledesperate young peoplewho succumbed to the pressures of the fixed mindset. There was a saying in the 1960s that went: Becoming is better than being. The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming. They have to already be. A Test Score Is Forever Lets take a closer look at why, in the fixed mindset, its so crucial to be perfect right now. Its because one testor one evaluationcan measure you forever. Twenty years ago, at the age of five, Loretta and her family came to the United States. A few days later, her mother took her to her new school, where they promptly gave her a test. The next thing she knew, she was in her kindergarten classbut it was not the Eagles, the elite kindergarten class. As time passed, however, Loretta was transferred to the Eagles and she remained with that group of students until the end of high school, garnering a bundle of academic prizes along the way. Yet she never felt she belonged. That first test, she was convinced, diagnosed her fixed ability and said that she was not a true Eagle. Never mind that she had been five years old and had just made a radical change to a new country. Or that maybe there hadnt been room in the Eagles for a while. Or that maybe the school decided she would have an easier transition in a more low-key class. There are so many ways to understand what happened and what it meant. Unfortunately, she chose the wrong one. For in the world of the fixed mindset, there is no way to become an Eagle. If you were a true Eagle, you would have aced the test and been hailed as an Eagle at once. Is Loretta a rare case, or is this kind of thinking more common than we realize? To find out, we showed fifth graders a closed cardboard box and told them it had a test inside. This test, we said, measured an important school ability. We told them nothing more. Then we asked them questions about the test. First, we wanted to make sure that theyd accepted our description, so we asked them: How much do you think this test measures an important school ability? All of them had taken our word for it. Next we asked: Do you think this test measures how smart you are? And: Do you think this test measures how smart youll be when you grow up? Students with the growth mindset had taken our word that the test measured an important ability, but they didnt think it measured how smart they were. And they certainly didnt think it would tell them how smart theyd be when they grew up. In fact, one of them told us, No way! Aint no test can do that. But the students with the fixed mindset didnt simply believe the test could measure an important ability. They also believedjust as stronglythat it could measure how smart they were. And how smart theyd be when they grew up. They granted one test the power to measure their most basic intelligence now and forever. They gave this test the power to define them. Thats why every success is so important. Another Look at Potential This leads us back to the idea of potential and to the question of whether tests or experts can tell us what our potential is, what were capable of, what our future will be. The fixed mindset says yes. You can simply measure the fixed ability right now and project it into the future. Just give the test or ask the expert. No crystal ball needed. So common is the belief that potential can be known right now that Joseph P. Kennedy felt confident in telling Morton Downey Jr. that he would be a failure. What had Downeylater a famous television personality and authordone? Why, he had worn red socks and brown shoes to the Stork Club, a fancy New York nightclub. Morton, Kennedy told him, I dont know anybody Ive ever met in my life wearing red socks and brown shoes who ever succeeded. Young man, let me tell you now, you do stand out, but you dont stand out in a way that people will ever admire you. Many of the most accomplished people of our era were considered by experts to have no future. Jackson Pollock, Marcel Proust, Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Lucille Ball, and Charles Darwin were all thought to have little potential for their chosen fields. And in some of these cases, it may well have been true that they did not stand out from the crowd early on. But isnt potential someones capacity to develop their skills with effort and coaching over time? And thats just the point. How can we know where effort, coaching, and time will take someone? Who knowsmaybe the experts were right about Jackson, Marcel, Elvis, Ray, Lucille, and Charlesin terms of their skills at the time. Maybe they were not yet the people they were to become. I once went to an exhibit in London of Paul C?zannes early paintings. On my way there, I wondered who C?zanne was and what his paintings were like before he was the painter we know today. I was intensely curious because C?zanne is one of my favorite artists and the man who set the stage for much of modern art. Heres what I found: Some of the paintings were pretty bad. They were overwrought scenes, some violent, with amateurishly painted people. Although there were some paintings that foreshadowed the later C?zanne, many did not. Was the early C?zanne not talented? Or did it just take time for C?zanne to become C?zanne? People with the growth mindset know that it takes time for potential to flower. Recently, I got an angry letter from a teacher who had taken one of our surveys. The survey portrays a hypothetical student, Jennifer, who had gotten 65 percent on a math exam. It then asks teachers to tell us how they would treat her. Teachers with the fixed mindset were more than happy to answer our questions. They felt that by knowing Jennifers score, they had a good sense of who she was and what she was capable of. Their recommendations abounded. Mr. Riordan, by contrast, was fuming. Heres what he wrote. To Whom It May Concern: Having completed the educators portion of your recent survey, I must request that my results be excluded from the study. I feel that the study itself is scientifically unsound. Unfortunately, the test uses a faulty premise, asking teachers to make assumptions about a given student based on nothing more than a number on a page.Performance cannot be based on one assessment. You cannot determine the slope of a line given only one point, as there is no line to begin with. A single point in time does not show trends, improvement, lack of effort, or mathematical ability. Sincerely, Michael D. Riordan I was delighted with Mr. Riordans critique and couldnt have agreed with it more. An assessment at one point in time has little value for understanding someones ability, let alone their potential to succeed in the future. It was disturbing how many teachers thought otherwise, and that was the point of our study. The idea that one evaluation can measure you forever is what creates the urgency for those with the fixed mindset. Thats why they must succeed perfectly and immediately. Who can afford the luxury of trying to grow when everything is on the line right now? Is there another way to judge potential? NASA thought so. When they were soliciting applications for astronauts, they rejected people with pure histories of success and instead selected people who had had significant failures and bounced back from them. Jack Welch, the celebrated CEO of General Electric, chose executives on the basis of runway, their capacity for growth. And remember Marina Semyonova, the famed ballet teacher, who chose the students who were energized by criticism. They were all rejecting the idea of fixed ability and selecting instead for mindset. Proving Youre Special When people with the fixed mindset opt for success over growth, what are they really trying to prove? That theyre special. Even superior. When we asked them, When do you feel smart? so many of them talked about times they felt like a special person, someone who was different from and better than other people. Until I discovered the mindsets and how they work, I, too, thought of myself as more talented than others, maybe even more worthy than others because of my endowments. The scariest thought, which I rarely entertained, was the possibility of being ordinary. This kind of thinking led me to need constant validation. Every comment, every look was meaningfulit registered on my intelligence scorecard, my attractiveness scorecard, my likability scorecard. If a day went well, I could bask in my high numbers. One bitter cold winter night, I went to the opera. That night, the opera was everything you hope for, and everyone stayed until the very endnot just the end of the opera, but through all the curtain calls. Then we all poured into the street, and we all wanted taxis. I remember it clearly. It was after midnight, it was seven degrees, there was a strong wind, and, as time went on, I became more and more miserable. There I was, part of an undifferentiated crowd. What chance did I have? Suddenly, a taxi pulled up right next to me. The handle of the back door lined up perfectly with my hand, and as I entered, the driver announced, You were different. I lived for these moments. Not only was I special. It could be detected from a distance. The self-esteem movement encourages this kind of thinking and has even invented devices to help you confirm your superiority. I recently came across an ad for such a product. Two of my friends send me an illustrated list each year of the top ten things they didnt get me for Christmas. From January through November, they clip candidate items from catalogs or download them from the Internet. In December, they select the winners. One of my all-time favorites is the pocket toilet, which you fold up and return to your pocket after using. This year my favorite was the I LOVE ME mirror, a mirror with I LOVE ME in huge capital letters written across the bottom half. By looking into it, you can administer the message to yourself and not wait for the outside world to announce your specialness. Of course, the mirror is harmless enough. The problem is when special begins to mean better than others. A more valuable human being. A superior person. An entitled person. Special, Superior, Entitled John McEnroe had a fixed mindset: He believed that talent was all. He did not love to learn. He did not thrive on challenges; when the going got rough, he often folded. As a result, by his own admission, he did not fulfill his potential. But his talent was so great that he was the number one tennis player in the world for four years. Here he tells us what it was like to be number one. McEnroe used sawdust to absorb the sweat on his hands during a match. This time the sawdust was not to his liking, so he went over to the can of sawdust and knocked it over with his racket. His agent, Gary, came dashing over to find out what was wrong. You call that sawdust? I said. I was actually screaming at him: The sawdust was ground too fine! This looks like rat poison. Cant you get anything right? So Gary ran out and, twenty minutes later, came back with a fresh can of coarser sawdustand twenty dollars less in his pocket: Hed had to pay a union employee to grind up a two-by-four. This is what it was like to be number one. He goes on to tell us about how he once threw up all over a dignified Japanese lady who was hosting him. The next day she bowed, apologized to him, and presented him with a gift. This, McEnroe proclaims, is also what it was like to be number one. Everything was about youDid you get everything you need? Is everything okay? Well pay you this, well do that, well kiss your behind. You only have to do what you want; your reaction to anything else is, Get the hell out of here. For a long time I didnt mind it a bit. Would you? So lets see. If youre successful, youre better than other people. You get to abuse them and have them grovel. In the fixed mindset, this is what can pass for self-esteem. As a contrast, lets look at Michael Jordangrowth-minded athlete par excellencewhose greatness is regularly proclaimed by the world: Superman, God in person, Jesus in tennis shoes. If anyone has reason to think of himself as special, its he. But heres what he said when his return to basketball caused a huge commotion: I was shocked with the level of intensity my coming back to the game created.People were praising me like I was a religious cult or something. That was very embarrassing. Im a human being like everyone else. Jordan knew how hard he had worked to develop his abilities. He was a person who had struggled and grown, not a person who was inherently better than others. Tom Wolfe, in The Right Stuff, describes the elite military pilots who eagerly embrace the fixed mindset. Having passed one rigorous test after another, they think of themselves as special, as people who were born smarter and braver than other people. But Chuck Yeager, the hero of The Right Stuff, begged to differ. There is no such thing as a natural-born pilot. Whatever my aptitude or talents, becoming a proficient pilot was hard work, really a lifetimes learning experience.The best pilots fly more than the others; thats why theyre the best. Like Michael Jordan, he was a human being. He just stretched himself farther than most. In short, people who believe in fixed traits feel an urgency to succeed, and when they do, they may feel more than pride. They may feel a sense of superiority, since success means that their fixed traits are better than other peoples. However, lurking behind that self-esteem of the fixed mindset is a simple question: If youre somebody when youre successful, what are you when youre unsuccessful? MINDSETS CHANGE THE MEANING OF FAILURE The Martins worshiped their three-year-old Robert and always bragged about his feats. There had never been a child as bright and creative as theirs. Then Robert did something unforgivablehe didnt get into the number one preschool in New York. After that, the Martins cooled toward him. They didnt talk about him the same way, and they didnt treat him with the same pride and affection. He was no longer their brilliant little Robert. He was someone who had discredited himself and shamed them. At the tender age of three, he was a failure. As a New York Times article points out, failure has been transformed from an action (I failed) to an identity (I am a failure). This is especially true in the fixed mindset. When I was a child, I, too, worried about meeting Roberts fate. In sixth grade, I was the best speller in my school. The principal wanted me to go to a citywide competition, but I refused. In ninth grade, I excelled in French, and my teacher wanted me to enter a citywide competition. Again, I refused. Why would I risk turning from a success into a failure? From a winner into a loser? Ernie Els, the great golfer, worried about this too. Els finally won a major tournament after a five-year dry spell, in which match after match slipped away from him. What if he had lost this tournament, too? I would have been a different person, he tells us. He would have been a loser. Each April when the skinny envelopesthe rejection lettersarrive from colleges, countless failures are created coast to coast. Thousands of brilliant young scholars become The Girl Who Didnt Get into Princeton or the The Boy Who Didnt Get into Stanford. Defining Moments Even in the growth mindset, failure can be a painful experience. But it doesnt define you. Its a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from. Jim Marshall, former defensive player for the Minnesota Vikings, relates what could easily have made him into a failure. In a game against the San Francisco 49ers, Marshall spotted the football on the ground. He scooped it up and ran for a touchdown as the crowd cheered. But he ran the wrong way. He scored for the wrong team and on national television. It was the most devastating moment of his life. The shame was overpowering. But during halftime, he thought, If you make a mistake, you got to make it right. I realized I had a choice. I could sit in my misery or I could do something about it. Pulling himself together for the second half, he played some of his best football ever and contributed to his teams victory. Nor did he stop there. He spoke to groups. He answered letters that poured in from people who finally had the courage to admit their own shameful experiences. He heightened his concentration during games. Instead of letting the experience define him, he took control of it. He used it to become a better player and, he believes, a better person. In the fixed mindset, however, the loss of ones self to failure can be a permanent, haunting trauma. Bernard Loiseau was one of the top chefs in the world. Only a handful of restaurants in all of France receive the supreme rating of three stars from the Guide Michelin, the most respected restaurant guide in Europe. His was one of them. Around the publication of the 2003 Guide Michelin, however, Mr. Loiseau committed suicide. He had lost two points in another guide, going from a nineteen (out of twenty) to a seventeen in the GaultMillau. And there were rampant rumors that he would lose one of his three stars in the new Guide. Although he did not, the idea of failure had possessed him. Loiseau had been a pioneer. He was one of the first to advance the nouvelle cuisine, trading the traditional butter and cream sauces of French cooking for the brighter flavors of the foods themselves. A man of tremendous energy, he was also an entrepreneur. Besides his three-star restaurant in Burgundy, he had created three eateries in Paris, numerous cookbooks, and a line of frozen foods. Im like Yves Saint Laurent, he told people. I do both haute couture and ready-to-wear. A man of such talent and originality could easily have planned for a satisfying future, with or without the two points or the third star. In fact, the director of the GaultMillau said it was unimaginable that their rating could have taken his life. But in the fixed mindset, it is imaginable. Their lower rating gave him a new definition of himself: Failure. Has-been. Its striking what counts as failure in the fixed mindset. So, on a lighter note My Success Is Your Failure Last summer my husband and I went to a dude ranch, something very novel since neither of us had ever made contact with a horse. One day, we signed up for a lesson in fly fishing. It was taught by a wonderful eighty-year-old cowboy-type fisherman who showed us how to cast the fishing line, and then turned us loose. We soon realized that he had not taught us how to recognize when the trout bit the lure (they dont tug on the line; you have to watch for a bubble in the water), what to do when the trout bit the lure (tug upward), or how to reel the trout in if by some miracle we got that far (pull the fish along the water; do not hoist it into the air). Well, time passed, the mosquitoes bit, but not so the trout. None of the dozen or so of us made the slightest progress. Suddenly, I hit the jackpot. Some careless trout bit hard on my lure and the fisherman, who happened to be right there, talked me through the rest. I had me a rainbow trout. Reaction N1: My husband, David, came running over beaming with pride and saying, Life with you is so exciting! Reaction N2: That evening when we came into the dining room for dinner, two men came up to my husband and said, David, howre you coping? David looked at them blankly; he had no idea what they were talking about. Of course he didnt. He was the one who thought my catching the fish was exciting. But I knew exactly what they meant. They had expected him to feel diminished, and they went on to make it clear that thats exactly what my success had done to them. Shirk, Cheat, Blame: Not a Recipe for Success Beyond how traumatic a setback can be in the fixed mindset, this mindset gives you no good recipe for overcoming it. If failure means you lack competence or potentialthat you are a failurewhere do you go from there? In one study, seventh graders told us how they would respond to an academic failurea poor test grade in a new course. Those with the growth mindset, no big surprise, said they would study harder for the next test. But those with the fixed mindset said they would study less for the next test. If you dont have the ability, why waste your time? And, they said, they would seriously consider cheating! If you dont have the ability, they thought, you just have to look for another way. Whats more, instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, people with the fixed mindset may simply try to repair their self-esteem. For example, they may go looking for people who are even worse off than they are. College students, after doing poorly on a test, were given a chance to look at tests of other students. Those in the growth mindset looked at the tests of people who had done far better than they had. As usual, they wanted to correct their deficiency. But students in the fixed mindset chose to look at the tests of people who had done really poorly. That was their way of feeling better about themselves. Jim Collins tells in Good to Great of a similar thing in the corporate world. As Procter and Gamble surged into the paper goods business, Scott Paperwhich was then the leaderjust gave up. Instead of mobilizing themselves and putting up a fight, they said, Oh, wellat least there are people in the business worse off than we are. Another way people with the fixed mindset try to repair their self-esteem after a failure is by assigning blame or making excuses. Lets return to John McEnroe. It was never his fault. One time he lost a match because he had a fever. One time he had a backache. One time he fell victim to expectations, another time to the tabloids. One time he lost to a friend because the friend was in love and he wasnt. One time he ate too close to the match. One time he was too chunky, another time too thin. One time it was too cold, another time too hot. One time he was undertrained, another time overtrained. His most agonizing loss, and the one that still keeps him up nights, was his loss in the 1984 French Open. Why did he lose after leading Ivan Lendl two sets to none? According to McEnroe, it wasnt his fault. An NBC cameraman had taken off his headset and a noise started coming from the side of the court. Not his fault. So he didnt train to improve his ability to concentrate or his emotional control. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, says you arent a failure until you start to blame. What he means is that you can still be in the process of learning from your mistakes until you deny them. When Enron, the energy giant, failedtoppled by a culture of arrogancewhose fault was it? Not mine, insisted Jeffrey Skilling, the CEO and resident genius. It was the worlds fault. The world did not appreciate what Enron was trying to do. What about the Justice Departments investigation into massive corporate deception? A witch hunt. Jack Welch, the growth-minded CEO, had a completely different reaction to one of General Electrics fiascos. In 1986, General Electric bought Kidder, Peabody, a Wall Street investment banking firm. Soon after the deal closed, Kidder, Peabody was hit with a big insider trading scandal. A few years later, calamity struck again in the form of Joseph Jett, a trader who made a bunch of fictitious trades, to the tune of hundreds of millions, to pump up his bonus. Welch phoned fourteen of his top GE colleagues to tell them the bad news and to apologize personally. I blamed myself for the disaster, Welch said. Mindset and Depression Maybe Bernard Loiseau, the French chef, was just depressed. Were you thinking that? As a psychologist and an educator, I am vitally interested in depression. It runs wild on college campuses, especially in February and March. The winter is not over, the summer is not in sight, work has piled up, and relationships are often frayed. Yet its been clear to me for a long time that different students handle depression in dramatically different ways. Some let everything slide. Others, though feeling wretched, hang on. They drag themselves to class, keep up with their work, and take care of themselvesso that when they feel better, their lives are intact. Not long ago, we decided to see whether mindsets play a role in this difference. To find out, we measured students mindsets and then had them keep an online diary for three weeks in February and March. Every day they answered questions about their mood, their activities, and how they were coping with problems. Heres what we discovered. First, the students with the fixed mindset had higher levels of depression. Our analyses showed that this was because they ruminated over their problems and setbacks, essentially tormenting themselves with the idea that the setbacks meant they were incompetent or unworthy: It just kept circulating in my head: Youre a dope. I just couldnt let go of the thought that this made me less of a man. Again, failures labeled them and left them no route to success. And the more depressed they felt, the more they let things go; the less they took action to solve their problems. For example, they didnt study what they needed to, they didnt hand in their assignments on time, and they didnt keep up with their chores. Although students with the fixed mindset showed more depression, there were still plenty of people with the growth mindset who felt pretty miserable, this being peak season for depression. And here we saw something really amazing. The more depressed people with the growth mindset felt (short of severe depression), the more they took action to confront their problems, the more they made sure to keep up with their schoolwork, and the more they kept up with their lives. The worse they felt, the more determined they became! In fact, from the way they acted, it might have been hard to know how despondent they were. Here is a story a young man told me. I was a freshman and it was the first time I had been away from home. Everyone was a stranger, the courses were hard, and as the year wore on I felt more and more depressed. Eventually, it reached a point where I could hardly get out of bed in the morning. But every day I forced myself to get up, shower, shave, and do whatever it was I needed to do. One day I really hit a low point and I decided to ask for help, so I went to the teaching assistant in my psychology course and asked for her advice. Are you going to your classes? she asked. Yes, I replied. Are you keeping up with your reading? Yes. Are you doing okay on your exams? Yes. Well, she informed me, then youre not depressed. Yes, he was depressed, but he was coping the way people in the growth mindset tend to copewith determination. Doesnt temperament have a lot to do with it? Arent some people sensitive by nature, while others just let things roll off their backs? Temperament certainly plays a role, but mindset is an important part of the story. When we taught people the growth mindset, it changed the way they reacted to their depressed mood. The worse they felt, the more motivated they became and the more they confronted the problems that faced them. In short, when people believe in fixed traits, they are always in danger of being measured by a failure. It can define them in a permanent way. Smart or talented as they may be, this mindset seems to rob them of their coping resources. When people believe their basic qualities can be developed, failures may still hurt, but failures dont define them. And if abilities can be expandedif change and growth are possiblethen there are still many paths to success. MINDSETS CHANGE THE MEANING OF EFFORT As children, we were given a choice between the talented but erratic hare and the plodding but steady tortoise. The lesson was supposed to be that slow and steady wins the race. But, really, did any of us ever want to be the tortoise? No, we just wanted to be a less foolish hare. We wanted to be swift as the wind and a bit more strategicsay, not taking quite so many snoozes before the finish line. After all, everyone knows you have to show up in order to win. The story of the tortoise and the hare, in trying to put forward the power of effort, gave effort a bad name. It reinforced the image that effort is for the plodders and suggested that in rare instances, when talented people dropped the ball, the plodder could sneak through. The little engine that could, the saggy, baggy elephant, and the scruffy tugboatthey were cute, they were often overmatched, and we were happy for them when they succeeded. In fact, to this day I remember how fond I was of those little creatures (or machines), but no way did I identify with them. The message was: If youre unfortunate enough to be the runt of the litterif you lack endowmentyou dont have to be an utter failure. You can be a sweet, adorable little slogger, and maybe (if you really work at it and withstand all the scornful onlookers) even a success. Thank you very much, Ill take the endowment. The problem was that these stories made it into an eitheror. Either you have ability or you expend effort. And this is part of the fixed mindset. Effort is for those who dont have the ability. People with the fixed mindset tell us, If you have to work at something, you must not be good at it. They add, Things come easily to people who are true geniuses. CALVIN AND HOBBES 1995 WATTERSON. REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION OF UNIVERSAL PRESS SYNDICATE I was a young professor in the psychology department at the University of Illinois. Late one night, I was passing the psychology building and noticed that the lights were on in some faculty offices. Some of my colleagues were working late. They must not be as smart as I am, I thought to myself. It never occurred to me that they might be just as smart and more hardworking! For me it was eitheror. And it was clear I valued the either over the or. Malcolm Gladwell, the author and New Yorker writer, has suggested that as a society we value natural, effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort. We endow our heroes with superhuman abilities that led them inevitably toward their greatness. Its as if Midori popped out of the womb fiddling, Michael Jordan dribbling, and Picasso doodling. This captures the fixed mindset perfectly. And its everywhere. A report from researchers at Duke University sounds an alarm about the anxiety and depression among female undergraduates who aspire to effortless perfection. They believe they should display perfect beauty, perfect womanhood, and perfect scholarship all without trying (or at least without appearing to try). Americans arent the only people who disdain effort. French executive Pierre Chevalier says, We are not a nation of effort. After all, if you have savoir-faire [a mixture of know-how and cool], you do things effortlessly. People with the growth mindset, however, believe something very different. For them, even geniuses have to work hard for their achievements. And whats so heroic, they would say, about having a gift? They may appreciate endowment, but they admire effort, for no matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment. Seabiscuit Here was a horse who was so broken, he was supposed to be put to sleep. In fact, here was a whole team of peoplethe jockey, the owner, the trainerwho were damaged in one way or another. Yet through their dogged determination and against all odds, they transformed themselves into winners. A down-and-out nation saw this horse and rider as a symbol of what could be accomplished through grit and spirit. Equally moving is the parallel story about Seabiscuits author, Laura Hillenbrand. Felled in her college years by severe, recurrent chronic fatigue that never went away, she was often unable to function. Yet something in the story of the horse who could gripped and inspired her, so that she was able to write a heartfelt, magnificent story about the triumph of will. The book was a testament to Seabiscuits triumph and her own, equally. Seen through the lens of the growth mindset, these are stories about the transformative power of effortthe power of effort to change your ability and to change you as a person. But filtered through the fixed mindset, its a great story about three men and a horse, all with deficiencies, who had to try very hard. High Effort: The Big Risk From the point of view of the fixed mindset, effort is only for people with deficiencies. And when people already know theyre deficient, maybe they have nothing to lose by trying. But if your claim to fame is not having any deficienciesif youre considered a genius, a talent, or a naturalthen you have a lot to lose. Effort can reduce you. Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg made her violin debut at the age of ten with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Yet when she arrived at Juilliard to study with Dorothy DeLay, the great violin teacher, she had a repertoire of awful habits. Her fingerings and bowings were awkward and she held her violin in the wrong position, but she refused to change. After several years, she saw the other students catching up and even surpassing her, and by her late teens she had a crisis of confidence. I was used to success, to the prodigy label in newspapers, and now I felt like a failure. This prodigy was afraid of trying. Everything I was going through boiled down to fear. Fear of trying and failing.If you go to an audition and dont really try, if youre not really prepared, if you didnt work as hard as you could have and you dont win, you have an excuse.Nothing is harder than saying, I gave it my all and it wasnt good enough. The idea of trying and still failingof leaving yourself without excusesis the worst fear within the fixed mindset, and it haunted and paralyzed her. She had even stopped bringing her violin to her lesson! Then, one day, after years of patience and understanding, DeLay told her, Listen, if you dont bring your violin next week, Im throwing you out of my class. Salerno-Sonnenberg thought she was joking, but DeLay rose from the couch and calmly informed her, Im not kidding. If you are going to waste your talent, I dont want to be a part of it. This has gone on long enough. Why is effort so terrifying? There are 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 blank]. But once you try, you cant say that anymore. Someone once said to me, I could have been Yo-Yo Ma. If she had really tried for it, she wouldnt have been able to say that. Salerno-Sonnenberg was terrified of losing DeLay. She finally decided that trying and failingan honest failurewas better than the course she had been on, and so she began training with DeLay for an upcoming competition. For the first time she went all out, and, by the way, won. Now she says, This is something I know for a fact: You have to work hardest for the things you love most. And when its music you love, youre in for the fight of your life. Fear of effort can happen in relationships, too, as it did with Amanda, a dynamic and attractive young woman. I had a lot of crazy boyfriends. A lot. They ranged from unreliable to inconsiderate. How about a nice guy for once? my best friend Carla always said. It was like, You deserve better. So then Carla fixed me up with Rob, a guy from her office. He was great, and not just on day one. I loved it. It was like, Oh, my God, a guy who actually shows up on time. Then it became serious and I freaked. I mean, this guy really liked me, but I couldnt stop thinking about how, if he really knew me, he might get turned off. I mean, what if I really, really tried and it didnt work? I guess I couldnt take that risk. Low Effort: The Big Risk In the growth mindset, its almost inconceivable to want something badly, to think you have a chance to achieve it, and then do nothing about it. When it happens, the I could have been is heartbreaking, not comforting. There were few American women in the 1930s through 1950s who were more successful than Clare Boothe Luce. She was a famous author and playwright, she was elected to Congress twice, and she was ambassador to Italy. I dont really understand the word success, she has said. I know people use it about me, but I dont understand it. Her public life and private tragedies kept her from getting back to her greatest love: writing for the theater. Shed had great success with plays like The Women, but it just wouldnt do for a political figure to keep penning tart, sexy comedies. For her, politics did not provide the personal creative effort she valued most, and looking back she couldnt forgive herself for not pursuing her passion for theater. I often thought, she said, that if I were to write an autobiography, my title would be The Autobiography of a Failure. Billie Jean King says its all about what you want to look back and say. I agree with her. You can look back and say, I could have been, polishing your unused endowments like trophies. Or you can look back and say, I gave my all for the things I valued. Think about what you want to look back and say. Then choose your mindset. Turning Knowledge into Action Sure, people with the fixed mindset have read the books that say: Success is about being your best self, not about being better than others; failure is an opportunity, not a condemnation; effort is the key to success. But they cant put this into practice because their basic mindsettheir belief in fixed traitsis telling them something entirely different: that success is about being more gifted than others, that failure does measure you, and that effort is for those who cant make it on talent. QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS At this point, you probably have questions. Let me see if I can answer some of them. Question: If people believe their qualities are fixed, and they have shown themselves to be smart or talented, why do they have to keep proving it? After all, when the prince proved his bravery, he and the princess lived happily ever after. He didnt have to go out and slay a dragon every day. Why dont people with the fixed mindset prove themselves and then live happily ever after? Because every day new and larger dragons come along and, as things get harder, maybe the ability they proved yesterday is not up to todays task. Maybe they were smart enough for algebra but not calculus. Maybe they were a good enough pitcher for the minor leagues but not the majors. Maybe they were a good enough writer for their school newspaper but not The New York Times. So theyre racing to prove themselves over and over, but where are they going? To me theyre often running in place, amassing countless affirmations, but not necessarily ending up where they want to be. You know those movies where the main character wakes up one day and sees that his life has not been worthwhilehe has always been besting people, not growing, learning, or caring. My favorite is Groundhog Day, which I didnt see for a long time because I couldnt get past the name. At any rate, in Groundhog Day, Bill Murray doesnt just wake up one day and get the message; he has to repeat the same day over and over until he gets the message. Phil Connors (Murray) is a weatherman for a local station in Pittsburgh who is dispatched to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, to cover the Groundhog Day ceremony. On February 2, a groundhog is taken out of his little house; if he is judged to have seen his shadow, there will be another six weeks of winter. If not, there will be an early spring. Phil, considering himself to be a superior being, has complete contempt for the ceremony, the town, and the people (hicks and morons), and after making that perfectly clear, he plans to get out of Punxsutawney as quickly as possible. But this is not to be. A blizzard hits the town, he is forced to remain, and when he wakes up the next morning, its Groundhog Day again. The same Sonny and Cher song, I Got You Babe, wakes him up on the clock radio and the same groundhog festival is gearing up once again. And again. And again. At first, he uses the knowledge to further his typical agenda, making fools out of other people. Since he is the only one reliving the day, he can talk to a woman on one day, and then use the information to deceive, impress, and seduce her the next. He is in fixed-mindset heaven. He can prove his superiority over and over. But after countless such days, he realizes its all going nowhere and he tries to kill himself. He crashes a car, he electrocutes himself, he jumps from a steeple, he walks in front of a truck. With no way out, it finally dawns on him. He could be using this time to learn. He goes for piano lessons. He reads voraciously. He learns ice sculpting. He finds out about people who need help that day (a boy who falls from a tree, a man who chokes on his steak) and starts to help them, and care about them. Pretty soon the day is not long enough! Only when this change of mindset is complete is he released from the spell. Question: Are mindsets a permanent part of your makeup or can you change them? Mindsets are an important part of your personality, but you can change them. Just by knowing about the two mindsets, you can start thinking and reacting in new ways. People tell me they start to catch themselves when they are in the throes of the fixed mindsetpassing up a chance for learning, feeling labeled by a failure, or getting discouraged when something requires a lot of effort. And then they switch themselves into the growth mindsetmaking sure they take the challenge, learn from the failure, or continue their effort. When my graduate students and I first discovered the mindsets, they would catch me in the fixed mindset, smile kindly, and let me know it. Its also important to realize that even if people have a fixed mindset, theyre not always in that mindset. In fact, in many of our studies, we put people into a growth mindset. We tell them that an ability can be learned and that the task will give them a chance to do that. Or we have them read a scientific article that teaches them the growth mindset. The article describes people who did not have natural ability, but who developed exceptional skills. These experiences make our research participants into growth-minded thinkers, at least for the momentand they act like growth-minded thinkers, too. Later, theres a chapter all about change. There I describe people who have changed and programs weve developed to bring about change. Question: Can I be half-and-half? I recognize both mindsets in myself. All of us have elements of bothwere all a mixture of fixed and growth mindsets. Im talking about it as a simple eitheror right now for the sake of simplicity. People can also have different mindsets in different areas. I might think that my artistic skills are fixed but that my intelligence can be developed. Or that my personality is fixed, but my creativity can be developed. Weve found that whatever mindset people have in a particular area will guide them in that area. Question: With all your belief in effort, are you saying that when people fail, its always their faultthey didnt try hard enough? No! Its true that effort is crucialno one can succeed for long without itbut its certainly not the only thing. People have different resources and opportunities. For example, people with money (or rich parents) have a safety net. They can take more risks and keep going longer until they succeed. People with easy access to a good education, people with a network of influential friends, people who know how to be in the right place at the right timeall stand a better chance of having their effort pay off. Rich, educated, connected effort works better. People with fewer resources, in spite of their best efforts, can be derailed so much more easily. The hometown plant youve worked in all of your life suddenly shuts down. What now? Your child falls ill and plunges you into debt. There goes the house. Your spouse runs off with the nest egg and leaves you with the children and bills. Forget the night school classes. Before we judge, lets remember that effort isnt quite everything and that all effort is not created equal. Question: You keep talking about how the growth mindset makes people number one, the best, the most successful. Isnt the growth mindset about personal development, not besting others? I use examples of people who made it to the top to show how far the growth mindset can take you: Believing talents can be developed allows people to fulfill their potential. In addition, examples of laid-back people having a good time would not be as convincing to people with a fixed mindset. It doesnt provide a compelling alternative for them because it makes it look like a choice between fun and excellence. However, this point is crucial: The growth mindset does allow people to love what theyre doingand to continue to love it in the face of difficulties. The growth-minded athletes, CEOs, musicians, or scientists all loved what they did, whereas many of the fixed-minded ones did not. Many growth-minded people didnt even plan to go to the top. They got there as a result of doing what they love. Its ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but its where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do. This point is also crucial. In the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you failor if youre not the bestits all been wasted. The growth mindset allows people to value what theyre doing regardless of the outcome. Theyre tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they havent found the cure for cancer, but the search was deeply meaningful. A lawyer spent seven years fighting the biggest bank in his state on behalf of people who felt theyd been cheated. After he lost, he said, Who am I to say that just because I spent seven years on something I am entitled to success? Did I do it for the success, or did I do it because I thought the effort itself was valid? I do not regret it. I had to do it. I would not do it differently. Question: I know a lot of workaholics on the fast track who seem to have a fixed mindset. Theyre always trying to prove how smart they are, but they do work hard and they do take on challenges. How does this fit with your idea that people with a fixed mindset go in for low effort and easy tasks? On the whole, people with a fixed mindset prefer effortless success, since thats the best way to prove their talent. But youre right, there are also plenty of high-powered people who think their traits are fixed and are looking for constant validation. These may be people whose life goal is to win a Nobel Prize or become the richest person on the planetand theyre willing to do what it takes. Well meet people like this in the chapter on business and leadership. These people may be free of the belief that high effort equals low ability, but they have the other parts of the fixed mindset. They may constantly put their talent on display. They may feel that their talent makes them superior to other people. And they may be intolerant of mistakes, criticism, or setbacks. Incidentally, people with a growth mindset might also like a Nobel Prize or a lot of money. But they are not seeking it as a validation of their worth or as something that will make them better than others. Question: What if I like my fixed mindset? If I know what my abilities and talents are, I know where I stand, and I know what to expect. Why should I give that up? If you like it, by all means keep it. This book shows people they have a choice by spelling out the two mindsets and the worlds they create. The point is that people can choose which world they want to inhabit. The fixed mindset creates the feeling that you can really know the permanent truth about yourself. And this can be comforting: You dont have to try for such-and-such because you dont have the talent. You will surely succeed at thus-and-such because you do have the talent. Its just important to be aware of the drawbacks of this mindset. You may be robbing yourself of an opportunity by underestimating your talent in the first area. Or you may be undermining your chances of success in the second area by assuming that your talent alone will take you there. By the way, having a growth mindset doesnt force you to pursue something. It just tells you that you can develop your skills. Its still up to you whether you want to. Question: Can everything about people be changed, and should people try to change everything they can? The growth mindset is the belief that abilities can be cultivated. But it doesnt tell you how much change is possible or how long change will take. And it doesnt mean that everything, like preferences or values, can be changed. I was once in a taxi, and the driver had an opera on the radio. Thinking to start a conversation, I said, Do you like opera? No, he replied, I hate it. Ive always hated it. I dont mean to pry, I said, but why are you listening to it? He then told me how his father had been an opera buff, listening to his vintage records at every opportunity. My cabdriver, now well into middle age, had tried for many years to cultivate a rapturous response to opera. He played the disks, he read the scoresall to no avail. Give yourself a break, I advised him. There are plenty of cultured and intelligent people who cant stand opera. Why dont you just consider yourself one of them? The growth mindset also doesnt mean everything that can be changed should be changed. We all need to accept some of our imperfections, especially the ones that dont really harm our lives or the lives of others. The fixed mindset stands in the way of development and change. The growth mindset is a starting point for change, but people need to decide for themselves where their efforts toward change would be most valuable. Question: Are people with the fixed mindset simply lacking in confidence? No. People with the fixed mindset can have just as much confidence as people with the growth mindsetbefore anything happens, that is. But as you can imagine, their confidence is more fragile since setbacks and even effort can undermine it. Joseph Martocchio conducted a study of employees who were taking a short computer training course. Half of the employees were put into a fixed mindset. He told them it was all a matter of how much ability they possessed. The other half were put in a growth mindset. He told them that computer skills could be developed through practice. Everyone, steeped in these mindsets, then proceeded with the course. Although the two groups started off with exactly equal confidence in their computer skills, by the end of the course they looked quite different. Those in the growth mindset gained considerable confidence in their computer skills as they learned, despite the many mistakes they inevitably made. But, because of those mistakes, those with the fixed mindset actually lost confidence in their computer skills as they learned! The same thing happened with Berkeley students. Richard Robins and Jennifer Pals tracked students at the University of California at Berkeley over their years of college. They found that when students had the growth mindset, they gained confidence in themselves as they repeatedly met and mastered the challenges of the university. However, when students had the fixed mindset, their confidence eroded in the face of those same challenges. Thats why people with the fixed mindset have to nurse their confidence and protect it. Thats what John McEnroes excuses were for: to protect his confidence. Michelle Wie was a teenage golfer when she decided to go up against the big boys. She entered the Sony Open, a PGA tournament that features the best male players in the world. Coming from a fixed-mindset perspective, everyone rushed to warn her that she could do serious damage to her confidence if she did poorlythat taking too many early lumps against superior competition could hurt her long-range development. Its always negative when you dont win, warned Vijay Singh, a prominent golfer on the tour. But Wie disagreed. She wasnt going there to groom her confidence. Once you win junior tournaments, its easy to win multiple times. What Im doing now is to prepare for the future. Its the learning experience she was afterwhat it was like to play with the worlds best players in the atmosphere of a tournament. After the event, Wies confidence had not suffered one bit. She had exactly what she wanted. I think I learned that I can play here. It would be a long road to the winners circle, but she now had a sense of what she was shooting for. Some years ago, I got a letter from a world-class competitive swimmer. Dear Professor Dweck: Ive always had a problem with confidence. My coaches always told me to believe in myself 100%. They told me not to let any doubts enter my mind and to think about how Im better than everyone else. I couldnt do it because Im always so aware of my defects and the mistakes I make in every meet. Trying to think I was perfect made it even worse. Then I read your work and how its so important to focus on learning and improving. It turned me around. My defects are things I can work on! Now a mistake doesnt seem so important. I wanted to write you this letter for teaching me how to have confidence. Thank you. Sincerely, Mary Williams A remarkable thing Ive learned from my research is that in the growth mindset, you dont always need confidence. What I mean is that even when you think youre not good at something, you can still plunge into it wholeheartedly and stick to it. Actually, sometimes you plunge into something because youre not good at it. This is a wonderful feature of the growth mindset. You dont have to think youre already great at something to want to do it and to enjoy doing it. This book is one of the hardest things Ive ever done. I read endless books and articles. The information was overwhelming. Id never written in a popular way. It was intimidating. Does it seem easy for me? Way back when, thats exactly what I would have wanted you to think. Now I want you to know the effort it tookand the joy it brought. Grow Your Mindset People are all born with a love of learning, but the fixed mindset can undo it. Think of a time you were enjoying somethingdoing a crossword puzzle, playing a sport, learning a new dance. Then it became hard and you wanted out. Maybe you suddenly felt tired, dizzy, bored, or hungry. Next time this happens, dont fool yourself. Its the fixed mindset. Put yourself in a growth mindset. Picture your brain forming new connections as you meet the challenge and learn. Keep on going. Its tempting to create a world in which were perfect. (Ah, I remember that feeling from grade school.) We can choose partners, make friends, hire people who make us feel faultless. But think about itdo you want to never grow? Next time youre tempted to surround yourself with worshipers, go to church. In the rest of your life, seek constructive criticism. Is there something in your past that you think measured you? A test score? A dishonest or callous action? Being fired from a job? Being rejected? Focus on that thing. Feel all the emotions that go with it. Now put it in a growth-mindset perspective. Look honestly at your role in it, but understand that it doesnt define your intelligence or personality. Instead, ask: What did I (or can I) learn from that experience? How can I use it as a basis for growth? Carry that with you instead. How do you act when you feel depressed? Do you work harder at things in your life or do you let them go? Next time you feel low, put yourself in a growth mindsetthink about learning, challenge, confronting obstacles. Think about effort as a positive, constructive force, not as a big drag. Try it out. Is there something youve always wanted to do but were afraid you werent good at? Make a plan to do it. Chapter 3 THE TRUTH ABOUT ABILITY AND ACCOMPLISHMENT Try to picture Thomas Edison as vividly as you can. Think about where he is and what hes doing. Is he alone? I asked people, and they always said things like this: Hes in his workshop surrounded by equipment. Hes working on the phonograph, trying things. He succeeds! [Is he alone?] Yes, hes doing this stuff alone because hes the only one who knows what hes after. Hes in New Jersey. Hes standing in a white coat in a lab-type room. Hes leaning over a lightbulb. Suddenly, it works! [Is he alone?] Yes. Hes kind of a reclusive guy who likes to tinker on his own. In truth, the record shows quite a different fellow, working in quite a different way. Edison was not a loner. For the invention of the lightbulb, he had thirty assistants, including well-trained scientists, often working around the clock in a corporate-funded state-of-the-art laboratory! It did not happen suddenly. The lightbulb has become the symbol of that single moment when the brilliant solution strikes, but there was no single moment of invention. In fact, the lightbulb was not one invention, but a whole network of time-consuming inventions each requiring one or more chemists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers, and glassblowers. Edison was no na?ve tinkerer or unworldly egghead. The Wizard of Menlo Park was a savvy entrepreneur, fully aware of the commercial potential of his inventions. He also knew how to cozy up to the presssometimes beating others out as the inventor of something because he knew how to publicize himself. Yes, he was a genius. But he was not always one. His biographer, Paul Israel, sifting through all the available information, thinks he was more or less a regular boy of his time and place. Young Tom was taken with experiments and mechanical things (perhaps more avidly than most), but machines and technology were part of the ordinary midwestern boys experience. What eventually set him apart was his mindset and drive. He never stopped being the curious, tinkering boy looking for new challenges. Long after other young men had taken up their roles in society, he rode the rails from city to city learning everything he could about telegraphy, and working his way up the ladder of telegraphers through nonstop self-education and invention. And later, much to the disappointment of his wives, his consuming love remained self-improvement and invention, but only in his field. There are many myths about ability and achievement, especially about the lone, brilliant person suddenly producing amazing things. Yet Darwins masterwork, The Origin of Species, took years of teamwork in the field, hundreds of discussions with colleagues and mentors, several preliminary drafts, and half a lifetime of dedication before it reached fruition. Mozart labored for more than ten years until he produced any work that we admire today. Before then, his compositions were not that original or interesting. Actually, they were often patched-together chunks taken from other composers. This chapter is about the real ingredients in achievement. Its about why some people achieve less than expected and why some people achieve more. MINDSET AND SCHOOL ACHIEVEMENT Lets step down from the celestial realm of Mozart and Darwin and come back to earth to see how mindsets create achievement in real life. Its funny, but seeing one student blossom under the growth mindset has a greater impact on me than all the stories about Mozarts and Darwins. Maybe because its more about you and meabout whats happened to us and why we are where we are now. And about children and their potential. Back on earth, we measured students mindsets as they made the transition to junior high school: Did they believe their intelligence was a fixed trait or something they could develop? Then we followed them for the next two years. The transition to junior high is a time of great challenge for many students. The work gets much harder, the grading policies toughen up, the teaching becomes less personalized. And all this happens while students are coping with their new adolescent bodies and roles. Grades suffer, but not everyones grades suffer equally. No. In our study, only the students with the fixed mindset showed the decline. The students with the growth mindset showed an increase in their grades over the two years. When the two groups had entered junior high, their past records were indistinguishable. In the more benign environment of grade school, theyd earned the same grades and achievement test scores. Only when they hit the challenge of junior high did they begin to pull apart. Heres how students with the fixed mindset explained their poor grades. Many maligned their abilities: I am the stupidest or I suck in math. And many covered these feelings by blaming someone else: [The math teacher] is a fat male slutand [the English teacher] is a slob with a pink ass. Because the teacher is on crack. These interesting analyses of the problem hardly provide a road map to future success. With the threat of failure looming, students with the growth mindset instead mobilized their resources for learning. They told us that they, too, sometimes felt overwhelmed, but their response was to dig in and do what it takes. They were like George Danzig. Who? George Danzig was a graduate student in math at Berkeley. One day, as usual, he rushed in late to his math class and quickly copied the two homework problems from the blackboard. When he later went to do them, he found them very difficult, and it took him several days of hard work to crack them open and solve them. They turned out not to be homework problems at all. They were two famous math problems that had never been solved. The Low-Effort Syndrome Our students with the fixed mindset who were facing the hard transition saw it as a threat. It threatened to unmask their flaws and turn them from winners into losers. In fact, in the fixed mindset, adolescence is one big test. Am I smart or dumb? Am I good-looking or ugly? Am I cool or nerdy? Am I a winner or a loser? And in the fixed mindset, a loser is forever. Its no wonder that many adolescents mobilize their resources, not for learning, but to protect their egos. And one of the main ways they do this (aside from providing vivid portraits of their teachers) is by not trying. This is when some of the brightest students, just like Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, simply stop working. In fact, students with the fixed mindset tell us that their main goal in schoolaside from looking smartis to exert as little effort as possible. They heartily agree with statements like this: In school my main goal is to do things as easily as possible so I dont have to work very hard. This low-effort syndrome is often seen as a way that adolescents assert their independence from adults, but it is also a way that students with the fixed mindset protect themselves. They view the adults as saying, Now we will measure you and see what youve got. And they are answering, No you wont. John Holt, the great educator, says that these are the games all human beings play when others are sitting in judgment of them. The worst student we had, the worst I have ever encountered, was in his life outside the classroom as mature, intelligent, and interesting a person as anyone at the school. What went wrong?Somewhere along the line, his intelligence became disconnected from his schooling. For students with the growth mindset, it doesnt make sense to stop trying. For them, adolescence is a time of opportunity: a time to learn new subjects, a time to find out what they like and what they want to become in the future. Later, Ill describe the project in which we taught junior high students the growth mindset. What I want to tell you now is how teaching them this mindset unleashed their effort. One day, we were introducing the growth mindset to a new group of students. All at once Jimmythe most hard-core turned-off low-effort kid in the grouplooked up with tears in his eyes and said, You mean I dont 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. He started handing in assignments early so he could get feedback and revise them. He now believed that working hard was not something that made you vulnerable, but something that made you smarter. Finding Your Brain A close friend of mine recently handed me something hed written, a poem-story that reminded me of Jimmy and his unleashed effort. My friends second-grade teacher, Mrs. Beer, had had each student draw and cut out a paper horse. She then lined up all the horses above the blackboard and delivered her growth-mindset message: Your horse is only as fast as your brain. Every time you learn something, your horse will move ahead. My friend wasnt so sure about the brain thing. His father had always told him, You have too much mouth and too little brains for your own good. Plus, his horse seemed to just sit at the starting gate while everyone elses brain joined the learning chase, especially the brains of Hank and Billy, the class geniuses, whose horses jumped way ahead of everyone elses. But my friend kept at it. To improve his skills, he kept reading the comics with his mother and he kept adding up the points when he played gin rummy with his grandmother. And soon my sleek stallion bolted forward like Whirlaway, and there was no one who was going to stop him. Over the weeks and months he flew forward overtaking the others one by one. In the late spring homestretch Hanks and Billys mounts were ahead by just a few subtraction exercises, and when the last bell of school rang, my horse wonBy a nose! Then I knew I had a brain: I had the horse to prove it. PAUL WORTMAN Of course, learning shouldnt really be a race. But this race helped my friend discover his brain and connect it up to his schooling. The College Transition Another transition, another crisis. College is when all the students who were the brains in high school are thrown together. Like our graduate students, yesterday they were king of the hill, but today who are they? Nowhere is the anxiety of being dethroned more palpable than in pre-med classes. In the last chapter, I mentioned our study of tense but hopeful undergraduates taking their first college chemistry course. This is the course that would give themor deny thementr?e to the pre-med curriculum, and its well known that students will go to almost any lengths to do well in this course. At the beginning of the semester, we measured students mindsets, and then we followed them through the course, watching their grades and asking about their study strategies. Once again we found that the students with the growth mindset earned better grades in the course. Even when they did poorly on a particular test, they bounced back on the next ones. When students with the fixed mindset did poorly, they often didnt make a comeback. In this course, everybody studied. But there are different ways to study. Many students study like this: They read the textbook and their class notes. If the material is really hard, they read them again. Or they might try to memorize everything they can, like a vacuum cleaner. Thats how the students with the fixed mindset studied. If they did poorly on the test, they concluded that chemistry was not their subject. After all, I did everything possible, didnt I? Far from it. They would be shocked to find out what students with the growth mindset do. Even I find it remarkable. The students with growth mindset completely took charge of their learning and motivation. Instead of plunging into unthinking memorization of the course material, they said: I looked for themes and underlying principles across lectures, and I went over mistakes until I was certain I understood them. They were studying to learn, not just to ace the test. And, actually, this was why they got higher gradesnot because they were smarter or had a better background in science. Instead of losing their motivation when the course got dry or difficult, they said: I maintained my interest in the material. I stayed positive about taking chemistry. I kept myself motivated to study. Even if they thought the textbook was boring or the instructor was a stiff, they didnt let their motivation evaporate. That just made it all the more important to motivate themselves. I got an e-mail from one of my undergraduate students shortly after I had taught her the growth mindset. Heres how she used to study before: When faced with really tough material I tend[ed] to read the material over and over. After learning the growth mindset, she started using better strategiesthat worked: Professor Dweck: When Heidi [the teaching assistant] told me my exam results today I didnt know whether to cry or just sit down. Heidi will tell you, I looked like I won the lottery (and I feel that way, too)! I cant believe I did SO WELL. I expected to scrape by. The encouragement you have given me will serve me well in life. I feel that Ive earned a noble grade, but I didnt earn it alone. Prof. Dweck, you not only teach [your] theory, you SHOW it. Thank you for the lesson. It is a valuable one, perhaps the most valuable Ive learned at Columbia. And yeah, Ill be doing THAT [using these strategies] before EVERY exam! Thank you very, very much (and you TOO Heidi)! No longer helpless, June Because they think in terms of learning, people with the growth mindset are clued in to all the different ways to create learning. Its odd. Our pre-med students with the fixed mindset would do almost anything for a good gradeexcept take charge of the process to make sure it happens. Created Equal? Does this mean that anyone with the right mindset can do well? Are all children created equal? Lets take the second question first. No, some children are different. In her book Gifted Children, Ellen Winner offers incredible descriptions of prodigies. These are children who seem to be born with heightened abilities and obsessive interests, and who, through relentless pursuit of these interests, become amazingly accomplished. Michael was one of the most precocious. He constantly played games involving letters and numbers, made his parents answer endless questions about letters and numbers, and spoke, read, and did math at an unbelievably early age. Michaels mother reports that at four months old, he said, Mom, Dad, whats for dinner? At ten months, he astounded people in the supermarket by reading words from the signs. Everyone assumed his mother was doing some kind of ventriloquism thing. His father reports that at three, he was not only doing algebra, but discovering and proving algebraic rules. Each day, when his father got home from work, Michael would pull him toward math books and say, Dad, lets go do work. Michael must have started with a special ability, but, for me, the most outstanding feature is his extreme love of learning and challenge. His parents could not tear him away from his demanding activities. The same is true for every prodigy Winner describes. Most often people believe that the gift is the ability itself. Yet what feeds it is that constant, endless curiosity and challenge seeking. Is it ability or mindset? Was it Mozarts musical ability or the fact that he worked till his hands were deformed? Was it Darwins scientific ability or the fact that he collected specimens nonstop from early childhood? Prodigies or not, we all have interests that can blossom into abilities. As a child, I was fascinated by people, especially adults. I wondered: What makes them tick? In fact, a few years back, one of my cousins reminded me of an episode that took place when we were five years old. We were at my grandmothers house, and hed had a big fight with his mother over when he could eat his candy. Later, we were sitting outside on the front steps and I said to him: Dont be so stupid. Adults like to think theyre in charge. Just say yes, and then eat your candy when you want to. Were those the words of a budding psychologist? All I know is that my cousin told me this advice served him well. (Interestingly, he became a dentist.) Can Everyone Do Well? Now back to the first question. Is everyone capable of great things with the right mindset? Could you march into the worst high school in your state and teach the students college calculus? If you could, then one thing would be clear: With the right mindset and the right teaching, people are capable of a lot more than we think. Garfield High School was one of the worst schools in Los Angeles. To say that the students were turned off and the teachers burned out is an understatement. But without thinking twice, Jaime Escalante (of Stand and Deliver fame) taught these inner-city Hispanic students college-level calculus. With his growth mindset, he asked, How can I teach them? not Can I teach them? and How will they learn best? not Can they learn? But not only did he teach them calculus, he (and his colleague, Benjamin Jimenez) took them to the top of the national charts in math. In 1987, only three other public schools in the country had more students taking the Advanced Placement Calculus test. Those three included Stuyvesant High School and the Bronx High School of Science, both elite math-and-science-oriented schools in New York. Whats more, most of the Garfield students earned test grades that were high enough to gain them college credits. In the whole country that year, only a few hundred Mexican American students passed the test at this level. This means theres a lot of intelligence out there being wasted by underestimating students potential to develop. Marva Collins Most often when kids are behindsay, when theyre repeating a gradetheyre given dumbed-down material on the assumption that they cant handle more. That idea comes from the fixed mindset: These students are dim-witted, so they need the same simple things drummed into them over and over. Well, the results are depressing. Students repeat the whole grade without learning any more than they knew before. Instead, Marva Collins took inner-city Chicago kids who had failed in the public schools and treated them like geniuses. Many of them had been labeled learning disabled, retarded, or emotionally disturbed. Virtually all of them were apathetic. No light in the eyes, no hope in the face. Collinss second-grade public school class started out with the lowest-level reader there was. By June, they reached the middle of the fifth-grade reader, studying Aristotle, Aesop, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Poe, Frost, and Dickinson along the way. Later when she started her own school, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Zay Smith dropped in. He saw four-year-olds writing sentences like See the physician and Aesop wrote fables, and talking about diphthongs and diacritical marks. He observed second graders reciting passages from Shakespeare, Longfellow, and Kipling. Shortly before, he had visited a rich suburban high school where many students had never heard of Shakespeare. Shoot, said one of Collinss students, you mean those rich high school kids dont know Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616? Students read huge amounts, even over the summer. One student, who had entered as a retarded six-year-old, now four years later had read twenty-three books over the summer, including A Tale of Two Cities and Jane Eyre. The students read deeply and thoughtfully. As the three- and four-year-olds were reading about Daedalus and Icarus, one four-year-old exclaimed, Mrs. Collins, if we do not learn and work hard, we will take an Icarian flight to nowhere. Heated discussions of Macbeth were common. Alfred Binet believed you could change the quality of someones mind. Clearly you can. Whether you measure these children by the breadth of their knowledge or by their performance on standardized tests, their minds had been transformed. Benjamin Bloom, an eminent educational researcher, studied 120 outstanding achievers. They were concert pianists, sculptors, Olympic swimmers, world-class tennis players, mathematicians, and research neurologists. Most were not that remarkable as children and didnt show clear talent before their training began in earnest. Even by early adolescence, you usually couldnt predict their future accomplishment from their current ability. Only their continued motivation and commitment, along with their network of support, took them to the top. Bloom concludes, After forty years of intensive research on school learning in the United States as well as abroad, my major conclusion is: What any person in the world can learn, almost all persons can learn, if provided with the appropriate prior and current conditions of learning. Hes not counting the 2 to 3 percent of children who have severe impairments, and hes not counting the top 1 to 2 percent of children at the other extreme that include children like Michael. He is counting everybody else. Ability Levels and Tracking But arent students sorted into different ability levels for a reason? Havent their test scores and past achievement shown what their ability is? Remember, test scores and measures of achievement tell you where a student is, but they dont tell you where a student could end up. Falko Rheinberg, a researcher in Germany, studied schoolteachers with different mindsets. Some of the teachers had the fixed mindset. They believed that students entering their class with different achievement levels were deeply and permanently different: According to my experience students achievement mostly remains constant in the course of a year. If I know students intelligence I can predict their school career quite well. As a teacher I have no influence on students intellectual ability. Like my sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Wilson, these teachers preached and practiced the fixed mindset. In their classrooms, the students who started the year in the high-ability group ended the year there, and those who started the year in the low-ability group ended the year there. But some teachers preached and practiced a growth mindset. They focused on the idea that all children could develop their skills, and in their classrooms a weird thing happened. It didnt matter whether students started the year in the high- or the low-ability group. Both groups ended the year way up high. Its a powerful experience to see these findings. The group differences had simply disappeared under the guidance of teachers who taught for improvement, for these teachers had found a way to reach their low-ability students. How teachers put a growth mindset into practice is the topic of a later chapter, but heres a preview of how Marva Collins, the renowned teacher, did it. On the first day of class, she approached Freddie, a left-back second grader, who wanted no part of school. Come on, peach, she said to him, cupping his face in her hands, we have work to do. You cant just sit in a seat and grow smart.I promise, you are going to do, and you are going to produce. I am not going to let you fail. Summary The fixed mindset limits achievement. It fills peoples minds with interfering thoughts, it makes effort disagreeable, and it leads to inferior learning strategies. Whats more, it makes other people into judges instead of allies. Whether were talking about Darwin or college students, important achievements require a clear focus, all-out effort, and a bottomless trunk full of strategies. Plus allies in learning. This is what the growth mindset gives people, and thats why it helps their abilities grow and bear fruit. IS ARTISTIC ABILITY A GIFT? Despite the widespread belief that intelligence is born, not made, when we really think about it, its not so hard to imagine that people can develop their intellectual abilities. The intellect is so multifaceted. You can develop verbal skills or mathematical-scientific skills or logical thinking skills, and so on. But when it comes to artistic ability, it seems more like a God-given gift. For example, people seem to naturally draw well or poorly. Even I believed this. While some of my friends seemed to draw beautifully with no effort and no training, my drawing ability was arrested in early grade school. Try as I might, my attempts were primitive and disappointing. I was artistic in other ways. I can design, Im great with colors, I have a subtle sense of composition. Plus I have really good eyehand coordination. Why couldnt I draw? I must not have the gift. I have to admit that it didnt bother me all that much. After all, when do you really have to draw? I found out one evening as the dinner guest of a fascinating man. He was an older man, a psychiatrist, who had escaped from the Holocaust. As a ten-year-old child in Czechoslovakia, he and his younger brother came home from school one day to find their parents gone. They had been taken. Knowing there was an uncle in England, the two boys walked to London and found him. A few years later, lying about his age, my host joined the Royal Air Force and fought for Britain in the war. When he was wounded, he married his nurse, went to medical school, and established a thriving practice in America. Over the years, he developed a great interest in owls. He thought of them as embodying characteristics he admired, and he liked to think of himself as owlish. Besides the many owl statuettes that adorned his house, he had an owl-related guest book. It turned out that whenever he took a shine to someone, he asked them to draw an owl and write something to him in this book. As he extended this book to me and explained its significance, I felt both honored and horrified. Mostly horrified. All the more because my creation was not to be buried somewhere in the middle of the book, but was to adorn its very last page. I wont dwell on the intensity of my discomfort or the poor quality of my artwork, although both were painfully clear. I tell this story as a prelude to the astonishment and joy I felt when I read Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Below are the before-and-after self-portraits of people who took a short course in drawing from the author, Betty Edwards. That is, they are the self-portraits drawn by the students when they entered her course and five days later when they had completed it. Arent they amazing? At the beginning, these people didnt look as though they had much artistic ability. Most of their pictures reminded me of my owl. But only a few days later, everybody could really draw! And Edwards swears that this is a typical group. It seems impossible. Edwards agrees that most people view drawing as a magical ability that only a select few possess, and that only a select few will ever possess. But this is because people dont understand the componentsthe learnable componentsof drawing. Actually, she informs us, they are not drawing skills at all, but seeing skills. They are the ability to perceive edges, spaces, relationships, lights and shadows, and the whole. Drawing requires us to learn each component skill and then combine them into one process. Some people simply pick up these skills in the natural course of their lives, whereas others have to work to learn them and put them together. But as we can see from the after self-portraits, everyone can do it. Heres what this means: Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesnt mean that others cant do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training. This is so important, because many, many people with the fixed mindset think that someones early performance tells you all you need to know about their talent and their future. Jackson Pollock It would have been a real shame if people discouraged Jackson Pollock for that reason. Experts agree that Pollock had little native talent for art, and when you look at his early products, it showed. They also agree that he became one of the greatest American painters of the twentieth century and that he revolutionized modern art. How did he go from point A to point B? Twyla Tharp, the world-famous choreographer and dancer, wrote a book called The Creative Habit. As you can guess from the title, she argues that creativity is not a magical act of inspiration. Its the result of hard work and dedication. Even for Mozart. Remember the movie Amadeus? Remember how it showed Mozart easily churning out one masterpiece after another while Salieri, his rival, is dying of envy? Well, Tharp worked on that movie and she says: Hogwash! Nonsense! There are no natural geniuses. Dedication is how Jackson Pollock got from point A to point B. Pollock was wildly in love with the idea of being an artist. He thought about art all the time, and he did it all the time. Because he was so gung ho, he got others to take him seriously and mentor him until he mastered all there was to master and began to produce startlingly original works. His poured paintings, each completely unique, allowed him to draw from his unconscious mind and convey a huge range of feeling. Several years ago, I was privileged to see a show of these paintings at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. I was stunned by the power and beauty of each work. Can anyone do anything? I dont really know. However, I think we can now agree that people can do a lot more than first meets the eye. THE DANGER OF PRAISE AND POSITIVE LABELS If people have such potential to achieve, how can they gain faith in their potential? How can we give them the confidence they need to go for it? How about praising their ability in order to convey that they have what it takes? In fact, more than 80 percent of parents told us it was necessary to praise childrens ability so as to foster their confidence and achievement. You know, it makes a lot of sense. But then we began to worry. We thought about how people with the fixed mindset already focus too much on their ability: Is it high enough? Will it look good? Wouldnt praising peoples ability focus them on it even more? Wouldnt it be telling them that thats what we value and, even worse, that we can read their deep, underlying ability from their performance? Isnt that teaching them the fixed mindset? Adam Guettel has been called the crown prince and savior of musical theater. He is the grandson of Richard Rodgers, the man who wrote the music to such classics as Oklahoma! and Carousel. Guettels mother gushes about her sons genius. So does everyone else. The talent is there and its major, raved a review in The New York Times. The question is whether this kind of praise encourages people. Whats great about research is that you can ask these kinds of questions and then go get the answers. So we conducted studies with hundreds of students, mostly early adolescents. We first gave each student a set of ten fairly difficult problems from a nonverbal IQ test. They mostly did pretty well on these, and when they finished we praised them. We praised some of the students for their ability. They were told: Wow, you got [say] eight right. Thats a really good score. You must be smart at this. They were in the Adam Guettel youre-so-talented position. We praised other students for their effort: Wow, you got [say] eight right. Thats a really good score. You must have worked really hard. They were not made to feel that they had some special gift; they were praised for doing what it takes to succeed. Both groups were exactly equal to begin with. But right after the praise, they began to differ. As we feared, the ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too: When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from. They didnt want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent. When Guettel was thirteen, he was all set to star in a Metropolitan Opera broadcast and TV movie of Amahl and the Night Visitors. He bowed out, saying that his voice had broken. I kind of faked that my voice was changing.I didnt want to handle the pressure. In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from. Then we gave students some hard new problems, which they didnt do so well on. The ability kids now thought they were not smart after all. If success had meant they were intelligent, then less-than-success meant they were deficient. Guettel echoes this. In my family, to be good is to fail. To be very good is to fail.The only thing not a failure is to be great. The effort kids simply thought the difficulty meant Apply more effort or try new strategies. They didnt see it as a failure, and they didnt think it reflected on their intellect. What about the students enjoyment of the problems? After the success, everyone loved the problems, but after the difficult problems, the ability students said it wasnt fun anymore. It cant be fun when your claim to fame, your special talent, is in jeopardy. Heres Adam Guettel: I wish I could just have fun and relax and not have the responsibility of that potential to be some kind of great man. As with the kids in our study, the burden of talent was killing his enjoyment. The effort-praised students still loved the problems, and many of them said that the hard problems were the most fun. We then looked at the students performance. After the experience with difficulty, the performance of the ability-praised students plummeted, even when we gave them some more of the easier problems. Losing faith in their ability, they were doing worse than when they started. The effort kids showed better and better performance. They had used the hard problems to sharpen their skills, so that when they returned to the easier ones, they were way ahead. Since this was a kind of IQ test, you might say that praising ability lowered the students IQs. And that praising their effort raised them. Guettel was not thriving. He was riddled with obsessive-compulsive tics and bitten, bleeding fingers. Spend a minute with himit takes only oneand a picture of the terror behind the tics starts to emerge, says an interviewer. Guettel has also fought serious, recurrent drug problems. Rather than empowering him, the gift has filled him with fear and doubt. Rather than fulfilling his talent, this brilliant composer has spent most of his life running from it. One thing is hopefulhis recognition that he has his own life course to follow that is not dictated by other people and their view of his talent. One night he had a dream about his grandfather. I was walking him to an elevator. I asked him if I was any good. He said, rather kindly, You have your own voice. Is that voice finally emerging? For the score of The Light in the Piazza, an intensely romantic musical, Guettel won the 2005 Tony Award. Will he take it as praise for talent or praise for effort? I hope its the latter. There was one more finding in our study that was striking and depressing at the same time. We said to each student: You know, were going to go to other schools, and I bet the kids in those schools would like to know about the problems. So we gave students a page to write out their thoughts, but we also left a space for them to write the scores they had received on the problems. Would you believe that almost 40 percent of the ability-praised students lied about their scores? And always in one direction. In the fixed mindset, imperfections are shamefulespecially if youre talentedso they lied them away. Whats so alarming is that we took ordinary children and made them into liars, simply by telling them they were smart. Right after I wrote these paragraphs, I met with a young man who tutors students for their College Board exams. He had come to consult with me about one of his students. This student takes practice tests and then lies to him about her score. He is supposed to tutor her on what she doesnt know, but she cant tell him the truth about what she doesnt know! And she is paying money for this. So telling children theyre smart, in the end, made them feel dumber and act dumber, but claim they were smarter. I dont think this is what were aiming for when we put positive labelsgifted, talented, brillianton people. We dont mean to rob them of their zest for challenge and their recipes for success. But thats the danger. Here is a letter from a man whod read some of my work: Dear Dr. Dweck, It was painful to read your chapteras I recognized myself therein. As a child I was a member of The Gifted Child Society and continually praised for my intelligence. Now, after a lifetime of not living up to my potential (Im 49), Im learning to apply myself to a task. And also to see failure not as a sign of stupidity but as lack of experience and skill. Your chapter helped see myself in a new light. Seth Abrams This is the danger of positive labels. There are alternatives, and I will return to them later in the chapter on parents, teachers, and coaches. NEGATIVE LABELS AND HOW THEY WORK I was once a math whiz. In high school, I got a 99 in algebra, a 99 in geometry, and a 99 in trigonometry, and I was on the math team. I scored up there with the boys on the air force test of visual-spatial ability, which is why I got recruiting brochures from the air force for many years to come. Then I got a Mr. Hellman, a teacher who didnt believe girls could do math. My grades declined, and I never took math again. I actually agreed with Mr. Hellman, but I didnt think it applied to me. Other girls couldnt do math. Mr. Hellman thought it applied to me, too, and I succumbed. Everyone knows negative labels are bad, so youd think this would be a short section. But it isnt a short section, because psychologists are learning how negative labels harm achievement. No one knows about negative ability labels like members of stereotyped groups. For example, African Americans know about being stereotyped as lower in intelligence. And women know about being stereotyped as bad at math and science. But Im not sure even they know how creepy these stereotypes are. Research by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson shows that even checking a box to indicate your race or sex can trigger the stereotype in your mind and lower your test score. Almost anything that reminds you that youre black or female before taking a test in the subject youre supposed to be bad at will lower your test scorea lot. In many of their studies, blacks are equal to whites in their performance, and females are equal to males, when no stereotype is evoked. But just put more males in the room with a female before a math test, and down goes the females score. This is why. When stereotypes are evoked, they fill peoples minds with distracting thoughtswith secret worries about confirming the stereotype. People usually arent even aware of it, but they dont have enough mental power left to do their best on the test. This doesnt happen to everybody, however. It mainly happens to people who are in a fixed mindset. Its when people are thinking in terms of fixed traits that the stereotypes get to them. Negative stereotypes say: You and your group are permanently inferior. Only people in the fixed mindset resonate to this message. So in the fixed mindset, both positive and negative labels can mess with your mind. When youre given a positive label, youre afraid of losing it, and when youre hit with a negative label, youre afraid of deserving it. When people are in a growth mindset, the stereotype doesnt disrupt their performance. The growth mindset takes the teeth out of the stereotype and makes people better able to fight back. They dont believe in permanent inferiority. And if they are behindwell, then theyll work harder, seek help, and try to catch up. The growth mindset also makes people able to take what they can and what they need even from a threatening environment. We asked African American students to write an essay for a competition. They were told that when they finished, their essays would be evaluated by Edward Caldwell III, a distinguished professor with an Ivy League pedigree. That is, a representative of the white establishment. Edward Caldwell IIIs feedback was quite critical, but also helpfuland students reactions varied greatly. Those with a fixed mindset viewed it as a threat, an insult, or an attack. They rejected Caldwell and his feedback. Heres what one student with the fixed mindset thought: Hes mean, he doesnt grade right, or hes obviously biased. He doesnt like me. Said another: He is a pompous asshole.It appears that he was searching for anything to discredit the work. And another, deflecting the feedback with blame: He doesnt understand the conciseness of my points. He thought it was vague because he was impatient when he read it. He dislikes creativity. None of them will learn anything from Edward Caldwells feedback. The students with the growth mindset may also have viewed him as a dinosaur, but he was a dinosaur who could teach them something. Before the evaluation, he came across as arrogant and overdemanding. [After the evaluation?] Fair seems to be the first word that comes to mind.It seems like a new challenge. He sounded like an arrogant, intimidating, and condescending man. [What are your feelings about the evaluation?] The evaluation was seemingly honest and specific. In this sense, the evaluation could be a stimulusto produce better work. He seems to be proud to the point of arrogance. [The evaluation?] He was intensely critical.His comments were helpful and clear, however. I feel I will learn much from him. The growth mindset allowed African American students to recruit Edward Caldwell III for their own goals. They were in college to get an education and, pompous asshole or not, they were going to get it. Do I Belong Here? Aside from hijacking peoples abilities, stereotypes also do damage by making people feel they dont belong. Many minorities drop out of college and many women drop out of math and science because they just dont feel they fit in. To find out how this happens, we followed college women through their calculus course. This is often when students decide whether math, or careers involving math, are right for them. Over the semester, we asked the women to report their feelings about math and their sense of belonging in math. For example, when they thought about math, did they feel like a full-fledged member of the math community or did they feel like an outsider; did they feel comfortable or did they feel anxious; did they feel good or bad about their math skills? The women with the growth mindsetthose who thought math ability could be improvedfelt a fairly strong and stable sense of belonging. And they were able to maintain this even when they thought there was a lot of negative stereotyping going around. One student described it this way: In a math class, [female] students were told they were wrong when they were not (they were in fact doing things in novel ways). It was absurd, and reflected poorly on the instructor not to see the students good reasoning. It was alright because we were working in groups and we were able to give and receive support among us students.We discussed our interesting ideas among ourselves. The stereotyping was disturbing to them (as it should be), but they could still feel comfortable with themselves and confident about themselves in a math setting. They could fight back. But women with the fixed mindset, as the semester wore on, felt a shrinking sense of belonging. And the more they felt the presence of stereotyping in their class, the more their comfort with math withered. One student said that her sense of belonging fell because I was disrespected by the professor with his comment, that was a good guess, whenever I made a correct answer in class. The stereotype of low ability was able to invade themto define themand take away their comfort and confidence. Im not saying its their fault by any means. Prejudice is a deeply ingrained societal problem, and I do not want to blame the victims of it. I am simply saying that a growth mindset helps people to see prejudice for what it issomeone elses view of themand to confront it with their confidence and abilities intact. Trusting Peoples Opinions Many females have a problem not only with stereotypes, but with other peoples opinions of them in general. They trust them too much. One day, I went into a drugstore in Hawaii to buy dental floss and deodorant, and, after fetching my items, I went to wait in line. There were two women together in front of me waiting to pay. Since I am an incurable time stuffer, at some point I decided to get my money ready for when my turn came. So I walked up, put the items way on the side of the counter, and started to gather up the bills that were strewn throughout my purse. The two women went berserk. I explained that in no way was I trying to cut in front of them. I was just preparing for when my turn came. I thought the matter was resolved, but when I left the store, they were waiting for me. They got in my face and yelled, Youre a bad-mannered person! My husband, who had seen the whole thing from beginning to end, thought they were nuts. But they had a strange and disturbing effect on me, and I had a hard time shaking off their verdict. This vulnerability afflicts many of the most able, high-achieving females. Why should this be? When theyre little, these girls are often so perfect, and they delight in everyones telling them so. Theyre so well behaved, theyre so cute, theyre so helpful, and theyre so precocious. Girls learn to trust peoples estimates of them. Gee, everyones so nice to me; if they criticize me, it must be true. Even females at the top universities in the country say that other peoples opinions are a good way to know their abilities. 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. 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. Thats because youre 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 peoples evaluations. Even when women reach the pinnacle of success, other peoples attitudes can get them. Frances Conley is one of the most eminent neurosurgeons in the world. In fact, she was the first woman ever given tenure in neurosurgery at an American medical school. Yet careless comments from male colleagueseven assistantscould fill her with self-doubt. One day during surgery, a man condescendingly called her honey. Instead of returning the compliment, she questioned herself. Is a honey, she wondered, especially this honey, good enough and talented enough to be doing this operation? The fixed mindset, plus stereotyping, plus womens trust in other peoples assessments of them: All of these contribute to the gender gap in math and science. That gap is painfully evident in the world of high tech. Julie Lynch, a budding techie, was already writing computer code when she was in junior high school. Her father and two brothers worked in technology, and she loved it, too. Then her computer programming teacher criticized her. She had written a computer program and the program ran just fine, but he didnt like a shortcut she had taken. Her interest evaporated. Instead, she went on to study recreation and public relations. Math and science need to be made more hospitable places for women. And women need all the growth mindset they can get to take their rightful places in these fields. When Things Go Right But lets look at the times the process goes right. The Polgar family has produced three of the most successful female chess players ever. How? Says Susan, one of the three, My father believes that innate talent is nothing, that [success] is 99 percent hard work. I agree with him. The youngest daughter, Judit, is now considered the best woman chess player of all time. She was not the one with the most talent. Susan reports, Judit was a slow starter, but very hardworking. A colleague of mine has two daughters who are math whizzes. One is a graduate student in math at a top university. The other was the first girl to rank number one in the country on an elite math test, won a nationwide math contest, and is now a neuroscience major at a top university. Whats their secret? Is it passed down in the genes? I believe its passed down in the mindset. Its the most growth-mindset family Ive ever seen. In fact, their father applied the growth mindset to everything. Ill never forget a conversation we had some years ago. I was single at the time, and he asked me what my plan was for finding a partner. He was aghast when I said I didnt have a plan. You wouldnt expect your work to get done by itself, he said. Why is this any different? It was inconceivable to him that you could have a goal and not take steps to make it happen. In short, the growth mindset lets peopleeven those who are targets of negative labelsuse and develop their minds fully. Their heads are not filled with limiting thoughts, a fragile sense of belonging, and a belief that other people can define them. Grow Your Mindset Think about your hero. Do you think of this person as someone with extraordinary abilities who achieved with little effort? Now go find out the truth. Find out the tremendous effort that went into their accomplishmentand admire them more. Think of times other people outdid you and you just assumed they were smarter or more talented. Now consider the idea that they just used better strategies, taught themselves more, practiced harder, and worked their way through obstacles. You can do that, too, if you want to. Are there situations where you get stupidwhere you disengage your intelligence? Next time youre in one of those situations, get yourself into a growth mindsetthink about learning and improvement, not judgmentand hook it back up. Do you label your kids? This one is the artist and that one is the scientist. Next time, remember that youre not helping themeven though you may be praising them. Remember our study where praising kids ability lowered their IQ scores. Find a growth-mindset way to compliment them. More than half of our society belongs to a negatively stereotyped group. First you have all the women, and then you have all the other groups who are not supposed to be good at something or other. Give them the gift of the growth mindset. Create an environment that teaches the growth mindset to the adults and children in your life, especially the ones who are targets of negative stereotypes. Even when the negative label comes along, theyll remain in charge of their learning. Chapter 4 SPORTS: THE MINDSET OF A CHAMPION In sports, everybody believes in talent. Evenor especiallythe experts. In fact, sports is where the idea of a natural comes fromsomeone who looks like an athlete, moves like an athlete, and is an athlete, all without trying. So great is the belief in natural talent that many scouts and coaches search only for naturals, and teams will vie with each other to pay exorbitant amounts to recruit them. Billy Beane was a natural. Everyone agreed he was the next Babe Ruth. But Billy Beane lacked one thing. The mindset of a champion. As Michael Lewis tells us in Moneyball, by the time Beane was a sophomore in high school, he was the highest scorer on the basketball team, the quarterback of the football team, and the best hitter on the baseball team, batting .500 in one of the toughest leagues in the country. His talent was real enough. But the minute things went wrong, Beane searched for something to break. It wasnt merely that he didnt like to fail; it was as if he didnt know how to fail. As he moved up in baseball from the minor leagues to the majors, things got worse and worse. Each at-bat became a nightmare, another opportunity for humiliation, and with every botched at-bat, he went to pieces. As one scout said, Billy was of the opinion that he should never make an out. Sound familiar? Did Beane try to fix his problems in constructive ways? No, of course not, because this is a story of the fixed mindset. Natural talent should not need effort. Effort is for the others, the less endowed. Natural talent does not ask for help. It is an admission of weakness. In short, the natural does not analyze his deficiencies and coach or practice them away. The very idea of deficiencies is terrifying. Being so imbued with the fixed mindset, Beane was trapped. Trapped by his huge talent. Beane the player never recovered from the fixed mindset, but Beane the incredibly successful major-league executive did. How did this happen? There was another player who lived and played side by side with Beane in the minors and in the majors, Lenny Dykstra. Dykstra did not have a fraction of Beanes physical endowment or natural ability, but Beane watched him in awe. As Beane later described, He had no concept of failure.And I was the opposite. Beane continues, I started to get a sense of what a baseball player was and I could see it wasnt me. It was Lenny. As he watched, listened, and mulled it over, it dawned on Beane that mindset was more important than talent. And not long after that, as part of a group that pioneered a radically new approach to scouting and managing, he came to believe that scoring runsthe whole point of baseballwas much more about process than about talent. Armed with these insights, Beane, as general manager of the 2002 Oakland Athletics, led his team to a season of 103 victorieswinning the division championship and almost breaking the American League record for consecutive wins. The team had the second-lowest payroll in baseball! They didnt buy talent, they bought mindset. THE IDEA OF THE NATURAL Now You See It, Now You Dont Physical endowment is not like intellectual endowment. Its visible. Size, build, agility are all visible. Practice and training are also visible, and they produce visible results. You would think that this would dispel the myth of the natural. You could see Muggsy Bogues at five foot three playing NBA basketball, and Doug Flutie, the small quarterback who played for the New England Patriots and the San Diego Chargers. You could see Pete Gray, the one-armed baseball player who made it to the major leagues. Ben Hogan, one of the greatest golfers of all time, who was completely lacking in grace. Glenn Cunningham, the great runner, who had badly burned and damaged legs. Larry Bird and his lack of swiftness. You can see the small or graceless or even disabled ones who make it, and the god-like specimens who dont. Shouldnt this tell people something? Boxing experts relied on physical measurements, called tales of the tape, to identify naturals. They included measurements of the fighters fist, reach, chest expansion, and weight. Muhammad Ali failed these measurements. He was not a natural. He had great speed but he didnt have the physique of a great fighter, he didnt have the strength, and he didnt have the classical moves. In fact, he boxed all wrong. He didnt block punches with his arms and elbows. He punched in rallies like an amateur. He kept his jaw exposed. He pulled back his torso to evade the impact of oncoming punches, which Jose Torres said was like someone in the middle of a train track trying to avoid being hit by an oncoming train, not by moving to one or the other side of the track, but by running backwards. Sonny Liston, Alis adversary, was a natural. He had it allthe size, the strength, and the experience. His power was legendary. It was unimaginable that Ali could beat Sonny Liston. The matchup was so ludicrous that the arena was only half full for the fight. But aside from his quickness, Alis brilliance was his mind. His brains, not his brawn. He sized up his opponent and went for his mental jugular. Not only did he study Listons fighting style, but he closely observed what kind of person Liston was out of the ring: I read everything I could where he had been interviewed. I talked with people who had been around him or had talked with him. I would lay in bed and put all of the things together and think about them, and try to get a picture of how his mind worked. And then he turned it against him. Why did Ali appear to go crazy before each fight? Because, Torres says, he knew that a knockout punch is the one they dont see coming. Ali said, Liston had to believe that I was crazy. That I was capable of doing anything. He couldnt see nothing to me at all but mouth and thats all I wanted him to see! Float like a butterfly, Sting like a bee Your hands cant hit What your eyes cant see. Alis victory over Liston is boxing history. A famous boxing manager reflects on Ali: He was a paradox. His physical performances in the ring were absolutely wrong.Yet, his brain was always in perfect working condition. He showed us all, he continued with a broad smile written across his face, that all victories come from here, hitting his forehead with his index finger. Then he raised a pair of fists, saying: Not from here. This didnt change peoples minds about physical endowment. No, we just look back at Ali now, with our hindsight, and see the body of a great boxer. It was gravy that his mind was so sharp and that he made up amusing poems, but we still think his greatness resided in his physique. And we dont understand how the experts failed to see that greatness right from the start. Michael Jordan Michael Jordan wasnt a natural, either. He was the hardest-working athlete, perhaps in the history of sport. It is well known that Michael Jordan was cut from the high school varsity teamwe laugh at the coach who cut him. He wasnt recruited by the college he wanted to play for (North Carolina State). Well, werent they foolish? He wasnt drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. What a blooper! Because now we know he was the greatest basketball player ever, and we think it should have been obvious from the start. When we look at him we see MICHAEL JORDAN. But at that point he was only Michael Jordan. When Jordan was cut from the varsity team, he was devastated. His mother says, I told him to go back and discipline himself. Boy, did he listen. He used to leave the house at six in the morning to go practice before school. At the University of North Carolina, he constantly worked on his weaknesseshis defensive game and his ball handling and shooting. The coach was taken aback by his willingness to work harder than anyone else. Once, after the team lost the last game of the season, Jordan went and practiced his shots for hours. He was preparing for the next year. Even at the height of his success and fameafter he had made himself into an athletic geniushis dogged practice remained legendary. Former Bulls assistant coach John Bach called him a genius who constantly wants to upgrade his genius. For Jordan, success stems from the mind. The mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have. Ive always said that and Ive always believed that. But other people dont. They look at Michael Jordan and they see the physical perfection that led inevitably to his greatness. The Babe What about Babe Ruth? Now, he was clearly no vessel of human physical perfection. Here was the guy with the famous appetites and a giant stomach bulging out of his Yankee uniform. Wow, doesnt that make him even more of a natural? Didnt he just carouse all night and then kind of saunter to the plate the next day and punch out home runs? The Babe was not a natural, either. At the beginning of his professional career, Babe Ruth was not that good a hitter. He had a lot of power, power that came from his total commitment each time he swung the bat. When he connected, it was breathtaking, but he was highly inconsistent. Its true that he could consume astounding amounts of liquor and unheard-of amounts of food. After a huge meal, he could eat one or more whole pies for dessert. But he could also discipline himself when he had to. Many winters, he worked out the entire off-season at the gym to become more fit. In fact, after the 1925 season, when it looked as though he was washed up, he really committed himself to getting in shape, and it worked. From 1926 through 1931, he batted .354, averaging 50 home runs a year and 155 runs batted in. Robert Creamer, his biographer, says, Ruth put on the finest display of sustained hitting that baseball has ever seen.From the ashes of 1925, Babe Ruth rose like a rocket. Through discipline. He also loved to practice. In fact, when he joined the Boston Red Sox, the veterans resented him for wanting to take batting practice every day. He wasnt just a rookie; he was a rookie pitcher. Who did he think he was, trying to take batting practice? One time, later in his career, he was disciplined and was banned from a game. That was one thing. But they wouldnt let him practice, either, and that really hurt. Ty Cobb argued that being a pitcher helped Ruth develop his hitting. Why would being a pitcher help his batting? He could experiment at the plate, Cobb said. No one cares much if a pitcher strikes out or looks bad at bat, so Ruth could take that big swing. If he missed, it didnt matter.As time went on, he learned more and more about how to control that big swing and put the wood on the ball. By the time he became a fulltime outfielder, he was ready. Yet we cling fast to what Stephen Jay Gould calls the common view that ballplayers are hunks of meat, naturally and effortlessly displaying the talents that nature provided. The Fastest Women on Earth What about Wilma Rudolph, hailed as the fastest woman on earth after she won three gold medals for sprints and relay in the 1960 Rome Olympics? She was far from a physical wonder as a youngster. She was a premature baby, the twentieth of twenty-two children born to her parents, and a constantly sick child. At four years of age, she nearly died of a long struggle with double pneumonia, scarlet fever, and polio(!), emerging with a mostly paralyzed left leg. Doctors gave her little hope of ever using it again. For eight years, she vigorously pursued physical therapy, until at age twelve she shed her leg brace and began to walk normally. If this wasnt a lesson that physical skills could be developed, what was? She immediately went and applied that lesson to basketball and track, although she lost every race she entered in her first official track meet. After her incredible career, she said, I just want to be remembered as a hardworking lady. What about Jackie Joyner-Kersee, hailed as the greatest female athlete of all time? Between 1985 and the beginning of 1996, she won every heptathlon she competed in. What exactly is a heptathlon? Its a grueling two-day, seven-part event consisting of a 100-meter hurdles race, the high jump, the javelin throw, a 200-meter sprint, the long jump, the shotput, and an 800-meter run. No wonder the winner gets to be called the best female athlete in the world. Along the way, Joyner-Kersee earned the six highest scores in the history of the sport, set world records, and won two world championships as well as two Olympic gold medals (six if we count the ones in other events). Was she a natural? Talent she had, but when she started track, she finished in last place for quite some time. The longer she worked, the faster she got, but she still didnt win any races. Finally, she began to win. What changed? Some might attribute my transformation to the laws of heredity.But I think it was my reward for all those hours of work on the bridle path, the neighborhood sidewalks and the schoolhouse corridors. Sharing the secret of her continued success, she says, There is something about seeing myself improve that motivates and excites me. Its that way now, after six Olympic medals and five world records. And it was the way I was in junior high, just starting to enter track meets. Her last two medals (a world-championship and an Olympic medal) came during an asthma attack and a severe, painful hamstring injury. It was not natural talent taking its course. It was mindset having its say. Naturals Shouldnt Need Effort Did you know there was once a strong belief that you couldnt physically train for golf, and that if you built your strength you would lose your touch? Until Tiger Woods came along with his workout regimes and fierce practice habits and won every tournament there was to win. In some cultures, people who tried to go beyond their natural talent through training received sharp disapproval. You were supposed to accept your station in life. These cultures would have hated Maury Wills. Wills was an eager baseball player in the 1950s and 60s with a dream to be a major leaguer. His problem was that his hitting wasnt good enough, so when the Dodgers signed him, they sent him down to the minor leagues. He proudly announced to his friends, In two years, Im going to be in Brooklyn playing with Jackie Robinson. He was wrong. Despite his optimistic prediction and grueling daily practice, he languished in the minors for eight and a half years. At the seven-and-a-half-year mark, the team manager made a batting suggestion, telling Wills, Youre in a seven-and-a-half-year slump, you have nothing to lose. Shortly thereafter, when the Dodger shortstop broke his toe, Wills was called up. He had his chance. His batting was still not good enough. Not ready to give up, he went to the first-base coach for help; they worked together several hours a day aside from Willss regular practice. Still not good enough. Even the gritty Wills was now ready to quit, but the first-base coach refused to let him. Now that the mechanics were in place, Wills needed work on his mind. He began to hitand, with his great speed, he began to steal bases. He studied the throws of the opposing pitchers and catchers, figuring out the best moment to steal a base. He developed sudden, powerful takeoffs and effective slides. His stealing began to distract the pitchers, throw off the catchers, and thrill the fans. Wills went on to break Ty Cobbs record for stolen bases, a record unchallenged for forty-seven years. That season, he was voted the most valuable player in the National League. Sports IQ You would think the sports world would have to see the relation between practice and improvementand between the mind and performanceand stop harping so much on innate physical talent. Yet its almost as if they refuse to see. Perhaps its because, as Malcolm Gladwell suggests, people prize natural endowment over earned ability. As much as our culture talks about individual effort and self-improvement, deep down, he argues, we revere the naturals. We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We dont like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary. Why not? To me that is so much more amazing. Even when experts are willing to recognize the role of the mind, they continue to insist that its all innate! This really hit me when I came upon an article about Marshall Faulk, the great running back for the St. Louis Rams football team. Faulk had just become the first player to gain a combined two thousand rushing and receiving yards in four consecutive seasons. The article, written on the eve of the 2002 Super Bowl, talked about Faulks uncanny skill at knowing where every player on the field is, even in the swirling chaos of twenty-two running and falling players. He not only knows where they are, but he also knows what they are doing, and what they are about to do. According to his teammates, hes never wrong. Incredible. How does he do it? As Faulk tells it, he spent years and years watching football. In high school he even got a job as a ballpark vendor, which he hated, in order to watch pro football. As he watched, he was always asking the question Why?: Why are we running this play? Why are we attacking it this way? Why are they doing that? Why are they doing this? That question, Faulk says, basically got me involved in football in a more in-depth way. As a pro, he never stopped asking why and probing deeper into the workings of the game. Clearly, Faulk himself sees his skills as the product of his insatiable curiosity and study. How do players and coaches see it? As a gift. Marshall has the highest football IQ of any position player Ive ever played with, says a veteran teammate. Other teammates describe his ability to recognize defensive alignments flawlessly as a savants gift. In awe of his array of skills, one coach explained: It takes a very innate football intelligence to do all that. CHARACTER But arent there some naturals, athletes who really seem to have it from the start? Yes, and as it was for Billy Beane and John McEnroe, sometimes its a curse. With all the praise for their talent and with how little theyve needed to work or stretch themselves, they can easily fall into a fixed mindset. Bruce Jenner (now Caitlyn Jenner), 1976 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon, says, If I wasnt dyslexic, I probably wouldnt have won the Games. If I had been a better reader, then that would have come easily, sports would have come easilyand I never would have realized that the way you get ahead in life is hard work. The naturals, carried away with their superiority, dont learn how to work hard or how to cope with setbacks. This is the story of Pedro Martinez, the brilliant pitcher then with the Boston Red Sox, who self-destructed when they needed him most. But its an even larger story too, a story about character. A group of sportswriters from The New York Times and The Boston Globe were on the Delta shuttle to Boston. So was I. They were headed to Game 3 of the 2003 American League play-off series between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. They were talking about character, and they all agreedthe Boston writers reluctantlythat the Yankees had it. Among other things, they remembered what the Yankees had done for New York two years before. It was October 2001, and New Yorkers had just lived through September 11. I was there and we were devastated. We needed some hope. The city needed the Yankees to go for itto go for the World Series. But the Yankees had lived through it, too, and they were injured and exhausted. They seemed to have nothing left. I dont know where they got it from, but they dug down deep and they polished off one team after another, each win bringing us a little bit back to life, each one giving us a little more hope for the future. Fueled by our need, they became the American League East champs, then the American League champs, and then they were in the World Series, where they made a valiant run and almost pulled it off. Everyone hates the Yankees. Its the team the whole country roots against. I grew up hating the Yankees, too, but after that I had to love them. This is what the sportswriters meant by character. Character, the sportswriters said. They know it when they see itits the ability to dig down and find the strength even when things are going against you. The very next day, Pedro Martinez, the dazzling but over-pampered Boston pitcher, showed what character meant. By showing what it isnt. No one could have wanted this American League Championship more than the Boston Red Sox. They hadnt won a World Series in eighty-five years, ever since the curse of the Bambinothat is, ever since Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Babe Ruth to the Yankees for money to finance a Broadway show. It was bad enough that he was selling the best left-handed pitcher in baseball (which Ruth was at the time), but he was selling him to the despised enemy. The Yankees went on to dominate baseball, winning, it seemed, endless World Series. Meanwhile Boston made it to four World Series and several play-offs, but they always lost. And they always lost in the most tragic way possible. By coming achingly near to victory and then having a meltdown. Here, finally, was another chance to fight off the curse and defeat their archrivals. If they won, they would make that trip to the World Series and the Yankees would stay home. Pedro Martinez was their hope. In fact, earlier in the season, he had cursed the curse. Yet after pitching a beautiful game, Martinez was losing his lead and falling behind. What did he do then? He hit a batter with the ball (Karim Garcia), threatened to bean another (Jorge Posada), and hurled a seventy-two-year-old man to the ground (Yankee coach Don Zimmer). As New York Times writer Jack Curry wrote: We knew we were going to have Pedro vs. Roger [Clemens] on a memorable afternoon at Fenway Park.But no one expected to watch Pedro against Garcia, Pedro against Posada, Pedro against Zimmer. Even the Boston writers were aghast. Dan Shaughnessy, of the Globe, asked: Which one would you rather have now, Red Sox fans? Roger Clemens, who kept his composure and behaved like a professional Saturday night, winning the game for his team despite his obvious anger? Or Martinez, the baby who hits a guy after he blows the lead, then points at his head and at Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, threatening, Youre next?Red Sox fans dont like to hear this, but Martinez was an embarrassment Saturday, and a disgrace to baseball. He gets away with it because hes Pedro. And the Sox front office enables him. Could Martinez one time stand up and admit hes wrong? Like Billy Beane, Pedro Martinez did not know how to tolerate frustration, did not know how to dig down and turn an important setback into an important win. Nor, like Billy Beane, could he admit his faults and learn from them. Because he threw his tantrum instead of doing the job, the Yankees won the game and went on to win the play-off by one game. The sportswriters on the plane agreed that character is all. But they confessed that they didnt understand where it comes from. Yet I think by now were getting the idea that character grows out of mindset. We now know that there is a mindset in which people are enmeshed in the idea of their own talent and specialness. When things go wrong, they lose their focus and their ability, putting everything they wantand in this case, everything the team and the fans so desperately wantin jeopardy. We also know that there is a mindset that helps people cope well with setbacks, points them to good strategies, and leads them to act in their best interest. Wait. The storys not over. One year later, the Sox and the Yankees went head-to-head again. Whoever won four games out of the seven would be the American League Champions and would take that trip to the World Series. The Yankees won the first three games, and Bostons humiliating fate seemed sealed once again. But that year Boston had put their prima donnas on notice. They traded one, tried to trade another (no one wanted him), and sent out the message: This is a team, not a bunch of stars. We work hard for each other. Four games later, the Boston Red Sox were the American League Champions. And then the World Champions. It was the first time since 1904 that Boston had beaten the Yankees in a championship series, showing two things. First, that the curse was over. And second, that character can be learned. More About Character Lets take it from the top with Pete Sampras and the growth mindset. In 2000, Sampras was at Wimbledon, trying for his thirteenth Grand Slam tennis victory. If he won, he would break Roy Emersons record of twelve wins in top tournaments. Although Sampras managed to make it to the finals, he had not played that well in the tournament and was not optimistic about his chances against the young, powerful Patrick Rafter. Sampras lost the first set, and was about to lose the second set. He was down 41 in the tiebreaker. Even he said, I really felt like it was slipping away. What would McEnroe have done? What would Pedro Martinez have done? What did Sampras do? As William Rhoden puts it, Hesearched for a frame of reference that could carry him through. Sampras says, When youre sitting on the changeover you think of past matches that youve lost the first setcame back and won the next three. Theres time. You reflect on your past experiences, being able to get through it. Suddenly, Sampras had a five-point run. Then two more. He had won the second set and he was alive. Last night, Rhoden says, Sampras displayed all the qualities of the hero: the loss in the first set, vulnerability near defeat, then a comeback and a final triumph. Jackie Joyner-Kersee talked herself through an asthma attack during her last world championship. She was in the 800-meter race, the last event of the heptathlon, when she felt the attack coming on. Just keep pumping your arms, she instructed herself. Its not that bad, so keep going. You can make it. Youre not going to have a full-blown attack. You have enough air. Youve got this thing won.Just run as hard as you can in this last 200 meters, Jackie. She instructed herself all the way to victory. I have to say this is my greatest triumph, considering the competition and the ups and downs I was going through.If I really wanted it, I had to pull it together. In her last Olympics, the dreaded thing happened. A serious hamstring injury forced her to drop out of the heptathlon. She was devastated. She was no longer a contender in her signature event, but would she be a contender in the long jump a few days later? Her first five jumps said no. They were nowhere near medal level. But the sixth jump won her a bronze medal, more precious than her gold ones. The strength for that sixth jump came from my assorted heartbreaks over the yearsId collected all my pains and turned them into one mighty performance. Joyner-Kersee, too, displayed all the qualities of a hero: the loss, the vulnerability near defeat, then a comeback and a final triumph. Character, Heart, Will, and the Mind of a Champion It goes by different names, but its the same thing. Its what makes you practice, and its what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you most need it. Remember how McEnroe told us all the things that went wrong to make him lose each match he lost? There was the time it was cold and the time it was hot, the time he was jealous and the times he was upset, and the many, many times he was distracted. But, as Billie Jean King tells us, the mark of a champion is the ability to win when things are not quite rightwhen youre not playing well and your emotions are not the right ones. Heres how she learned what being a champion meant. King was in the finals at Forest Hills playing against Margaret Smith (later Margaret Smith Court), who was at the peak of her greatness. King had played her more than a dozen times and had beaten her only once. In the first set, King played fabulously. She didnt miss a volley and built a nice lead. Suddenly, the set was over. Smith had won it. In the second set, King again built a commanding lead and was serving to win the set. Before she knew it, Smith had won the set and the match. At first, King was perplexed. She had never built such a commanding lead in such an important match. But then she had a Eureka! moment. All at once, she understood what a champion was: 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. Jackie Joyner-Kersee had her Eureka! moment too. She was fifteen years old and competing in the heptathlon at the AAU Junior Olympics. Everything now depended on the last event, the 800-meter race, an event she dreaded. She was exhausted and she was competing against an expert distance runner whose times she had never matched. She did this time. I felt a kind of high. Id proven that I could win if I wanted it badly enough.That win showed me that I could not only compete with the best athletes in the country, I could will myself to win. Often called the best woman soccer player in the world, Mia Hamm says she was always asked, Mia, what is the most important thing for a soccer player to have? With no hesitation, she answered, Mental toughness. And she didnt mean some innate trait. When eleven players want to knock you down, when youre tired or injured, when the referees are against you, you cant let any of it affect your focus. How do you do that? You have to learn how. It is, said Hamm, one of the most difficult aspects of soccer and the one I struggle with every game and every practice. By the way, did Hamm think she was the greatest player in the world? No. And because of that, she said, someday I just might be. In sports, there are always do-or-die situations, when a player must come through or its all over. Jack Nicklaus, the famed golfer, was in these situations many times in his long professional career on the PGA Tourwhere the tournament rested on his making a must-have shot. If you had to guess, how many of these shots do you think he missed? The answer is one. One! Thats the championship mentality. Its how people who are not as talented as their opponents win games. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, tells one of my favorite stories. Once, while Wooden was still a high school coach, a player was unhappy because he wasnt included in the big games. The player, Eddie Pawelski, begged Wooden to give him a chance, and Wooden relented. All right Eddie, he said, Ill give you a chance. Ill start you against Fort Wayne Central tomorrow night. Suddenly, Wooden tells us, I wondered where those words came from. Three teams were locked in a battle for number one in Indianaone was his team and another was Fort Wayne Central, tomorrow nights team. The next night, Wooden started Eddie. He figured that Eddie would last at most a minute or two, especially since he was up against Fort Waynes Armstrong, the toughest player in the state. Eddie literally took him apart, Wooden reports. Armstrong got the lowest point total of his career. Eddie scored 12, and our team showed the best balance of all season.But in addition to his scoring, his defense, rebounding, and play-making were excellent. Eddie never sat out again and was named most valuable player for the next two years. 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. Staying on Top Character is what allows you to reach the top and stay there. Darryl Strawberry, Mike Tyson, and Martina Hingis reached the top, but they didnt stay there. Isnt that because they had all kinds of personal problems and injuries? Yes, but so have many other champions. Ben Hogan was hit by a bus and was physically destroyed, but he made it back to the top. I believe ability can get you to the top, says coach John Wooden, but it takes character to keep you there.Its so easy tobegin thinking you can just turn it on automatically, without proper preparation. It takes real character to keep working as hard or even harder once youre there. When you read about an athlete or team that wins over and over and over, remind yourself, More than ability, they have character. Lets take an even deeper look at what character means, and how the growth mindset creates it. Stuart Biddle and his colleagues measured adolescents and young adults mindset about athletic ability. Those with the fixed mindset were the people who believed that: You have a certain level of ability in sports and you cannot really do much to change that level. To be good at sports you need to be naturally gifted. In contrast, the people with the growth mindset agreed that: How good you are at sports will always improve if you work harder at it. To be successful in sports, you need to learn techniques and skills and practice them regularly. Those with the growth mindset were the ones who showed the most character or heart. They were the ones who had the minds of champions. What do I mean? Lets look at the findings from these sports researchers and see. WHAT IS SUCCESS? Finding N1: Those with the growth mindset found success in doing their best, in learning and improving. And this is exactly what we find in the champions. For me the joy of athletics has never resided in winning, Jackie Joyner-Kersee tells us, I derive just as much happiness from the process as from the results. I dont mind losing as long as I see improvement or I feel Ive done as well as I possibly could. If I lose, I just go back to the track and work some more. This ideathat personal success is when you work your hardest to become your bestwas central to John Woodens life. In fact, he says, there were many, many games that gave me as much pleasure as any of the ten national championship games we won, simply because we prepared fully and played near our highest level of ability. Tiger Woods and Mia Hamm are two of the fiercest competitors who ever lived. They love to win, but what counted most for them is the effort they made even when they didnt win. They could be proud of that. McEnroe and Beane could not. After the 98 Masters tournament, Woods was disappointed that he did not repeat his win of the previous year, but he felt good about his top-ten finish: I squeezed the towel dry this week. Im very proud of the way I hung in there. Or after a British Open, where he finished third: Sometimes you get even more satisfaction out of creating a score when things arent completely perfect, when youre not feeling so well about your swing. Tiger is a hugely ambitious man. He wants to be the best, even the best ever. But the best methats a little more important. 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. Why did the country fall in love with her team? They saw that we truly love what we do and that we gave everything we had to each other and to each game. For those with the fixed mindset, success is about establishing their superiority, pure and simple. Being that somebody who is worthier than the nobodies. There was a timeIll admit it, McEnroe says, when my head was so big it could barely fit through the door. Wheres the talk about effort and personal best? There is none. Some people dont want to rehearse; they just want to perform. Other people want to practice a hundred times first. Im in the former group. Remember, in the fixed mindset, effort is not a cause for pride. It is something that casts doubt on your talent. WHAT IS FAILURE? Finding N2: Those with the growth mindset found setbacks motivating. Theyre informative. Theyre a wake-up call. Only once did Michael Jordan try to coast. It was the year he returned to the Bulls after his stint in baseball, and he learned his lesson. The Bulls were eliminated in the play-offs. You cant leave and think you can come back and dominate this game. I will be physically and mentally prepared from now on. Truer words are rarely spoken. The Bulls won the NBA title the next three years. Michael Jordan embraced his failures. In fact, in one of his favorite ads for Nike, he says: Ive missed more than nine thousand shots. Ive lost almost three hundred games. Twenty-six times, Ive been trusted to take the game-winning shot, and missed. You can be sure that each time, he went back and practiced the shot a hundred times. Heres how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the great basketball player, reacted when college basketball outlawed his signature shot, the dunk (later reinstated). Many thought that would stop his ascent to greatness. Instead, he worked twice as hard on developing other shots: his bank shot off the glass, his skyhook, and his turnaround jumper. He had absorbed the growth mindset from Coach Wooden, and put it to good use. In the fixed mindset, setbacks label you. John McEnroe could never stand the thought of losing. Even worse was the thought of losing to someone who was a friend or relative. That would make him less special. For example, he hoped desperately for his best friend, Peter, to lose in the finals at Maui after Peter had beaten him in an earlier round. He wanted it so badly he couldnt watch the match. Another time, he played his brother Patrick in a finals in Chicago, and said to himself, God, if I lose to Patrick, thats it. Im jumping off the Sears tower. Heres how failure motivated him. In 1979, he played mixed doubles at Wimbledon. He didnt play mixed doubles again for twenty years. Why? He and his partner lost in three straight sets. Plus, McEnroe lost his serve twice, while no one else lost theirs even once. That was the ultimate embarrassment. I said, Thats it. Im never playing again. I cant handle this. In 1981, McEnroe bought a beautiful black Les Paul guitar. That week, he went to see Buddy Guy play at the Checkerboard Lounge in Chicago. Instead of feeling inspired to take lessons or practice, McEnroe went home and smashed his guitar to pieces. Heres how failure motivated Sergio Garcia, another golden boy with mindset issues. Garcia had taken the golf world by storm with his great shots and his charming, boyish ways; he seemed like a younger Tiger. But when his performance took a dive, so did his charm. He fired caddie after caddie, blaming them for everything that went wrong. He once blamed his shoe when he slipped and missed a shot. To punish the shoe, he threw it and kicked it. Unfortunately, he almost hit an official. These are the ingenious remedies for failure in the fixed mindset. TAKING CHARGE OF SUCCESS Finding N3: People with the growth mindset in sports (as in pre-med chemistry) took charge of the processes that bring successand that maintain it. How come Michael Jordans skill didnt seem to decline with age? He did lose some stamina and agility with age, but to compensate, he worked even harder on conditioning and on his moves, like the turnaround jump shot and his celebrated fallaway jumper. He came into the league as a slam-dunker and he left as the most complete player ever to grace the game. Woods, too, took charge of the process. Golf is like a wayward lover. When you think youve conquered her, she will certainly desert you. Butch Harmon, the renowned coach, says the golf swing is just about the farthest thing from a perfectible discipline in athletics.The most reliable swings are only relatively repeatable. They never stop being works in progress. Thats why even the biggest golf star wins only a fraction of the time, and may not win for long periods of time (which happened to Woods even at the height of his career). And thats also why taking charge of the process is so crucial. With this in mind, Tigers dad made sure to teach him how to manage his attention and his course strategy. Mr. Woods would make loud noises or throw things just as little Tiger was about to swing. This helped him become less distractible. (Do we know someone else who could have profited from this training?) When Tiger was three years old, his dad was already teaching him to think about course management. After Tiger drove the ball behind a big clump of trees, Mr. Woods asked the toddler what his plan was. Woods carried on what his dad started by taking control of all parts of his game. He experimented constantly with what worked and what didnt, but he also had a long-term plan that guided him: I know my game. I know what I want to achieve, I know how to get there. Like Michael Jordan, Woods managed his motivation. He did this by making his practice into fun: I love working on shots, carving them this way and that, and proving to myself that I can hit a certain shot on command. And he did it by thinking of a rival out there somewhere who would challenge him: Hes twelve. I have to give myself a reason to work so hard. Hes out there somewhere. Hes twelve. Mark OMeara, Woodss golf partner and friend, had a choice. Its not easy to play beside someone as extraordinary as Woods. OMearas choice was this: He could feel jealous of and diminished by Woodss superior play, or he could learn from it. He chose the latter path. OMeara was one of those talented players who never seemed to fulfill his potential. His choiceto take charge of his gameturned him around. At the age of twenty-one, Woods had won the Masters Tournament. That night, he slept with his arms around his prize, the famous green jacket. One year later, he put a green jacket on Mark OMeara. From McEnroe, we hear little talk of taking control. When he was on top, we hear little mention of working on his game to stay on top. When he was doing poorly, we hear little self-reflection or analysis (except to pin the blame). For example, when he didnt do as well as expected for part of 82, we hear that little things happened that kept me off my game for weeks at a time and prevented me from dominating the tour. Always a victim of outside forces. Why didnt he take charge and learn how to perform well in spite of them? Thats not the way of the fixed mindset. In fact, rather than combating those forces or fixing his problems, he tells us he wished he played a team sport, so he could conceal his flaws: If youre not at your peak, you can hide it so much easier in a team sport. McEnroe also admits that his on-court temper tantrums were often a cover for choking and only made things worse. So what did he do? Nothing. He wished someone else would do it for him. When you cant control yourself, you want someone to do it for youthats where I acutely missed being part of a team sport.People would have worked with me, coached me. Or: The system let me get away with more and moreI really liked it less and less. He got mad at the system! Hi there, John. This was your life. Ever think of taking responsibility? No, because in the fixed mindset, you dont take control of your abilities and your motivation. You look for your talent to carry you through, and when it doesnt, well then, what else could you have done? You are not a work in progress, youre a finished product. And finished products have to protect themselves, lament, and blame. Everything but take charge. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A STAR? Does a star have less responsibility to the team than other players? Is it just their role to be great and win games? Or does a star have more responsibility than others? What does Michael Jordan think? In our society sometimes its hard to come to grips with filling a role instead of trying to be a superstar, says Jordan. A superstars talent can win games, but its teamwork that wins championships. Coach John Wooden claims he was tactically and strategically average. So how did he win ten national championships? One of the main reasons, he tells us, is because he was good at getting players to fill roles as part of a team. I believe, for example, I could have made Kareem [Abdul-Jabbar] the greatest scorer in college history. I could have done that by developing the team around that ability of his. Would we have won three national championships while he was at UCLA? Never. In the fixed mindset, athletes want to validate their talent. This means acting like a superstar, not just a team member. But, as with Pedro Martinez, this mindset works against the important victories they want to achieve. A telling tale is the story of Patrick Ewing, who could have been a basketball champion. The year Ewing was a draft pickby far the most exciting pick of the yearthe Knicks won the lottery and to their joy got to select Ewing for their team. They now had twin towers, the seven-foot Ewing and the seven-foot Bill Cartwright, their high-scoring center. They had a chance to do it all. They just needed Ewing to be the power forward. He wasnt happy with that. Center is the star position. And maybe he wasnt sure he could hit the outside shots that a power forward has to hit. What if he had really given his all to learn that position? (Alex Rodriguez, then the best shortstop in baseball, agreed to play third base when he joined the Yankees. He had to retrain himself and, for a while, he wasnt all he had been.) Instead, Cartwright was sent to the Bulls, and Ewings Knicks never won a championship. Then there is the tale of the football player Keyshawn Johnson, another immensely talented player who was devoted to validating his own greatness. When asked before a game how he compared to a star player on the opposing team, he replied, Youre trying to compare a flashlight to a star. Flashlights only last so long. A star is in the sky forever. Was he a team player? I am a team player, but Im an individual first.I have to be the No. 1 guy with the football. Not No. 2 or No. 3. If Im not the No. 1 guy, Im no good to you. I cant really help you. What does that mean? For his definition of team player, Johnson was traded by the Jets, and, after that, deactivated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Ive noticed an interesting thing. When some star players are interviewed after a game, they say we. They are part of the team and they think of themselves that way. When others are interviewed, they say I and they refer to their teammates as something apart from themselvesas people who are privileged to participate in their greatness. Every Sport Is a Team Sport You know, just about every sport is in some sense a team sport. No one does it alone. Even in individual sports, like tennis or golf, great athletes have a teamcoaches, trainers, caddies, managers, mentors. This really hit me when I read about Diana Nyad, the woman who holds the worlds record for open-water swimming. What could be more of a lone sport than swimming? All right, maybe you need a little rowboat to follow you and make sure youre okay. When Nyad hatched her plan, the open-water swimming record for both men and women was sixty miles. She wanted to swim one hundred. After months of arduous training, she was ready. But with her went a team of guides (for measuring the winds and the current, and watching for obstacles), divers (looking for sharks), NASA experts (for guidance on nutrition and enduranceshe needed eleven hundred calories per hour and she lost twenty-nine pounds on the trip!), and trainers who talked her through uncontrollable shivers, nausea, hallucinations, and despair. Her new record was 102.5 miles. It was her name in the record books, but it took fifty-one other people to do it. HEARING THE MINDSETS You can already hear the mindsets in young athletes. Listen for them. Its 2004. Iciss Tillis is a college basketball star, a six-foot-five forward for the Duke University womens basketball team. She has a picture of her father, James Quick Tillis, taped to her locker as a motivator. But the picture is not a tribute, says sportswriter Viv Bernstein. It is a reminder of all Tillis hopes she will never be. Quick Tillis was a contender in the 1980s. In 81, he boxed for the world heavyweight title; in 85, he was in the movie The Color Purple (as a boxer); and in 86, he was the first boxer to go the distance (ten rounds) with Mike Tyson. But he never made it to the top. Iciss Tillis, who is a senior, says, This is the year to win a national championship. I just feel like Id be such a failure[Id] feel like Im regressing back and Im going to end up like my dad: a nobody. Uh-oh, its the somebodynobody syndrome. If I win, Ill be somebody; if I lose Ill be nobody. Tilliss anger at her father may be justifiedhe abandoned her as a child. But this thinking is getting in her way. Perhaps nobody else has that combination of size, skill, quickness, and vision in the womens college game, says Bernstein. Yet few would rate Tillis ahead of the top two players in the country: Connecticuts Diana Taurasi and [Dukes Alana] Beard. Tilliss performance often fails to match her ability. Shes frustrated that people have high expectations for her and want her to play better. I feel like I have to come out and have a triple-double [double digits in points scored, rebounds, and assists], dunk the ball over-the-head 360 [leave your feet, turn completely around in the air, and slam the ball into the basket] and maybe people will be like, Oh, she not that bad. I dont think people want the impossible. I think they just want to see her use her wonderful talent to the utmost. I think they want her to develop the skills she needs to reach her goals. Worrying about being a nobody is not the mindset that motivates and sustains champions. (Hard as it is, perhaps Tillis should admire the fact that her father went for it, instead of being contemptuous that he didnt quite make it.) 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, Iciss Tillisnot just in the games, but in practice tooyou will already be a somebody. Heres the other mindset. Its six-foot-three Candace Parker, then a seventeen-year-old senior at Naperville Central High near Chicago, who was going to Tennessee to play for the Lady Vols and their great coach, Pat Summitt. Candace has a very different father from Iciss, a dad who is teaching her a different lesson: If you work hard at something, you get out what you put in. Several years before, when he was coach of her team, her dad lost his cool with her during a tournament game. She was not going for the rebounds, she was shooting lazy shots from the outside instead of using her height near the basket, and she was not exerting herself on defense. Now lets go out and try harder! So what happened? She went out and scored twenty points in the second half, and had ten rebounds. They blew the other team away. He lit a fire under me. And I knew he was right. Candace lights the same fire under herself now. Rather than being content to be a star, she looks to improve all the time. When she returned from knee surgery, she knew what she needed to work onher timing, nerves, and wind. When her three-point shot went bad, she asked her father to come to the gym to work on it with her. Whether it be in basketball or everyday life, she says, nothing is promised. Only weeks later, the mindset prophecies were already coming true. Two things happened. One, sadly, is that Tilliss team was knocked out of the championship. The other was that Candace Parker became the first woman ever to win the basketball dunking championshipagainst five men. Character, heart, the mind of a champion. Its what makes great athletes and its what comes from the growth mindset with its focus on self-development, self-motivation, and responsibility. Even though the finest athletes are wildly competitive and want to be the best, greatness does not come from the ego of the fixed mindset, with its somebodynobody syndrome. Many athletes with the fixed mindset may have been naturalsbut you know what? As John Wooden says, we cant remember most of them. Grow Your Mindset Are there sports you always assumed youre bad at? Well, maybe you are, but then maybe you arent. Its not something you can know until youve put in a lot of effort. Some of the worlds best athletes didnt start out being that hot. If you have a passion for a sport, put in the effort and see. Sometimes being exceptionally endowed is a curse. These athletes may stay in a fixed mindset and not cope well with adversity. Is there a sport that came easily to you until you hit a wall? Try on the growth mindset and go for it again. Character is an important concept in the sports world, and it comes out of a growth mindset. Think about times youve needed to reach deep down inside in difficult sports matches. Think about the growth-mindset champions from this chapter and how they do it. What could you do next time to make sure youre in a growth mindset in the pinch? Athletes with a growth mindset find success in learning and improving, not just winning. The more you can do this, the more rewarding sports will be for youand for those who play them with you! Chapter 5 BUSINESS: MINDSET AND LEADERSHIP ENRON AND THE TALENT MINDSET In 2001 came the announcement that shocked the corporate world. Enronthe corporate poster child, the company of the futurehad gone belly-up. What happened? How did such spectacular promise turn into such a spectacular disaster? Was it incompetence? Was it corruption? It was mindset. According to Malcolm Gladwell, writing in The New Yorker, American corporations had become obsessed with talent. Indeed, the gurus at McKinsey and Company, the premier management consulting firm in the country, were insisting that corporate success today requires the talent mind-set. Just as there are naturals in sports, they maintained, there are naturals in business. Just as sports teams write huge checks to sign outsized talent, so, too, should corporations spare no expense in recruiting talent, for this is the secret weapon, the key to beating the competition. As Gladwell writes, This talent mind-set is the new orthodoxy of American management. It created the blueprint for the Enron cultureand sowed the seeds of its demise. Enron recruited big talent, mostly people with fancy degrees, which is not in itself so bad. It paid them big money, which is not that terrible. But by putting complete faith in talent, Enron did a fatal thing: It created a culture that worshiped talent, thereby forcing its employees to look and act extraordinarily talented. Basically, it forced them into the fixed mindset. And we know a lot about that. We know from our studies that people with the fixed mindset do not admit and correct their deficiencies. Remember the study where we interviewed students from the University of Hong Kong, where everything is in English? Students with the fixed mindset were so worried about appearing deficient that they refused to take a course that would improve their English. They did not live in a psychological world where they could take this risk. And remember how we put students into a fixed mindset by praising their intelligencemuch as Enron had done with its star employees? Later, after some hard problems, we asked the students to write a letter to someone in another school describing their experience in our study. When we read their letters, we were shocked: Almost 40 percent of them had lied about their scoresalways in the upward direction. The fixed mindset had made a flaw intolerable. Gladwell concludes that when people live in an environment that esteems them for their innate talent, they have grave difficulty when their image is threatened: They will not take the remedial course. They will not stand up to investors and the public and admit that they were wrong. Theyd sooner lie. Obviously, a company that cannot self-correct cannot thrive. If Enron was done in by its fixed mindset, does it follow that companies that thrive have a growth mindset? Lets see. ORGANIZATIONS THAT GROW Jim Collins set out to discover what made some companies move from being good to being great. What was it that allowed them to make the leap to greatnessand stay therewhile other, comparable companies just held steady at good? To answer this question, he and his research team embarked on a five-year study. They selected eleven companies whose stock returns had skyrocketed relative to other companies in their industry, and who had maintained this edge for at least fifteen years. They matched each company to another one in the same industry that had similar resources, but did not make the leap. He also studied a third group of companies: ones that had made a leap from good to great but did not sustain it. What distinguished the thriving companies from the others? There were several important factors, as Collins reports in his book, Good to Great, but one that was absolutely key was the type of leader who in every case led the company into greatness. These were not the larger-than-life, charismatic types who oozed ego and self-proclaimed talent. They were self-effacing people who constantly asked questions and had the ability to confront the most brutal answersthat is, to look failures in the face, even their own, while maintaining faith that they would succeed in the end. Does this sound familiar? Collins wonders why his effective leaders have these particular qualities. And why these qualities go together the way they do. And how these leaders came to acquire them. But we know. They have the growth mindset. They believe in human development. And these are the hallmarks: Theyre not constantly trying to prove theyre better than others. For example, they dont highlight the pecking order with themselves at the top, they dont claim credit for other peoples contributions, and they dont undermine others to feel powerful. Instead, they are constantly trying to improve. They surround themselves with the most able people they can find, they look squarely at their own mistakes and deficiencies, and they ask frankly what skills they and the company will need in the future. And because of this, they can move forward with confidence thats grounded in the facts, not built on fantasies about their talent. Collins reports that Alan Wurtzel, the CEO of the giant electronics chain Circuit City, held debates in his boardroom. Rather than simply trying to impress his board of directors, he used them to learn. With his executive team as well, he questioned, debated, prodded until he slowly gained a clearer picture of where the company was and where it needed to go. They used to call me the prosecutor, because I would hone in on a question, Wurtzel told Collins. You know, like a bulldog. I wouldnt let go until I understood. Why, why, why? Wurtzel considered himself a plow horse, a hardworking, no-nonsense normal kind of guy, but he took a company that was close to bankruptcy and over the next fifteen years turned it into one that delivered the highest total return to its stockholders of any firm on the New York Stock Exchange. A STUDY OF MINDSET AND MANAGEMENT DECISIONS Robert Wood and Albert Bandura did a fascinating study with graduate students in business, many of whom had management experience. In their study, they created Enron-type managers and Wurtzel-type managers by putting people into different mindsets. Wood and Bandura gave these budding business leaders a complex management task in which they had to run a simulated organization, a furniture company. In this computerized task, they had to place employees in the right jobs and decide how best to guide and motivate these workers. To discover the best ways, they had to keep revising their decisions based on the feedback they got about employee productivity. The researchers divided the business students into two groups. One group was given a fixed mindset. They were told that the task measured their basic, underlying capabilities. The higher their capacity, the better their performance. The other group was given a growth mindset. They were told that management skills were developed through practice and that the task would give them an opportunity to cultivate these skills. The task was hard because students were given high production standards to meet, andespecially in their early attemptsthey fell short. As at Enron, those with the fixed mindset did not profit from their mistakes. But those with the growth mindset kept on learning. Not worried about measuringor protectingtheir fixed abilities, they looked directly at their mistakes, used the feedback, and altered their strategies accordingly. They became better and better at understanding how to deploy and motivate their workers, and their productivity kept pace. In fact, they ended up way more productive than those with the fixed mindset. Whats more, throughout this rather grueling task, they maintained a healthy sense of confidence. They operated like Alan Wurtzel. LEADERSHIP AND THE FIXED MINDSET In contrast to Alan Wurtzel, the leaders of Collinss comparison companies had every symptom of the fixed mindset writ large. Fixed-mindset leaders, like fixed-mindset people in general, live in a world where some people are superior and some are inferior. They must repeatedly affirm that they are superior, and the company is simply a platform for this. Collinss comparison leaders were typically concerned with their reputation for personal greatnessso much so that they often set the company up to fail when their regime ended. As Collins puts it, After all, what better testament to your own personal greatness than that the place falls apart after you leave? In more than two-thirds of these leaders, the researchers saw a gargantuan personal ego that either hastened the demise of the company or kept it second-rate. Once such leader was Lee Iacocca, head of Chrysler, who achieved a miraculous turnaround for his company, then spent so much time grooming his fame that in the second half of his tenure, the company plunged back into mediocrity. Many of these comparison companies operated on what Collins calls a genius with a thousand helpers model. Instead of building an extraordinary management team like the good-to-great companies, they operated on the fixed-mindset premise that great geniuses do not need great teams. They just need little helpers to carry out their brilliant ideas. Dont forget that these great geniuses dont want great teams, either. Fixed-mindset people want to be the only big fish so that when they compare themselves to those around them, they can feel a cut above the rest. In not one autobiography of a fixed-mindset CEO did I read much about mentoring or employee development programs. In every growth-mindset autobiography, there was deep concern with personnel development and extensive discussion of it. Finally, as with Enron, the geniuses refused to look at their deficiencies. Says Collins: The good-to-great Kroger grocery chain looked bravely at the danger signs in the 1970ssigns that the old-fashioned grocery store was becoming extinct. Meanwhile, its counterpart, AandP, once the largest retailing organization in the world, shut its eyes. For example, when AandP opened a new kind of store, a superstore, and it seemed to be more successful than the old kind, they closed it down. It was not what they wanted to hear. In contrast, Kroger eliminated or changed every single store that did not fit the new superstore model and by the end of the 1990s it had become the number one grocery chain in the country. CEOs and the Big Ego How did CEO and gargantuan ego become synonymous? If its the more self-effacing growth-minded people who are the true shepherds of industry, why are so many companies out looking for larger-than-life leaderseven when these leaders may in the end be more committed to themselves than to the company? Blame Iacocca. According to James Surowiecki, writing in Slate, Iacoccas rise to prominence was a turning point for American business. Before him, the days of tycoons and moguls seemed long past. In the publics mind, CEO meant a buttoned-down organization man, well-treated and well-paid, but essentially bland and characterless. With Iacocca, all of that changed. Business journalists began dubbing executives the next J. P. Morgan or the next Henry Ford. And fixed-mindset executives started vying for those labels. Surowiecki even traces the recent corporate scandals to this change, for as the trend continued, CEOs became superheroes. But the people who preen their egos and look for the next self-image boost are not the same people who foster long-term corporate health. Maybe Iacocca is just a charismatic guy who, like rock and roll, is being blamed for the demise of civilization. Is that fair? Lets look at him more closely. And lets look at some other fixed-mindset CEOs: Albert Dunlap of Scott Paper and Sunbeam; Jerry Levin and Steve Case of AOL Time Warner; and Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron. Youll see they all start with the belief that some people are superior; they all have the need to prove and display their superiority; they all use their subordinates to feed this need, rather than fostering the development of their workers; and they all end by sacrificing their companies to this need. The fixed mindset helps us understand where gargantuan egos come from, how they operate, and why they become self-defeating.

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