You Will Never Reach the Pinnacle of Your Potential…Unless

Wishing everyone a premature Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

In her book, Mindset: How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, Carol Dweck, a Professor of Psychology at Stanford, contrasts two basic mindsets: fixed and growth.

“Fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.”

Fixed mindset people ignore feedback, feel threatened by success of others, avoid challenge, stick with what they know. and desire to look smart, talented.

“Growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”

— Carol Dweck

Growth mindset people find inspiration and lessons from others, learn from criticism and failure, embrace challenges, and flirt with the edges of possibility. Without developing a growth mindset, you will never reach the pinnacle of your potential.

Fixed Mindset

One great example of a fixed mindset is in Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. Josh was a chess prodigy and the basis for the movie, Searching for Bobby Fischer. In the book, Josh met a boy who hadn’t lost a chess match in a year, an accomplishment that amazed many people…but not Josh.

Upon inquiring further, Josh learned the boy only played against opponents he had already beaten and refused to participate in competitive tournaments, which would jeopardize his streak. Though the boy was modestly talented, his desire to keep his winning streak and to look talented — both characteristics of people with a fixed mindset — impeded his progress and capped his potential.

Growth Mindset

College basketball success is determined by what happens in the month of March. No one owns March like Tom Izzo, the head basketball coach at Michigan State University, a future Hall-a-Famer, and one of the most celebrated coaches in NCAA history. Tom has lead his teams to 7 final four appearances and a national championship.

Contrary to most coaches, who focus primarily on winning the next game, Tom focuses on winning when it matters most. He’s willing to make mistakes, experiment, and and even lose a game he shouldn’t early in the season to ensure his team is in shipshape when it really matters. Tom’s legacy is built on his growth mindset which allows him to “[own] the month that matters most.”

This past year was one of his best coaching jobs to date, leading an underachieving team to the Final 4 before losing to the eventual champions, Duke. During the season, he experimented with 8 different starting lineups and 10 different starters. Most coaches don’t play 10 different players let alone start 10 different ones. Unlike the chess player, Tom is willing to lose a game — sacrifice an outcome — for the sake of improvement.

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