Tragedy to Triumph: A Growth Mindset Evolution

The ground rocked beneath my feet. Thick dust billowed into the air, choking the oxygen from my lungs. My vision blurred, but I could still make out the silhouette of the armored vehicle behind me that had been hit by the 200 pound bomb. This would be the start to a sequence of events that would forever alter the way I thought and lived.

Having entered an enemy stronghold in eastern Afghanistan, this valley carried a notorious reputation for violence and destroying armies. You can watch videos about the Tangi Valley here.

With our mission to find and destroy Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, we’d pushed into the valley first and would move slowly searching for bombs buried beneath our feet. Moving slow and deliberate made us a huge piñata for the Taliban to strike at.

With that first detonation early in the morning, we’d entered a new arena where we were purely reacting to continuous attacks. Like a gauntlet, we’d continue to push and fight for every foot of that route trying to do our best to find the bombs, destroy the enemy, and not die.

Then in a split second of time, tragedy struck. An RPG ripped through the air from a second floor building to hit our lead vehicle killing the driver and forever altering our lives…

Looking back, that nightmare of a day served as the ultimate driving force for us to develop a new powerful mindset for facing challenges and completing our missions.

The following is a concise summary of our transformation from a fixed and limiting mindset to a Limitless Growth Mindset.

From the moment we lost our brother in that valley, we were plagued with the insurmountable obstacle of returning to that place. The anxiety of knowing we’d go back was crushing. But, we knew from that day we’d need to change. We’d need to play a new game with new rules. With life and death consequences, we started our own mindset evolution.

“Growth Mindset is based on beliefs that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way-in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments-everyone can change and grow through application and experience”- Dr Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

A new Commitment to Learning and Changing

First, we took a hard look at ourselves and committed to changing, learning, and becoming the team we needed to be. Here are some key conclusions we arrived at:

  • We need to change. The world isn’t going to change for us. The world exists “as-is”.
  • We must learn and evolve our approaches and techniques exponentially.
  • This is going to be tough. We must become comfortable with the uncomfortable and prepare to adapt quickly to an environment which is constantly changing.

Recognize Fixed Mindset Poison

Next, we needed to objectively examine the preconceived beliefs we were holding onto which served no value whatsoever. Becoming aware of these limiting beliefs remained critical for us. We’d held onto so many worthless beliefs about what we could or could not do. We’d been ingesting poison that crippled our ability to innovate and think creatively all along.

Here are some examples:

“We don’t have enough people to do that”, “We’re not trained to do that”, “they’ll never let us do that”, “We are not qualified to do that”, “But in Iraq, we did it this way…” etc.

Awareness of these limiting beliefs led us to question all of them and ask “Why?” and “Why not?”

Reframe Fixed Mindset Thoughts with Growth Mindset Thoughts

With all of the limiting beliefs questioned, we started to reframe those conceptions into possibilities. If we lacked training, we asked how could we get trained? Is there a way to learn without the training? Can we get a tool to help us with this? Is there already something that exists for this problem? This line of questioning led us to better beliefs that we could create solutions and were able to overcome and succeed. Also, it let our minds open to all the infinite possibilities that exist, and subconsciously we became susceptive to new innovative ideas and solutions.

Before, we had dismissed new innovative ideas or technologies with sayings like, “That’ll never work” or “We can’t do that”.

Now, we listened attentively and looked for possibilities. This proved a game-changer for us, because we eventually discovered new techniques and technologies which variables in the game completely. Our growth mindset which actively sought to find solutions, allowed us to see the value in new technologies or an unconventional unproven technique.

Plan and Execute Violently

Here’s the best part.

At this point, with a new mindset considering all the unlimited possibilities and capabilities, we were playing a new game. Our GAME.

Our last step, was to plan and execute with our new abilities. So with a laser like focus, we dove right into developing the skills and abilities needed for success. We planned with an zeal and dedication like never before. We opened up lines of communication on our team and saw the best ideas come from the most unlikely of places.

Ultimately, we faced our demon and punched back into that hellish valley and found more bombs in one day than most teams find in a year. On their heels, the enemy fighters were forced to play OUR GAME with our rules. The key to success for us remained our shift from the old limiting fixed mindset to a new innovative and limitless growth mindset.

At Uncommon Human, we believe that

“Within any area of life, your ability to cultivate and grow yourself to handle any problem is limitless. The question is whether you are willing to step into the arena and grow yourself to meet that challenge.” -Trevor Shirk

If you’re ready to transform your mindset and face the challenges in your life whatever they may be, then Uncommon Human may be a good fit for you. We’ve built a short and decisive guide for developing a Growth Mindset in any area of your life. Check it out here.

Show your support

Clapping shows how much you appreciated Trevor H Shirk’s story.