You Can’t Afford to Be a Fragile Little Teacup
Life is about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving.
Maybe you remember Jim Marshall, the football player who scored a touchdown for the wrong team on national television. Instead of quitting, he pulled himself together at half time. Went back onto the field, and played his best game yet.
His team wound up winning, thanks to his efforts.
Now imagine you’re that person. The one who just screwed up big time. The one who lost out. Maybe you didn’t do something hugely embarrassing, but you blew a big chance.
Who am I kidding? None of us have to imagine. We’ve all been there. Rejected. Dumped. Ridiculed. Mocked. Sometimes, it’s not even our fault — not that it really matters.
Take a cue from Rocky:
The world is a very mean and nasty place… It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it… It ain’t about how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward.
You don’t need to adopt a super positive mindset to win at life. You don’t have to trick yourself into thinking the universe is on your side. A lot of times, it’s not. Sometimes, you’re the only one you can count on.
And that has to be enough. So how do you get there?
Research in psychology tells us that mindset determines what happens next in our lives, even after all the rejection and setbacks and bad luck. It makes the difference between what we call success and failure. No matter what’s going on in your brain, you can always try.
The term “growth mindset” probably sounds silly. And yet, it comes down to a simple principle:
You can change yourself.
You can get better, despite what everyone says. Despite all your past screw ups. Despite your snarky exterior.
You can change, because you can learn.
You can learn from anything — even from failure. Even from missed opportunities and deep disappointments.
A growth mindset makes even more sense in relation to its pessimistic cousin, the fixed mindset.
Carol Dweck gives a few familiar examples of the fixed mindset in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Sure, she cites plenty of studies. Beneath them all lies one consistent personality. It’s the guy below, described by a newly wed who realizes just what she’s gotten herself into:
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 don’t we try to go out a little more?” or “I’d like it if you consulted me before making decisions,” he was devastated. Then instead of talking about the issue, I’d have to spend literally an hour repairing the damage and making him feel good again.
If that weren’t enough, the guy calls his mom after these episodes. You know, so she can inflate his ego back up to full size.
You’ve probably met lots of these types. It doesn’t matter how much good advice or support they get, they’ll find a way to fail. Why? Because they don’t want to grow. They want to stay the same. Worse, they want staying the same to be good enough. They want to already be perfect, and for everyone else to reinforce their delusion.
Staying the same is the easiest way to fail.
Simply put, a fixed mindset does this:
- Focuses on innate abilities like intelligence and talent.
- Needs constant validation of their so-called gifts.
- Lives in fear of mistakes, failure, and embarrassment.
- Thinks everything should be easy for them.
- Feels smart when they know more than everyone.
A growth mindset does the opposite:
- Focuses on continual improvement and change.
- Views talent as developed over time, not gifted to them.
- Either embraces failure, or believes it doesn’t exist.
- Wants a hard life. Seeks out challenges and obstacles.
- Feels smart when they’re learning something new.
Even enormous success doesn’t keep anyone from sliding back into a fixed mindset. Innovators and entrepreneurs can always fall into a rut after a big break, by trying to repeat their same wins over and over. They stop adapting and responding to the world.
The one-hit wonders we see in the music business, or any industry, these are people who gave into a fixed mindset. They keep trying to do what worked for them one time, never altering their formula.
A fixed mindset insists on proving that it’s special, gifted, destined for greatness. Any sign to the contrary shuts it down.
Finally, a fixed mindset can’t think outside the box.
They can only imitate the success of others, and get frustrated when things don’t work out for them.
A growth mindset bypasses all of this. Sure, they can get pissed off. Disappointed. Even a little pessimistic. But their love for learning and changing helps them overcome their negativity.
A growth mindset will learn from the wins and losses of others. But they’re willing to go one step further. They’ll try something new, something that sounds nuts, out of nothing but sheer curiosity.
Deep down, a growth mindset doesn’t care about success or failure. They know those are just arbitrary.
A growth mindset can look back at their earlier works and efforts and see clearly what they did wrong.
They’ll always seek out informed criticism, and take their praise and success with a sprinkle of salt.
Some people win easy. They enjoy all the privileges and advantages that you lack. You can get bitter about it, and give up on chances to make the world better for yourself and everyone else.
Or you can adopt the growth mindset and go kick some ass. You don’t need anyone to believe you’re special. You don’t need to base your personal worth on compliments. You just have to put your time and attention on accepting outcomes, even unfair ones, and moving forward.