“Failure is the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.”
In talking with many of my colleagues over the past few weeks—other psychologists and coaches—I asked them what they think leaders most need right now?
The answer won’t surprise you. They need a rock-solid mindset.
They need endurance. They need hope. They need creativity. And they need to make tough decisions.
And all of these things begin with the right mindset.
That is why I am launching a new series on all the science I can find on the topic of Mindset.
The Big Idea—Successful people have a fundamentally different mindset. And there is a wealth of great research to support this. They prioritize growth and learn from every mistake or challenge.
There are few things more important than a growth mindset when it comes to your success as a leader, a parent, or spouse.
Improving your mindset is one of the best ways to change the results you are getting in your life, and these techniques can be learned by anyone—including you.
Today we will begin our journey to learn how.
An illustration from history
Most people have heard of the Wright Brothers, but I’ll be willing to bet you haven’t heard of Samuel P. Langley.
Dr. Langley was a decorated professor of physics and mathematics, and president of the Smithsonian Institute.
In 1880, he invented the bolometer—a device that measured infrared radiation and enabled scientists to detect temperature changes in the surface of the moon, within 1/100,000 of a degree Celsius—one of the first steps in understanding climate change.
This was one smart dude.
But as we shall see—the raw power of his intellect could only take him so far in reaching his potential.
In 1898, he was given $50,000 dollars by the US War Department, and we should know him as the man who invented flight.
In 1903, Langley made several very public attempts at flight that failed miserably. And after being utterly humiliated by the New York Times, he gave up on his dream in an attempt to save his reputation.
Only days later, history was written when the Wright brothers succeeded where the esteemed professor had failed.
The difference between Langley and the Wright brothers was this—a fundamental difference in mindset.
Langley’s ego went into self-preservation mode—he was crippled by fear and shame, which prevented him from reaching his true potential.
I wonder what else he might have accomplished if he were able to laugh at his critics, learn from this experience, and try again?
Research from Stanford
Carol Dweck is a psychology professor at Stanford University that has devoted the last 40 years of her research to understanding how successful people think.
She received her Ph.D. from Yale, and has taught at Columbia, Harvard, and currently Stanford.
She is one of the most accomplished psychologists of our time.
In her groundbreaking book Mindset—Dweck breaks down her research between those that grow in life, and the people that get stuck and repeat the same mistakes for decades, or longer.
Her research has also helped begin to change our educational system in radical ways.
Here is a brief summary of her 40 years of research on this topic:
|Fixed Mindset People||Growth Mindset People|
|-Avoid challenges||-Embrace obstacles|
|-Give up easily||-Build endurance through setbacks|
|-See effort and planning as fruitless||-See effort and mistakes as the only path to success|
|-Ignore critical feedback in life||-Learn from their critics|
-Feel threatened by the success of others
|-Draw inspiration and energy from the success of others|
|*These people never reach their true potential, and as a result feel that the poor hand they were dealt in life explains their lack of success.||
*These people continue to grow and learn until they die! They reach ever-greater levels of success because they believe that learning is its own form of success. They believe that luck is usually created through experimentation and hard work.
Mindset by Carol Dweck, graphic by Nigel Holmes
My good friend and colleague Dr. Andy Garrett often reminds me—we are wired for growth.
When we deny our growth process, we aren’t living. We are denying our essence, our very purpose.
Below are 8 ways you can begin to radically improve your mindset.
Turn information into action
- Leave your comfort zone. Growth never occurs in your comfort zone, so this is step one. Set some meaningful goals and begin to stretch yourself.
- Memorize this mantra—It’s only a real failure if you choose not to learn anything from it. Mistakes and experimentation are the only path to real success. We must turn our mistakes into stepping stones that propel us forward.
- Develop the habit of asking for feedback. This one is painful for our ego and most people will never do it. Do this one thing and you will begin to outgrow most of the people around you. But don’t let critical feedback crush you, it’s not all useful or true. Learn to laugh at yourself and move forward.
- Celebrate the successes of others. Celebrating the successes of others is one of the greatest ways to begin conquering your ego. It breaks the strongholds of jealousy and scarcity thinking in our hearts.
- When someone criticizes you—get curious, not defensive. Defensiveness prevents growth. Your brain cannot learn when it feels threatened. You’ve got to learn to get curious instead of angry.
- A growth mindset is one of the most important life skills you will ever teach your children. Help your kids develop a growth mindset by teaching them to learn from every mistake—not to look for perfection on the first try. It might be one of the most important skills you ever teach them for a successful life. Do it this weekend through a sport or difficult task, then talk to them about this topic. Try to keep the perspective that everything is a learning opportunity for children. Model in your household that learning from everything is a central purpose of life. Don’t torture yourself for mistakes or your kids will follow your example.
- Application for leaders and teams. Many companies accidentally create a culture where experimentation and mistakes are not acceptable. By doing so, they never create a business culture that is founded in a Growth Mindset. These companies never evolve because they seldom innovate or learn from mistakes. If you lead a team, you must look at the emotional way you react when your team makes a mistake because you might be unwittingly creating a culture where you discourage people from admitting errors or bringing you information.
- Extra Credit—Actually seek out something this week you think you will fail at and note your learning.
Have a great weekend!
*If you have enjoyed Parker’s Blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast where Parker Co-hosts every other episode. Click here to listen to the episode on Growth Mindset (Title is Friendship with Failure).
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (How We Can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential) by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.
- Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes Into Stepping Stones for Success by John Maxwell