What is the Growth Mindset? How do you get it? How do you make it work for you?
These are great questions for any inquiring artist. And I hope that after reading this post you will know how to use the Growth Mindset to your advantage.
But I have to warn you, this one is pretty long, because . . . well, because I think it’s really important. It’s about a fairly simple shift in thinking that can make a truly radical difference in how much fun you have with your art, your business and your life.
One of my favorite business sayings is that there are no magic beans.
In other words, there’s no one trick or tip or magical technique that’s going to take you from being broke (or stuck in a job you can’t stand) and transport you to your own personal definition of fabulous wealth.
If you’ve been reading this blog or have subscribed to my newsletter and you haven’t unsubscribed, it’s because you roll your eyes as much as I do at “push button” systems that promise to transform your laptop into a limitless ATM.
These are fantasies for small children, not business strategies for the real world.
But I’ve been on a reading jag and I recently read a book that I actually do think has the magic beans.
Ingredient #1: Work
We know this one.
If you put a sustained, focused effort in, if you keep trying to do the thing you want to do (not trying the same thing over and over, but shifting your approach until you find the one that works), you’ll make it happen.
We all know this.
And most of us are very willing to put the work in. We want to take the steps to get to the thing we want.
We’re motivated. Maybe we’ve done some goal setting or visualization, so we have a pretty clear picture of where we want to go.
But we don’t do it. We really want to. We just don’t.
Ingredient Two: Mindset
Some years ago, right after my divorce, I was fortunate enough to get a poorly-paying, numbingly boring, frustrating job as a part-time admin assistant to a rich real estate guy.
I hated just about every minute of it. But it did give me an opportunity to watch a rich guy up-close as he went through his work day.
I tried to figure out how he saw things, how he talked about business, how he cultivated relationships, and how he thought about money.
It was clear to me that a big part of his being a rich guy was his mindset. It wasn’t luck, because lottery winners don’t have it (and thus tend not to stay rich). And a big part of my being broke at that time was my mindset.
I’ve been fascinated by that puzzle ever since, and to this day I study anything I can find that will give me some insights.
To Be More Specific: Growth Mindset
One (the “fixed” mindset) holds that we are pretty much born who we are.
We’re given a certain amount of intelligence, a certain amount of creativity, a certain amount of talent.
These things are built in as part of our innate “hardware” and can’t be improved on much.
The other (the “growth” mindset) holds that we’re all works in progress.
That there’s a lot we can do to get more intelligent, more creative, more talented. These (and virtually all) qualities are more like software.
They can be updated, debugged, recoded, and improved.
Both points of view have evidence that supports their arguments. But people with growth mindsets (even little children) are consistently much happier and much more successful than people with fixed mindsets.
If you want to be happier and more successful, you can do it just by changing your mindset.
Which (if you’re a fixed-mindset type), you might not even realize is possible.
Why the Fixed Mindset is No Fun
An interesting side-effect of the fixed mindset is that you tend to take everything in your life as evidence of your innate ability.
Do something that doesn’t work? You must be a stupid failure.
Sales page not converting? You just have no talent for marketing.
Blog not getting traffic? You don’t have The Magic Touch that a big shot like the rich real estate guy has.
People with the fixed mindset tend to buy into hierarchies, because we think that people are where they are because of some innate quality.
Fixed-mindset people aren’t lazy. They’ll actually work very hard to prove to themselves that they aren’t doomed to be stupid failures.
Too often, they’ll take shortcuts or even cheat, to show that they belong at the top of the food chain. (That’s why the book about the Enron disaster was called “The Smartest Guys in the Room.”
It was all about a bunch of Fixed Mindset types who would do anything to show how gifted and brilliant they were, even while their cutting-edge business ideas were tanking.)
Some attributes that tend to go with a fixed mindset are a slavish respect for hierarchy, a willingness to cheat to keep your spot on the totem pole, and a lot of really depressing self-doubt.
Also, behavior that might look from the outside like “laziness,” but is in fact a kind of learned helplessness.
If you think there’s a limit to how much better you can get, it’s incredibly hard to take the action you need to take.
Why the Growth Mindset is a Ton of Fun
If you’ve adopted a growth mindset, when you do something that doesn’t work, it’s a data point. It gives you information you can act on.
The growth mindset says “I haven’t found the right combination yet.”
What fixed-mindset folks call “failure” is actually energizing when you have a growth mindset. (How weird is that?)
Growth mindset folks tend to work harder and learn more.
Sales page not converting? You might model one that does, pick up some books on copywriting, or take a marketing course.
Blog not getting traffic? You might ask friends how they built their traffic, do more guest posting, cultivate closer relationships with other bloggers who might link to you, or spend more time making your posts as great as you can possibly make them.
In other words, the growth mindset gets you looking for ways you can get bigger, better, smarter, and more talented.
“The harder I work, the luckier I get” is a growth mindset phrase.
People with the growth mindset plain old work harder, because they have a lot of confidence that working hard will get them what they want. They view work as fun (they may not call it work, in fact), because growth is fun.
And they see more opportunities, because they’re not ruling out anything as “not for people like me.”
The Growth Mindset Is Your Natural State
All babies and small toddlers have a growth mindset. If you’ve ever watched a baby learn to walk and talk, you’ve seen the growth mindset in action.
They get frustrated, sure. But giving up is never an option, even for a moment. They’re driven by that quest for mastery. No one fails to learn to walk or talk because we get depressed and think it’s too hard or we aren’t “talented” enough.
I Want this for You
Most of us, as adults, have a little bit of fixed mindset in our thinking. We fail to really work for that beautiful dream because we’re afraid of being disappointed.
We protect ourselves from feeling like losers by opting out of the game, or by giving it half our effort. We convince ourselves that what we’ve always been is the same thing as what we’ll always be.
Remember my rich guy boss?
When I started using that situation to study his mindset and make it work for me, some interesting things started to shift.
I created my first web site. It wasn’t too good, but I learned a lot. I created a better one (still pretty bad) and began to do freelance copywriting. I got an excellent job that taught me a ton. I put together a third web site – a blog this time.
My vision of the life I could create for myself kept expanding.
If you see any of the fixed mindset in your own thinking, I hope you’ll pick up Dweck’s book. It can help you change your thinking just a little bit, and that can be enough to change your life.