This post was waiting for the right context to conjure itself completely in my mind. First of all, the irony of this first statement is that the book I am on this month is Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. You must have heard of the growth mindset by now and if you haven’t, well, you had better get to it. Carol Dweck positions everyone on a scale between the fixed mindset and the growth mindset and evaluates how these mindsets contribute to your character. Take a wild guess where the greats fall into. If you have read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, this feels like a sequel where she goes into the mentality of 10,000 hours versus the original perspective of practising a skill to achieve success. She starts on how we are groomed to deal with failure and the pressure to succeed from childhood, she then goes into the mentality of the greatest sportspeople and currently, I’m on the chapter on business and mindset.
In one interview, he is quoted as saying “if you want to enjoy sports, then you have to accept the result.”
It was fortunate that over the previous weekend we had an ideal display of character and a growth mindset: Eliud Kipchoge. I had hopes of an intriguing race with the first headlines making it a race between Bekele and Kipchoge. But then Bekele dropped out the day before and to many disappointed fans, Kipchoge’s loss at the race. If you Google Kipchoge London Marathon 2020, the results to me are alarmist and judgmental. His comments, however, are as inspiring as the 1:59 record (And I’m not just saying this because as a Kenyan we will automatically run with this accolade for generations to come. Home of runners, you know). In one interview, he is quoted as saying “if you want to enjoy sports, then you have to accept the result.” This particular article is such a fixed mindset, reading as if it has already killed off his career with so many suggestions on his sunset years looming.
What I like the most about Mindset, is how she fiercely disputes the long-held ideal most of us have that some people are just naturally talented and their success was just meant to be. That you get on top and stay there. Kipchoge got me thinking about sportspeople and what happens after your career. In football, 30 is past peak and 35 is time to retire from a sport that you have literally trained for your whole life. Some stars have transcended the transition and become legends beyond the pitch and others have just faded into thin air. I look forward to the book that will analyse Thiery Henry or Zidane against tragedies like Ronaldinho Gaucho. In the book, as is in many others, your successes don’t define you, your ability to overcome adversity, be they transitions or straight up obstacles, does.
In the industry, you share the news of the shortlist and at first I thought to myself “why are we celebrating almost?” Oh, the naivety of a fixed mindset.
Now, in the workplace, the mindset implanted in us from childhood screams out loud and clear at work. I don’t know about other cultures, but Kenyans have a strong “be number one” mindset. The other day, my workplace was shortlisted for an award which we eventually did not win. In the industry, you share the news of the shortlist and at first I thought to myself “why are we celebrating almost?” Oh, the naivety of a fixed mindset. I actually had a conversation with a workmate who pointed out that shortlisting in itself was a big achievement for the first time we had applied. I could have kicked myself if my growth mindset had checked in.
As I read the chapter on education and business, I could see a little too much of myself in the fixed mindset- setbacks that make me question my skills, excitement at affirmations and disappointment in their absence, procrastination in the face of a daunting task. But then I realised, that’s the thing with a fixed mindset; one’s thoughts give too much time to shortcomings- what you should be as opposed to what you actually are. A growth mindset is able and willing to turn on counter-thoughts to the fixed mindset. The more I read, I noticed how ready I was to analyse what I learnt from said setbacks, that now though I will get excited about affirmations, I won’t die without them either, that I am able to pat myself on the back consistently. The biggest badge that I have given myself so far in the reading of the book, is how far my ability to move beyond my failures has come compared to four years ago.
It is great to succeed, it is what we all want and there is nothing wrong with that. The goal is to divest ourselves of the thoughts or expectations that it is easy to succeed.
In many professions, especially the traditional ones, being seen to be perfect is constant teaching, guiding so many of us into the waiting arms of a fixed mindset. In the book, she mentions how NASA sought to recruit staff based on their history of overcoming hardships and not those on a consistent winning streak. It is great to succeed, it is what we all want and there is nothing wrong with that. The goal is to divest ourselves of the thoughts or expectations that it is easy to succeed. I once had a boss who while correcting me on something I had done wrong, she shared that she has bad days too and advised me not to think that she got where she is without bad days. The article on imposter syndrome (that I still can’t find), the author mentioned that she overcame imposter syndrome the day she realised not everyone at the table knows everything about what they are doing.
Whatever obstacle you are facing right now is not unique to you- somebody else went through it and overcame it so why shouldn’t you?
The challenge I am giving myself this week is to remember that there is nothing new under the sun, only the shadows shift. Whatever obstacle you are facing right now is not unique to you- somebody else went through it and overcame it so why shouldn’t you? Seasons change, today you are on top, tomorrow there’s fresh talent, a better idea, a more capable person. Your victory is in what you do to rise above it.