I am currently reading The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. He won the national chess championships eight times starting at nine years old. Josh writes, “It is my nature to revel in apparent chaos. I’ve always loved thunderstorms, blizzards, hurricanes, rough seas, sharky waters.” He feels this ability to believe in resilience through challenge is what helped him win so many tough chess matches.
He shared some research from Carol Dweck about fixed and growth mindset. In one research study a group of children were interviewed and then labelled as having growth (learning theory) or fixed (entity) mindset. All the children were given some easy math problems which everyone solved. Next they were given very hard problems that the researchers knew no one would solve. The growth mindset kids remarked that they would have to work hard on these problems. The fixed mindset kids exclaimed that the problems would be too hard for them. No one solved the problems.
In the third round, all the kids were given easy problems again. The growth mindset kids completed them easily. But the confidence of the fixed mindset kids had been shattered. So they struggled with the easy problems in this stage of the experiment.
If we tell ourselves that we are good at some things and not good at others, we will start to believe that story. If we tell ourselves that anything is possible if we work hard, that will become our reality.
So many talented people don’t reach the top of the mountain. Those who have grit and get up every time they fall are the ones who succeed.
Do we feel that we can only excel at the things we are innately good at? Or do we think that we can master any task we focus on? Both things can come true depending on what we believe.