By Peter Wingate
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
The gentleman that muttered these sage words was in fact one of the greatest success stories of the early 20th century and very much ahead of his time. Not only was Thomas Edison a prolific inventor and visionary but, fundamental to his success, he understood that his achievements were not simply the result of his innate talents but his own effort and attitude to failure.
He had what we now call a Growth Mindset; and as powerful as this concept is its most useful characteristic is that we can all cultivate it.
In case you missed Part 1 ‘Growth versus Fixed Mindset’ Theory argues that people that believe that their intellect, talent and personal attributes are generally innate and fixed from birth are generally less successful than those displaying a Growth Mindset, who exploit effort and feedback to achieve what they want.
‘But haven’t we known this all along’ you might ask… ‘that success in life is about a positive attitude and effort?’ Stamford Uni’s Carol Dweck (who developed Growth vs. Fixed Mindset Theory) has proven it; specifically, that achievement is strongly linked to a positive attitude to failure i.e. so-called ‘failure’ can offer us greater learning and growth opportunities than the full-stop that is getting the result you want.
Thomas Edison (and many others gifted at ‘failing’ such as Albert Einstein) came to understand that their moments of great genius were neither a result of a single moment, nor great genius. They shared the insight that they were not born brilliant, but that their ‘genius’ was simply related to their commitment to a continued process of growth that embraces failure as a means to improve.
So, where do you sit on the Growth vs Fixed Mindset scale?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
- You’re born with a certain amount of intelligence and it isn’t something that can be changed. Y/N
- Intelligence can increase or decrease depending on whether or not you spend time exercising your mind. Y/N
- You can learn new things but you can’t change your underlying level of intelligence. Y/N
- Learning new things can increase your underlying intelligence. Y/N
- Talent is something you’re born with, not something you can develop. Y/N
- If you practice something for long enough, you can develop a talent for it. Y/N
- People who are good at a particular skill were born with a higher level of natural ability. Y/N
- People who are good at a particular skill have spent a lot of time practicing that skill, regardless of natural ability. Y/N
Statements ….1, 3, 5, 7 tend to reflect a Fixed Mindset and 2, 4, 6 and 8 a Growth Mindset. Don’t forget that a fixed mindset is not ‘fixed’ for life, and you can grow a Growth Mindset.
Personally, I think the key to embracing a Growth Mindset is understanding that your relationship to so-called ‘success’ is a rich and complex one. It makes use of challenge and failure rather than being inhibited by it and develops all your life, through varied settings and diverse challenges.
Your success depends on exploiting your so-called failures and mis-steps as an important source of feedback that point the way on your evolving journey through own unique story of success.