Is potential born or made? Can you be good enough that you don’t have to get any better?

Carol Dweck is a psychology professor at Stanford University. She’s been investigating why people of equal talent reach such different levels – why some become Muhammad Ali, and others Mike Tyson.

The key, she found, isn’t ability; it’s whether you look at ability as something inherent that needs to be demonstrated or as something that can be developed.

People who attributed their failures to lack of ability, Dweck thought, would become discouraged even in areas where they were capable. Those who thought they simply hadn’t tried hard enough, on the other hand, would be fueled by setbacks.

The Effort Effect

According to Dweck, there are two types of mindset – fixed, where there are definite limits, and growth, where you can always get better.

This calls for you to display your own strength of mind – if you embrace a growth mindset, you’re not admitting that you’re weak, you’re admitting that you can do even more. Don’t give up if you can’t do something new right away, acknowledge that you’ll need to work on it.

I couldn’t do chin-ups for years, but once I stopped making excuses like “I don’t need to do chin-ups”, and started building my upper body strength… I could do maybe one or two, struggling. But I kept going, and got better as I went on.

Remember that Carol Dweck took up piano as an adult and learned to speak Italian in her 50s. “These are things that adults are not supposed to be good at learning.”

Prof. Dweck has written a book called “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” – I know it’s gone straight into my must-read pile.

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