9th Graders and a Growth Mindset

Recently our local high school conducted a 9th grade career symposium and I was asked to make a presentation about the importance of good “soft” skills.  By soft skills, I am referring to things like communication style, posture, eye contact, handshake, etc.; all things that are important when these students go and apply for part-time jobs, college admissions, and eventually their first professional jobs.  One of the most important of these skills that I addressed with the 9th grade class is developing the right mindset.  Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford University and author of Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success, states that there are two kinds of mindsets – a growth mindset and a fixed mindset.  The fixed mindset believes that we are who we are and cannot improve or get better.  Someone with a fixed mindset will say something like “I’m just not a math person”  where the growth minded person will say “I’m not a math person…..yet.”   Those with a growth mindset believe they can improve and their abilities and skills are not finite.   I wanted to impart on these young teenagers how important developing a growth mindset is to success not just in school but in life; that it’s ok to make mistakes and fail and it is how we react to and handle these mistakes and failures that ultimately determine our success.

And this applies to all of us; husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, business professionals, military officers, etc.  Our client companies often ask our candidates in interviews about a time they failed.  They are not as concerned about the failure itself but more about how they handled it, what they learned, and how they improved.  In other words, do they have a growth mindset?   So, when you find yourself faced with challenges and adversity at home, at work, or even preparing for a transition from the military to Corporate America, it is important to watch for a fixed mindset reaction.  Do you feel overly anxious?  Does a voice in your head warn you away?  Do you become defensive, angry,etc. when given constructive feedback?  As I told the class of 9th graders, to develop that growth mindset, it’s important to accept those thoughts and feelings and work with and through them and keep doing so.  To illustrate my point in my presentation, I borrowed a clip from Admiral McRaven’s Commencement speech to the University of Texas graduating class of 2014.  I’ve included the video below as well as Carol Dweck’s TedTalk on Mindset.

So what kind of a mindset will you have?

Rob Davis