The 1 question you NEED to ask yourself: “Do I have a Growth Mind-set?”

In the last post, we looked at the mind-set of NBA sharpshooter Ray Allen.

What did we learn?

Think Nurture over Nature.

Or in other words, a Growth mind-set over a Fixed mind-set.

photo credit: Soybean Sprouts During Early Growth via photopin (license)

But wait, what exactly are we talking about here?

“What exactly is a growth mind-set?” “How do I know if I have one?”

Good questions.

Let’s Roll.

The Fixed Mind-Set

In short; all humans are pre-wired. Nature (genetics) is ultimately responsible for what we’re good at, and what we suck at.

Of course, some of this is old news.

Our hair type, our eye colour, our skin and whether or not we can roll our tongue… these are all inherited from genetics.

But the fixed mind-set camp goes a step further.

The “Nativists” believe that all behavioural and psychological characteristics are built into us at birth. Our skill set, our work ethic and even our social skills are all pre-programmed.

Creative people were born creative. Athletes were born athletes. Musicians were gifted with musical talents. Scientists were blessed with intelligence…

I.e. Our life experience and our attitude don’t mean jack.

“So you want to become a musician? Ha! Have you even played piano? No? Hmm, maybe pick something else then.”

Even behaviours that appear later in life are argued to be the work of some internal biological clock.

“You were pre-wired to become aggressive in your 30s…”

Firmly in the fixed mind-set camp is American psychologist Arthur Jenson.

Finding that the average IQ was lower for black Americans than white Americans, he caused controversy when he said this was due to genetic differences.

A relative of Darwin’s, Francis Galton, was also a believer, saying that intelligence is largely inherited and that “genius” runs in the family. He even suggested we improve society by “better breeding”.

“Better breeding?” Genetic differences between races? That’s just dangerous.

Look where that thinking led to in Nazi Germany…..

The Growth Mind-set

Idea: When people are born, they’re a blank slate.

Throughout their life, they fill their slate with experiences.  All behaviours, characteristics and skills are a result of learning and how you were nurtured.

Role-models play a large part in moulding character, and skill-sets at birth are… pretty much non-existent.

In a nutshell, it’s the American Dream.

Everyone has the same opportunities to achieve their dreams. (Or should have the same opportunities, but I’m not going into that right now).

Of course, not everyone starts at exactly the same starting point.

But with hard work and graft, the world’s your own.

This quote sums up all this up perfectly;

“Do people with this mindset believe that anyone can be anything, that anyone with proper motivation or education can become Einstein or Beethoven? No, but they believe that a person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable), that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil and training.”


Growth mindset, shmowth mind-set. Why does it matter to me?

Adopting a growth mind-set is the single most powerful thing you can do for your life.

Check out this infographic.

credit: Nigel Homes explanation graphics
credit: Nigel Homes explanation graphics


Let’s go through some of them…

Making Effort

Fixed Mind-set: Kicks you down if you’re good at something OR if you’re bad at something.

If you’ve been gifted with an insane talent, why bother to try harder? You don’t think you actually need to try. Because it’s natural talent.

Let’s talk Blackburn Rovers (sorry).

Their football academy is one of the best in the UK, but many of their “star” players weren’t pushing themselves in training, no matter how hard the coaches tried (before they got a psychologist).

What was going on?

The problem? The “star” players knew they were stars. They knew they had “natural talent”, because they’d always been better than everyone else.

Why would they try?

And as a result, these players never made it to the top. Cos’ they had no grit and no grind.

Blackburn Rovers hired a psychologist, and she suggested training the players to have a growth mind-set, starting with the youngest recruits. It worked.

Growth mind-set: “So you’re good at football…

Awesome job, you must have worked your ass off to get here. But you know that you’ve got to work harder, because that’s what got you here in the first place…

Besides, there are tons of areas in your game that you can be working on.”

Contrast this with the Blackburn players.

See the difference? It’s the difference between Ray Allen (never settles), and NBA players that relax once they make it into the league.

And the fixed mind-set is a double whammy.

Say you’re absolutely crap at football (at this moment in time). With a fixed mind-set, you’re stuck with it. You weren’t born with a football talent.

A fixed mind-set means you won’t push yourself if you ARE good, and means you won’t push yourself if you’re NOT good.

Soooo many people say, “I’m not a natural athlete”.

Basically, they’re saying that there’s no point in trying. They weren’t born with it.

Whether you’re crappy at arts, or music, or socialising. It’s the same thing.

Now of course, some sports and jobs are a little different, because they’re based on physical attributes. People are born being tall or small, having bigger hands, or having awesome vision.

I mean, a 150kg 7 ft. jockey just won’t work in the Grand National. But that’s the minority.

For the majority, there is point in trying. We can do it… but only if we adopt a growth mind-set.

A lot of people say that they can’t be an entrepreneur;

“You know, people either have it, or they don’t.”

Then along comes this study by Ernst & Young, looking at common characteristics of their top 685 entrepreneurs, including “Entrepreneur of The Year winners”.

Their conclusion?

Entrepreneurs are MADE, NOT BORN.

“That’s such a load of bull Iain. The top entrepreneurs always start businesses when they’re like 16 or something.”

Au contraire! The study found:

45% started their first business between ages 20-29.

31% started between 30-39.

17% started between 40-49.

And only 10% started their first business below 20.


And what were the things they said contributed most to their success?

Experience as an employee. I.e. Not being an entrepreneur. Plus having vision and passion.

All things that you’re not born with…

There is no entrepreneurship gene. It’s a growth mind-set.


Fixed mind-set:  Gives up more easily. Limitations just can’t be broken.

Say you’re not great (at the moment) at maths. You try a tricky question.

Of course you’re going to give up if you think you need to be “good with numbers”.

Well, numbers just don’t make sense to me. I would’ve never been able to solve this in the first place.”

The must-read book on this topic is Mindset: The Psychology of Success by psychologist Carol Dweck.

In her research, Dweck wanted to find out if kids who put their failure down to a lack of natural ability (fixed mind-set) were more easily discouraged when faced with a challenge, even if they were capable of doing it in the first place.

So, off she went to an elementary school in the States, and found a group of “helpless” kids, who always gave up and had fixed mind-sets.

She split the group in half;

One group were given exercises over 6 months to teach them that their failures were due to a lack of effort, and NOT lack of natural ability. (A growth mind-set)

The other group were given no exercises.

After 6 months, she gave the two groups the same math test.

What did she find?

The group who’d been taught to adopt the growth mind-set persisted through tough problems, and eventually cracked them. Their maths scores improved massively from just 6 months ago.

The fixed mind-set control group buckled under the tougher questions. They gave up easily and saw no improvement.

Another study was carried out to test if a student’s mind-set about education shapes their academic performance.

Again, two groups of children of roughly equal intelligence were tested.

One was taught that intelligence was a fixed trait. The other was taught that intelligence can be changed with a result of effort.

And hey presto, the students with the growth mind-set far outperformed their peers in the fixed mind-set group.


Embracing Challenges

Fixed Mind-set: People with a fixed mind-set tend to think they’re intrinsically good (or bad) at something. They’re ego is built around being good at these things.

So what happens when something comes along to challenge that ego?

You avoid the challenge. You stick with the easy road.

I had a problem with this in High School. I used to run every single day, and was generally viewed as a “sporty” kid.

My ego was built around being the best at endurance running.

And you know what? I dreaded every single running challenge we had in P.E.


 Because what if I lost? It would destroy the image I’d built for myself.

And someone did beat me. And I felt threatened by his success.

Whereas nowadays, if someone beats me, I feel inspired by their success.

I’m like, “Man, that guy’s killing it! Just goes to show what’s possible. I need to work harder!

Growth Mind-set: Instead of hiding from challenges, you embrace them because you know you’ll learn from them.

In fact, you need challenges, because they’re the only way you’ll grow.

Yeah, you have a set-back, but you chalk it down to not trying hard enough.

Yeah, you failed. So what? It’s the effort that counts.

Chin up, try harder, and succeed next time.

Instead of seeing effort as a waste of time and a fruitless endeavour, having a growth mind-set views effort as the road to mastery. And the road to your goals. – The road to anything.

The journey to your dreams is paved with sweat, blood and tears.

Embrace it. Live it. That’s what makes the feeling so damn good in the end.

photo credit: March 05, 2013 at 10:51PM via photopin (license)
photo credit: March 05, 2013 at 10:51PM via photopin (license)

Dealing with Criticism

Growth Mind-set: “Hey man, your presentation was absolutely balls today. We couldn’t understand a thing. It was the most incoherent piece of nonsense I’ve ever read. Your data was completely irrelevant to what you were saying.”

You: “Wow, cheers for the insight. Yeah, maybe I should actually plan it out before-hand. Hmm, yeah, I could definitely improve on my presenting style. I’ll add that flaw to my To-Do list. Thanks!”

Fixed Mind-set:  “Hey man, your presentation was absolutely balls today. We couldn’t understand a thing. It was the most incoherent piece of nonsense I’ve ever read. Your data was completely irrelevant to what you were saying.”

“Well, cheers Chad. Thanks for saying it how it is. I’m going to quit now. I knew I couldn’t do this.”

But what does this all mean?! Oh god! I’m a total failure! / I’m absolutely killing it! I already have a growth mind-set!

Stop. Just stop.

If you have a growth mind-set, congratulations!

If you have a fixed-mind set, then that’s something you can work on.

And that’s going to be the topic of the next post!

Meanwhile, ask yourself;

“Do I have a 100% growth mind-set? Or am I hiding in some areas?” (I know I am!!)

 “What could be possible if I adopted a growth mind-set?”


So that’s all from me folks.

Phew, that was a lot of fixed mind-set bashing right there.

Please leave me something in the comments :)

If you blatantly disagree, hit me up. If you agree, hit me up!

Dream Big Start Small!




McLeod, S. A. (2007). Nature Nurture in Psychology. Retrieved from$FILE/Nature-or-nurture.pdf
The role of expectations and attributions in the alleviation of learned helplessness.
Dweck, Carol S.
Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 31(4), Apr 1975, 674-685.

McLeod, S. A. (2014). Bobo Doll Experiment. Retrieved from



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