In a Nov. 10 post about a review of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, I promised that I would read this book. The review was very positive, but I wanted to pass my own judgment.
Well, I can tell you the review was right on target. If you are interested in helping kids see the world through a lens that values hard work and a commitment to improvement, this book is a must read. It includes common sense advice backed up by research, and a host of anecdotes about students, teachers, and parents to illustrate how a person’s mindset influences their short-term and long-term performance in school and on the job.
I also found it to be a great resource for sports coaches. In fact, it made me take a hard look at how I coach and what I need to change to bring out the best in my players. There is an excellent section on John Wooden, the most successful college basketball coach of all time. Wooden “admits that in terms of basketball tactics and strategies, he was quite average,” Dweck writes. “What he was really good at was analyzing and motivating his players. With these skills he was able to help his players fulfill their potential, not just in basketball, but in life--something he found even more rewarding than winning games.”
One of the most fascinating parts of the book is a page with drawings from students in an art class. Most people, including me, see drawing talent as a special ability that you either have or don’t have. But the pictures on this page tell a different story. They show the crude drawings of people’s faces done before the students took a drawing class. Even I could draw that well. Then they show the revised drawings after they took the class. The transformation in quality is exceptional.
Still, if there is one criticism I have of this book it is that it plays down pure, natural talent too much. To be sure, I believe we can all pick a skill, such as drawing, and learn how to do it better. But the reality is there are people who are born with a special talent for drawing or basketball that puts them way ahead of the rest of us.
Even so, the message in this book is powerful. At the least, it will prompt you to step back a bit and take a hard look at your approach to teaching, coaching, or just living. More likely than not, you will see a need for some adjustments.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Motivation Matters blog.