Book Club: Mindset

by Shama Bole, Sr. Agile Consultant and Client Service Director

Our most recent company-wide read was Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. This book is written by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck on the subject of success and learning to fulfill our potential across parenting, business, school and relationships. Dweck stresses that it is not our abilities or talents that gurantee our successes, but our mindsets in approaching our goals.  

One of Plaster Group’s consultants, Shama Bole, weighs in on this read: 

I’ll start out by admitting that I have a knee-jerk wariness about books that take the corporate world by storm. They tend to lack nuance and have a certain snake oil charm and a silver bullet promise: ‘follow these six rules and your business will boom’ sort of thing.  However Mindset was genuinely an Aha book to me. Epiphany is a powerful word, but this book did provide a few revelations. The distinction between possessing a “fixed” mindset v a “growth” one is one that I had never before had brought to my attention. And I realize that I have, all my life, been an unwavering proponent of the fixed mindset. (To get a true idea of what these terms mean, do read the book).

mindset I grew up with a sibling who is an effortless and brilliant high-performer. My parents assumed the same genes would kick in and make them proud. Long story short, they were bitterly disappointed. This review isn’t a saga of my woes, but it is uncanny how many phenomena the author illustrates that strike a chord and make me wonder how different life would’ve been had someone invested effort into my development rather than expect some sort of chia pet that faithfully followed my parents’ genetic markers and accomplishments. The author talks about negative labelling. Again, an extremely powerful  social artifact and a gift that keeps on giving, in that you hear it externally and then you echo it in your heart forever. Something else that was an “Ah”a discourse was the section on how men tend to verbally abuse each other almost reflexively and then let it roll off their backs – a big gender difference. Very character building, presumably. It may have vastly heartening qualities in the long run, but verbal abuse isn’t part of my DNA. Friends may disagree. But what’s interesting about that thought is that it made me wonder if sending one’s daughter to a girl’s school builds her up more constructively than letting her be exposed to stereotypes and negative labels in a co-ed school.

Some negatives about the book: one, too many sports analogies. I can see the temptation (John McEnroe was born to be the poster child for this book) but I tired of it. But I don’t deify sports so this may find more fertile ground in others. Second, the author seemed to make the assumption that growth mindset people’s goal is to learn. My thought is that the goal is always success in one’s endeavours, and growth-mindset people are a lot more open to hurdles in getting there. Third, there was a paucity of material on how to move from fixed to growth mindset. The part about putting the two diagrams on one’s mirror struck me as, well, inane. And finally, one recurring concern I felt was that the author was using a construct or assumption to explain behavior – always tricky – and it came dangerously close to circular reasoning. “Subject A succeeded because A has a growth mindset” . I assume there are fairly robust and accepted measures for gauging mindset characteristics and differences.

There are books and events that shake one’s world. Is this one a life-changer? I’m not sure, but it made me think pretty deeply. Change is born from this kind of self-reflection and that, in my book, is definitely a game-changer.