Faker (Lee Sang-hyeok) is arguably the greatest Mid Laner ever for the eSport League of Legends. 3-time World Champion (2013, 2015, 2016) and 6-time Korean Champion. He has been ranked by analysts as the greatest player to ever grace the game, dominating the rift so decisively to have been called the “God” of League of Legends.
Magnus Carlsen in 2010, when he was only 19 years old, became the highest rated chess player in the world with a rating of 2810. By January of 2013, his rating had risen to 2861, making him the highest rated chess player ever. In November of that same year, he became the World Chess Champion, a title that he still retains at the time of this writing.
Jiro Ono is considered to be the greatest Sushi Chef to have ever lived. He is the owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant in Japan. His restaurant, which only serves 20 pieces of sushi per customer at a whopping prices of roughly $300, has had the three Michelin stars for 10 years.
All three of these people are considered the absolute best in their field. Yet, they all have something very important in common.
“I guess you can say I became the best, but I don’t think I’m that great yet.” - Faker “I am still far away from really knowing chess, really. There is still much I can learn, and there is much I still don’t understand. And this makes me motivated to keep going, to understand more and more and develop myself.” - Magnus Carlsen “I do the same thing over and over, improving bit by bit. There is always a yearning to achieve more. I’ll continue to climb, trying to reach the top, but no one knows where the top is.” - Jiro Ono
Each of them believes that they still have more to learn. That they have not reached the end of their potential. Each of them has a Growth Mindset.
Carol Dweck in her book Mindset defines a Growth Mindset as
“In this mindset, the hand you’re dealt is just the starting point for development. This growth mindset is based on the belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts. Although people may differ in every which way — in their initial talents and aptitudes, interests, or temperaments — everyone can change and grow through application and exercise.”
The opposite of a Growth Mindset is a Fixed Mindset.
“Believing that your qualities are carved in stone — the fixed mindset — creates an urgency to prove yourself over and over. If you only have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality, and a certain moral character — well, then you’d better prove that you have a healthy dose of them. It simply wouldn’t do to look deficient in these most basic characteristics.”
A Fixed Mindset limits a person. They believe that there is a maximum to every person and that once that maximum is reached, if that person does not repeatedly demonstrate that they are great in those areas, then they will fail. To them, failure cannot be a positive learning experience.
What do people with a Fixed Mindset think?
“Failure is the limit of my abilities” “I’m either good at it, or I’m not” “I stick to what I know” “When I’m frustrated, I give up”
How many of us stick to what we know? Software Engineering is a field that is rife with individuals who refuse to move beyond the tech stack that they know. They stagnate in their careers as they become apathetic about their projects due to feeling that they have failed in their current or past projects.
Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that one is not good enough compared to their peers and that they are an ‘imposter’, runs rampant in the Software Engineering field. Many times, a Fixed Mindset is one of the root causes. A person believes that their abilities can not grow. Learning a new language or a new framework is not something they are capable of or switching from a Waterfall process to an Agile process is impossible. They then feel that their peers are stronger in every area than them. That they do not belong on the team. This generates a constant fear of failure.
By changing their mindset and approaching problems differently and from a positive, rather than a negative mindset, they can set themselves up for vast improvements and gains both personally and professionally.
Benefits of Positivity
Switching to a positive thought process can easily and quickly change a person’s perspective on themselves and on the work that they are capable of. Many times, this also helps ease Imposter Syndrome.
Instead of thinking “Failure is the limit of my abilities”, one should think “Failure is an opportunity to grow”.
“I’m either good at it, or I’m not” should be turned into “I’m not good at it now, but I could be.”
“I stick to what I know” can turn into “I like to try new things and push my limits.”
Simply changing one’s attitude towards challenges and problems can empower oneself and enable them to grow past what they believed was previously possible. It can feel odd to force oneself to think positively all the time, maybe even a bit cheesy at times, but it works.
In Morten T. Hansen’s book, Great At Work, Hansen discusses a study he conducted of nearly 5,000 managers and employees across several fields. He found that 74% of the top performers consistently reviewed their work to learn and improve upon what their professions. This was compared to only 17% of people in the underperforming group. It is clear that adopting a Growth Mindset is an extreme benefit if one wishes to perform excellently at their work.
In the movie Yes Man, Jim Carrey’s character, Carl, starts to say “Yes” to every opportunity that presents itself after going to a motivational seminar. In doing so, he renews friendships, attends classes to learn Korean, helps plan events and more. Due to his newfound positive attitude and personal growth, opportunities flourished for him. Carl had done something extremely important.
He owned his story.
Quentin Allums, in his article “You Are A Story: A Misfit’s View on Personal Branding” said it well.
“So ask yourself, where are you going? Why? That will help you flesh out the story that you are telling. And if you don’t know where you are headed, that is perfectly okay as well. Make that a part of your narrative. Just don’t limit yourself before your story even truly begins.”
But how do we gain control of our own story? There are many ways to do so.
When most self help gurus are asked how to improve oneself, their first suggestion is almost always “keep a journal.” This is for a reason; it works. However, simply recapping the events of the day is not enough. A journal should have a purpose. Recently it was recommended to me to do a 3x3. Every day, try writing:
What three goals or value targets that if you accomplished them, that day would be a success? What three wins did you have recently? *What three things are you grateful for in your life?
These things help to define your story. Albert Einstein said it well with “There comes a point in your life when you need to stop reading other people’s books and write your own.”
By acknowledging what your imperfections are and making the conscious decision to be okay with them allows you to start improving on them. Your imperfections make you unique. If every character ever created in Dungeons and Dragons had max stats, the games would be incredibly boring.
Making the mental decision to not view a blockade or setback as a failure, but instead as an opportunity to learn can easily slide you into a growth mindset. Remember, the brain is extremely elastic and is not fixed, your mindset should not be fixed either! Even when you “fail” you still gain experience!
By talking to other people about your successes and their successes, you can become energized to seek out more opportunities to grow and learn. Sharing with others creates opportunities for collaboration and gives you an opportunity to find places to excel. Who is part of your party? Don’t forget the old saying, “You are the average of the five people who you most associate with.”
One’s attitude is a very quick indicator of whether or not they have a growth or fixed mindset. Seek to give people gratitude for their help. Accept responsibility for setbacks and failures. Be supportive of learning and effort over completing a goal or task. Remember, your attitude is part of your character design for your story.
So embrace your imperfections, stop seeking approval instead of learning, take ownership over your attitude, take risks and create the you that you would want to read about. Do not fix yourself to who you are now, but instead grow into the person that you want to become. Take this growth mindset and take it forward.
What is your story?
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