Tony DeMeo

Mindset by Carol S. Dweck

Mindset is a book that was given to me by my daughter Annie. She thought I would enjoy it and she was absolutely correct. This book is beneficial to anyone involved in teaching or coaching. I’m always looking for ways to become a better teacher because after all is said and done – coaching is teaching.

Dweck’s basic premise is that there are two basic mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. They have very different characteristics. Those with a fixed mindset are always trying to prove themselves “I must constantly prove that I’m worthy” while those with a growth mindset are always trying to improve themselves, they have a passion for stretching. These differences are most easily distinguished when things go wrong. Fixed mindset people consider themselves as losers and look to blame someone else. They yell at someone and never look in the mirror. Growth mindset people plan to fix the problem by working harder or taking a different approach. They look to improve the situation starting with them.

Those with a fixed mindset rarely look for challenges; they look for the sure-thing because they have attached their self-worth to their results. Those with a growth mindset people thrive on challenges are constantly moving out of their comfort zone to reach new levels of performance. We see this in how coaches schedule non-conference games. Fixed mindset coaches schedule cupcakes for their non-conference opponents while growth mindset coaches pick challenging opponents that force their teams to improve and elevate their level of play.

Dweck’s uses countless examples and offers different strategies for teaching and nurturing the growth mindset not only in your players and students but also in you.

Dweck is a great advocate in effort and work ethic. She quotes one of my favorite authors Malcolm Gladwell “we value your effortless accomplishment over achievement through effort” Our culture wants effortless achievement. Dweck also cites the Seabiscuit story about the combined effort of a horse, trainer and owner to produce a horse racing legend. Fixed mindset people buy into the illusion of “The Natural” they want peers to think they were born great and they view effort as reducing them. However, many great superstars developed late. Michael Jordan did not make his high school basketball team in eleventh grade yet through hard work and effort became arguably the greatest hoopster of all time.

Dweck says coaches/teachers should only praise effort not performance. If you only praise performance than your players are less likely to challenge themselves and risk a poor performance. By praising effort you are growing a growth mindset; you are making growth fun so the student works for growth and thus his performance naturally improves.
Dweck’s example of a mindset coach is one of my favorites – John Wooden. UCLA was a downtrodden program when Wooden came to Westwood. But Wooden instilled the mindset of total preparation and maximum effort to turn UCLA into the greatest college basketball dynasty of all time.

I was involved leading the turnaround of four college football programs and THE most important factor was establishing a growth mindset. It was important for the players to see improvement and growth. I used the Four A.C.E.S. system as a method of measuring growth so I didn’t have to depend on just wins for the players to see improvement. By rewarding the process the results naturally followed. We developed a collective growth mindset; the mindset that if we work hard and do the right things then good results will follow.

Carol Dweck’s book Mindset is a great read. It is well written and almost has “I can’t put it down” feel to it. This book though not written specifically for coaches is a must read for coaches. Nothing will grow your program faster than a growth mindset.