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Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

Carol S. Dweck · 15 HN comments
HN Books has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" by Carol S. Dweck.
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Amazon Summary
The updated edition of the book that has changed millions of lives with its insights into the growth mindset. After decades of research, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D., discovered a simple but groundbreaking idea: the power of mindset. In this brilliant book, she shows how success in school, work, sports, the arts, and almost every area of human endeavor can be dramatically influenced by how we think about our talents and abilities. People with a fixed mindset —those who believe that abilities are fixed—are less likely to flourish than those with a growth mindset —those who believe that abilities can be developed. Mindset reveals how great parents, teachers, managers, and athletes can put this idea to use to foster outstanding accomplishment. In this edition, Dweck offers new insights into her now famous and broadly embraced concept. She introduces a phenomenon she calls false growth mindset and guides people toward adopting a deeper, truer growth mindset. She also expands the mindset concept beyond the individual, applying it to the cultures of groups and organizations. With the right mindset, you can motivate those you lead, teach, and love—to transform their lives and your own. Praise for Mindset “A good book is one whose advice you believe. A great book is one whose advice you follow. This is a book that can change your life, as its ideas have changed mine.” —Robert J. Sternberg, co-author of Teaching for Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity, and Success “An essential read for parents, teachers [and] coaches . . . as well as for those who would like to increase their own feelings of success and fulfillment.” —Library Journal (starred review) “Everyone should read this book.” —Chip Heath and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick “One of the most influential books ever about motivation.” —Po Bronson, author of NurtureShock “If you manage people or are a parent (which is a form of managing people), drop everything and read Mindset.” —Guy Kawasaki, author of The Art of the Start 2.0
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Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this book.
The key is to be open to understanding yourself. Have people praised your intelligence in the past? That can be paralyzing over time. Or did they praise your effort?

I recommend giving a book called Mindset a read. It helped clarify behaviors of a fixed vs growth mindset, and how having talent still means working hard and putting themselves out there.

This book appears well researched and is the first audio book in a whole that has been able to hold my attention.

https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0...

> Now you're doing something boring, but in service of a cause that is meaningful to you.

I think this is a good balance.

Another way to look at it is from a "theory of change" [1] mindset. I discovered this idea a few weeks ago, from a HN comment, I believe. You envision some type of change that you want to bring about in the world, and then you work backwards in concrete steps in order to figure out how to make it happen. What's cool about this is that it gives you a clear purpose for going outside of your comfort zone and learning new skills. E.g. maybe you're a programmer, and you want to get the US on renewable energy. You're good at programming, but through your analysis you realize that persuading people (politics) is the most likely path to your goal. So you start improving your interpersonal skills.

[1]: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/theoryofchange

As far as growth mindset, it's strange that the article said "Beyond that, there's not a clear way to develop a growth mindset about interests." The canonical book on the topic [2] offers many more ideas on how to cultivate growth mindset.

[2]: https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0...

Yeah the fixed mindset has really crippled me in my life. I was one of those "gifted" kids (to be fair, I do have a pretty high IQ, but fixed mindset is bad for high-IQ individuals too) and I couldn't even stick with video games after awhile, always playing on the easiest difficulties. It's really taking a long time to re-build my attention span and work ethic (ie. from just fiddling around with a million little linux distros and languages, to really investing in learning Android/Java like I am right now - one thing at a time)

For anyone who hasn't read it yet, or isn't familiar with these ideas of praising effort and relative improvement over ability and talent, checkout Mindset - it's a great book which I'm about half-way through right now: https://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Carol-S-Dweck/dp/0...

hosh
I had something similar. Martial arts and video games didn't quite switch it on for me. There were wishful thinking on my part when I practiced those. At some point, I learned to eat the suffering that comes with doing something difficult. It came down to that. There is no avoiding the suffering. What makes hard work "hard" is literally the suffering. Being able to be present -- being mindful -- to it is what makes it look like endurance, perseverance, grit, "ren", "nin" on the outside. It looks stoic, like being indifferent to pain, but it isn't. Being indifferent is a subtle way of avoiding the suffering, while I'm speaking of being present to pain and suffering.

I learned that through a shamanic thing and cultivated it with meditation. My ability to practice the things I wanted and take on challenges really accelerated. (I got a taste for climbing up mountains, heh).

I also went to the other extreme where work became just an endless death march of anxiety and stress. (If you can eat suffering, then you can just keep on going, right?) That took reading a book on classical, non-dual Shaiva Tantra and it's philosophy (it's View) before things clicked for me there. Up until then, I had difficulty reconciling some things. I didn't want to lose being able to work hard, but sustaining that was deteriorating things for my health and my family.

ashleypt
for me, yeah, meditation and exercise has helped quite a lot because they both directly reward and reinforce accepting struggle or challenge very shortly after doing it and the effect builds through persistence. I don't like to call it "pain" or "suffering" - I think "strain" or "tension" is a much much better to put it because you can strain to do something pleasant like when we squint to try to see something better, or when we stretch to loosen up our muscles. Describing it as pain or suffering isn't going to help anyone standing on the outside of learned-helplessness - for a long time I associated "hard work" with doing things just because you felt like you had to because of that mindset and because of public schooling/being told what to do as a kid and so I carried on that refusal into my adult life. It's taken a couple years to learn that effort is fun /in the moment/ too if you /care/ about it - look up flow states.

we tend to make things like exercise and so on into these grueling things that we do as if out of this sense of duty. we don't really have to do anything - we can never get out of bed and starve to death. nobody's going to judge us for that, and if the only thing that makes you choose different is feeling guilty then you need to find your motivation. for me, the less I judge myself for not doing, often the quicker I get started. it's been tough to remember that - I can still agonize with patterns like "analysis paralysis" and I have to just stop, and go do something totally unproductive until my motivation returns. It's kind of like diffused/focused thinking as applies to learning, or anabolic/catabolic processes for weight lifting.

hosh
I'm specifically using pain and suffering because I am not talking in metaphors and I am not trying to dress it up or down. I am not trying to comfort myself or others, and I am not trying to ennoble this. I am not trying to put lipstick on a pig. Pain is literally, physical pain sensations, no more, no less. By suffering, I am speaking about dukkha, or existential anguish.

When you try to make something into something else in order to make it more pleasant, that is a form of a story in the head. It will work for awhile until it doesn't. The whole point of mindulfness meditation is awakening to what is, not what you wish things are.

It doesn't matter whether you are doing something you think is pleasant or not, dukkha is present there. Strain and tension contains pain. Dukkha is only there when someone is not mindful. Ironically, by being present to the actual amount of pain, the dukkha lessens:

https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-coolest-psychological-tric... (Quora answer, not mine's, that explains this very well).

Learned helplessness is a story in the head. There are methods to dissolve and deconstruct that which I will not mention here. When you replace that story with a different story, you are creating the conditions for your next disappointment. Real power and freedom comes from releasing the stories that prop up your identity.

Now having said all of that, I had written about "supports" here: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13091341 ... So long as those support help you in your practice, it's great. At some point, those supports become obstacles themselves. They are, after all, stories in the head.

> we tend to make things like exercise and so on into these grueling things that we do as if out of this sense of duty. we don't really have to do anything

If we don't have to do anything, then what is the point of living and struggling? If you lose your motivation for living and struggling, then what happens when you really need to make it through? This was the paradox that was resolved for me with non-dual Shaiva Tantra.

ashleypt
>I'm specifically using pain and suffering because I am not talking in metaphors and I am not trying to dress it up or down. I am not trying to comfort myself or others, and I am not trying to ennoble this. I am not trying to put lipstick on a pig. Pain is literally, physical pain sensations, no more, no less. By suffering, I am speaking about dukkha, or existential anguish.

I'm not trying to put lipstick on a pig either. I'm trying to explain very real experiences I've had in a way that people who don't understand delayed gratification (yet) won't misinterpret due to false definitions instilled in their past.

>When you try to make something into something else in order to make it more pleasant, that is a form of a story in the head. It will work for awhile until it doesn't. The whole point of mindulfness meditation is awakening to what is, not what you wish things are.

Okay, why are you responding to my comment with this? Did I somehow contradict this notion?

>It doesn't matter whether you are doing something you think is pleasant or not, dukkha is present there. Strain and tension contains pain. Dukkha is only there when someone is not mindful. Ironically, by being present to the actual amount of pain, the dukkha lessens:

Strain and tension don't necessarily contain pain. During physical exercise the body releases a flood of endorphins (ie natural painkillers) that numb it. I believe I've heard meditation does something similar. I can think of numerous other examples of strain that doesn't contain pain - working really hard to solve a puzzle, learning a new skill, or completing a really difficult project. Flow state is when we have high strain and tension but a high sense of efficacy and well-being.

>Learned helplessness is a story in the head. There are methods to dissolve and deconstruct that which I will not mention here. When you replace that story with a different story, you are creating the conditions for your next disappointment. Real power and freedom comes from releasing the stories that prop up your identity.

beliefs are just descriptions about reality that can be either true or false, but we can indeed be fooled by false beliefs or become dependent on true ones which may change in the future. I agree that equanimity is a great virtue which can be cultivated through regular meditation. you don't have to overcomplicate something by alluding to some mysterious methods which you know but won't explain. you can break down false beliefs through mindfulness which is the technique behind cognitive behavioral therapy. there is nothing wrong with forming new positive beliefs as long as they are accurate and you understand that reality is always changing and they may become false in the future. you must maintain a regular practice of mindfulness if you want to minimize false beliefs.

>If we don't have to do anything, then what is the point of living and struggling?

There's no objective reason to live and struggle floating out in reality. They are impulses generated within human beings through genetic, internal (ie mental/cyclical), and environmental influences. If you don't have them, you can try to cultivate them, if you don't believing that you "have to" do things is a very hollow substitute.

>If you lose your motivation for living and struggling, then what happens when you really need to make it through?

You find it or you die. This is self-evident, if this wasn't true, then suicides wouldn't happen. You need to find a strong, positive, inner source of this motivation and remain vigilant once you do or you will find half-ways to slowly kill yourself - purposely getting in unhealthy relationships, acquiring addictions or bad health habits, or overworking yourself.

>This was the paradox that was resolved for me with non-dual Shaiva Tantra.

I have no idea what paradox you're referring to. I'm not seeing one here. If you think that we either objectively have to do things or there's no point in living and struggling, that sounds like a pretty dualist concept to me. I have no idea what the "shaiva tantra" is and honestly I think it's best for those trying to find a way out of a dark place, as well as those trying to understand these life principles, to abandon these cryptic terms and speak simply or using well-established modern language. Isn't the point of communication to transmit knowledge? You're doing a poor job when you use obscure terms without defining them.

hosh
> Okay, why are you responding to my comment with this? Did I somehow contradict this notion?

Because I am doing something similar to when you say, " I'm trying to explain very real experiences I've had ... " although I am not trying to explain about delayed gratification. I'm trying to state a lot of things that come from mindfulness meditation. Take stories in the head for example: You say, "beliefs are just descriptions about reality that can be either true or false, but we can indeed be fooled by false beliefs or become dependent on true ones which may change in the future."

From my experience, any belief is always going to be false. No description of reality can ever substitute for reality. There are no beliefs that inherently exist or are inherently true. When you have a belief, that is something that will always sit between what is present right now. When I say "stories" I do not just mean beliefs. "Story" is a translation for a Sanskrit term with a complicated pronunciation that I have not memorized. They are not just referring to ones you know about. They also refer to these filters that, often, people are not aware of. When it releases, there is a palpable, if subtle, experience as if some guazy layer of perception had been removed. The world gets a little bit clearer, and so does the mind.

When you use the word construction, "I prefer to call pain X", and your explanation, "Strain and tension don't necessarily contain pain. During physical exercise the body releases a flood of endorphins (ie natural painkillers) that numb it." That is an example of what I'm talking about. The pain is still present, even when numbed out. There is nothing wrong with pain in and of itself. Pain does not need to be something to avoid, and if anything, should be listened to as a guide for when you are pushing too hard. People usually conflate pain with suffering, and try to avoid the pain because the suffering is associated with that pain.

> you don't have to overcomplicate something by alluding to some mysterious methods which you know but won't explain.

I'm not overcomplicating this. From my perspective, people who carry a lot of stories in the head look like they are overcomplicating things. I'm not being mysterious. You cannot use another story to dissolve another story unless that story itself self-dissolves. This is why people generally cannot talk their way out of something, and the stories in head goes around in loops.

> You find it or you die. This is self-evident, if this wasn't true, then suicides wouldn't happen.

This is not true. Suicides do not happen because someone loses motivation to live. It happens because someone wants to stop the suffering.

> I have no idea what paradox you're referring to. I'm not seeing one here. If you think that we either objectively have to do things or there's no point in living and struggling, that sounds like a pretty dualist concept to me.

I don't think you have come across this paradox in your experience yet.

> I have no idea what the "shaiva tantra" is and honestly I think it's best for those trying to find a way out of a dark place, as well as those trying to understand these life principles, to abandon these cryptic terms and speak simply or using well-established modern language. Isn't the point of communication to transmit knowledge? You're doing a poor job when you use obscure terms without defining them.

I am not using cryptic terms. I am using very precise terms that points to specific experiences. I can talk about the emotions of "fiero", or "naches", and those have no English equivalent, yet they are very real and precise for Italian or Yiddhish speakers. No well-established modern language has a handle on _dukkha_ or many of the things you might find in Vipassana. Those are better taught with "pointing out exercises", where someone brings your attention to something over and over again, as they arise.

Classical, transcendental non-dual Shaiva Tantra is a name for a specific set of teachings coming out of medieval India. It is very specific, it is very dense. If you want to read about it, the best book in English is Christopher Wallis's Tantra Illuminated.

If I seem to be obfuscating though, it is because I am, and what I am hiding takes more than one afternoon's conversation to cover. I do not mind talking to someone about it, but it isn't as if I have the skill to condense all of this into a tldr.

I'll try to condense some of it here: "Dark places" can be seen as a metaphor for experiencing depression, despair, or learned helplessness. Much of it comes from conditioning from the environment: parents, schools, and the way the reward-punishment system is set up. However, there are other sources in which one can enter into extended states like that. It might be inherited ancestrally, even from someone not directly blood-related. It may be from past lives. (Which, when you consider this frame with suicides, suicide is a terrible mistake because it does not stop the suffering; someone who lost the motivation to live finds that experience continue on eternally and cannot stop it even when they want to). There may be hungry ghosts eating your mind space like a zombie -- often indicated when you get arbitrary thoughts, such as suicide, appear without precedence and it does not feel like your own patterns of thoughts; the more successful hungry ghosts will make it seem like it is your idea. Beliefs in learned helplessness can come from any one of these, or even reinforced by more than one of these. What I included is not an exhaustive list.

There are numerous methods developed to work with this. They work at different layers or with different levels of understanding. Some are coupled to "local color", that is, the specific set of cultural beliefs and values. The ones that work all have one essential thing in common: mindfulness. That does not mean that mindfulness alone will take you all the way -- well, it does, just perhaps not as effectively. Some methods specializes in certain aspects of this and can an address those aspects better.

So you are right: what you are trying to say when you impart skills and knowledge like this will work for a lot of people. However, there may be other things going on, and require a different way of addressing it.

hosh
Thinking more about this: you are right, I am not communicating any of this skillfuly.
ashleypt
you have a lot of interesting thoughts and a depth of experience in these subjects - if you could get better at the presentation aspect I think you'd have a lot to offer people.

I come from more of a taoist background, when I read the tao te ching it changed my life. I would see how he tries to present his ideas - vague, contradictory, unprecise - as I think that is a much better way to communicate these attitudes (ie the insights of meditation/awareness/secular "spirituality") to most modern cultures today.

better than that, check out alan watts, he introduced much of eastern philosophy to the west and he is probably my favorite public speaker of all time, period. he makes everything sound profound and mysterious and yet a meaningless joke at the same time - just like the ideas really are.

back to our "disagreement" - I think we're just working from opposite directions of the same core fundamentals (yin/yang, in other words) - your approach is very rigid, precise, and ruthlessly blunt and honest. my approach is more boiled down to essentials, focused on a roughly correct understanding that will guide most people in the right direction over time, and forgiving - flowing like water as a taoist might say.

the fact is, unlike in many western cultures and ideas (unlike stoicism, which is arguably the western "version" of eastern thought and attitudes), there's no contradiction between our approaches I think - they're more like two different teachers where some personalities need your precisely rigid approach and some might benefit more from a more taoist approach. Ultimately in my life I've needed a bit of both but at different points - the strong harsh ruthlessly honest self-discipline most recently, and the relaxed, intuitively focused, flexible taoist approach when I was a stressed teenager.

I hope this helps make things clearer for anyone reading this as if reading a debate.

Cheatsheet, without the affiliate links (another commenter posted these with affiliate links then deleted it after being called out):

The Road to Character, David Brooks - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/081299325X

Thing Explainer, Randall Munroe - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0544668251

Being Nixon: A Man Divided, Evan Thomas - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0812995368

Sustainable Materials With Both Eyes Open, Julian Allwood - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/190686005X

Eradication: Ridding the World of Diseases Forever?, Nancy Leys Stepan - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0801450586

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Carol Dweck - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0345472322

Honorable Mention:

The Vital Question: Energy, Evolution, and the Origins of Complex Life, Nick Lane - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0393088812

aerovistae
Affiliate links? Like, Bill Gates gets some money when you click through his blog? Please tel me I'm misunderstanding.
rbinv
There are actually no direct links to Amazon (or other similar sites) in his blog posts. Parent meant other commentators in this thread.
hueving
No, another commenter posted links but slapped affiliate tags on them.
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jmknoll
Just to mention - you can read 'Sustainable Materials with Both Eyes Open' on the authors' website (although I'm sure they wouldn't mind people buying it on Amazon as well). http://www.withbotheyesopen.com/read.php
rodly
I'm curious, why is it that people dislike affiliate-backed links if the link is relevant, useful, interesting and of equal quality to the normal link? Seems irrational.
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davidw
Nothing wrong with affiliate links if you're a regular user of this site: we're capitalists here. I make sure to include them if I link to a book, because I could use the money more than Jeff Bezos. Of course, I don't link to stuff just for the sake of linking to it, but only do so if I would have anyway. I think it's pretty clear whether someone is a spammer or not.

https://news.ycombinator.com/user?id=hullo seems to be the person who included some links. They have clearly been here a while, participates constructively, and doesn't seem to spew out a lot of affiliate links (any, actually, that I can see).

unethical_ban
I suppose some think there is an opportunity for disingenuous posting if there is monetary gain to be had. That said, I agree with you, and knowing I have posted affiliate links without trying, I think any malice attributed to it is misplaced.
davidw
With affiliate links, I sometimes make upwards of 10 dollars every few months - enough for a free book once in a while. I'll let you guess how that compares to my salary...

I think it's pretty clear from people's posting/comment history whether they're adding them in good faith or not.

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tlrobinson
Perhaps, but taking a famous person's list of books and reposting it with affiliate links and no disclaimer is definitely crossing the line in my book.
manish_gill
Why? I'm genuinely interesting in your line of reasoning.
hueving
Profiteering in comment sections pollutes the incentives for commenters. Sure the links were useful, but they were much less useful than a person providing a really insightful comment about a typical article that shows up here. I don't want one person making monetary gain over another.
davidw
> I don't want one person making monetary gain over another.

Seems like that shipped sailed a long time ago: there are a lot of people who link to their companies, offer jobs, and that kind of thing here. Making money is not a bad thing - spamming is.

If anyone's interested, I hereby offer to spend the entirety of my ill-gotten affiliate gains on beers if anyone ever visits Bend, Oregon.

andreyf
If only there was a system where we could somehow crowdsource deciding which comments are "really insightful" and which are not...
davidw
Don't think I might have upvoted it, but it does represent a minor convenience.
Another top-level comment asks,

Is anyone willing to contribute insight or actionable information in the interest of a better discussion? The article is steadily climbing the front page, so this is clearly a popular topic.

I'll put in an edit to my first comment here to answer that question. This is advice based on the research I did as I brought up four children, beginning in 1992:

1) The book The First Three Years of Life[A] by the late Burton White is a good book about child development. His perspective on how (to use the title of another of his books[B]) to raise a happy, unspoiled child is helpful for parents.

2) Be open to shopping for educational choices. Don't assume the school down the street will do a good job, no matter where you live. We have mostly been homeschoolers as our children have grown up, and our firstborn sent me a very kind email on Father's Day two years ago telling me he is glad I did that. He still thinks so two years later.

3) The book The Optimistic Child[C] by Martin E. P. Seligman is good for teaching children how to deal with inevitable problems and setbacks of human life.

4) The book Mindset[D] by Carol Dweck is a very good book on helping young people and people of all ages to maximize their abilities. We have seen wonderful results from "growth mindset" with our two younger children, who are young enough not to have known any other mindset in our household.

5) Develop a network of parents who are your close friends--close enough friends to be real with and to vent with when parenting becomes challenging. It's too easy for parents to isolate themselves by wanting to keep up a show of not having challenges in their parenting.

[A] http://www.amazon.com/New-First-Three-Years-Life/dp/06848041...

[B] http://www.amazon.com/Raising-Unspoiled-Parents-Develop-Secu...

[C] http://www.amazon.com/Optimistic-Child-Safeguard-Depression-...

[D] http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Success-Carol-Dweck...

Having written that, I'm open for more discussion. What's below is my original comment on the submitted article.

Here is the gist of the article, in the author's own words: "I think a lot about parenting. Last year, I moved to the D.C. area after 16 years in Oregon. Although I grew up on the East Coast, I hadn’t been immersed in the competitive parenting scene since I left home for college. But since my husband and I returned, I’ve caught myself fretting over whether enrolling my daughter in the “right” activities — sports or academic enrichment? Karate or Odyssey of the Mind? Or both? — will guarantee her entrance into a good college and success in life.

"I don’t have time to talk about parenting with the moms of my daughter’s friends, and, besides, they’re all going through the same thing I am. I started thinking about the people who have raised successful children, and I wanted to explore how they did it."

She then relates anecdotes about various families she has encountered, who have had children who appear to be successful by differing definitions of success. Good for them. As a parent myself (four children, one grown up and launched into adult life, and three still in my care in my household), I thought I might see some actionable information here, but I really didn't. The experiences of the families described in the article differ enough from mine that even after reading the whole article, I will seek other sources of advice on how to continually refine my parenting.

Collections of anecdotes like this suffer from problems that everyone who reads Hacker News knows about, and anecdotes about effective parenting suffer from one more problem that a lot of people miss. Any collection of anecdotes suffers from sample bias: how do we know that these families are representative of the many millions of other families who have either unsuccessful or successful children? A collection of anecdotes about people who reach some defined endpoint suffers from "survivorship bias,"[1] the tendency to look only at what the people who reach the endpoint have in common, without looking at how they differ from people who drop out of the competition to reach that endpoint. Maybe we have no idea, after looking at the successful, if any of their characteristics really make them different from the unsuccessful.

A powerful mistake in many studies of parenting is not setting up a genetically sensitive design for the study. All human beings everywhere have systematic similarities with all other human beings everywhere. But in the aspects of human life that show individual variation, usually people resemble close relatives more than they resemble random members of all humanity. If some individual differences contribute to success, and some do not, we may have observations of children who become successful not because their parents parented well, but because their parents passed on genes for success to the children. Any correlation between parent behaviors and child outcomes has to be tested for whether or not it arises from genetic similarity. (The study designs that help tease out these issues, but do NOT fully resolve them, involve including observations of identical twins and adopted children--and at best identical twins adopted into different adoptive households, who are rare--to separate upbringing influences from biological inheritance influences.) Children resemble their parents sometimes more than parents wish.

[1] http://youarenotsosmart.com/2013/05/23/survivorship-bias/

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Survivorship_bias

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2014-08-11/success-stor...

mrfusion
I liked "mindset" but I don't remember getting any actionable parenting advice from it. Can you tell us how it affected your parenting?
sogen
Huge thanks, specially since we'll be parents in june

Regards

brc
I found the article to be of low value as well, partly because of anecdata and partly because it wasn't clear to me how any of the profiled were really 'successful'.

Really what would be more useful is in finding the turnaround stories - examples where parents have been on a wrong path, and where their kids have started to fail, and where they changed their approach and succeeded with helping the children to succeed.

And with this I don't mean where a parent escaped an abusive household or where someone kicked drugs and alcohol, but where a normal parent with relatively normal children managed to turn a child with little spark for life and zero achievements into one who was motivated and excited by possibility.

In my extended family there are children I have watched grow up - some of these have been spectacularly successful, while others haven't managed to get traction on life. As both can be self-reinforcing negative or positive feedback loops, the interesting thing is finding out those small inputs that steer a growing child one way or another. I think these are often how we respond to external events (such as coping with criticism or failure) but also if we have developed self belief. For parents, knowing how best to help a child navigate these tricky waters is crucial. And the article doesn't help with any of that.

For me, the most useful book this year was Mindset by Carol Dweck. Simply amazing and mind-blowing.

http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

The book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck (the psychology professor at Stanford mentioned) also offers great insight into this. It is also a very well written book, and if you are into audiobooks, the narrator for this one does a splendid job.

[0] http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

What about thinking of it in terms of risk / reward. Say in the (unlikely case) you completely fail to deliver... does it matter? Are they paying you? Can you structure the project so that you can do lots of small iterations and continually give them something which is useful?

On the plus side if you pull it off, which is probably more likely if you've been coding for a couple of years and have side projects already, then you'll have a public project to your name, and you'll learn heaps just through the process.

As for how I personally deal with self doubt. Badly ;) have heaps of it and find giving advice far easier than taking my own. I mean you'll never know unless you try right, and the only way to get better is to try & fail & get better a bunch of times. One book you may enjoy (short read) is called mindset: http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

Good luck, and I say give it a go.

ayrx
This exactly. It's good to have some doubts but at the end of the day you learn a lot by simply trying, regardless of success or failure.

I think it's very important though, that you learn to accept criticism. Learning from constructive criticism is key to improving.

A readable popular article about this research, "The Effort Effect," was published right after Professor Carol Dweck moved her research base from Columbia University to Stanford University.[1] And Dweck has written a full-length popular book, quite readable and helpful for parents, called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success[2] that I recommend to parents all the time.

[1] http://alumni.stanford.edu/get/page/magazine/article/?articl...

[2] http://mindsetonline.com/

http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

Here is Dweck's book. Have heard great things about it, but still sitting in my inbox.

http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

nether
There's a great graphic summarizing fixed vs. growth mindsets: http://www.dolezalek.com/chris/Mindset.htm
Isamu
I found Mindset to be a good book. Here is my summary:

Two mindsets:

Fixed mindset - talents, abilities and intelligence are fixed, endowed

Growth mindset - talents, abilities and intelligence are learned and can be developed

These mindsets are learned, and have fundamentally different reactions to challenges.

The two-mindsets model is a simplification for the purposes of explanation.

Failure

The growth mindset embraces failure as a necessary part of learning. In fact failure is a indicator of an area for potential growth, if the opportunity is taken to overcome that failure. The fixed mindset avoids and fears failure; it is taken as evidence of a hard limit of your endowed talent.

Motivation

The growth mindset sees effort as necessary to mastery. Almost any level of mastery may be attainable with the right regimen of practice. Obstacles are a normal part of mastery and must be overcome as a matter of course in order to grow. Criticism is not taken personally, but used to indicate areas for improvement and growth.

The fixed mindset sees effort as producing only small effects compared to their fixed ability. May be more prone to give up in the face of obstacles since it is thought that there is no new mastery to be gained. Criticism is more likely to be taken personally, as the individual identifies with the perceived limits of their ability and thinks that improvement is impossible beyond a certain point.

Perceiving others

The growth mindset is not threatened by others’ abilities. Others’ examples may serve to inspire. The fixed mindset is more likely to be jealous of others’ abilities since they are perceived to be highly desirable gifts and the result of luck and circumstance.

Teaching Children

Praise children by emphasizing their work and persistence. Do not use labels like “smart” or “gifted” that would reinforce a mindset of fixed abilities.

Relationships

Growth oriented mindset is more likely to be understanding and ready to learn from experience. Fixed mindset sees problems as a result of unchangeable personal attributes and are pessimistic about change. More likely to have unrealistic expectations, like not having to work at a relationship that is “meant to be”.

Examples

Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth and Wilma Rudolph are given as examples of overcoming early setbacks with a growth mindset.

Last chapter is a “workshop” of situations and questions to help you develop a growth mindset.

chrisgd
Wow, what a great summary. Thanks. Now I can move it back to the bottom of my inbox. So long NY resolutions!
I haven't read through all the other comments and I have offered this advice before, so forgive me if it sounds repetitive.

The book that helped me the most was 'Mindset' by Carol Dweck. It is a quick read and gives multiple settings for describing fixed mindset vs growth mindset. It sounds like you are mainly in the fixed mindset and perhaps reading this book could jump start you into finding ways to incorporate the growth mindset.

http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

This was probably taken from the work of Carol Dweck[0]. I recently read a book she wrote (Mindset[1]) that was recommended on a thread here. The book title sounds like some corny self-help book, and honestly some of the stories in it seemed a bit sappy to me, but I think the underlying idea is solid and I definitely see it myself a lot in my day to day life (full disclosure: recovering fixed mindset person :)).

The basic premise is there are two types of mindsets, a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. Those with the fixed mindset are those that believe that intelligence, ability, etc.. is basically fixed. You have some certain amount and that's that. The growth mindset believes the general range of these things may be strongly influenced ('fixed') by things like genetics, life circumstances, etc... but improvement within this range is definitely possible and the key to that is hard work and honest assessment of where you are relative to where you want to be.

This relates to the achievement vs. hard work thing because she claims children who are praised for 'being smart' or 'being good at X' tend to gravitate towards the fixed mindset (i.e. 'I get praised because I am smart, I am smart because I can do X well/X comes easily to me, if something doesn't come easily to me it must mean I am not smart/talented'). This causes them to not put in effort when the going gets tough and in fact to avoid challenges because if they fail they view it as a judgement on their core self/competency (not simply an indication of an area for growth).

The growth mindset folks (children praised for doing well because they worked hard at it as opposed to some natural talent or 'smarts') tend to seek challenges as they view them as the engine of growth/improvement.

Using these frameworks as a lens on which to view human behavior can be interesting. I have definitely seen both mindsets in action (in myself and others). I definitely , consciously, try to stay in a growth mindset now, but I think our culture heavily pushes a fixed mindset where someone either has 'it' or they don't, they are smart or they are not, they are talented or they are not. We prefer the 'instant success due to massive talent/smarts' story over the 'worked their ass off for years to build amazing talent and then succeeded due to that hard work'.

The book Talent Is Overrated[2] also touches on this and points out most people that we generally consider 'naturals' at things, if you interview them/study them/look at their past, all have something in common, a tremendous amount of effort in learning/training, above and beyond what most people put in. This also veers towards the 10,000 hour theory of Anders Ericsson[3]

EDIT: Fixed a bunch typos/misspelling I saw in re-reading. Originally typed in IE with no spell check. Area for improvement: spelling.

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_Dweck

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-The-New-Psychology-Success/dp/...

[2] http://www.amazon.com/Talent-Overrated-World-Class-Performer...

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/K._Anders_Ericsson

mailshanx
One a related note: Aaron Swartz wrote an article series he calls "raw nerve". One of those articles expands on Carol Dweck's work: http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/dweck
pretoriusB
@ScottBurson

>The problem I have with this is that in real life, it doesn't matter how hard you work on something; what matters is the quality of the result.

What makes you think the two are unrelated? If one is hopelessly incopetent maybe, but for most people hard work equals better results.

It's something that has been stated time and again regarding geniuses / very productive people et al, in the form of, say, the "10,000 hour rule", or the "99 perspiration, 1% inspiration".

greenyoda
Results may be correlated with effort if you consider a single person. However, in real life, you're usually competing with someone else.

Let's say we're comparing two employees: X works hard 80 hours a week; Y works only 40 hours a week and takes long lunches. But somehow, Y still ends up producing more results of a better quality. A rational manager should pay Y more than X, since it's only the end results that are of value to the company.

ScottBurson
The problem I have with this is that in real life, it doesn't matter how hard you work on something; what matters is the quality of the result. While I understand that praising kids for being smart causes problems, as Dweck suggests, I'm concerned that the approach she recommends will encourage the belief, already widespread, that effort alone is deserving of reward. This belief encourages struggle and mediocrity.
hosh
How is the quality of results what matters?

When you focus exclusively on the quality of results, you stop growing.

It's not about "effort", so much as the deliberateness in which you go about things. (The word "effort" is weighed down with a number of baggage and connotation). Or to put in different words, how mindful are you as you are doing whatever it is you are doing?

Aardwolf
> what matters is the quality of the result

Actually, I think what matters is the right mix of quantity and quality. Too much perfection wastes time for nothing. And sometimes I am too perfectionist unfortunately.

WalterSear
If you are simply focused on that task in front of you, sure, it looks like that. The change is in the person and how they approach future problems and tasks.
ryanmolden
Yes, I likely oversimplified her message, sorry. She never advocates praising effort in isolation from outcome. She advocates praising effort as the key factor in successful outcomes, and analyzing failures to understand what caused them and how you can grow your skillset to avoid them in the future. Her concern with a fixed mindset is that a loss/setback simply means someone else was better/smarter than you and there isn't much you can do about it. That or, to protect your ego, perhaps they cheated or the judges liked them better, or they were born to wealthy parents and had advantages you didn't or whatever other excuse people come up to explain a loss when they feel a loss labels them as a loser for all time. If you have the mindset that you can learn/improve from these experiences then a loss/failure isn't something to be hidden in shame, but something to be analyzed and used to make yourself better.

She has a story about a parent whose daughter was competing in gymnastics and at the local level always did pretty well without much practice. She went to a regional meet and did well relative to her skills but was outperformed by others and ended up not winning any medals/ribbons. On the way home the dad basically told her she didn't win because she didn't deserve to, i.e. the other competitors had put in more practice than she had and it showed in their performance. He didn't say 'they beat you because they are more talented' or 'they beat you because they are superior athletes', those are the kinds of statements that imply there is some core quality that the winners had that his daughter didn't have and thus she could never be better than them. Instead he basically said 'they buckled down and put in the long hours, if you did that you would have had a better chance'.

Dweck pointed out that he wasn't saying this to be a dick, and of course feedback like this much be couched correctly for people to hear it, but he wanted his daughter to know that to compete you have to put in the effort to learn/practice. If others put in more effort than you then they deserve to win, all else being equal. The story ended with her doubling down on her effort/practice (since she realized her local competitors which she could easily beat were only indicative of her talent vis-a-vis them, not some absolute barometer for her skills) and going on to compete successfully at a national level.

You are right that if I try and deliver some project at work and it fails I can't tell my boss 'but I tried really hard!' :) That said, if you look at most successful projects/people you see a LOT of hard work at some point to deliver on things. Some people make it look easy, but that is likely because they have done all the hard work years earlier building their skillsets. If they have done more of that than you then it shouldn't be surprising that their skills seem so superior to yours. They weren't born being masters of anything (hell, babies can't even manage to not shit themselves for a few years :)), but they put in time and effort even when there was little/no reward for that investment (in the immediate here and now, obviously there is reward later when you are able to do seemingly super-human things easily).

ScottBurson
Ah. Thanks for the clarification.
rdtsc
I think the hidden assumption is that "hard work" is also applied to learning not just pure rote doubling of effort to pick twice as many apples in a day. Rather the key is "persistence" and even more saw "persistence in learning".

This can make a huge difference if a breakthrough occurs on a meta-level and eventually you get better at learning, by repeatedly trying to learn something, you learn how to learn better, then learning anything is easier.

Interestingly, this is exactly compatible with what Andrea Dwork writes about in "Mindset" [1]: people whose identity evolves around being "smart" or "talented" are often less willing to take on risks or big projects than those who have grown up being praised for their efforts.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Success-Carol-Dweck...

Here is a formula I think might work:

1) Discipline and personal activity: wake up and jog/exercise at the exact same time EVERY DAY. Nothing too exhaustive, just 15 to 20 minutes of consistent exercise. Don't miss a day.

2) Keep a journal of plus/delta: what was good and what needs to change during the day. Nothing extremely elaborate, start with a list of things you did during the day or the day before. Take this seriously. Do it in silence and reflect at a consistent time at night or early morning (after exercise).

3) Communications and group activity: join ONE group of interest (meetup perhaps), church, temple etc.

4) Family relationship building: talk to your mother and help your father. Take initiative, do the dishes, contribute to house chores. Don't be a dead beat... seriously, I've been and seen the type. Don't be lazy, help out around the house. You will see relationship improving. "No man is an island" learn to be a part of the family. Parents just want their kids to be decent, if they SEE improvements and efforts from you, they will respond back positively.

5) Read this book: http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Success-Carol-Dweck... If you don't have the money to buy it, give me your address and I WILL buy it for you. Learn the change your mindset into a growth mindset.

6) Go back to basic: NO complain, NO excuses, NO negativity and NO bull.

7) Remember. You are still very young, my friend. Life is long and there is a lot waiting for you. There are thousands of people out there who are willing to help you IF you ask for their help (like the HN community). And most importantly, there is no magic formula for a good life--you'll just have to work for it like everyone else.

My apologies if I made any unwarranted assumptions. I hope what I wrote could be something you might consider. Certain things work for me but they might not work for you. Still, if nothing is working, then try something else. Keep trying until something work for you. What I really want to impress upon you is this: CONSISTENCY and DISCIPLINE. Good luck.

(NOTE: please forgive my quick notes which might contain grammatical and spelling errors. I need to start my morning exercise as I am a bit late :P)

Oct 22, 2009 · mronge on I Was Told I Was Very Smart
If you're interested in this, check out the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. I recommend it, it's amazing how hackable your mind is.

http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psychology-Success-Carol-Dweck...

HN Books is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or Amazon.com.
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