Are Your Qualities Set in Stone?

“Mommy and I don’t think you should go.”

He listened, turned 50 shades of bright red and started crying. Then he went to his room and cried some more. We tried to comfort ourselves by saying, “Sometimes we have to be parents, more than friends.” It didn’t work!

Our 12-year-old son Ben writes IOS applications 24/7. IOS apps are the cool software programs that run on your IPhone. He’s known as a coder and he absolutely lives for it.


Last weekend was Code Day all over the world, an event where coders congregate at local venues and do whatever coders do for 24 hours straight. Ben wanted more than anything else to attend. He’s been talking about it for months. (I was also attending Code Day because Ben is only 12 and I love coding as well. Note: Only one of those statements is true.)

Anyway, we never got the chance to attend. Ben came down with a fever a few days prior and wasn’t improving as the big day approached. It didn’t seem prudent for him to go and that was when we made our valiant parental decision. Code Day went out the window.


Part of Ben’s sadness came from thinking that he’d never get the chance to experience an event like this and that there wouldn’t be other opportunities in the future. Obviously, he was upset and not feeling well and he’s still a child (which ratchets up the emotion), but I saw a meaningful parallel between his thought process and how business people feel from time to time.

Ben was displaying a fixed mindset and those with such a thought pattern believe what it is, is what it will always be.

Carol S. Dweck, a Stanford University Professor, studies mindsets just like Ben codes – all the time. She contends that we all choose between two mindsets: fixed mindset and growth mindset. According to Dweck:

  • Fixed Mindset individuals believe that qualities are carved in stone and every situation defines you as a success or failure.
  • Growth Mindset individuals believe that one’s basic qualities can be cultivated through your effort. Everyone can change and grow through application and experience. It’s a firm belief that a person’s true potential is unknown.

Ben’s fixed mindset manifested with the fear that there wouldn’t be additional events like the one he missed.

In you – a fixed mindset might mean that:

  • You feel that you can’t get any smarter
  • You feel that you can’t be more successful
  • You feel that you don’t have what it takes to be a leader
  • You feel that you’re as good (as talented) as you’ll ever be
  • You feel that it’s a waste of time to improve your skills

On the other hand, if you have a growth mindset, you believe that anything is possible.

Professor Dweck investigated the power of mindset in relation to achievement and success. She concluded that talents and abilities are important, but how learning is approached is of even greater importance.

Her work explored the consequences of thinking that intelligence or personality is something that CAN be developed, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait.

The ramifications of her research cannot to be ignored.

Individuals with a fixed mindset feel their intelligence is static. This leads to a desire to look smart and therefore a tendency to avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless or worse, ignore useful negative feedback and feel threatened by the success of others. As a result, they may plateau early and achieve less than their full potential.

Conversely, a growth mindset leads to a desire to learn and therefore a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as the path to mastery, learn from criticism and find inspiration from the success and achievement of others.

Growth minded individuals reach higher levels of achievement.

Of the differences between these mindset types, nowhere is it more apparent than the way feedback is given and/or received. Growth mindset individuals believe that others can change, while their counterparts (fixed mindset people) believe that people can (and will) only stay the same.

And when YOU believe that someone has no ability to change, your sentiment comes out loud and clear. (Read: It’s not a secret to the people you’re coaching and/or leading, which is quite destructive).

As for my son Ben and the dearth of future “coding” opportunities, we’re going to New York in April for a competitive “codeathon”(Whatever that means).

That’s just the way it works.


Darryl Rosen is the former President and owner of Sam’s Wines & Spirits in Chicago.  Presently, he’s specializes in helping independent beverage retailers get and keep more customers.  For a completely FREE webinar revealing 3 simple strategies for quickly and dramatically exploding your profits, click here.


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