“There are no secrets to success. It is the result ofpreparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”  ~Colin Powell~

Colin Powell’s quote is not only great advice it is also an illustration of Growth mindset.  Unlike the Fixed mindset which only looks at the now and stifles any chance at moving beyond any set-backs.  Yes, sometimes we fail.  Let’s face it, we fail more then we want to admit, but is it the end of the world? No, of course it’s not. The old cliché that states: the only way you can grow, evolve or learn, is to make mistakes is truer than we would like to admit as well.  Although none of us like to make mistakes,there is a lot of truth in this statement. Let’s think about what would happen if we didn’t learn from our mistakes and we didn’t grow? What you would witness would be a fixed mindset and it can be a disaster in the way you look at personal failures, exam failure, business failure and in life in general.

Let’s just think about this scenario: How many of you were told at an early age by a teacher or parent that you were just not suited for a particular task? Let’s say, drawing. (Don’t worry, this will lead into exam preparation, just be patient). Ok, so you were holding a pencil for the first time and everyone in class was sketching a picture of a house. Most of the class had a fair representation of a house, but yours didn’t really live up to the rest of the class. Two things – You either kept on trying and maybe even sought help in order to learn how to draw a better house or you were told or convinced yourself you had no artistic talent and gave up, hopefully pursuing something else.

In a nutshell, this scenario, which played out for us throughout our lives, shows either a fixed or growth mindset.  The researcher Carol Dweck from Stanford University demonstrates this via an excellent TedTalk:


Anyway…. back to the drawing! But when you can say to yourself that the picture isn’t right ‘yet’ as Carol Dweck talks about, we can learn from the experience and improve. The fixed mindset can be for all intense and purposes the nail in your coffin for success. Getting a failing grade is not great, its stings through to your core. Why wouldn’t it? But the truth is you should say “I’m getting there but I’m not there yet.”  Without the work, we don’t learn and that is a shame.

Set up your revision to learn from the mistakes you have already made, or if you have failed previously make sure you learn from that also!  The key here is you will get back what you put in…. you are destined to make the mistakes again and how you react Dear Sir or Madam is up to you.

Now, how can this help if we have been conditioned from a very early age to be using a Fixed Mindset? That is the ultimate question and if you are old enough, you can probably look back and recount numerous ways you just walked away from something because it wasn’t “easy” or you weren’t an “expert” immediately.  There is no use harping on about the past but to learn from the vast amounts of previous opportunities, however, we need to learn from them and not make the same mistake.

This wouldn’t be a blog if I didn’t provide some of my own insight from experience so let me briefly outline what I find to be the worst attributes of a fixed mindset:

1.      First and foremost, you don’t allow yourself to grow and evolve.  This is a barrier to any kind of success, whether you are studying or going for a job interview,etc.

2.      Don’t forget you have done an amount of work just to get yourself to your exams – why would you throw it all away?

3.      You can begin to swirl and this will not help you in the long run and can provide a self- fulfilling prophecy of failure by just not even trying.

This may be just a humorous Simpsons quote, but the statement can be a horrific reality if you remain in a fixed mindset. This is just an opinion, but let me turn this quote around. When you work in a Growth Mindset, as Carol Dweck said in the TedTalk, you could be saying: “This isn’t the best day of my life… YET!”

But you can’t just live by a sound bite, you have to get up, brush off any discomfort and start to work.  It may feel like I’m flogging a dead horse but the importance is, to learn from the errors you made previously while remaining positive!

The importance of a growth mindset is to take the event, such as ongoing discomfort/ pressure/ failure and turn it into a challenge.  Let’s take an example of someone who we see as a success.  J. K. Rowling Wikipedia page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._K._Rowling) reads like the story of a woman who went from one incredible success to another. But this wasn’t always so because she was once on state benefits and writing the first Harry Potter in long hand in a local café. After finally typing it out on an old manual typewriter her agent took the book to 12 publishing houses and she received 12 rejections!  She finally was excepted by Bloomsbury with a small £1,500 advance. Now she is one of the World’s most successful writers.

Think about it, the key here is to learn and to work hard. Those people using the fixed mindset don’t learn or move beyond the failures, and they tend to be stuck in the past. So, you have to ask yourself, will you except the challenge and say “I may not be there yet, but I’m on my way!”

Let’s examine another example from the past.  It’s hard to believe today, but for many years it was believed no one on Earth would ever be able to run a mile in less than 4 minutes.  It was impossible, like anything travelling faster then the speed of light, it could just never happen. For a long time, that was true and although people did approach the 4-minute mile getting close, but no one could go faster. Not until 6 of May, 1954 did Roger Bannister break the 4-minute mile barrier at Oxford University. Two months later at the Commonwealth games in Vancouver, Canada, two more runners accomplished what had been believed to be impossible. Since then, there have been over 1,400 people who have done it.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four-minute_mile)

The facts really speak for themselves, with hard word and determination, truly the sky is the limit! Well, not really, because we have travelled past the sky and towards the stars. Human achievement is incredible and why should you be a part of it? Limits are set by people who do not want to succeed or they don’t want others to succeed. If we consider the works of Copernicus, Galileo or Newton. They had to fight for their strong held beliefs against the conventional wisdom of the time. If they just capitulated and gave in, they would not have achieved their great discoveries and changed the World.

Remember, failure just means you weren’t ready. You will be ready next time (or the next time after that) and you will learn from those mistakes you made the first time.  I have learned this from experience and can’t help but think it has made me a better person.  Don’t get me wrong, I have been in positions that made me want to just through it all up in the air. I wanted to hand in blank exams 5 minutes after the examiner said you can begin.  We all have “out” moments, but we have to fight through it, or we’ll be left behind. We have too much potential to just be left behind without even trying to succeed. By trying and working hard and focussing on what is important, we can accomplish almost anything.


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