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The Only Mindset You'll Ever Need as a Product Manager

I can't remember exactly how I came across Carol Dweck's easily accessible and straight to the point book, but her singular focus on this one mindset, help me get out of a rut in my business and also in my personal life.  Here I share my personal experience and what she espouses as the one mindset for success.

We live in world of contradictions.  We all inherently know this -- like my dog is both obedient and lazy at times.  She likes to come by whenever she wants and she's don't follow 100% of my commands 100% of the time.  So is she well-trained or not?

We often are made to believe we are some labels of ourselves either self-identified or externally imposed.  And while often take it from granted that this helps us understand our world better -- ourselves, our friends, because it's easily to identify them as these labels, we often forget the innate feature that we all possess -- the ability to change and grow.

When I read Carol Dweck's book, I was desperate for a change.  I had plateaued in my business and I was failing to maintain my business.  I had gone from a very successful e-commerce entrepreneur in the 2000's to losing my focus in 2011.  I made it big by selling toys in eBay and it was fun and existing for the first 4 years.

By the time the spring of 2012 came around, I had run the business to the ground.

I cannot remember how I ended up having Ms. Dweck's book in my hands but I was so thrilled looking back that I did.  But first off, who is she?


Who's Carol Dweck?

Carol is the author of this book:

Her research comes from her time as a Professor of Psychology at Colombia and Stanford.  Her area of research is on Achievement and Success so she has a lot of authority on the matter.  Mindset was a book that was published back in 2006 (before the iPhone came out if that helps you anchor how long ago that was), but this is still very relevant today.

I would argue that, as Solopreneurs and Freelancers, mindset as a subset of positive psychology is the single most important subject to learn and hone to improve our personal and business outcomes.

But back to what she says about mindset.


The Key Mindset to have for Guaranteed Success

As I was saying before, I had all these labels about myself and labels about others.  The root of these labels is our brains propensity to generalize, categorize and form patterns.  Trust me, we wouldn't have survived as a species this long with these amazing innate abilities of our brains, but too much of a good thing, as they say, is not such a great thing.

In the case, we have this tendency to overgeneralize.  We use the little bits of information we have to form conclusions which as MANY psychologists have studied and found are often inaccurate and wrong.

The scientific world for these cognitive failings are called biases.  We are biased by conscious and unconscious signals.

The labels are our abilities, our traits.  With these labels formed from our bias, we often give too much weight to our abilities and talent (or what we think they are) than really is possible.

Carol Dweck's main point is this:

The biggest myth and bias of all is the we see ourselves as fixed versus the perspective that we can change/grow.


The Fixed Mindset (What we don't want)

The fixed mindset is the one that initiates the creation of these labels and makes you believe they are true.  To help you identify it, you can see if you hear these phrases in your inner voice after an event has happened that was perceived to be negative:

  • I'm a failure
  • I'm such a loser
  • She'll never like me
  • Too bad I was raised this way
  • I can never achieve success

Do you hear that in your own inner voice?  So those are fairly simple to identify as generally negative thoughts and negative self-talk.  But equally harmful in this fixed mindset are potentially positive things that happen that you get phrased for, such as:

  • Getting praised for being so 'smart' and/or 'gifted'
  • Being told you'll always pull through because you are you

These are just a couple examples, but the idea is that praise and recognition when used in a way that labels you and makes you be comfortable in that label are also feeding the "fixed" mindset.  It fixes you to thinking that you are who you are, you are sitting on your laurels and you don't need to try.  It also persuades your mind to think that you are not good in other areas and that the world is as the way it is.

So you could imagine, this person who is praised of doing so well in a subject, reacts to it by focusing on the praise of success and not inherently in the process of getting there itself.

You want to win every time, with no failure.  When there is failure, it's too hard to bear.


Set Up for Massive Success with the Growth Mindset

In contrast to the fixed mindset world, the "growth mindset" is one where you feel like you can do anything. The reality is that anyone is capable of doing anything -- however these bias toward labels and our culture of fixedness is the quicksand that makes success unattainable.

You'll recognize the growth mindset when you hear yourself take this approach.  For example, if you got a C math test.  Your reaction to it, instead of generalizing that you are never going to get into an Ivey league school is that with hard work and grit you can be one of the best students.

The key thing to keep in mind is that you can learn, everyone has the same capacity to learn, no matter what other circumstances are there.

The growth mindset should really be called the learning mindset or stretch mindset.  When there is a challenging situation, the growth-oriented person turns on the learning hat and adapts to the situation by allowing for the space to stretch themselves.  They don't see themselves as limited to whatever they were, but instead imagine a possibility that far exceeds the current self and capabilities at the moment.

There is an air of entitlement in the fixed mindset.  Contrast that to the growth mindset -- no one owes you anything.

Not your client.  Not your former boss.  Not the company you worked for.

The growth mindset is singularly focused on one thing and one thing only: learning and adapting to change.

The recipe of success is two-fold for Product Managers

  1. Catch yourself and stop fixed mindset self-talk
  2. Do small little things to prove to your mind that you can do just about anything no matter what.

Failed to get that client?  They are learnings for how to do thing differently the next time.

Criticized by a client?  It's amazing -- you get feedback no only on the current work you are doing, but you are able to improve on whatever system you have for the next client.

This helped me through tough times and I hope that this article has helped you find a new perspective a new perspective as well.  Leave your comments below on your experience and how you achieved success with the growth mindset.