Book Review – “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck

 

It’s official: Nothing is impossible

If you have always felt that there are some things that you could never be good at (mathematics, science, drawing, dancing, chess…) because you’re “wired” a certain way, then this book is here to challenge that notion.

“Mindset” makes the claim that *anybody* can get good at *anything* they put their mind to. The author does not claim that you will definitely become the world’s best at your chosen activity or skill, but if you work diligently and scientifically, there’s almost nothing that you can’t become better at. This “growth mindset” is in contrast to the “fixed mindset” where one believes that we are born with a set of skills and that there is no way we can become better at other things.

A couple of caveats, though. The author points out that there are always going to be the 1-2% people who do have skills which would make us label them as geniuses. Then there might be the 1-2% folks at the other end of the spectrum, who might have learning disabilities and hence find it more difficult and take longer to pick up a certain skill. However, for the remaining 96-98% of the population, there is tremendous scope for improvement.

The other thing one needs to watch out for is that people who have a “growth mindset” in one area of life might have a “fixed mindset” in another. This was akn interesting wake up call for me.

I identify myself as someone who largely believes in the growth mindset, although I was barely knowledgeable of the term before I picked up this book. However, even I was surprised to learn that a skill like negotiation could be learned. This jolted me a bit and now I find myself questioning everything that I thought I couldn’t learn or be good at.

The book also touches on thei issues of sexism and racism. Negative labels can limit women and communities to feel that they canonot achieve excellence in certain disciplines; STEM or financial management, for example. I was glad the author mentioned this because it tied in directly to the essay “We Should All Be Feminists” that I read just last week.

The one criticism that I do have of this book is that the examples are mainly American. While I do understand that the book was largely aimed at an American audience, the success of it’s subject matter surely deserved an international comparison.

This book made me go back to “Grit” and made me realise how well that book was structured. In it, the author listed four reasons how grit could be cultivated: interest, passion, purpose and hope. This book addresses that last factor, hope. If people realise that they can get good at anything provided they put in systematic effort, they will tend to apply themselves to a job or a task for a longer period of time.

I cannot recommend this book enough, especially to parents and teachers. The book shows how vulnerable young kids are to labels and fixed mindsets and how making them believe from an early age that they could achieve almost whatever they put their mind to is much more empowering than feeling helpless and trapped.

Snippets:

  • “It’s ironic: The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”
  • “Just because some people can do something with little or no training, it doesn’t mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes do it even better) with training.”
  • “Later, at a meeting of Hewlett-Packard engineers, Packard gave the young man a medal “for extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty.” ~grins~

Read more about “Mindset” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: Mindset

Author: Dr. Carol S. Dweck

First Published: 2006

Number of Pages: 301

Price: Paperback – Rs. 330 / Kindle – Rs. 215.60 (Amazon.in)

My Rating: 8 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)

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Book Review – “We Should All Be Feminists” by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

For some time now, I’ve been thinking of reading up on the topic of feminism. I’ve always believed in the equality of the sexes and strongly disapprove of any unfair action or behaviour that women have to put up with. But I had a couple of questions for myself: What precisely makes one a feminist? How do I show support to the idea of equality of the sexes?

In this powerful essay by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie answers those questions and more. Based on a TEDx talk she was invited to give, Chimamanda speaks about her own experiences while growing up in Nigeria and of some of her friends in Nigeria and America. These experiences, however, are Universal. Even as a man living in India, I found myself shaking my head at a couple of places, recalling the casual sexism that exists in our society.

This isn’t a scholarly work where the author enumerates the societal and economic costs of not treating men and women equally. This is a personal insight into the experienced injustices and frustrations that women all over the world have to deal with.

What is important to realise is that it would be foolish to assume that these do not affect the world of men. We share the same planet, remember?

My favourite part of the essay was when she listed one by one the reasons how we have over the years been normalising sexist behaviour, and follows that up with reasons why these justifications do not stand. “Why just feminism, why not human rights?”, “Look at the animal kingdom”, “But that is our culture” are some of the most commonly (and immensely flawed) arguments that people who do not want to challenge the status quo use. Like sexist behaviour, these justifications too seem to have a Universal presence.

In summary, this is a VERY important essay. I will argue that it is much more important that every *MAN* reads this essay than every woman. If we have to build a society whose culture is based on equality and meritocracy, we need to get the voices of women to be heard by the current establishment who will find it loath to let go of their comfortable seats.

Snippets:

  • “I am angry. We should all be angry.”
  • “There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women.” Legit thinking of writing a post titled “A man’s guide to pleasing women.”

Read more about “We Should All be Feminists” on Goodreads. Buy the book here.

Title: We Should All Be Feminists

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

First Published: 2014

Number of Pages: 64

Price: Paperback – Rs. 202 / Kindle – Rs. 148.15 (Amazon.in)

My Rating: 10 out of 10

(Disclosure: If you buy the book by clicking on any of the Amazon links above, you will NOT get charged extra. However, I will get a small commission, 100% of which will go to charity.)