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Ask HN: How to develop a growth mindset?
150 points by sixaddyffe2481 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 87 comments
I've always considered myself as someone who can do X or can't do Y. I've learned new things, I've been creative and daring - at times.

But often times, when someone challenges me to do something new, I respond that I don't know how and would not be able t do it.

How do I turn that around? How do I develop a growth mindset?

At one point I had a big realization that perfectionism was keeping me from ever going outside my comfort zone. This meant that for decades I had only really been growing in areas where I was naturally gifted and experienced (logic, math and similar) but failed to grow much in areas where I wasn't (e.g. emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills) because that way I never really had to fear failure, or challenge my self-image as 'someone who always succeeds'. I realized just how skewed that had made me - like a bodybuilder pumping iron with his strong arm, while the other arm hangs weakly by his side, atrophying. I realized how arrogant I had been to try to justify this neglect by thinking of the areas that I was bad at as less important than the ones I'm good at (they're not). And I realized how cowardly I had been to be so fearful of failure, how much it had hurt my mental health to tie up my self-worth with that self-image of someone that always succeeds. So I ate some humble pie, finally confronted my perfectionism, started focusing on strengthening my weak side, and adopted a new mantra: "If you never fail, you're not being ambitious enough". To this day, I still struggle to live up to this, but at least now I know what I'm up against, and what I'm trying to achieve - the clarity really helps.

There's an old saying that whatever is worth doing is worth doing badly. So true. When I was in Germany, they have a saying that you start with "something to hate". Already knowing that what you're about to do is going to be crap makes it easy to get going. Then you set about fixing your crappy beginning. It gets you unstuck.

That reminds me of a saying I heard when starting to learn the game Go: "Lose your first 50 games quickly"

I've heard a similar saying regarding songwriting, "your first 50 songs will suck, so get them out of the way quickly"

if you don’t mind me asking, what’s the expression in German?

I want to make a case against having a "growth mindset". And against fighting procrastination. And any other self improvement stuff.

- all these things happen at a much lower level than conscious thought. We have approaches to achieving based on genetics, early upbringing, life experiences, etc. No amount of wanting things to be different will make it so.

- there are no recipes. There is just doing stuff, some will succeed, some will fail depending on a huge number of factors. No words from anybody will help in your particular situation for general questions like "how do I get better".

- not wanting to do something (regardless of the perceived value of that something) is not always bad. Resources like time and energy are finite. Failure is costly and things like accelerated aging and burnout are real.

- why would you necessarily do what somebody else says you should? Who benefits? For an HN related thing in particular: who benefits from everybody getting into programming and working after work to learn one more tech tool?

- "self improvement" in general seems to me to be pushed by life coaches and the like with zero evidence that it actually does anything. I perceive it as a snake oil product.

The topic is huge and any attempt to summarize it like this is bound to fail. These are just a couple of thoughts.

Also, maybe the best condensation is Allan Watts "The reason why you want to be better is the reason why you aren't."

Edit: google the Allan Watts quote, it's a few minutes speech - you can listen or find it transcribed. Worth listening for another perspective on getting better.

Yes a lot of behavior happens due to lower level thinking than consciousness, but that doesn't mean it can't be influenced.

Yes failure has a cost, but it's also a great way to learn. If you're not going to do anything because you fear failure, then will you truly be happier at the end of your long life thinking gee I sure am happy I didn't attempt anything.

Yes there are a lot of ulterior motive teachers out there, but there are also altruistic ones.

There's plenty of repeatable evidence that self improvement does work. I go running regularly, and I can run longer each time. You can try playing chess against a random person off the street and then against someone who has been going to a chess club for a decade. Working on improving yourself does work.

You are right that the topic is huge. However the way to climb a mountain is to take a step, not to say that it can't be done.

I am bound to run into hundreds of disclaimers on my post. Ofc this is not an argument for not doing anything. OP mentions he is doing new things but sometimes he doesn't. And I just wanted to say that sometimes is perfectly ok not to.

Hacker News encourage people to use the principle of charity: criticize the best interpretation of an argument.

They failed to do so with yours. It's easy to interpret what anyone says as if they mean it in an absolute way, it's 100% not helpful.

On another hand, sometimes I unconsciously do it too, it's something you need to practice (self-improvement? heh)

>I want to make a case against [...] And against fighting procrastination.

I agree with a lot of what you wrote but I disagree about not fighting procrastination and thus letting it happen because of subconscious thought.

Procrastination leads to a lot of destructive outcomes and unhappiness. E.g. I kept procrastinating the cancellation of my gym club membership that I never used because stopping in person to sign the cancellation papers was a hassle. That procrastination cost me over $1000 of extra monthly fees for zero benefit. Staying with the example of fitness, I used to procrastinate the treadmill run in the afternoon because I've never liked exercise. I solved that procrastination by just doing it first thing in the morning before breakfast. I still have many areas in life I procrastinate but I keep trying to find "mental hacks" to reduce the damage it causes.

I'll add nuance by attempting to categorize 2 types of procrastination: (1) tasks that others think are important vs (2) tasks you really want to do

An example of (1) might be today's HN story on the front page suggesting you read Milton's "Paradise Lost". Ok, you then add it to your "mental todo" pile but as a result, you keep procrastinating your "education of classic literature". Well, maybe instead of letting that form of procrastination gnaw at you, it's better to be honest with yourself and just say you're not interested in reading it. A better use of time is to focus on the things you really want to do.

>And any other self improvement stuff.

To clarify, are you against the products/services/coaching being sold for self improvement -- or are you against the idea itself of self improvement?

The Allan Watts passage:

> "I know all kinds of people who've got this 'higher self' going, practicing their yoga - but they're just like ordinary people, sometimes a little worse. And they can fool themselves. They can say for example, 'Well, my point of view in religion is very liberal. I believe that all religions have divine revelation in them, but I don't understand the way you people fight about it. You fight and say that we Jehovah's Witnesses have the real religion, others say we Roman Catholics have it. And the Muslims say, no, it is in the Quran, and this is the right way.' And somebody else gets up, and he may be a rather highbrow Catholic who says, 'Well, God has given the spirit to all the traditions, but, ours is the most refined and mature.' And then somebody comes along and says, 'Well they're all equally revelations of the divine - and in seeing this, of course, I'm much more tolerant than you are.' Do you see how that game is going to work? Or, I could take this position - supposing you regard me as some sort of a guru. And you know how gurus hate each other. They're always putting each other down. And I could say, 'Well, I don't put other gurus down.' See, that outwits all of them! We're always doing that. We're always finding a way to be one-up, and by the most incredibly subtle means. So you see that, you see. And you say, 'I realize I'm always doing that. Tell me, how do I not do that?' I say, 'Why do you want to know?' You say, 'Well, I'd be better that way!' 'Yeah, but why do you want to be better?' You see - the reason why you want to be better is the reason why you aren't. Shall I put it like that? We aren't better because we want to be."


Alan Watts is always entertaining. I think this has quite narrow applicability towards self-contradictory pursuits of virtue i.e. the motivation for self-perfection or trying to become more moral is likely to be riven with status anxiety not moral intention.

I don't think it applies to skill acquisition whose motivation may or may not be virtuous but it isn't self-contradictory. Overcoming procrastination is in part a skill to use tools like pre-commitments, habit entrainment, implementation intentions, reward and relaxation management as well as deeper tasks like resolving the sources of anxiety and it's triggers that cause avoidance.

Thanks for posting the full context, it is indeed entertaining!

> all these things happen at a much lower level than conscious thought. We have approaches to achieving based on genetics, early upbringing, life experiences, etc. No amount of wanting things to be different will make it so.

You hit the nail on the head. The worst outcome of these types of research is implicit victim blaming. People growing up in marginalized communities never get the opportunities to be successful in life. There are a lot of reasons why someone is not accomplished and not having the "right" thought is pretty down on the list. Instead of very carefully describing the limitations of these techniques, they do complete opposites. They hype up and overgeneralize to have publicity and sell more books and seminars.

> Failure is costly and things like accelerated aging and burnout are real.

I can attest to the flipside of this argument - I am 39, for whatever reason have never overstressed or overexerted (took a relatively easy career, don't have a family etc.) and I, even with much less than perfect lifestyle habits, probably look 10 years younger than many people my age. I wonder how much of it is just genetics (plus not liking to be out in the sun) and how much is the life choices.

- not wanting to do something (regardless of the perceived value of that something) is not always bad. Resources like time and energy are finite. Failure is costly and things like accelerated aging and burnout are real.

It's a certainly a signal, but it's not end-all be all signal that tells you something accurate all the time.

I want to make a case against having a "growth mindset". And against fighting procrastination. And any other self improvement stuff.

Because it is self-sabotaging behaviors. So much stuff is built around doing things that you don't want to do but is good for you, or even you feel happy about after you finished.

Exercise, for example. I know that I fallen off the wagon. The trick is to get back up again and keep trying different approaches. Even the same approaches.

- why would you necessarily do what somebody else says you should? Who benefits? For an HN related thing in particular: who benefits from everybody getting into programming and working after work to learn one more tech tool?

Programming is cool. Learning yet another tech tool is pointless without fundamentals.

- "self improvement" in general seems to me to be pushed by life coaches and the like with zero evidence that it actually does anything. I perceive it as a snake oil product.

People want to self improve. That isn't a bad thing. Of course, we want evidence of what works, but you can't have that without the prerequisite investment in the science, and sometime we have to do things by feel and experience rather than rigorous systematic testing.

I'm actually a huge supporter of self-improvement as a whole and growth mindsets but I think it can be quite dangerous indeed. Many people use them as a way to avoid facing problems they have or distracting themselves from issues that they can't solve through any amount of learning or working.

It's important to realize that achieving success in your career, learning five languages or building a cool invention aren't free tickets to happiness or fulfillment. At most, they'll make you content for a while and then, like with any happiness source, the joy will diminish and you'll have to do it all again except now you have to try harder as you've already "peaked".

The benefits of self-improvement shouldn't be "self-contained". You're not learning new things just to know them, you should learn them to help people, to make your conversations more interesting, to better understand the things you love. Basically, you should base all your improvement in genuine curiosity and, much as I hate the term, a lust for life. It can't come from feeling unfulfilled.

> issues that they can't solve through any amount of learning or working.

so, what do you recommend?

Therapy and looking inward, through whichever method one prefers. I'm talking about feeling unfulfilled, feeling lost, etc. These aren't things most people can solve with work.

I don't quite agree, as change does sometime come. I also don't really get your condensation, is there any further context to that quote?

What I do agree with is that it is a complex issue and so agree that self improvement as a product does not deliver.

> I also don't really get your condensation, is there any further context to that quote?

Sorry, I wasn't clear, it's a long speech, google it. Well worth listening. Will edit my post.

Kind of agree and also kind of disagree. For some things there actually are recipes. For instance, I greatly benefited from learning GTD (getting things done) at some point. Not having any sort of overview of all the things going on in my life was causing me quite a bit of distress.

Furthermore, I think it is good to have experienced multiple mindsets so one is not married to any single one of them. The self-improvement mindset can be one of the mindsets that one has experienced.

What do I do if I'm not successful then? I've dealt with suicidal ideation before, but everyone then just told me that it was a problem of mindset.

If I'm not capable of becoming successful then...what's the point?

To reiterate what others here already said, success really isn't anything "universally great" to aim for. There's probably no real way to do that either, since there isn't even any universal definition of what success really means. This is especially true when everyone comes up with their own unique set of requirements for considering themselves successful. It is also way too easy to fall for the trap of moving the goalpost once you're there.

And if you felt like you hadn't reached your own definition of success, then what of it? Would that really, honestly change your life in any measurable way, or is the feeling of "not being enough" all in your head? If it is, then that also means your head holds the means to get rid of such a feeling.

I really want to recommend the book "Man's Search for Meaning" by Viktor Frankl. It was one of the greatest assets for me overcoming my own depression, and I hope it can help you battle your suicidal thoughts all the same.

Personally, I agree with you - my will to live is certainly predicated on theoretically being able to be directly responsible for significant accomplishment. The attitude that everything is set in stone and you can't change anything about your circumstances has always seemed a bit silly to me.

What the parent comment said is probably true for the majority of cases - most people will succeed or fail due to external factors outside of their control. But you'd have to perform some impressive mental gymnastics to assert that Elon Musk just keeps getting lucky because of his environment, and not because of his own actions.

That being said, I think at some point you have to decide who you want to be. Elon Musk is an insane outlier in every way, and his life is the extreme opposite of stability and peace. I don't think that reality is unrelated to his success. So the parent has a point - accomplishment/self-improvement/growth aren't going to make everyone happy. Some people prefer stability over learning new things.

It doesn't make sense for me, but I can understand why some people want to live their life that way.

To turn your argument on its head - why being successful would make a life worth living? "Being successful" is only a small factor our overall living experience. Plenty of successful people kill themselves, plenty of unsucessful people have great lives.

"what's the point?" Good question. Nobody knows. Certainly not being "successful", whatever that may mean: you can easily see different cultures and different time periods having even opposing definitions.

The people telling you to just change your mindset are just as broken as you are, I can guarantee you this. They just lie to themselves and/or others and try to force feed you their belief system. Empty words, ignore.

Do listen to that Allan Watts speech, he can certainly present things better than we here can.

Becoming successful can't be the point, you won't reach it: there are always new goals on top of what youve already achieved.

The point is to take some steps towards the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow now and then, and enjoying the walk.

So sometimes, act a bit more curious than you feel. Remind yourself that what you're doing is actually fun more often (or if you can't, switch to something that is). And then who knows.

I used to think exactly the same way.

There's plenty of point in merely enjoying the moment. There is little one can do or say to combat the inherent meaninglessness of being, as every argument can be thwarted by a simple "we're all going to die anyways so what's the point?" I don't think there can even logically be a point to life.

That's not to say that goals such as bettering society, bettering one's self, or enjoying the moment aren't worthwhile. Nor does it imply that we should sink into abject hedonism and shoot heroin all day. It merely means that none of these things should be expected to subvert meaninglessness. In this sense, it's actually quite liberating. You can do anything you please, without the burden of wondering whether or not it will fill the perceived void in your soul. That void is an illusion, one which is unfortunately brought about often by depression, BPD, GAD, etc.

After lots of therapy I learned I had internalized a negative voice from an abusive relationship early in my development, which fucked up my sense of self-worth and my perception of life. It made me incessantly focused on "being the best", and if I couldn't achieve anything "great" then I had no choice but to hate myself.

If you're having suicidal thoughts, then it's time to seek professional help. I was at that point too. My doctor and I decided our best bet was to try 10mg of Lexapro for a couple months, and I've never felt better. Depression is a pernicious beast. It seeps in slowly subsuming all rational cognitive faculties, to the point where I was not merely sad, I was obstinately despondent, and refused to listen to reason. It emanated from a "feeling" of meaninglessness which I could never eliminate with mere rational thought. I guess my "chemicals" were just fucked up, and I needed a little help from the Lexapro.

So, what do you do if you're not successful? Anything else you want. The world is your oyster. Failure ultimately means as little as success. If you don't succeed at something you enjoy, then simply keep doing it, keep enjoying it, maybe you haven't struck gold yet but the journey is worth embarking on once you realize that contentment doesn't lie at the end of the journey, but within it's entirety. If you feel it's too late to start, there's still plenty of beauty left in life. Sometimes I find the following Kurt Vonnegut quote useful:

> "What is the purpose of life? To be the eyes, the ears, and consciousness of the creator of the universe, you fool!"

Now, I'm fairly young, I expect my opinions are biased by the fact that I personally feel like I still have a lot of time left to embark on journeys. I can understand if the perspective changes as you age, and feel as if you missed out or squandered your best years. Hopefully someone older can step in and share their thoughts.

I also hope I don't sound like I'm proselytizing. Just wanted to share my experience if it helps anyone.

Try mindfulness, seriously

disagree with point no. 4 , wrong reasons for not doing sth

I've found some shifts in my language have helped with this. Here's some examples from a blog post I wrote on this awhile ago:

Instead of "Some people are born to be singers—I’m not one of them." ▶ try "I didn’t start with any singing talent—I’ve had to learn it all."

Instead of "I suck at math." ▶ try "Math has been challenging for me."

Instead of "I’ll never be an artist." ▶ try "I feel really dissatisfied with all of the art I’ve tried to produce."

Instead of "I would never be comfortable offering hugs to strangers." ▶ try "I’m finding it really hard to imagine offering hugs to strangers."

Instead of "I never seem to be able to keep my notes organized." ▶ try "In the past, when I tried to keep my notes organized, I didn’t have much success."

Instead of "I’d really like to learn to juggle, but I just can’t." ▶ try "I’d really like to learn to juggle, though I haven’t started yet."

Instead of "I’m not good at origami." ▶ try "I haven’t learned how to do origami yet."

Instead of "I’m just bad at it, and I don’t care." ▶ try "Well, it’s not a priority for me to learn right now."

Here's the blog post, which features a few other kinds of reframes as well as some other examples: http://malcolmocean.com/grow

Can also help to get your friends in on it so they spot when you're using fixed-mindset language and point it out for you :)

Not exactly the same thing, but this reminds me of a style of speaking/writing that avoids using "to be" verbs. I don't remember the name and can't seem to find it on Wikipedia right now, but it's similar to what this article describes [1]. The crux of it is, you avoid framing things as more absolute and permanent than they really are. For example, you are not inherently bad at math, you are just bad at it in your current state you don't quickly solve problems people regard as "math". Or you are not inherently a bad person, you just did some specific things that hurt people.

[1]: https://blog.penningtonpublishing.com/grammar_mechanics/how-...

> Not exactly the same thing, but this reminds me of a style of speaking/writing that avoids using "to be" verbs. I don't remember the name and can't seem to find it on Wikipedia right now, but it's similar to what this article describes

This is E Prime: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E-Prime

Welcome to the art of reframing.

Practice being terrible.

I think a lot of us have some idea of what "practice" means, but very few of us do it. Instead, we "play to win". Because it feels like practice but it really isn't.

For example, a lot of folks want to get better at basketball, so they play pickup games. Which is great. But isn't enough to get really good. You're trying to win at that game. So you won't do the necessary things to learn new skills. And the necessary things is to look like an idiot while you try a new move, a fadeaway, dribbling with your weak hand, etc.

I think that applies to most of life. We sort of think we're trying to get better, but really we're in all these games to win.

So to get better at this, I think it's necessary to just shift to more things that look like real practice with no intent on outcome. Give yourself chores like: I'm going to write an article every week for 6 months in different styles that match authors I look up to. (Maybe you publish these, maybe you don't.)

There's no winning in that statement (except the part about showing up every day). Many of us are going to resist and try to turn the exercise into: I'm going to try and grow my blog subscribers by X over 6 months. No, that's a game about winning. Get back to just practice.

When we understand what practice really feels like, the growth mindset comes more naturally: Ah yes, I'm used to sucking at something but I show up and practice and see how I get better.

Another exercise: practice being terrible in public. Give yourself quotas show off how bad you are at the beginning. Like publish yourself learning something something. Twitch stream learning to code. Publish those first awful videos you edit. Every. Day.

Just to piggy back off basketball and practice, this video of Steph Curry practicing shooting 3s for an hour from a few months ago just puts things in perspective for me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IqIRDgNoKBU

A best ever at something doing the most simple drills for an hour.

I have in my head I suck at basketball but Curry takes more practice shots in that video than I have in my life.

Yeah that's mind blowing to me. Lots of people think these ultra successful people are just immensely talented but overlook the insane amount of work they put in. My new theory for success is around obsession. If you find something that you can be completely and utterly obsessed with, that's how you can ultimately cultivate enough skill at it to be successful.

This is a great question that not everyone asks, especially honestly and genuinely! It can be a little bit uncomfortable to begin things. There's a Norwegian word for it, dørstokkmila, which means doorstep mile. The first mile out the door (like on a run on a cold day) is always the hardest. There are plenty of sayings about it to let us know that this feeling is actually a shared one: another one is "all beginnings are difficult". But this might not bring you consolation (hardy har, perfect example of where knowing it all can't save us: we need to know how to do too, so here are a few more ideas: - thinking about those (rare) nifty elderly people who are able to begin new things with grace and humour: it is exactly their grace and humour that brings them an air of authority even though they may 'look silly' being out of their league - thinking about new things as an experiment, a little game you play with yourself to see how calm you can be in it - making it even harder than it is by asking yourself questions, to prove to yourself that you are curious (after a few hours of this, going back to the 'normal mode' of learning something new will seem easier!) Let us hope we live long, rich lives. Playing games with ourselves to learn how to learn can make our lives more fun than stressful. Finally: - it helps to develop a sense of humour! Good luck to us all on this journey :) And a great but serious book that might be inspiring is Johan Huizinga's Homo Ludens. Keep on keeping on!

* sorry for the typos.

I've never really looked into this "growth mindset" fad, but based on what I'm seeing here, I probably have it.

What is my secret?

I look up "how to" on the subject and learn about it until I'm comfortable with the amount of risk involved in trying it.

That means that if I want to tile my bathroom floor, I watch Youtube videos on tiling and find out how much the materials will cost and what it would cost to fix my mistake if it's so bad that I can't fix it myself.

The result of that was my first attempt at floor tiling going very, very well, but with a lot of hard work that probably could have been easier if I'd known more. But everyone says the tile looks amazing. I see the flaws, but they don't until I point them out.

The same goes with programming at work. I've almost never said "no", but I've often said, "I'll have to look into that" and it often results in creating a proof of concept for the hardest part before actually attempting the whole project. I usually end up doing it, and it almost always works out.

So my "growth mindset" is simply to look up tutorials before saying "no".

Well there is no real secret to learning stuff. Other than a few very extraordinary disciplines, anything can be learned if you put in the time and keep at it regularly. Of course, this statement is only valid if you apply the proper learning techniques, but also these can be learned.

It is hard to give you general advice since everybody is at a different mindset and has different learning techniques. What helped me was realizing that whenever I hit a wall, I would stop trying because it felt annoying, difficult, or I didn't really know what to do.

The secret for me was to do everything I can, meticulously and methodically, to break through the perceived barrier in my understanding of something in very small steps. And keep going until I felt the curtain was lifting.

Now, it is just a matter of how long it will take.

Maybe there are a few secrets to learning stuff. Has anybody taken the "Learning how to Learn" coursera course? https://www.coursera.org/learn/learning-how-to-learn?ranMID=...

I've taken the course, and highly recommend it to everyone! I wish I had taken it years sooner, as most of the techniques can be applied to any learning endeavor.

The instructors do touch on having a "growth mindset", as well as teaching practical skills that are easy and effective both for retaining what you learn and for fighting procrastination.

There are practices that make a difference. I haven't taken that course but I built studyswami.com. There's a bibliography there that has a lot of good references if you're interested.

Your question suggests you already started developing it.

I don't have any sources to give but my tought process: I belive I can learn and do anything if I meet some base prerequisites and put in time. Based on my experience you roughly need 10 years continous development to master something.

To get started in harder level math you need to understand some elementary level basics about numbers and how draw numbers on paper. I struggled a lot with math in uni and it remained a struggle for every year. But when I finished I was a fuckin math genious compared to those who just started CS.

Can I speak? Okay, now I can do public speakings. Will it be enjoyable to listen? Nah. But if you try to be better for 1 year and learn the basics you will already be better than anyone around you.

Another example is playing the piano. Can I press the white and black buttons on it? Do I have sense of rythm? Okay, then I can play the piano! Now do my current skills able to entertain? Only as a bad joke. But if I enjoy doing it and practice and try to be better for 10 continous years I will be someone who can sit down in a bar and play enjoyable jazz all night. I won't be another Strauss thats for sure - but talent is not required to do most things well. It only speeds up the process and makes the peak higher.

Doing things well requires only two thing - to start doing it and time.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can't--you're right.” ― Henry Ford

"There is nothing impossible to him who will try." ― Alexander the Great

I know, these sound like platitudes but in my experience they are mostly accurate.

I listen to this speech by Arnold Schwarzenegger when I find myself thinking I can't: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bQxqIKTO2Ck

I might recommend paradoxically focusing on work less. Pick up hobbies, focus on your relationships, etc.


When we really make work the center of our lives, it becomes high stakes, and it feels hard to take risks. When it becomes just part of our lives, it can be a focus for lower risk 'play' and experimentation. Then we feel more comfortable trying things we would normally not try.

People get tied up with people problems, the great big universe doesn't give a sh*t about people problems - galaxies and suns will spin around no matter what you do. We have millions of years of evolution coded in our every actions - eating, sleeping, waking, screwing - how do you escape this? To me that is how you get a growth mindset, though even that feels a poor name.

A better thing to my mind is escape your programming, learn all there is to know about disparate fields, don't get tied down in other peoples dilemmas, dream incredibly big, find others who want to do the same, people will come and go in your life, enjoy them, shun people who want to drag you down. Every day do wonderful things, even if you have to do every day things, you'll still have time to find a tiny bit of wonderful somewhere, eventually it will grow. Learn a lot about humanities and science, not because you have to but because you want to know.

We have so many reactions that are hard and soft coded into our thoughts and bodies, from our DNA, our upbringing, our schooling, society, work - watch them, when you react to something, figure out why, and if necessary deprogram yourself. You will start to see the universe outside the people sphere, and you can bring some of it back, and share it, and make the people world a better place perhaps, and have your growth mindset.

It's probably not universal for all people but I can tell you what changed things for me: what I'd call a "critical mass of unfortunate events". At one point in my life(early 20's) I ended up alone, far from my parents, lost my closest friend, the economic crisis was at it's peak, close relatives stabbed me in the back multiple times and overall I was left to deal with life on my own.

So in that aspect - it was necessity over anything else. I guess it pushed me into a slightly stoicistic way of thinking about life in general. Two books (which contradict each other a lot) helped me to tweak my thinking by finding a path somewhere between them: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius and Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche. I find myself re-reading them once a year as a matter of fact. Finding the sweet spot between them is what made me go forward - on one hand don't stress too much about the outcome and simply try to do the best to your abilities and on the other look for the collective gains from every idea/aim(product). With the appropriate amount of dedication, it's worked for me even with the largest challenges(of which I've had a lot in recent years as well). Not as I would have hoped but better than the alternatives.

I think I've always had more of a growth mindset, thanks to my parents instilling a "whatever anyone else can do, you can do" attitude in me from a very young age.

Sometimes that belief has turned out to be unfounded, when I've attempted things that were well beyond my capabilities, leading to some painful failures.

Still, none of them have killed me or ruined me, so I still think I'm better for the experience.

After some big failures about 8 years ago I discovered the concept of subconscious emotional healing work, and I have practiced various forms of this work ever since. Some of it has been under the guidance of professional practitioners, and sometimes I've just done it by myself or with friends or my partner.

That work has helped me to overcome a lot of emotional barriers that had held me back from getting better at valuable skills like programming, public speaking, emotional intelligence/empathy, financial management, etc.

I'm not a standout success, but my career and life has steadily improved since I started that emotional work, and has had some major lifts after working through some significant emotional obstacles, so I'm very sure it's been effective.

So my tip would be to search around for books and/or practitioners on subconscious emotional healing/growth work. There are many different forms of it, but try whatever you find and go with what feels right and delivers results.

By the way, it sounds like you already have a growth mindset, in that you already believe you can grow, you're just looking for systems to help you achieve that growth.

For me, often the problem is just one of perception. When something seems impossible or out of reach, I think about how my own accomplishments can seem out of reach to some industry outsiders.

For example, installing a router and setting up a wifi network can seem like an unfathomably complex topic to an older person who's lived their life mostly via paperwork. But it's not that hard! And that person could almost definitely sort out how to do it with a little time and effort. You probably have examples of this in your own life.

So then, just flip it. That challenging thing that seems out of reach? Just assume you're the older person setting up wifi - assuming the thing is much more complicated and difficult than it actually is. It only seems so daunting because you have no exposure to that specific topic. If you just rip the bandaid and start learning about it a bit, you'll almost always discover that the individual steps to get started (for almost anything) are completely within reach.

For me, that thought process always gives me enough confidence to try. If I find out the thing is actually too hard, so be it. But usually, it isn't. Usually it's surprisingly easy!

So what is fixed vs growth mindset?

You believe in innate talent vs you believe in practice and hardwork.

Failure indicates that you don't have it vs curiosity around why it did not work this time.

Criticism or feedback is taken personally vs Feedback is a way to learn.

You are constantly looking at others to validate your talent vs You are measuring and developing your own yardsticks for growth.

As per my understanding, you can have growth mindset in one sphere of your life and have fixed mindset in another. For e.g. a person I recently met, has fixed mindset around programming, but has a growth mindset on the subject of maths.

What does all this result in? Our self-talk about the activity at hand will tell us what mindset we have.

Do we tell ourselves: "I am not good enough", "I will never be good at this". Are we constantly looking at others to gauge what they perceive of us or our abilities?

We then need to transform all these into

1. "I am not good at this right now, but if I work at it, I will".

2. "Everyone struggles. It's just not me. Everyone has spent time and effort to become good at it." "Everyone finds learning a new thing hard and challenging"

3. What is stopping me from continuing right now? "Am i tired?", "Am I hungry?" or is it my regular pattern of avoiding pain of learning? Can I transform this towards curiosity?

To move towards growth mindset we need to approach it with a sense of play. With a sense of curiosity towards what we are trying to learn or develop into. We also need to be aware of how are feelings are involved and what they are pushing us to do or avoid.

I just read a really good book about this: The Inner Game of Tennis. The book is old and never mentions the phrase “growth mindset,” but it goes into great detail about how often the judging mind gets in the way of the subconscious mind when learning new skills.

I read the book primarily to help with meditation skills, and it gave me a lot of new perspective during my sits.

For me, I find that I have to create the conditions for it and it'll naturally come along.

Taking the quarantine for example, I initially thought I would have an infinite amount of time to read new subjects and practice on topics I haven't for awhile, but I quickly found myself spending most of my time on video games. After adjusting my schedule of daily workouts, cooking, sleeping, and everything else I thought was mundane, my motivation to start reading one esoteric security topics and browse new open source projects came back up. Like what other posters are saying, you have to take care of the rest of your life first, both physically and emotionally, and then you'll naturally be creative and daring.

Growth Mindset is a cognitive technique. Many techniques that fall under the umbrealla of congnitive and behaviorial technique is rife with overhyping, overgeneralized claims and false promises. Here is an article about the growth mindset controversy: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/debate-arises-ove.... Life and success is hard. Be careful when someone tries to sell you some easy techniques to be successful in life.

For any given skill, there’s a huge difference between being able to attempt it, which most people can do, and mastering it, which requires a large commitment of effort. Though most people can master most skills, the high cost means there’s a reasonably hard limit on the total number of skills anyone can truly learn.

That said, it’s important to give yourself permission to do things you know you’ll be bad at, at least when the stakes are low: The biggest impediment most people have to learning is a fear of failure, which is almost inevitable when attempting something new.

Some notes in my personal diary that may help. In this case a framework/strategy to "advance" my career.

Below are the criteria.

- Desire “The starting point of all achievement is DESIRE. Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat.” - Napoleon Hill

- Remove self limiting beliefs. Great comment on this very thread[0]

- Never be satisfic with what you have. Keep lifing the bar for your self. Do harder things once the current ones your doing are easy. For instance, I plan on moving from web development & start doing some cryptoraphy.

- Trust your instincts Kowledege kills action its the #1 source of excuses. Stop asking, you already know what todo.

- Choosing a goal Choose a bold goal, contruct daily routines that will move you to this goal. Goals should also be focused & Intinsically rewarding. i.e Work on what excites you, not is whats on demand. An example is me that has accumlated a not-so popular set of programming skills (Nim, Flutter, Solidity & Scilla). I believe Paul Graham has an a related essay on this[1]

[0]: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23614989 [1]: http://www.paulgraham.com/avg.html

Many people have already said, more-or-less, "embrace the suck". Learning new things will always have an initial period of less-than-ideal results. So I won't repeat that.

Let me add: Break down the trouble spots into simpler sub-skills. I learned this being a "Suzuki-dad" -- coaching my child through Suzuki-method violin. When you give a 3-year-old a fiddle, don't expect Mozart after a couple days. The method works by breaking each skill down to the components, and working on each component as a manageable piece, in the order in which they build on each other.

So, if you are trying to learn something, and it isn't going well, analyze the skill that is eluding you, and break it down to constituent components. If that doesn't work, break it down further into even simpler components.

My kid eventually achieved exquisite Mozart, and Bach and De Beriot and Sarasate and Bartok. But even at that level, learning requires taking the troublesome measure, and breaking it down, and constructing little drills that reinforce the skills needed for that measure.

In my own life, I have on the breakfast table a rather sucky pepper mill that I turned out of a nice piece of cherry. I want to make a better pepper mill that doesn't suck, right after I turn a pen that will probably suck. So I am reading up on how to sharpen chisels... and watching YouTube on "how to use a skew chisel" (For context, of all the turning chisels, the skew is the one most likely to catch and scare you senseless. Which happened the one-and-only time I tried to turn a bead with a skew chisel.)

When I first read about Dweck’s work on mindset, I thought I had finally found the perfect description of my struggles in childhood. I was like a textbook case of fixed mindset.

But after a while I realized that the abstraction of “mindset” isn’t actually much help in changing your behavior. It’s more like mindset is a label you apply to a set of behaviors after the fact rather than some principle that drives the behavior in the first place. In other words, if you want to have a “growth mindset” then you behave in a way that people with such a mindset behave. That is obviously completely useless advice—so what you’re really digging for is what drives the behavior that Dweck calls fixed mindset.

For me, those behaviors are driven by fear. I suspect that I have a heightened physiological fear response compared to the average person, and fixed mindset behavior is just how I coped with that as a child. There’s really only a handful of ways to deal with that, the most effective of which is basically exposure therapy: engage in low-stakes activities that make you afraid, as often as possible. Frequently taking up new hobbies with a social element is a pretty easy way to accomplish this.

Divide and conquer. Practise and learn. You need to do deliberate practise to become better. You can learn to play an instrument but you need to practise with a teacher todo it or learning platform for that matter.

Pick up a new skill do deliberate practice and you will become better at it.

And if you for some reason say you cannot do it it’s a mental block stop doing that. Start and try.

First of all, don't grow for growth's sake.

Figure out what makes you happy. When you're 100 years old, what will you have done, learned, or experienced that will make it worthwhile? As if it were one big experience that you unknowingly opted into. It can be many things, but usually there are a few really important things in there. It may take some real consideration - think about it for a while.

Thats your vision. And once you have your vision, growth may be necessary to achieve that vision. The existence of a vision will point you in the right direction of growth.

With that approach you may find that certain interests you have now fade away when you take such a broad perspective. It also forces you to take an inherently personal perspective on life. After all, it's what you want to make of it that is important, not what somebody else (religious leader, life coach, buddha, tech guru) says.

I find people like to challenge me to do things I have no interest in doing. Sure, based on what they know about me and my abilities it may seem like a reasonable thing for me to learn. But, maybe after looking into it I can evaluate the cost (time/money) and decide "Nope, don't wanna." It's not that I couldn't. I'm finance guy. My whole career "you need an MBA, you need a CPA" or on the technical side, you need to learn "tableau or flavor of the day". Sure, it would be cool and boost my resume. But, honestly, my trajectory has yet to slow down by not having MBA or CPA. I went to biz school the first time for my undergrad. I literally had some courses where MBA students were in the same class but got different homework. All my jobs come from a network I've built. I have built a reputation and view MBA is a signal on a resume when your resume is one in the stack of resumes. I know a lot about accounting but CPA is for accountants, I work closely with accountants and can partner with them when some something unusual comes up. Tools like Tableau, I learn them when I have a use for them. I've personally never seen a use for it (I see how others could use it given another industry/business datasets/etc). I've looked at it, I know the business data my company has, and I don't have to learn the tool to know it's just going to be a shiny toy instead of impactful for business decisions. All that said, I've climbed the corp ladder from entry level analyst, manager, director, CFO in about 10 years - so again, should I have wasted 2 years on an MBA, another 1-2 years on CPA, nights and weekends on learning technology without application? Often, managers "have to say something" to push you to grow. You should be critical in deciding whether it's the best use of your time.

That's my personal story, but to address the OP question directly; change your response and turn it into a conversation. If you say "I can't/won't be able" that pretty much ends the conversation. "where can I find resources to learn X?" "I don't have a ton of time, do you know of a crash course to get started on X?" "I prefer lectures, I'll see if I can find a course on X." 1) they may know of great resources 2) conversational so you aren't just shooting down their constructive feedback 3) very easy for people to tell you what to learn, more work to tell you how to learn it successfully. If they can't tell you how to learn it, they can't blame you for "failing"

There are lots of good techniques here related to growth mindset and being ok being bad at something, etc. But I hear in this question something else- I hear an interactive, real time challenge, how to respond in real time to someone who gives you something scary.

That isn't a growth mindset problem, not really. It's a performance challenge. The domain that IMO has the best guidance is acting, specifically Improvisation- Improv for short.

There are many practices and techniques here for recognizing the fear and learning to ride it. "Yes, and" is one that was revelatory for me.

I highly recommend a book called Impro, by Keith Johnstone. And look for introductory Improv classes in your area (remote, of course). They are super fun, initially terrifying, but tremendously valuable. Should be a standard curricular class in all middle and high schools.


You are your environment. Whether that's the content you consume, the food you eat, or the people you are surrounded by. Be mindful of the all.

That said, don't over-think / over-focus. Be sure to devote some time to experimenting / R&D.

A growth mindset is not a goal, it's an iterative process.

Start by doing the task you want to do every day for a set period of time, say 30 mins up to 1.5 hrs. Then you will see the product of your hard work and you will internalise the fact that success is more a product of hard work rather than just being magically good at something.

I did not read all the comments and hence do not know if this has been already mentioned. I have found "The Art of Learning" by Josh Waitzkin, as an excellent guide to two approaches of thinking: fixed mindset and growth mindset.

The author was a national chess champion at the age of nine and later earns the title of world champion of Tai Chi, a martial art. He gives a critical analysis, especially in chapter three on how he was able to shift to growth mindset. Although most of it is very specific to him and written in chess lingo, I think the common theme is graspable and there are good ideas lying all around. Style on chessboard is direct expression of personality and this book may help you.

Remember how you learned to ride a bike or to swim as a kid. You couldn't avoid the practice because the thing you wanted (have fun with other kids swimming and biking) could only be obtained by this practice.

E.g. you can learn languages or whatever you want actually the same way, but might have to engineer your environment a bit to create a similar anti cheat system like with the kid example above.

You can constrain your environment in a way so that those constraints push in you towards your destination. Think of it like filters or hurdles, where another thing you want (like advancing another hobby) can only be obtained through those filters. It's like jumping into ice cold water, it's brutal at first, but you get used to it.

I look at it as an equation between your conscious and unconscious

quite often things that require change end up equaling 0, where your motivation to do it = the resistance to stay the same, stay safe, stay comfortable.

so you need to add something to the equation that's external and outside of your control, that tips the odds.

we have all these big brain solutions to jimmy our unconscious into doing things we want, but we often don't realize our unconscious has the same ability to jimmy our conscious mind to create balance

Accept that it’s very possible you can’t do X or Y.

Are X and Y reasonable? Are they things you even want to do? Or things that you feel like you have to do because of some hacker-start-up-culture-HN-bullshit? Why even care when someone challenges you?

Everybody’s different and some people (like me) aren’t capable of a lot. Once I accepted that, life became a lot easier. I read, watch TV, exercise, do decently at work, but am I really doing anything? Not really. But I’m OK with that.

Learn something. Doesn't matter what. Just pick at and get really damn good at it. Or even, just a little bit better than you were yesterday, every day for a long time.

I guess when you can wrangle an opportunity, act and don't let it slip. some people never get opportunity. But more often people let their morals, their conscience, the law, social expectations, their image, fear et cetera get in the way. We're all vulnerable to it to some extent and that's okay. But you should at least realize you are paying a price when you let a thing like that hold you back.

"It's really important to just take what life has given you, and do your best with it. I'm not going to say that anyone can do anything, those are just empty words, but I will say that your limits are way further out than you think they are. And if you push yourself you'll be really pleased with the results."

- speedrunner halfcoordinated, SGDQ 2016

I just remember this quote: "Sucking at something is the first step to being good at something".

You might not be able to do that new thing right now, but if you try, suck at it and keep trying, eventually you will be able to do it to some degree of proficiency. I haven't found much of anything in life that you can't get better at by trying again and again.

>> I haven't found much of anything in life that you can't get better at by trying again and again.

I used to think the same way until I tried learning to play guitar. Have been trying it for a year now and I seriously question if I will ever be able to do it with reasonable proficiency. (So far holding on though.)

I’ve heard the theory called racquetball with a tennis racket. When trying new things accept that you will get some big things wrong. But you’ll probably also get some things right and still have fun.

If you like it you’ll have time and motivation to pick up the details later.

(To a non growth mindset a worry like using the wrong racquet for a sport is paralyzing.)

Growth mindset is there is always enough.

Scarcity is there is never enough.

Both is a mind-set.

So to change, you need to change your mindset.

The best way to do that, has for me been through the Arbinger mindset change tools, start with their books, i can recommend “The outward mindset” and take it from there.

Bite off more than you can chew. Then chew it. ;)

For software development, I know what I can't do and try to go a bit deeper into that space every time, but not too deep.

For things I have no idea about, I get a mentor.

i have convinced myself that anything i want to do, i should try at least 3 times. in the beginning, i even set my expectations for failing the first 2. helped me tremendously.

Tom Bilyeu said something in a video (don't remember the video): "On a long enough timeline, I can learn this". I've found it to be pretty helpful.

I'm not sure when I did it, but at some point I managed to adopt the idea that "everything is learnable" as a core belief. It's really valuable.

A few examples:

I took up a management role. Management is hard! It's a whole new package of challenges that have little to do with being a great software engineer. The difference between humans and computers is that humans don't automatically tell you the exact truth, and don't do exactly what you ask them to do.

But... it's learnable. Books like The Managers Path. Courses. Coaching. Thinking hard about what makes good management. Talking to peers.

Very good manager started as a barely-adequate manager. Talking to other managers about their journeys to actually being good at it was really useful.

I've tried and failed to learn languages before. I'd let myself believe that if you're older then twenty you have a big disadvantage in language learning.

Then my dad learned a new language in his sixties and I realized my excuses were rubbish. So I started a Duolingo streak to learn Spanish. And 578 days later I'm still going. I have a weekly Spanish lesson with a teacher now. I recently switched my phone to Spanish to more fully immerse myself.

I'm no-where near a fluent Spanish speaker but I can feel myself getting a little bit better every day.

Languages are fantastic for helping you get better at learning, because there's no magic shortcut: it doesn't matter how smart or quick you are at learning, it's going to take you a LOT of work to master a language. Its humbling. And yet almost everyone does it once and hundreds of millions of people have learned multiple languages.

I just finished a year at Stanford on a fellowship program. I very deliberately took classes that were WAY out of my comfort level: things like classical guitar, improv, and screenwriting.

Watching fresh faced undergrads (I am not a fresh faced undergrad) go from incompetent at something to actually pretty good in just a few weeks - and watching myself do the same - was a healthy reminder that everything is learnable if you put the effort in. And often that effort is ten weeks of intense exposure, showing up and putting in the work.

I also realized that in many skilled professions the entry-level workers have only had 2-3 years of training and experience in order to get good enough to be paid to do their thing. And a lifetime has many multiples of 2-3 years in it.

I don't need to be an expert at everything - but racking up a few disciplines in which I'm as good as an entry-level professional over the course of a lifetime now seems achievable and worth considering.

People, myself included, can often focus too much on the planning / organisational type of things rather than just getting things done, I.e. Just do it TM. You can end up procrastinating by reading up on stuff meant to help you stop procrastinating.

Try. Fail. Learn. Try again.


Meh, is this copy-pasta (source please?) worth reading or is it just Tony Robbins-esque pop-psychology junk?

It's definitely copy-pasta. Google shows the same text in some old Quora answer. You can search for "Linear Growth VS. Quantum Growth".

That's mine, and to prove it, I just deleted the answer.

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