Mindset – Book Summary

Mindset By Carol Dweck
By Carol Dweck

Short Summary

Wildly successful people understand the importance of developing a growth mindset:

  1. Fixed Mindset = Relying On Talent VS Growth Mindset = Working Hard 
  2. Understand the power of NOT YET - when things don't go your way keep learning and improving, you are never a finished product
  3. Fixed mindset destroys companies, people, and relationships. Observe arrogant and judgemental people who hate others to succeed 
  4. Growth mindset delivers results in all facets of life. Stick with people who want you to succeed, overcome setbacks, and encourage you to learn and grow
  5. Break the fixed mindset loop - move from failing - beating - judging to failing - learning - improving cycle

Full Review

Having spent decades of her time exploring what separates ultra successful people from huge failures, Carol Dweck came to a very unpopular conclusion: our ability to achieve incredible results in life has nothing to do with talent or background and is all about our ability to be work hard while staying open-minded.

Let's face it, most people don't believe that because of their conditioning. Look around. Even the most popular TV shows has "Got Talent" part in them. We have been conditioned that super stars were born like that. In her book, Deck debunks this terrible myth responsible for holding so many lives back.

1.  Fixed Mindset VS Growth Mindset

Dweck starts with explaining the difference between the 2 types of mindsets she discovered over the years of her intense research:

  • Fixed Mindset - people with a fixed mindset believe their intelligence and abilities are limited
  • Growth Mindset - people with a growth mindset know that the can constantly improve by working hard

Let's compare the life cycle of a fixed mindset person with the life cycle of a growth mindset individual.

1.1 Achievement Philosophy

People with a fixed mindset don't believe they can grow. In their mind it's black and white: you either have it or not.

Growth mindset individuals are opposite: they understand no one can measure their true potential.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • Think that abilities and intelligence are determined by talent and genes, you either have it or not
  • Hate competing and losing
  • Learn to pass exams and to get marks
  • Know that abilities and intelligence are determined by hard work and learning from failures
  • Enjoy competing especially when losing
  • Learn to apply skills in real and tough life

1.2 Effort 

Putting effort is not for fixed mindset individuals due to their dependency on natural talent.

People with a growth mindset work hard and persevere despite severe setbacks.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • Think smart people don't need to try hard
  • Want results right now without hard and deliberate effort
  • Don't like to learn new skills
  • Easily give up on the first sign of failure
  • Know that results come through hard work
  • Prepared to persevere, learn from failures, and improve no matter how long it takes
  • Love learning and applying new skills
  • Keep fighting when things don't go their way

1.3 Handling Mistakes

Speaking about failures, fixed mindset individuals hate to be wrong and can't tolerate mistakes. In their mind it's everyone else's fault, not theirs.

In contrast, growth mindset people openly admit their mistakes and don't consider them as failures: they use misfortunes for their own advantage by learning and improving.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • Think that the world needs to change
  • Pretend to be better than they are and hide mistakes, omissions, and deficiencies
  • Get angry and frustrated when making mistakes and failing
  • Blame others and circumstances
  • Consider criticism as a personal insult
  • Label themselves as failures
  • Believe it's their responsibility to improve
  • Always learn from own mistakes and admit them openly and without fear of being judged
  • Grateful for opportunity to learn when making mistakes
  • Look for ways to improve themselves
  • Consider criticism as valuable feedback
  • Think it's not a failure if they learnt from it

By the way, what are you doing today? Got time for thinking about what matters the most in your life?

1.4 Self-Esteem

People with a fixed mindset beat themselves and others for making mistakes as the only thing they feel is excruciating pain.

Growth mindset people don't let failures destroy their self-esteem. Even if they criticize themselves, they quickly get back on the right track of learning and improving.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • Mentally shrink when not getting results and never try again
  • Are afraid to look bad and constantly seek validation from others
  • Surround themselves with less successful people to feel and look better
  • Respect themselves for working harder when things don't go their way
  • Have high self-esteem & don't depend on praise from others
  • Strive to get into more challenging environment to grow faster

1.5 Treating Others

Disrespecting others or being threatened by their success is what fixed mindset all about.

Growth mindset, on the other hand, is all about admiring successful people for their hard work and great results.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • Hate to see other people succeed, suppress and undermine them to feel better instead
  • Threatened by others' successes
  • Feel superior to others (those in control) or inferior to others (those without the power)
  • Help other people to grow and celebrate their successes like their own
  • Learn from other people's successes
  • Respect other people regardless of their social status and achievements

1.6 Results

It gets even more interesting when we look at how both categories deliver results.

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • Aim for huge goals but get stuck with mediocre results instead
  • Enjoy the journey, not the destination and eventually achieve exceptional results by working hard

2. Talent VS Hard Work

Fixed Mindset VS Growth Mindset = Talent VS Hard Work.

Individuals with a fixed mindset rely solely on talent and are not willing to work hard. Having failed they immediately look for excuses to protect their ego. A few mistakes in a row and they stop trying completely: 

In contrast, those with a growth mindset embrace failures as opportunities to learn. As they fail more and more they continue working on themselves to become more skilled and resilient. As a matter of fact they get happier with each failure as they consider them as opportunities to learn: 

Failures and mistakes are inevitable but the way we respond to them is a choice.

3. Mindset In Sports

Dweck does a brilliant job of demonstrating how the fixed mindset destroys the careers of many incredible athletes and how the growth mindset helps amazing champions emerge.

Here is how athletes with different mindsets perform:

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • hate training hard and rely on talent instead
  • hate losing or making mistakes
  • blame everyone for defeats except themselves
  • train hard regardless of prior achievements
  • learn from losing
  • always look for ways to improve themselves

3.1 How Fixed Mindset Athletes React

That's how athletes with a fixed mindset react to painful defeats:


  • John McEnroe and his extravagant behaviour, miserable losses due to temper, and excuses on and off the court
  • Pedro Martinez and his infamous "performance" against NY Yankees hitting and threatening opposition players and slamming their coach to the ground

3.2 How Growth Mindset Athletes Respond

And that's how true champions with a growth mindset respond to tough losses:


  • Margaret Court and her ability to step up when losing in tough matches
  • Michael Jordan and his insane training ethic and attitude on and off the court 

4. Mindset In Business And Leadership

Dweck leaves no stone unturned in the world of mindsets in business and corporate environment. 

Here is how leaders with different mindsets operate:

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • design command and control environment
  • only respect people who are not as smart as they are
  • hate great ideas raised by others
  • get rid of great minds due to perceived threats to own career
  • build collaborative culture
  • respect and encourage hard working and smart people
  • applaud great ideas raised by others
  • surround themselves with co-workers who are better than them to grow

4.1 How Fixed Mindset "Leaders" React

It's very easy to recognize a "leader" with a fixed mindset by observing their daily behaviour: 

Examples: Lee Iacocca of Chrysler and Jeffrey Skilling of Enron destroyed their companies by:

  • building the culture of superior few and inferior many
  • forcing people to be scared of making mistakes and being judged
  • encouraging employees to cover up huge problems and finger-pointing

4.2 How Growth Mindset Leaders Respond

And here is how leaders with a growth mindset operate:

Examples:  Jack Welch of General Electric transformed the company from good to great by:

  • building a high-performance culture where people were not afraid to experiment and make mistakes as long as they worked hard
  • going into the field to help front-line employees and encouraging other leaders to be involved as well to understand real problems his people faced
  • surrounding himself with brilliant minds and encouraging them to generate great ideas

5. Mindset In Relationships

Relationships is another fascinating aspect to consider to understand how two different mindsets deliver opposite results in people's lives.

Here is how partners with different mindsets treat their relationships:

Fixed Mindset

Growth Mindset

  • expect great things and full understanding from the partner without putting in hard work
  • believe that love will fix all arguments and fights without the need to put extra effort
  • expect the partner to read their mind without proper communication
  • exploit partner's mistakes to feed their own ego and prove they were right
  • consider rejections as personal flaws, get very angry, and potentially plot a revenge
  • get stuck in a toxic relationship even after years of trying hard to fix things
  • understand that brilliant and lasting relationships with mutual respect is hard work
  • work hard to overcome inevitable challenges and strengthen relationships
  • communicate effectively by asking questions and finding solutions together
  • take full responsibility and strive for helping the partner to grow
  • move on when rejected looking for ways to improve themselves and find true love
  • move on by ending a toxic relationship when it's obvious the partner isn't committed to fixing it

5.1 How Fixed Mindset Partners Behave

Recognizing a partner with a fixed mindset is easy:

5.2 How Growth Mindset Partners Think

In contrast a partner with a growth mindset will think quite differently:

6. Mindset In Parenting, Teaching, And Coaching

Once we understand the shocking difference between the two mindsets, an important question emerges: how our mindsets are formed?

Dweck explains that the development of one's mindset can be traced all the way back to his or her childhood and is shaped by our most important mentors: parents, teachers, and coaches.

6.1 How To Develop a Fixed Mindset

Here is how to develop a fixed mindset:

  1. A parent, teacher, or coach praise the child for being smart or solving a problem fast or being talented
  2. The child thinks: "Nice, I did well !". The poor thing doesn't realize what has just happened
  3. The more he is praised for his talent the more he gets addicted to easy wins and the less he wants to work hard
  4. When things don't go his way the next time, he gets frustrated: "Not good, I'm not smart! Why bother?" He doesn't want to work hard and hates learning what's not easy
  5. That's how the fixed mindset is injected into people's mind from the very beginning: at homes, in schools, in sport clubs, and at work

6.2 How To Develop a Growth Mindset

Here is how to develop a growth mindset:

  1. A parent, teacher, or coach praise the child for not giving up when making a mistake and working hard to fix the problem
  2. The child thinks: "Nice, making a mistake is fine as long as I keep trying". That makes all the difference.
  3. The more the child gets praised for persevering when things don't go her way the more she gets addicted to becoming more resilient to failures
  4. When things go her way next time and something is too easy she is not excited at all: "Nah, that's too easy. Not fun. Give me something more challenging !"
  5. That's how the growth mindset is infused into our minds. Unfortunately very few people understand how to praise properly. You are one of those lucky ones now!

7. It's Not Black & White - Hybrid Mindsets Are Common

Dweck says it's not always black and white and some people might have a mix of growth and fixed mindset in different areas of their lives.

Having said that, most people are still either largely fixed mindset oriented or growth mindset oriented because their beliefs and work ethic are formed by years and can't be changed at a whim.

8. Strategies For Developing a Growth Mindset

The book concludes with a powerful chapter answering a burning question nearly every reader asks: Can a fixed mindset be changed into a growth mindset and if so how to do it? Luckily for all of us the answer is YES. And here is a brilliant set of specific strategies Dweck recommends.

Strategy #1 - Understanding Is The Key

If you are still reading you have already mastered the very first strategy. Just simple understanding of the two types of mindsets helps make better choices in life by spotting fixed mindset behaviour and changing it. But Dweck doesn't stop there and further elaborates on the subject.

Training Brain As A Muscle

She provides multiple examples illustrating how her low performing students transformed their lives by simply recognizing that their brains can be trained like a muscle. Just like training in a gym.

Building Neuron Connections

She also provides a solid scientific proof to the brain muscle theory. As we work on developing a growth mindset, as we make mistakes and keep trying without judging ourselves or others, new neuron connections are formed and get stronger in the brain. 

The next time we make a mistake, the new connections process it automatically without putting any extra effort into thinking about it. We start enjoying challenges more and more. We stop judging. We start living freely knowing that it's in our control and no one can take it from us as long as we keep going and keep trying.

Understanding Memory Structure

Another way to prove to a person that the transformation is possible is to explain the concept of short-term (working) memory and long memory.

It is especially effective when working with kids. Once they get the concept, the light bulb switches on: "Aha! The reason I failed was that I simply didn't transfer this knowledge from my working memory into long memory !"

Try it and see it for yourself if you haven't internalized the principles of the growth mindset yet. Just think about developing a growth mindset as a process of transferring the new habits into your long term memory. Until it clicks.

Letting Go Of An Old Identity

One of the main reasons people fail to change is their belief that if they go for it they will lose their own identity. Who they "truly are". If you are one of those people, look at it as a process of building a new and more advanced identity or upgrading your old one. Why not to become a better version of yourself ?

Strategy #2 - Breaking The Fixed Mindset Loop

If you look at bottom part of the below diagram (under the water) you will see the fixed mindset loop in action:

  1. A person fails or makes a mistake
  2. He then gets involved into negative self-talk by beating and criticizing himself
  3. The next step is finding someone to blame: other people and/or himself. Why? Because...
  4. Everyone wants to feel better - finding an explanation for failure makes it easier to handle it

Can you see how with each failure it gets more and more difficult to break the dreaded loop?

"But is it possible to break out ?", asks Dweck and immediately proceeds with explaining how to solve the problem.

Let's look at the diagram again but this time let's focus on the top part (above the water): 

  1. When a person who is determined to develop a growth mindset fails or makes a mistake...
  2. He also gets involved into negative self-talk but then quickly switches to evaluating the situation instead of beating himself:
      - what is the evidence for and against my negative conclusions about myself ?
      - what are my previous wins in similar situations ?
  3. "What can I learn ?" and "How can I improve?" he asks next taking the time ​think about it
  4. Finally, the last and the hardest step is the improvement itself - working hard at what needs to be done to prevent similar mistakes in the future

Strategy #3 - Using Implementation Intentions

But how do we prepare for failures ?

Dweck says it's important to be proactive by using implementation intentions as follows:

  1. Visualize the problem you know you will face in the future
  2. Create a concrete plan of action by answering the following questions (on paper or in your mind): 
  3. "When, where, and How will I overcome the problem ?"

Imagine it vividly like it's already happening to make it feel real: see it, smell it, touch it before it happens in real life.

If things don't go as expected regroup, ask the same questions again, and come up with a new plan regardless of how bad it feels. 

Use Implementation Intentions

By following this simple 3-step process you increase your chances of success dramatically because you make those important decisions now while you have enough time and while your mind is calm. 

Strategy #4 - Developing Growth Mindset Children

To grow a confident child capable of handling the most challenging situations use following process:

  • If a task is too easy make it more difficult for him or her by adding extra complexity
  • If the child continues to demonstrate fixed mindset behaviour do the following during each dinner:
    • ask each family member the following questions: 
      • what did you learn today ?
      • what mistakes did you make that taught you something ?
      • what did you work harder at today ? 
      • what skills did you learn today you didn't have yesterday through hard work ?
      • what progress did you make today despite being held back by circumstances ? 
    • dramatize your own mistakes and tell everyone how challenging it was to overcome them
    • then praise those family members who put huge efforts on the day
    • if the rebel says "everything was too easy" just say "well, but you didn't learn how to overcome failures through hard work, right ? It's OK, you can still become a champion and do it tomorrow !"
    • It will take some time but at some point every family member will not be able to wait for their turn to tell everyone about ​their hard work. 
  • If the child works extremely hard but periodically gets nervous breakdowns consider if your high expectations are part of the problem. Are you putting too much pressure on him or her ? Consult with a therapist and if confirmed ease it up and give your child more breathing space in life
  • If the child continues making the same mistake over and over again beating himself all the time keep explaining the power of NOT YET: the time has not come yet, but you can solve this problem once the solution gets into your long memory

Strategy #5 - Maintaining And Protecting The Change

Did you notice that people stop doing the right thing when things get right ? 

Alarm. Alarm. Alarm.

Dweck warns all of us of never slowing down when observing progress with developing the growth mindset. Whatever you are trying to achieve:

  • lose weight
  • heal from a loss
  • advance career
  • grow business
  • control anger
  • help children thrive
  • or all of the above and even more

Never stop applying the growth mindset strategies because like fuelling a car the change must be maintained constantly. When succeeding ask yourself "What do I have to do to maintain and continue the growth?"

You are never a finished product.

And that's the beauty of it as there is always something to look up to. This makes you happy every day because as human beings we love progress.

Strategy #6 - Doing It Consistently

Here is another one million dollar question: How to remember working on your mindset every day? To be constantly looking into these chances to improve? To make it a habit ?

Just use a sheet of paper and write down the following:  "What are the opportunities to learn and grow today ? For Myself. For The People Around Me". Then attach it to your mirror to serve as a visual reminder. 

9. What's Next ?

Mindset change is not about picking a few tricks - it's about seeing things in a totally different way. It's about transforming from judging and being judged to learning and helping. It's about commitment to grow. It takes plenty of time, effort and mutual respect.

Remember, the drive for stretching yourself and persevering, especially when things don't go your way, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. The mindset that will pull you through extremely difficult times in life.

The question is... Are you ready to start or continue strengthening your mindset ?

If the answer is yes, start here.

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