Growth Mindset: The Pursuit of Unachievable Perfection

He was 14 years old, sobbing.

He was successful in anything academic that he touched.

He regularly beat his dad’s grown friends at Pac-Man when he was 4 years old.

He was the unofficial school IT department when he was 5 years old.

He put together his first computer when he was 10 years old.

But there he was. Tears pouring down his cheeks desperately trying to get out of a class that he perceived that he couldn’t do.

You see, while Eric could please everybody up to this point, he had hit a snag because his drafting teacher wasn’t actually teaching drafting. No, that was the catalyst. He was teaching the pursuit of perfection with the understanding that perfection is never to be achieved.

Another way to put this is growth mindset. Eric had hit a bump in the road, and now he was challenged.

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He could either embrace it, or run (growth mindset construct #1).

He could either give up, or persist (growth mindset construct #2).

He could see this challenge as pointless, or as a journey towards mastery (growth mindset construct #3).

He could either dismiss the critical feedback, or embrace it (growth mindset construct #4).

When a beautiful piece of drafting work was presented to the drafting instructor, out came the magnifying glass to peer at the intersections of the lines crossed. It was not unusual for him to get a random every day object that would be horrendous to draft, such as a bolt from the shop, and demand ultimate excellence. Out came the micrometers and various measuring instrument as students crawled their way up the path towards mastery.

“I can’t do it! It doesn’t matter what I do, you’re not happy with it!” were the words that fell on deaf ears, as the principal and intructor simply refused to accept Eric’s withdrawal request.

Three and a half years of drafting classes, and a quarter century later, and that class is the only thing I’ve ever heard him reference about his High School days. Oh, there was the light chatter about how dreadful HS was. How homework was done before class was dismissed OR it was done on the bus going to school the next morning. Those experiences did not perpetuate his growth mindset. This class, however, is seemingly the only poignant postive experience towards growth mindset that he recalls. Intelligent individuals struggle more with growth mindset than the average intelligence simply because they aren’t as challenged, they don’t need to persist, mastery is … *yawn*.

Our children. Our colleagues. Ourselves. It’s important to surround ourselves with those people that demand a level of accountability approaching perfection, yet embrace our failures with respect and forgiveness. Those people that recognize it’s freaking hard and that you want to give up. When those people are appreciative and complimentary, then you KNOW you are actively exercising your mindset towards growth.

Posted with permission from Eric Willeke.

Crossposted in LinkedIn.

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.