Fixed Mindset or Growth Mindset?

applied leadership learning art of learning consistency growth mindset incremental learning leadership leadership growth the art of learning leadership Nov 17, 2023

There is an art of learning that extends beyond what we learn. One of the best explanations of this I found in Josh Waitzkin’s book, The Art of Learning.

At 9 years old, Josh became a World Class Champion Chess Player, then as a young man he became the 2004 World Champion in Tai Chi Chuan martial arts.

By about the age of 17 his dad had written a book based on Josh’s life… then a movie was made! All based on Josh’s story and titled Searching for Bobby Fisher

Somewhere along the way, Josh fell out of love with learning the game of chess. But then he went on as a young adult to become a world champion of Tai Chi Chuan, which made him a world champion in two separate skills.

There were many lessons Josh learned from his experiences that can be applied to not just the art of learning but also to the art of leadership learning. He calls these Foundational Lessons.

Many times we look at learning as accidental.  When we were kids and went to school, we just went and learned whatever the teacher had for us that day. Then, as we grow into adults, we realize some strength areas we have and many times we gain interest there. Much of the time, we are  naturally gifted and strong in these areas and desire to learn more.

One thing Josh noticed about learning was his desire to intentionally learn.  And that he learned some of his best lessons from losing. He goes on to share two approaches to learning that also apply to leadership.

Approach 1:  We feel like we have achieved when we were at the top of our game.  We got a 100 on our test or we won the game.  What happens with this approach to learning is it says I’m intelligent in this area.  I won at this, therefore I am smart at this.  That is entity learning. Entity learning has a fixed mindset and the Entity Learning Theory believes that even if people learn new things, their intelligence stays the same.  And they blame their intelligence and abilities for achievement failures.

Approach 2:  Incremental Learning. This approach says, intelligence is not fixed and can be improved through enough effort. That we can try, fail, learn, improve, and go again better than before. And that what we learn is transferable to other parts of our world.   This is how Josh became good at two different things.  This is where we say, I accomplished because I worked really hard at it.  The belief in Incremental Learning will blame lack of effort or strategy used to mediate negative outcomes. Those who believe in incremental learning are likely to act on and improve situations with more effort.

As Josh learned the two approaches, he figured out a win was not a championship trophy but a win was becoming better for the next time.

Do we embrace the struggle that is within the win?

The art of learning (leadership or anything else we are learning) is in the heart of the struggle.