Today I want to explore why you need a growth mindset for business. Having a growth mindset rather than a fixed mindset is perhaps a number one factor in whether your online business can be successful. In fact it is potentially the most important factor for success in life. Period.
The idea of a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset was codified by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset. She’s also done a great TED Talk : Developing a Growth Mindset.
The long and short of it is that there are two sorts of people in this world.
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
There were those with a fixed mindset. Basically these people at a certain point refused to learn anymore. For them knowledge and intelligence are static functions: they cannot be developed and any attempts to do so are futile. Therefore any challenges and obstacles that they face are purely negative; things to get in the way of their everyday life.
On the flip-side there are those who have a growth mindset. These are people who believe that intelligence is not fixed. Regardless of our age, position and achievements in life we can always grow and learn. In fact someone with a growth mindset will never rest on their laurels and will always be striving to improve. They see obstacles and challenges as additional ways to hone their intelligence and skills rather than roadblocks that cease all progress.
Real life examples
This is rather abstract. Instead think about people that you know and have met in your life. I think especially about people who you remember being highly popular and successful during your education: let’s say in secondary or high school.
Very often these people who reached early levels of success through athletic or even intellectual prowess stopped at this stage. There is no additional impetus to continue to grow and instead they could relax and enjoy their status.
Fast forward 10 or 20 years and suddenly these people have been outstripped and find themselves frustrated and annoyed with the world.
You may even know people like this: people are yearning for the better days of school or university when things are used to work in their favour all the time.
Very likely these people hold a fixed mindset. Their fixed mindset took them to a certain level of achievement but then when the world and others around them outstripped them they were unable to move on.
Who’s to blame?
The reason for the failure? Well according to them it’s obviously the world at large around them. It’s normally someone else’s or society’ fault rather than theirs. They used to have it so good but suddenly things have changed and it’s no longer fair and they are unable to enjoy the status that they did before.
On the flipside think about somebody who potentially was particularly popular or even well liked at school. This person refused to stop developing and learning. Instead they took the difficulties of their early years and converted that into a drive to succeed, grow and learn.
Suddenly this person was smarter, fitter, more attractive, making more money, living a happier life than their peers. What happened here? This person, regardless of their humble beginnings, had a growth mindset. They refused to allow early difficulties to smack them down. Instead they took these difficulties and use them as fuel to grow and exceed their peers.
Whenever you meet a highly successful person nowadays generally the route to their current position was not smooth sailing – we need a bit of rough-and-tumble on the way in order to form up our character and our resilience.
Let’s get a little more granular and look at how people with a fixed or growth mindset respond to external stimuli in the world.
Growth Mindset and Challenges
First up, challenges.
For someone with a fixed mindset a challenge is just that. It is a challenge to their ego and their reputation. A challenge is something that needs to be shut down and removed. It is not a learning experience but instead an unpleasant experience that should never be allowed to recur.
To someone with a growth mindset however the challenge is an opportunity to grow and learn. It is only through challenges and difficulties that we can actually push ourselves out of our comfort zone and learn. There is no way to learn by simply completing tasks that we are already good at. This leads only to stagnation; not to growth and learning. Learning by definition requires failure and then adjustment based on that failure.
Growth Mindset and Effort
Second, what about effort?
To somebody with a fixed mindset effort is to be avoided at all costs. The status quo is already good and having to do any additional work in order to maintain status quo is a pain. It is a burden not a chance to stretch one’s muscles. Therefore somebody with a fixed mindset who wishes to maintain the status quo will not be obliged to put an additional effort. Why bother? At worse it’ll just cause change – and that’s to be avoided. They will avoid effort whenever possible.
For someone with a growth mindset on the other hand effort is key. If the growth mindset individual is not exerting effort they tend to get bored. Achievement is not meant to be easy and if it is easy it’s not worth doing. In previous articles I’ve talked about what entrepreneurs actually do: they solve problems. If the problem did not require effort to solve it would not be a problem in the first place because it would already have been solved! Entrepreneurs and growth mindset that individuals enjoy expending effort on worthwhile challenges.
Growth Mindset and Criticism
Third, the idea of criticism.
To someone with a fixed mindset criticism is poison. In their fixed mindset they’ll view what they are doing -the status quo- as sacrosanct; any attempts to change the status quo should therefore be repudiated and ignored. Criticism most of all attacks the status quo. Criticism by its very nature is saying this is not good enough.
To the individual with a fixed mindset criticism is always a negative and can never lead to positive development. This is in line with the fact that they believe that intelligence and attitude can’t really be increased. If I cannot improve my performance in a certain area (no matter how hard I try) then any criticism falls directly on me.
I cannot do any better therefore criticism says that I, the person, I’m not good enough. It becomes personal.
For somebody with a growth mindset on the other hand criticism is gold dust. Because somebody with a growth mindset does not necessarily associate themselves with their current actions 100%, criticism allows us to change how we are performing without it necessarily criticising our inherent being.
You can criticise what I do rather than who I am. There isn’t a 1:1 attachment. This means that criticism allows me to improve my performance and progress my learning, both of which are of the upmost important to the growth minded individual. I welcome criticism in order to get better at what I do.
Growth Mindset and the Success of Others
Fourth, the success of others.
For someone with a fixed mindset the world is a zero sum game.There was only a certain amount of money, business, status or love to be shared out amongst the people on this earth. Therefore when I see you doing well in one of these areas that means that you are taking something away from me.
When I see a pie and you taking a slice of that pie I start to worry about what is left for me.
Therefore the success of others to somebody with a fixed mindset is infuriating. It reminds them that they are not progressing, that they are not learning, that their life is not changing for the better day after day. Instead they see others achieve in the levels of success that they believe that they deserve. And at their expense!
Therefore social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok, showing people succeeding, losing weight, making money and living their dreams are infuriating to those with a fixed mindset. That does not mean that they do not use them : in fact they are more likely to use his platforms in a bizarre form of self flagellation!
Instead take the growth mindset individual. Someone with a growth mindset sees others succeeding as inspirations. If they can do that then so can I. They have broken through limits and made the path for me so much clearer and easier. Their successes have made my successes even more important and imperative.
They succeed and made the pie bigger for all of us. Everyone wins.
For somebody with a growth mindset, social media like Instagram suddenly becomes full of inspirational role models to follow, study, Emulate and eventually partner with in the future.
Growth Mindset and Entrepreneurship
What does this all boil down to?
In short, those with a fixed mindset tend to hold a deterministic outlook on the universe. There are a certain set of rules and regulations which guarantee things happen in a certain way. There is nothing that they, the individual, can do about it.
They may have had early successes but now any failures, disappointment and disillusionment in life are because of somebody else or society at large. There’s nothing they can do about it because it’s all hopeless anyway.
On the flipside somebody with a growth mindset will always believe in the power of free will. The ability to change one’s circumstances through hard work, learning, application of knowledge and personal growth.
The world is not a series of rules and regulations but instead a fun toy box in which the group minded individuals can play, building the world to their requirements and needs and helping others in the process.
Those with a growth mindset have control of their lives, their future and their prospects. This is why most successful entrepreneurs tend to have a growth mindset.
Can you be a entrepreneur with a fixed mindset?
In fact I personally have not met a single successful entrepreneur who has a fixed mindset. I know many aspirational entrepreneurs with a fixed mindset but they never get anything off the ground and never find the success that they believe they deserve. They remain wantrepreneurs all of their life.
The details of entrepreneurship and starting an online business for oneself can be worked out on the fly. Plenty of people have walked the path before you can guide and teach you on your way. But you cannot even take your first step unless you get your mindset and your headspace in the right place.
If you don’t it doesn’t matter what level of coaching and mentorship and guidance to receive; with the wrong attitude you will simply ignore it all, never act on the advice and remain stuck in the status quo.
This is why it’s vitally important to work on yourself before charging ahead into starting a business. Businesses that fail to get off the ground and make any impact tend to do so not because of financial restrictions, market forces, or competition. Instead it will be the founders not having the right attitude is in place to grow a successful and valuable business.
Can growth mindset be taught?
Whilst there may be exercises designed to expand your growth mindset I personally believe that it’s really difficult to deprogram your upbringing. Whether or not you possess a fixed or growth mindset will primarily come from your early childhood and your educational and formative years.
Sure, you could probably put in the work, with seasoned professionals, to overcome decades of programming. But ask yourself this question; why?
Whilst the growth mindset might be better for becoming an entrepreneur and taking control of one’s own financial and career future, it is not necessarily the best path for everybody. Don’t fall for all of the dreams of working for yourself, financial independence, laptop lifestyle, earn while you sleep, passive income et cetera et cetera
Sure all of these things are absolutely achievable for an entrepreneur and a business owner. Especially for an online business owner.
But the work, dedication and effort required to achieve these may be more effort than you are willing to put in. And if it’s against your natural inclination it’s going to be even harder.
By no means does this mean it is impossible. In fact if I was to say that it is impossible for somebody with a fixed mindset to achieve a growth mindset I would, by definition have a fixed mindset!
I would be denying the ability for a person to change their attitudes. This is not the case at all. I do believe somebody can change their mindset: I’m just saying that it is supremely complex and effortful and at the end results may not even be something that you are satisfied with.
Do I have a growth mindset?
Now, we all know why we read this sort of article! We’re trying to confirm what personally applies to us, the reader. That’s entirely normal and human don’t worry!
There is no need for you, personally, to worry. The very fact that you are here tells me that you are extremely likely to already possess a growth mindset!
There is a self selection bias at play here.
By reading an article about the growth mindset on a website about online business and entrepreneurship you’re telling me that you’re already in possession of a growth mindset. Somebody with a fixed mindset would simply not be here in the first place!
In fact if you’ve ever done a “growth mindset vs. fixed mindset” quiz or anything similar then guess what: VERY likely you have a growth mindset. Otherwise you wouldn’t have even thought to do a quiz like that!
Therefore most likely I’m preaching to the choir!
To all those with a Growth Mindset out there
Now that you’ve been identified here is a personal message: do not waste your natural gift.
Very few people work the way that you do. Very few people have minds wired like yours. You have a special gift and it is your duty to deploy it by adding value to the world.
If you truly believe you have a growth mindset (and by being here then most likely you do) then I ask simply that you deploy it sensibly.
Setting up an online business is obviously one way of deploying your growth mindset. But it is just one of many great things you can do with your special gift. Please take some time to really delve into what it is you value and based on this what it is you can create to provide lasting change in this world.