Carol S Dweck’s Mindset book Summary

On one of my drives in Austin, TX I was listening to this podcast by Guy Kawasaki with Carol S Dweck where they discussed Carol’s book ‘Mindset’. A couple of weeks later I happened to be at an Art Exhibition at the Anna Nagar Tower Park in Chennai, India. There were a lot of stalls and I saw a book exhibit (Starbox) selling Mindset by Dr. Carol S Dweck. I decided to buy the book. Here are my notes and learning from the book.

Mindset Unveiled: Navigating the Power of Perspective

Everything is determined by Mindset. Carol writes that there are two types of Mindset -Fixed and Growth.  In a Fixed Mindset, a person assumes that he /she knows the outcome and does not want to put in the effort. The Growth Mindset is a belief that abilities can be cultivated.  All of us have both fixed and growth mindsets within us. For some work, (e.g drawing an art) we may have a fixed mindset and for others (learning something we like) we have a growth mindset. Whatever mindset we have in a particular area will guide us in that area. Carol writes that any skill can be acquired with practice and to practice you have to believe and have a growth mindset. We need to train our minds to have a growth mindset. 

Also Read: 10X is easier than 2X – Dan Sullivan with Dr. Benjamin Hardy

Not always people who start the smartest end up the smartest. A big reason for this is mindset. Sometimes too much praise to the kids may also end up in a challenge (where they get stuck on a fixed mindset) and do not try new things. People are terrible at estimating their abilities. Learning a new language could also be a mindset issue. If you have a fixed mindset that learning a language is hard, it will be hard. We can change our mindset. 

Even when one is sick, their mindset can cure their disease to a great extent. When it is hard to learn something, you need to enjoy it and make it fun. The more you learn and practice the better you get. Many of the accomplished people were considered to have no future. The best pilots are best because they fly a lot more than the others. Carol writes in her book that John McEnroe who won three Wimbledon titles had a fixed mindset. When something requires a lot of effort, we should not get discouraged. People with Growth Mindset do not require validation from others. 

Also Read: How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie

Inventions are teamwork: 

Thomas Edison was not a loner. The author writes that for the invention of the light bulb Edison he had thirty assistants including scientists. Edison also knew how to publicize himself. Everyone with a growth mindset and their willingness to put in the effort can be trained to achieve success. In school, the teacher asks the best-performing students to take notes to the Principal and more. If you think about it, giving this opportunity to another student who is not doing well, boosts his/her confidence and can also direct them toward the growth mindset. There is a lot of potential out there which is wasted by underestimating the student’s potential to develop. 

Drawing / Art can be difficult for many students. It depends on the mindset. The author shares before and after pictures of the artwork drawn by different people who took the Art Class of Betty Edwards (Take a picture from page 69). This is a great illustration of how a mind can be trained and if we are willing to put in the effort and practice, we get better at what we do and at one point can be world-class. Skills are not passed on in the genes, it is passed on in the mindset and the work we put in. 


Legends like Muhammed Ali, and Michael Jordan were not naturals. They worked hard. Wilma Rudolph was hailed as the fastest woman on earth after she won 3 gold models in the 1960 Rome Olympics – She was far from a physical wonder as a youngster. In Sports, you get better by practicing. It is in the mind. Ability can take you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there, says coach John Wooden. How good you are at a sport will always improve if you work harder. You have to practice regularly. You have to keep improving all the time. 

Business Leaders Mindset:

There is a chapter dedicated to the mindset of business leaders. Business Leaders who excel have a Growth Mindset. The ones with the fixed mindset are about themselves. 

Another great aspect discussed in this chapter is that with a Growth Mindset, the thinking is that people can learn and grow on the job. We scout for talented people who have the prerequisites for the job. However, if we recruit learners and they have a growth mindset – and we train them thinking that they will be able to pick up things along the way, it is good. Jack Wlesh (GE) is also discussed in the book as a CEO with a Growth Mindset, He was able to learn from his mistakes and execute. The former CEO of Xerox who turned around IBM is also discussed as CEO with Growth Mindset.

Read: Think Like a Monk – Jay Shetty

CEOs and the Big Egos. CEOs can’t have big egos and if they do, it leads them to a path of destruction.  Lee Iacocca the former President of Ford Motor Company and later the one who led Chrysler is described in the book as one with a big ego (self-proclaimed I’m the Hero), his autobiography was on the bestseller list, larger than life, and who had a Fixed Mindset. This led to the downfall of the company he led. Even if one is very smart and successful, one needs to keep learning.  Enron executives Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling are also discussed as ones with fixed mindsets. Fixed Mindset Leaders want to retain control and do not let others grow. 

The credit for good work always needs to be passed on to the team. 

Carol also writes about three Growth Mindset Leaders – Jack Welch (G.E),  Lou Gerstner (the man who came in and saved IBM), and Anne Mulcahy (the woman who brought Xeros back to life). One key characteristic of Welch is that he never stopped visiting factories and was very well-connected with the workers and what was happening on the ground. He was always listening. In his autobiography (Straight from the Gut), Jack Welch refers to his accomplishments and the work he did not because of him, but the ‘I’ he writes in the book refers to his colleagues, friends, and people he might have missed out. He also shut down elitism. He rewarded teamwork more than individual geniuses. The way to foster productivity is through mentoring and not through terror. 

Hierarchy means very little to Lou Gerstner. For meetings, he puts together the best people who can solve problems regardless of position. Genius is not enough, we need the job done. During his tenure, IBM was once again defining the future of the industry. 

Group Thinks:

Carol writes that once a person becomes big (or larger than life), a lot of people hold back on voicing their opinions and believe that the leader making the decision can never be wrong. Carol quotes the example of the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion to topple Castro and it backfired. President John F Kennedy’s advisors did not advise the President because they thought he was golden and was bound to succeed. Sir Winston Churchill set up a special department to give the bad news. Others may be in awe of his personality, but not this department.  David Packaed gave a medal to an employee who went ahead and out of his way in spite of being advised to give up on a display monitor the engineer was working on. The engineer went ahead with his plan. The monitor this engineer built sold more than 17,000 units and this generated the company more than 35 million dollars in sales revenue for HP.

Fixed mindset managers simply look for existing talent, they judge employees as competent or not competent at the start and that’s that. They do not have a mindset that the employees would have improved over a period of time.  When the employee does improve, they fail to notice.  Managers with Growth mindsets think that while talent is nice to have, it is just a starting point. They invest in coaching, and mentoring the employees. They conduct workshops.

1. Understand that people can develop abilities,

2. They think of areas where one had low ability but performs well now,

3. They give examples of people who have developed over a period of time.

Everyone is capable of self-transformation. Create an organization that rewards the development of and watches leaders emerge. Not just employees, the company needs to foster a growth mindset.

Relationship Mindset:

Carol also talks about mindsets in relationships between partners, husband and wife, and more. Revenge is a fixed mindset thing and it keeps us stuck. If someone does some harm to us, wish them well and move on- It is a growth mindset and you can focus on better things. Also, thinking that a person is always like that and can’t be changed is a fixed mindset thing. You have to work on your relationship and it will lead to better relationships. This is a growth mindset. Relationships are capable of growth and change. There are no relationships that are perfect and there are no problem-free candidates in a relationship.

Parents Mindset:

When it comes to parents and kids, – while parents should always encourage kids, it does not mean that the kids need to be winning all the time. They need to work hard for the win. If they are lucky and they win without hard work, it is no good and this is something that should not be appreciated. However, if they work hard and they win, it is good to tell the kids that because you worked hard, you won. Praising children’s intelligence harms their mindset. For example, if a kid is able to score without studying, we should not be saying to the kids that they are so smart and they have got great results even without studying. The same thing applies to sports. Kids need to be taught to work hard. We need to praise kids for their effort and not their intelligence. Never tell your kids that they are naturally talented or natural geniuses.

Quote from the book ‘Many Parents think that when they judge and punish they are teaching as in ‘ I ‘ll teach you a lesson you ‘ll never forget’. ‘ If parents do it this way, they are teaching kids that if they go against their parents, they will be judged and punished. They are not teaching children how to think through issues, and problems and come to mature decisions on their own. Parents need to help their kids think and learn. Parents care more about talent, image, and labels than their child’s long-term learning. When we appreciate children, tie it to the process and learning which got them the result. Every word and action from parent to child sends them a message. Give your child process feedback.

We have to work on being a little better every day and it compounds over a period of time. UCLA coach John Wooden and was not in favor of retiring the numbers on the Jersey (of players).

Kids sometimes study very less and score well. They are able to prepare well for the exam by working hard the previous night and getting away with it. This should not be encouraged and they need to be taught to work hard and get good sleep. It is not enough to make a growth mindset plan, you need to work and execute on it and not procrastinate.

The author also writes about anger management between husband and wife. We need to learn to tolerate mistakes and not look for perfection. E.g if a bin is kept in the wrong place, you can even laugh about it.

Cultivating Growth: A Roadmap to Achieving a Growth Mindset

We need to ask questions like (also to kids) – What did you learn today? What did you work hard on? What did you fail? What mistakes did you make and what did it teach you? Did you practice well? It isn’t about getting high grades, it is about learning things and thinking about them in interesting ways.  What are the opportunities for learning today? How can we improve? What can we learn? Where can we learn? The author also references Nigel Holme’s Mindset diagram

Other Books Referenced:

  • Good to Great – Jim Collins
  • Built to Last – Collins and Porras
  • High Flyers  – Morgan McCall
  • Who says Elephants can’t dance? – Gerstner

Insights Explored: My Personal Reflections on ‘Mindset

Thanks, Carol S Dweck for writing this book. There were a lot of learnings and this book also reiterated some of my earlier learnings. My biggest takeaway is that any skill can be cultivated over a period of time if you work hard. 

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