Long before Sara Blakely side-hustled Spanx from a $5,000 investment to a billion-dollar global brand her father shaped her view of success and failure. During her formative years, Blakey’s dad would regularly inquire about her new undertakings and their results. However, he wasn’t searching for his little girl’s accomplishments. He wanted to hear about the opposite. He wanted Sara to recount the times she didn’t make the team or win the debate. His prompts and praises were intended for the occasions she attempted something new but fell short. For the Blakely family, failure had nothing to do with the end result. Failure occurred when Sara stopped trying new things. 

“Mindset’s” author, Carol Dweck, would describe the Blakely family’s approach as a growth mindset. Dweck, a long-time researcher who writes more like a storyteller than a scientist, categorizes people’s outlooks into fixed and growth mindsets. Those with fixed mindsets believe skills are innate, potential is ordained, and challenges are to be avoided. They fear new experiences because they may expose deficiencies. Growth mindsetters like Blakey measure success by effort and improvement, not results. Deficiencies are therefore meaningless because they are temporary. Growth mindsetters don’t just embrace challenges, they thrive on them. For Dweck, one group is frozen in time by gifts believed to be bestowed at birth while the other defines success as constant improvement and exposure to new challenges.  

Dweck’s “Mindset” addresses parenting to coaching to leadership. She emphasizes how growth mindsets positively affect relationships. Most importantly, she covers how to shift perspective from one that fears new challenges to one that seeks them out. The book isn’t a self-help manual but altering your views of success and failure positively impacts every undertaking you choose. Perspective becomes a choice: one that relishes challenges and advancement rather than seeing missteps as indelible reminders of inferiority.

Dweck’s concepts have been described in scores of books but none are as prescriptive. Gladwell’s 10,000 hours of effort in “Outliers” and Geoff Colvin’s “Talent is Overrated” recount the results of people who break through the barriers average people never approach. “Mindset,” goes beyond other works by not just explaining the positive results a growth mindset produces but why they occur and how to attain them. 

We all start at different points and progress at different rates. Whether you advance beyond the starting line ultimately depends on the way you embrace and overcome challenges. Some of us fall prey to fate; the rest of us define it. The difference depends upon your mindset