Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck – Book Summary

Date Read: 19 August 2021
My Rating: 7/10

The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. We all have two mindsets, a fixed and a growth mindset, and they surface in different situations and scenarios in life based on various triggers.
  2. Effort is not meant for those who have no talents or skills, but the right efforts, skills and talents can be cultivated just like a growth mindset.
  3. Our personality and our ability to learn and evolve is not fixed. With years of training, effort and hard work the true potential of anyone could be realised – which in the present is unknown and unknowable.

Overall Thoughts

Although I have read similar wisdom in other books over the years, this book changed my outlook on how I think about my own mindset. This book made me realise that in each of us both the fixed and growth mindset exists and depending on the various situations of life each one surfaces. Being a parent of a 4-year-old, what resonated most with my in this book was the section on teaching and parenting and I have learned not only how to assess my fixed mindset and develop a growth mindset but also how to help cultivate it in another person. However, I do feel the book does a very good job in explaining how the differences between a fixed and growth mindset but falls a bit short in the practical applications of developing a growth mindset which is something you would expect from a book called Mindset.

Who is this book for?

The chapters of the book are split into various aspects of life; Parenting, Teaching, Leadership, Sports etc. Anyone who wants to gain an understanding of the different mindsets and get a window into their own mindsets should read this book. This book is particularly useful for parents, educators, leaders and sports coaches – people who can nurture and encourage others to grow.

Impacts On My Life

  1. This book made me realise how I often operate with a fixed mindset, and it helped me identify my fixed mindset triggers and persona.
  2. I have learned that after a failure, we should use the experience and the available resource not to protect and nurse our bruised egos but to reflect and learn from the experience – the growth mindset way.
  3. Trying to exert as little effort as possible is a hallmark characteristic of the fixed mindset.
  4. As a parent, I realised that my child is a growing and developing person and my commitment, above anything else, should be towards their development – body, mind and spirit. And the best gift I can give my child is to teach her to love challenges, be curious about mistakes and progress, enjoy hard work and effort, and seek new strategies to keep on learning.

Main Points & Ideas

Effort / Skill / Talent

  1. People with the fixed mindset see effort as a bad thing, because if they need to put in effort in anything then it means they don’t have the talent, skill or a natural ability for this. Whereas, people with a growth mindset view effort as the hallmark action of growing your abilities and skills and becoming more talented.
  2. Potential is someone’s capacity to develop, over time – what they can be – not what they are right now. We do not know where someone can go with the right effort, training and coaching – their true potential.
  3. People tend to blame their lack of excellence and accomplishment on a lack of talent and skills, where else what they actually lack is the right effort. The reason effort is terrifying is it robs you of your excuses. Without effort and imagination, you can always be more but with effort, you cannot say that anymore.
  4. Without effort, we can be many things but once we put in the effort, try hard and perhaps fail then we don’t see the possibility – hence we don’t like to put in the effort and try.

Failure & Challenge

  1. People with a growth mindset thrive when they are stretched and challenged. They get their thrill from learning new things and hard things. However, when people with a fixed mindset are challenged and things get hard – and they don’t feel validated, smart or talented – they lose interest. They get their thrill from what is easy – what they have already mastered. They like the known and staying in their comfort zone.
  2. In the fixed mindset, a failure becomes an identity and tends to define future efforts and outcomes. (I am a failure, therefore I will continue to fail). However, in the growth mindset, even though failure is a painful experience, it does not define you. It is something to deal with, face and learn from.
  3. We like to see extraordinary people as fundamentally different from us. We like to see them as talented or born with skills not bestowed upon mere mortals as ourselves. Furthermore, we like to see them as superheroes who are born different. We do not see them as relatively normal people who made themselves extraordinary through effort and hard work and perhaps repeated failures.

Consistency and Character

  1. Skills, talents and abilities can get you where you want to be, but to stay there and continue to be at the top of your game you need consistency. You need to keep working as hard or even harder once you have ‘made it’ to stay there, and that takes character – the character and consistency to keep showing up.
  2. “Mindset change is not about picking up a few pointers here and there. It’s about seeing things in a new way. When people—couples, coaches and athletes, managers and workers, parents and children, teachers and students—change to a growth mindset, they change from a judge-and-be-judged framework to a learn-and-help-learn framework.”


  1. With a fixed mindset navigating relationships, particularly marriage can be quite challenging. With a fixed mindset, people either tend to blame their own ‘permanent’ qualities of their partners.
  2. Failures and setbacks become about protecting your own egos and always trying to prove your competence which eventually puts you in a competition with your own partner to try and constantly prove you are the smarter one, knowledgeable one, intelligent one and so on.
  3. Most relationships face a tough time because when people encounter a partner with desires and need different to theirs, they don’t know how to deal with those differences, as they have not learned to do that. A fixed mindset keeps you within the realm of the known and your comfort zone.
  4. The ultimate goal of a marriage and any relationship really is to encourage your partner’s development and have them encourage yours.


  1. Praise matters, and how we praise matters even more. As a parent, it is fairly common and easy to fall into the trap of praising kids for their abilities, actions, intelligence etc. However, praising them for their intelligence and brilliance does lots of harm to their performance as well as their motivation. If we tell our kids they are smart, clever, intelligent for achieving and accomplishing something, then what are they when they don’t? “If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb.”
  2. Doing the easy things. If children are praised for completing something, then the next time they try and avoid doing the hard things – for fear of not completing it and in return not getting the praise they relished in.
  3. Praise must be given to children’s efforts, hard work and focus towards a task. Even showing interest in their work and effort goes a long way.
  4. As parents and society at large, we tend to protect our children from failure and criticism in order to boost their confidence and self-esteem. However, children require honest and constructive feedback in order to learn.
  5. In the spirit of discipline and teaching their kids rules, most parents don’t realise the message they are sending – ‘If you don’t do what I say, you will be judged and punished’. Instead, what needs to be taught to kids is how to think through the problems they are facing and make their own smart decision.
  6. Some parents and educators think that lowering the bar will make it easier for kids and give them a winning and successful experience in order to boost their self-esteem, leading to long term achievement. Unfortunately, it does not work. It ends up creating poorly educated children who feel entitled to easy work followed by easy praise.
  7. Next time you’re in a position to discipline, ask yourself, What is the message I’m sending here: I will judge and punish you? Or I will help you think and learn?

Key Takeaways for Me

  1. The story of the hare and the tortoise gave effort a bad name. It suggests that effort is for plodders and if and when the talented ones stuff up is the only time when plodders can win – with effort.
  2. Effort is the cornerstone of accomplishments – not talent, skills and genius.
  3. Winning and losing is not as important as putting in your best effort and learning something new. Did I win? Did I lose? Those are the wrong questions. The correct question is: Did I make my best effort?, did I learn?
  4. As a parent, I have also learned that when my child has a setback and I react with anxiety or with concern about her ability, this enforces more of a fixed mindset. Her abilities are growing, and she is learning new things every day. With the right effort, she will overcome these small setbacks.
  5. The process of trying, learning and developing yourself is more important than just the outcomes.
  6. In the fixed mindset, both positive and negative labels can mess with your mind. When you’re given a positive label, you’re afraid of losing it (so you do very little new work to put yourself at risk of failure), and when you’re hit with a negative label, you’re afraid of deserving it.
  7. Identify your fixed mindset persona based on your triggers – and give this persona a name – make it obvious to be identified in the future. For example; my fixed mindset persona is Mr Zehmat (rhymes with my name and means bother/botheration/annoyance/irritation). Zehmat shows up every time I try to do something challenging that requires focus and attention, or something out of my comfort zone. Zehmat tries to protect me from failure and disappointment, but in effect limits my abilities and outcomes.
  8. This fixed mindset persona that exists in almost all of us is born to protect us and keep us safe, and it is usually born at a very young age – children as young as toddlers tend to have a fixed mindset based on their experiences with failure. Over time, this fixed mindset persona doesn’t develop new tools but exists in its limited ways. And the best thing to do to overcome and educate this persona is to take on challenges and sticking to them, bounce back from failure, and helping and supporting others to grow.

Things I will be implementing after reading this book:

  1. Overcoming the fixed mindset
    • It starts by accepting that we all have both mindsets.
    • Then we learn to recognise what triggers our fixed mindset. Failures? Criticism? Deadlines? Disagreements?
    • And we come to understand what happens to us when our fixed-mindset “persona” is triggered. Who is this persona? What’s its name? What does it make us think, feel, and do? How does it affect those around us?
    • Importantly, we can gradually learn to remain in a growth-mindset place despite the triggers, as we educate our persona and invite it to join us on our growth-mindset journey.
    • Ideally, we will learn more and more about how we can help others on their journey, too.
  2. At the end of the day, asking myself and my family:
    • What did you learn today?
    • What mistake did you make that taught you something?
    • What did you try hard at today?”
  3. When someone compares themselves to another, asking them is he/she’s actually smarter than you or just more experienced? And what do you need to get to that level?
  4. Using new language to help my daughter with learning and becoming better
    • “It is not entirely about you and your performance. It is a teacher’s job to find every possible flaw. Your job is to learn from the critique and make your outcome even better.”
    • “It must be a terrible thing to feel that everyone is evaluating you, and you can’t show what you know. We want you to know that we are not evaluating you. We care about your learning, and we know that you’ve learned your stuff. Likewise, we’re proud that you’ve stuck to it and kept learning.”
    • “Everyone learns differently. Let’s keep trying to find the way that works for you.”
    • I know it’s so disappointing to have your hopes up and to perform your best but not to win. But you know, you haven’t really earned it yet. There were many kids there who’ve been in [fill in the activity] longer than you and who’ve worked a lot harder than you. If this is something you really want, then it’s something you’ll really have to work for.” If you want to do it purely for fun, that was just fine. But if you want to excel in the competitions, more is required.
    • Champs are the people who work the hardest. Anyone can become a champ by working hard. “Tomorrow, tell me something you’ve done to become a champ.”

My Favourite Quotes

  • “A person’s true potential is unknown (and unknowable); that it’s impossible to foresee what can be accomplished with years of passion, toil, and training”
  • “In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself.”
  • “Becoming is better than being.” The fixed mindset does not allow people the luxury of becoming.”
  • “Lurking behind that self-esteem of the fixed mindset is a simple question: If you’re somebody when you’re successful, what are you when you’re unsuccessful? “
  • “Instead of trying to learn from and repair their failures, people with the fixed mindset may simply try to repair their self-esteem.”
  • “No matter what your ability is, effort is what ignites that ability and turns it into accomplishment.”
  • “The top is where the fixed-mindset people hunger to be, but it’s where many growth-minded people arrive as a by-product of their enthusiasm for what they do.”
  • “If you don’t give anything, don’t expect anything. Success is not coming to you, you must come to it.”
  • “You have to apply yourself each day to becoming a little better. By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.” – Coach Wooden
  • “Don’t judge. Teach. It’s a learning process”