The Myth Of Natural Talent

Posted in Inspiration
on May 11, 2015
This book changed my perspective on so many things and I invite it to change my life. I haven’t ever done a book review on my website, but I had to make an exception for this book, “Mindset,” by Dr. Carol Dweck. This book delves into our individual belief systems and how they hold us back or push us forward in life. There are two different types of mindsets addressed in this book, one is the growth mindset and the other is the fixed mindset. The growth mindset is marked by traits such as seeing everyone as equals that you can learn from, not believing in inherent talent but always working harder when challenges arise and that failure only means lack of experience.  In contrast, the fixed mindset believes that imperfections translate to being deficient in some way and that one should do everything they can to appear competent at ALL times. People with a fixed mindset see themselves as superior to others, whether it be through intelligence, socially, physically, financially..etc.  They’re very judgmental and believe that people have “fixed” traits. A fixed mindset person doesn’t believe that skills can be developed in people. This fixed mindset serves as a false cover to protect a fragile ego that has been built around specific beliefs about yourself and other people. For example, your mother may have always told you that you were good in math (and you always did well) but when the opportunity arose to take a harder math course where you would most likely make a “C,’ instead of an “A,” you chose not to take it. Why? Because your  self worth was on the line and you had to protect it. You believed that if you didn’t perform well at every level in math, that you’re not really that good after all. And that meant you were a failure. The myth of natural talent has deceived many. Although you may be born with a certain amount of natural talent, it will be your dedication to honing it that will determine how successful you are. We only hear about the end of breakthroughs and clever inventions, never knowing all the hard work it took to accomplish them.
Study after study in the book confirmed that these mindsets drastically effect how we approach life. There are certain ways to speak that put others in a growth or a fixed mind state. In one example, there were two teams at a corporation that were given a task. One team was told that they were going to be judged by how well they performed on the project and the other was told that the project was challenging and it was going to take some real effort to accomplish the task. The former group did not perform well and the latter group did. The growth mindset group was told beforehand that the task would be challenging and would require a good bit of effort to accomplish their task. This information got their wheels turning and made them look forward to the process and challenge of learning something new. The fixed mindset group was automatically put on the defense because they felt they were being judged, which produced anxiety and a sense that they had to protect their identities.
In another example,  2nd grade children from inner city schools (who were performing below grade level) were given a growth mindset curriculum and ended up on a 5th grade level by the end of the year. Time after time, children with growth mindset teachers or coaches ended up outperforming their peers by leaps and bounds because they were not bound to an expected end or labeled. (Labeling is often a self-fulfilling prophecy) instead they were fastened into a belief that everyone is able to learn and grow despite any background. And learn and grow, they did. The study also found that many teachers had already assessed their students before they even met them and labeled students by their prior test scores without even meeting them. This is often to cover the teachers lack of ability to inspire learning. This labeling (or mislabeling) lets teachers know which students are going to “get it,” and which students will not. But a growth mindset classroom is founded on the belief that everyone can become more intelligent (more caring, loving, aware, skilled..etc) with hard work and practice.
shutterstock_142211005image credit: Shutterstock
This book effected me in such a huge way because it exposed my own perfectionistic thinking that saw things through a lens of either success or failure. A mindset where I subconsciously labeled people and myself which limited me in many different ways. But the truth is that there is something that you can learn from each person you encounter, from the janitor to the CEO. In this book, I saw many examples of CEO’s who failed because they refused to grow. They would fire their second in command because they were threatened by innovative ideas. Their value and worth was inherently tied to them always performing the best, having the best ideas and outshining everyone. To protect that belief about themselves, they fired or belittled change agents and led the company’s they were running into financial ruin. This book freed me up to not see myself as a finished product ever, but to embrace the process of learning, which is often difficult and requires risk. Natural talent has been praised so much in our culture but hard work is most often the engine that’s really running the car. Michael Jordan was given as an example in the text and the fact that he was cut from his high school basketball team. Michael didn’t say “How can they not see how talented I am?! They must be blind!” No, instead he went to work to improve his game. He continued to improve and become one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He even tried baseball, which lets us know that he was not afraid to be involved in something where he was the underdog. For him, the goal was growth, and that should be our goal as well!. Success is a by-product of being willing to see yourself as ever evolving and not allowing yourself to become too attached to these ideas that you’re somehow better or more deserving than the next person. These ideas only provide a false sense of self-esteem. And when things are too easy, you should find something else to challenge you, so you can always be in a state of growing and learning.
Dr. Dweck designed a curriculum called Brainology that teaches children about how the brain functions and how to work with it and other learning strategies that support the growth mindset. I’m going through it and learning so much! I hope you’ll pick up this book, it’s an enlightening read! Check out her Ted Talk that inspired me to read her book!

  • Wow, this is really good. So many biblical principles and truth contained in those statements as well. God does a growth mindset because of how we were created and what His will is.

    Great stuff!

  • Robin Rue

    This sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for the review.

  • Emerald112

    I agree with you Lamar! God is definitely the founder of the growth mindset and through Him we can achieve what we couldn’t in our own strength. I also believe that sometimes we sit back and wait for God to move when he has empowered us with information to move ourselves. God only does what we cannot do.

  • I just finished watching her ted talk… love the idea of a “Not yet” grade! I would have done so much better in school if this was applicable. I totally agree with @lamargibbs:disqus I find that when I am ready to learn a truth it will stick like glue but if I am just not ready yet it’s unbelievable difficult.
    I can see what drew you to read this book!

  • TED Talks are my favorite. We should all incorporate the “Not Yet” grade in all schools. I love the Growth Mindset. I hope to raise our kids for YET not just for now.

  • i have to comment again: I love Carol Dweck! So much common sense in what she says. I just wish more schools administrations would recognize it and encourage kids to have this mindset. Ok. … I’ll get off my soap box now! lol

  • Brionna G

    I have to train myself to have a growth mindset. I am so use to everything being fixed that it is time for a change.

  • Mama to 5 Blessings

    What great information. I think we are all growing and I myself would love to change in many ways.

  • Milena Milani Barrett

    This is so fascinating! I love the video too!

  • This is interesting especially with the kids. I think if you challenge anyone they can exceed our expectations.

  • Laura Funk

    I have used this Ted talk in my classes and discussed growth mindset. Thanks for the post

  • maria @ close to home

    This seems like an interesting read. I need to find ways to broaden my mind and keep learning .

  • Ah I love Ted talks. Not sure I’ve seen this one, though!
    It’s an interesting read. My mom is an artist/art teacher and we have often talked about whether or not people are born with gifts and how they develop them.

  • Rebecca Bryant

    Fascinating. The video is really awesome as well. thank you for this.

  • Emerald112

    Laura! I’m so happy that you use the growth mindset within your classroom. I think that it should be a mandatory part of every schools’s curriculum! @laurafunk:disqus

  • Emerald112

    Cheryl! I am so happy that this message connected with you! The proof is in the research and we should always put our children in the most favorable position by equipping them with a growth mindset. As I’m learning more and more through Brainology, I can use these techniques in my own life and when I’m teaching my own children.

  • Emerald112

    I love Ted Talks too Tamara! They really have a way of connecting us with thought leaders who are doing groundbreaking research that we all can use to improve our everyday lives!

  • Roaming Family

    This sounds very interesting- thanks so much for sharing!

  • It’s great to see that hard work can be just as effective as natural talent. Michael Jordan was a great example.

  • TheNewClassy

    I’ll have to read this! I love self-motivating books!

  • QuestionableChoices

    Love Ted Talks This sounds like a really fascinating book! I’m sure it will help a lot of people!

  • Saving Common Cents

    I’m particular about the types of self-help or motivational books I really like (and learn from). This one sounds like a good read. I really like the concept of how our Mindset really effects our whole outlook in life!

  • Censie ‘Mumby’ Sawyer

    I will need to look into this. I love finding books that help me grow.

  • I remember Dr. Dweck from grad school. If you enjoyed her book, you should check out some of her research articles. They’ll blow your mind, lol!

  • Stephanie Glover

    This sounds like an interesting book! I have a son who sees things as either success or fail. Maybe this would help me help him broaden his way of thinking.

  • As a former teacher, I can see how the growth mindset approach would produce much better results. Just needs to be implemented more.

  • Ted talks always inspire me! I need to try to read this book. I really love motivational type books.

  • Melissa Vera

    Wow this sounds like a great book to read. I am always looking for great motivational books. Thanks for recommending this.

  • Sounds like a good book, really deep. I tend to read more novels though but I have friends who are totally into books like these.

  • Trisha Grimes

    This sounds like an interesting read and I’d love to add the book to my reading list! I’kk have to see if I can pick it up on Amazon.

  • NYCTechMommy

    Seems like a very interesting read. Very motivational. I need to pick up this book 🙂

  • Debbie Denny

    Very interesting. Really makes you think. Good review

  • RoseSiders

    This sounds like a great book. I am adding it to my reading list now. Thanks for the review!

  • Interesting. Sounds like a great way to open your mind to the other side. From the diagram, I seem to be a bit of both sides.

  • Ayesha Fatin

    Hey Emerald! This is very interesting. I am a firm believer in your mindset determines effects your success and who you are as a person. The hard thing for me is changing my mindset. This book sounds like it is worth a read. 🙂

  • IThoughtIKnewMama

    This looks really interesting. I love personal development books and will check it out.

  • Hey Emerald!

    After reading your thorough review on “Mindset,” I feel like I just have to read it.

    I would like to think that I have a growth mindset, but in many ways I admit that I have a fixed mindset. I believe we are conditioned to believe some areas in our lives are “fixed,” be it through formal education, upbringing, or otherwise. I was “labeled” a certain way early on in elementary school, and it made me believe things about myself that may or may not have been true. But these “labels” have affected so many decisions I have made in life.

    It’s very interesting how differently the groups of 2nd graders performed on their projects—according to how the projects were presented to them. It makes me wonder if the school system my children are in affects their learning and mindset as well. Even more, it makes me wonder how my fixed mindset, labeling, and beliefs are affecting my children.

    This was a great post that inspires so many thoughts and questions for me, Emerald. Hopefully I will be able to grab up the book soon. We should definitely talk about this more in-depth!

  • Wendy Kaufman

    This is fascinating. Great insight for those of us raising children! It’s great to think that we can affect how they develop their own unique talents.

  • My hubs played pro ball. Talent was definitely a factor, but so was all that hard work!

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