Learning / Nerdery / Plastic Kingdom

By the Power of Learning!

So I’m taking an online class called “Creativity: Music to My Ears“, led by Tina Seelig, a Stanford professor who is dedicated to the notion that anyone can be creative, that it’s not a talent some possess innately. It started today, and after watching the first 20-minute lecture, I am incredibly inspired. One of the additional resources listed this week is this video, in which she says, “Never miss an opportunity to be fabulous,” meaning every day we have opportunities to shine. I immediately wrote this phrase on my dry erase board on my desk, above my He-Man comic and an inspirational daily quote that says, “Reminder: you have the power.” (I don’t think the originator of the email was referring to He-Man, but I draw parallels to my geeky life where I can.)

I also read this article about a fixed mindset vs. a growth mindset after a friend shared it on Facebook. Interesting stuff! I hope you take the time to read it, but in case you don’t, here’s the Cliffs Notes version. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck explored the theory that whichever mindset you possess greatly impacts your perception of success and failure and your approach to problem-solving. Dweck writes,

A “fixed mindset” assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way, and success is the affirmation of that inherent intelligence, an assessment of how those givens measure up against an equally fixed standard; striving for success and avoiding failure at all costs become a way of maintaining the sense of being smart or skilled. A “growth mindset,” on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness.

In her two decades of research, she found that people who had a fixed mindset found the need to constantly prove themselves worthy, whereas those with a growth mindset see their current state as dynamic, and any knowledge they don’t possess or skill they haven’t mastered is merely an opportunity to expand. What she discovered in studying schoolchildren was that this influenced how teachers delivered test results. Delivering the message, “You did very well; you must be very smart!” directed the children into a fixed mindset. Delivering the message, “You did very well; you must have worked very hard!” directed the children into a growth mindset. Those with a fixed mindset are not likely to raise their hand if they don’t know the answer, whereas those with a growth mindset took the risk. If they were wrong, the teacher or one of their peers would give them the right answer, so they learn. What’s the risk?

I used to be squarely in the fixed mindset. When I was a kid, school came very easy to me. I rarely had to study, and teachers praised me for being the top of my class. Whenever I missed a question on a test or made a lower grade than I wanted, I saw that as failure. I wasn’t as smart as I thought.

I still get that way sometimes as an adult, but not as much as I used to. If I’m being honest, I think it’s because I used to be around a lot of people who had a fixed mindset, who always needed to prove themselves. The past few months, I’ve been around those with a growth mindset, and I’ve learned the value of not knowing. I’m working on the biggest project of my career, and there’s a TON I don’t know right now. It’s scary, but having unknowns has forced me to look at things from multiple angles.

Tina Seelig, in the first lecture for the course I’m taking, talks about an innovation engine, and one of the components is attitude. She says that most people see themselves as puzzle builders, and that if they see a piece missing, they can’t finish the puzzle. I see this all the time. Hell, I’ve seen it in myself many times. “I can’t do it. I don’t have all the answers,” has been my mantra. I’ll admit it–I’m not very good at taking risks. My mom told me once that when I was a baby, I didn’t want to crawl. I didn’t want to move around until I could walk. I’ve carried this inability to not immediately be good at things through to adulthood. I’m getting better.

If you’re interested in taking the 6-week class, it’s totally free, and there’s a team component down the road. You can even audit it to get the information but not do any of the projects. I have to create an autobiographical album cover for my first project. I wonder if there’ll be any toys or comics on it? *wink*

If you do decide to take the class, let me know. I’d love to connect with you! Then, you’ll experience firsthand my being totally geeky about stuff other than comics and toys.

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