Why is it that success comes so easily to some people and is so hard to come by for others? There are also others who are considered ‘one-hit wonders’. These are people who succeeded once but have never been able to make a mark since then.
According to Stanford Professor Carol Dweck, success is often dependent on your mindset. According to Dweck, there are two basic ways to view success: the ‘fixed mindset’ and the ‘growth mindset’. Those with fixed mindsets believe that success is determined by innate ability, while those with growth mindsets attribute success to hard work, perseverance and developed skills. Depending on how one weighs the importance of innate ability versus hard work for success, each person may be placed on a continuum between these two mindsets. While those who lean toward the fixed mindset tend to view obstacles and setbacks as limitations on their abilities, those with growth mindsets view them as challenges to be overcome. Having a growth mindset thus allows one to adjust and approach problems from multiple angles, facilitating success in the long term.
Professor Dweck’s theory could partially explain the hunger and motivation that drive some entrepreneurs to succeed again and again. Entrepreneurs with ‘fixed mindset’ do not necessarily put in less effort than those with ‘growth mindset’. However, they often become discouraged by failure, as they view it to be beyond their control. They do not see the correlation between effort and results.
On the other hand, entrepreneurs with growth mindsets do not fear failure. To them, failure just means that they need to employ a different strategy. These individuals are more adaptable and ready to learn from their past mistakes.
Educators believe that the environment that an entrepreneur grows up in is likely to influence the nurturing of either of these mindsets. For example, parents who encourage their children solely with words like ‘clever’, ‘intelligent’ or ‘beautiful’ are likely to reinforce fixed mindset. This is because such words mean innate abilities that have nothing to do with what they do. On the other hand, words of encouragement for a child’s hard work, for instance, tells the child that the appreciation was earned. This is likely to nurture a ‘growth mindset’ in the child.
More specifically, there are several factors that can contribute to the mindset a child nurtures through their childhood.
Cultural: One of the most popular verses from the Hindu book of Bhagwad Gita reads “Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana” which roughly translates to ‘Do your duty without expecting results’. Similar verses and proverbs can be found in many other holy books and poems that advice followers on obedience and doing your duty. Could a religious or cultural upbringing instill a fixed mindset to kids at a younger age? This is an area that has not been studied extensively.
Loving What You Do: A lot of successful entrepreneurs attribute their success to their love for what they do. Yoav Kutner, who is currently the CEO of Oro, and has previously founded a number of successful companies including Magento, MageCore and Varien, says the love for coding was the reason why he could replicate his success over and over again. “When I started with software, the idea that I could manipulate code and make the machine do what I programmed was amazing to me”, he is quoted saying. Could Kutner’s belief that the success of his company came from the code he wrote be driving his growth mindset?
Upbringing: The upbringing of a child can have an immense impact on the way they view success and failure. As a kid, Richard Branson helped his parents hustle on the side to build a tissue box business. His parents also imparted lessons on being independent by letting a four year old Branson find his way home without assistance. In his book, Richard Branson attributes the lessons he learned through these experiences to have given him the confidence and hunger to succeed.
Thinking Big: It is not easy to cultivate a ‘think big’ mentality. Most people think realistically (for the lack of a better word). They look at problems that inevitably exist and it is in our nature to fear these problems. This leads to procrastination, negative thinking, the habit of making excuses and over-analyzing situations. All of these are known to inhibit growth. Unlike regular entrepreneurs who think short term and take risk averse decisions to maintain status quo, successful serial entrepreneurs are equipped to scale their businesses up without over-thinking the consequences. Bigger businesses come with bigger problems, but this does not hinder their perseverance. In some way, the ‘think big’ mentality may be tied in with other reasons above that contribute to a person not thinking big enough.
Most of the factors above are experiential in nature and so it is within our control to shape how these experiences are handled. But changing your perspective is not always an easy thing to do. In such cases, it is recommended to hire a professional or a mentor to help you out. In any case, it is important to understand that your mindset may be conditioned and so it is never late to start working on your own aspirations to be a successful serial entrepreneur.