Two summers ago our MAK faculty read the book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, by Carol Dweck, and since then some of the precepts espoused in that text have seeped into our school’s language. The premise of the book, which can be seen visually here, is that we should have a growth mindset rather than a fixed one. We should see failures as opportunities for improvement rather than monuments to our inadequacies. We should see effort as the best route to success. We should be inspired by others’ successes rather than let them make us feel dumb or unaccomplished. Many of these elements clearly resonate with what I’ve written in this space.
But in our staff discussions on the book, one criticism of the text kept emerging. As seen in the title, the ultimate aim of having a growth mindset is success. True accomplishment. Steve Jobs, for example, had a growth mindset, and look at Apple. And those who have a fixed mindset may have found wealth for a time, but after a while it all came crashing down, Blockbuster style, if they weren’t willing to change and grow. What our staff kept pointing out, however, was that our goal at Morrison isn’t about the money or the fame. In fact, paradoxically, the idea that ‘having a growth mindset is how you can really be successful’ is in a way a fixed concept. It’s just a different means to the same end.
The fact that a number of our staff jumped all over this problem is in my mind a testament to our approach as a Christian school. Sure, having a growth mindset and being innovative will help our students have the tools to compete in future workplaces. I cited this as a major reason for valuing collaborative work in my last entry. It’s marketable!
But that end product is not what it’s all for. Our hope at Morrison (our vision) is that our students might be able to have a dynamic impact on the world for Christ. The tools for having a ‘dynamic impact’ are many of the same tools espoused by Carol Dweck. Having a growth mindset is incredibly valuable in leadership and in bringing about change. Being a creative and innovative thinker is how one can have a true impact. But true ‘change’ and ‘impact’ aren’t often about money or fame. We hope those values are about something much deeper than that.
To take it even further, it’s really rather what we do along the way – our process if you will – that counts the most. The means is the end in this way. If we do things right and with the right motives, that’s where we can find truest success. I will celebrate the accomplishments of a graduate who ingeniously ministers to and meets the needs of the poor before the graduate who goes into law just for the money. And I will celebrate the graduate who uses her gifts in medicine to creatively help the suffering, or the graduate who humbly pours into the spiritual lives of first graders, before I celebrate the one who makes a great living in real estate because it’s the best way to find financial security. And what’s best of all – what God looks at; the crowning achievement regardless of outcome – is the character that gets them there. Don’t get me wrong. Having a great career is not a bad thing at all, and our students are very well equipped for one. But my prayer is that our graduates don’t lose sight of the point of it all. As they make use of their considerable gifts and the tools they’ve been given, I pray that they do so creatively and innovatively and fearlessly, yes, but also meaningfully.