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  • Ninay Desai

Fixed and Growth Mindsets

This morning I read an article on a website called The Marginalian about the difference between fixed and growth mindsets which I would recommend to all of you.

It makes the point that believing intelligence, character and personality to be static and unchangeable as opposed to attributes that can be developed through effort and learning is an attitudinal difference that colours our lives to an extent beyond what we commonly believe.


Naturally, I applied these ideas to myself. I believe I have a growth mindset in terms of intelligence now but less so in terms of character and personality. That wasn’t always the case. Earlier when it came to decisions of education and career, I often took the easier path where I could just coast along. For instance, my idea was to saunter my way to the top five in my class rather than putting in an extra effort to make it to the top. “Can do better” was a staple remark in my report cards. At the time, my fixed mindset felt like a good gig because it made me feel intelligent without swotting for exams. Over the years, my outlook in this regard has changed. I now actively pursue learning about things I don’t know or understand.

The process of learning gives me satisfaction whether it is reading a short post about the Bootstrap Paradox (check it out if you find time travel intriguing), the art of Hygge, a video about spacetime or an article about extended metaphors in literature. Don’t get me wrong, I don't understand most of what spacetime means. Very few do. But that’s okay, I tell myself, because today I comprehend more than I did yesterday. That ability to be okay with failure or not understanding is, to me, the crux of the Growth Mindset. As Winston Churchill said famously,

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

He may as well have been talking about the growth mindset. No matter how gradual the incline, I’m happy to be climbing. Not because it proves how smart I am though I must say that, when the opportunity presents itself, I do flex a wee bit!

Growth Mindset

However, the fixed mindset that I inhabited in other spheres of my life made me risk-averse to a degree that I stayed in a job that I stopped enjoying about six years ago. While the independence afforded by a monthly pay cheque cannot be discounted, it would be dishonest to pretend that it was a matter of urgent concern for me, given my savings over the years. It was more the trepidation of whether or not I could do something else well enough to get paid for it, that gave me pause. That doubt was enough to stop me in my tracks every time I thought I’d had enough of working for a media house where the only real challenge was to stomach the depths to which we were sinking, in terms of both content and standard operating practices. The fixed mindset made me settle for the dregs of what was instead of daring to leap for what may be. This, when I had no debt, no major expenses and enough savings to see me through at least a few years if not more. Basically, I have no excuses to offer for my lack of courage.

Serendipitously, near the end of 2020, a friend of mine, Smriti sent me a PDF version of a book on agriculture. It's a subject that doesn't interest me. However, she urged me to read this 146-page book. I tried to avoid it because reading on my laptop felt too annoying. But she persisted. Eventually, to indulge her and with the gentle support of the growth-oriented side of myself, I decided to read One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka.

For those who have read it, everything I say about it will pale in comparison to the praise this book deserves and also, fail to encompass the entirety of what it is about. I submit to their criticism in advance, mostly because I agree with them. To those who have not yet read One Straw Revolution and might be more forgiving, let me just say that it is a book about how farming can yield the greatest rewards if we would just yield to Nature and her ways – those of no tilling, no weeding, no insecticides amongst others.

Needless to say, this kind of farming requires less effort even as it carries the risk of a few years of blighted crops and the scorn of naysayers. Fukuoka is something of a legend of the field (no pun intended) and his many years of learning are distilled into his philosophy of ‘do-nothing’ farming. As you can imagine, the ‘do-nothing’ bit appealed to my fixed mindset and lazy self! How did this book affect me? Well, I haven’t turned to farming and nor do I intend to. However, Fukuoka’s book is one of great subtlety or at least that is how I perceived it. To quote Edmund Wilson,

No two persons ever read the same book.”

I believe that to be true even for people who read the same book twice. And the person I was when I read One Straw Revolution saw it as a spur to release control over my instinct to break away from what no longer satisfied me. To stop subjugating myself to an artificial idea of security which sheaths a fear of losing relevance and identity. And so, I resigned from a job I had held for more than fifteen years in the hope that I would be brave enough to try something new, fail, learn and slowly and eventually, succeed. Here’s hoping…

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3 comentários

02 de jun. de 2023


Ninay Desai
Ninay Desai
02 de jun. de 2023
Respondendo a

I'm glad you liked it.


26 de abr. de 2023

Very well written Ninay.

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