Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Talk at the Institute of Public Enterprise - January 12, 2017

Prof. Narendranath Menon remains one of our favorite Profs from our MBA days at the Osmania University College of Commerce and Business Management (1989-91). Prof. Menon is still the same, hasn't aged seemingly, has that restless gait, a mischievous grin and an air of sharp intelligence around him. He is also the kind who remembers things and people simply because he is thoughtful enough and pays attention and I was glad he remembered me after all these years.  After we renewed contact at our Alumni meet he was kind enough to invite me over to speak at the IPE where he now teaches. The IPE is a huge, handsome building right opposite NALSAR in Shameerpet and I loved the campus and the building.
Me and prof. Narendranath Menon - This is where it started
I wanted to share the concept of the 'Mindset' with the students because I think it helps a lot at this stage on their career to be aware of the learning mindset and the fixed mindset. And thereon create a path based on growth and learning.

The speech flowed in this fashion

Life - Pre-Mindset and Post- Mindset
That my life has been pre-mindset and post-mindset and so could theirs.

In the pre-mindset stage we have the following questions
1) How to succeed?
2) Are we are good enough? and
3) If we are not good enough, is there any way we can become good enough.

Do we have the intelligence and the talent to make it big? To achieve the life we are scared of dreaming up for ourselves?

Its a frustrating experience to not know the answers while we struggle along. And when we are at the end of our academic career almost.

The Mindset answers these questions and shows an empowering way out of this confusion.  It shows a clear path to the chap at the bottom of the class to outperform those who are leading the pack today.

My Story - Fixed Mindset and Failure
I shared my cricketing story. Of how I walked the path to be a first class cricketer rather easily and then lost my way at the final hurdle. The things that had stood me in good stead - a good coach and mentor, a good peer group, a good work ethic - were abandoned and my performance dipped. Instead of seeking answers and correcting myself I slowly sabotaged my career even before it began. End of story. The wrong mindset is purely to blame. Not politics as a lot of people think.

How The Mindset Could Have saved Me - And Can Save The Students Now
"The Mindset - A New Psychology of Winning" by Dr. Carol Dweck opened my eyes to what I had missed. I had been infected by the Fixed Mindset (thoughts that I could not ask for help or work hard because I was 'talented' or because I was 'supposed to know') so much that I could not seek help when I knew I badly needed it. If I had adopted the learning mindset I could have rectified the debilitating mistake in one hour with a good coach. I could have then worked hard at it with the new guidance and recovered lost ground. What could have been set right in a session or a month cost me an entire career. As simple as that - what had come in the way was my belief that I 'should know' and hence 'I will not ask'. Also that since I am 'talented' I cannot not know such basic issues. And if I am talented I should not be working hard because talented people do not work hard.

Highlights of The Mindset
Intelligence grows as you use it. So don't paint yourself into a corner based on your performance now.

A failure is not the end of the world. It is a blip in a long journey you have ahead of you. All growth comes through failures anyway so don't worry about one failure. (However try not to make the same mistake twice. Make new mistakes which is a sign of growth. Making the same old mistakes shows that you are not learning.)

The key to success is: hard work + growth oriented learning.

The Fixed Mindset
Let's consider the The Fixed Mindset.

  • A desire to look smart (Smart here is defined as doing things easily, the short cut seekers who believe they can show up and things get done easily by mere attitude or posturing. In our mind the hero is someone who walks in simply and scores the perfect ten, hits a hundred, saves the world - easily. So we mistakenly assume that's how it is done - easily. However what we miss is the fact that it is the result of hard work over the years. The heroes work very hard behind the scenes. Even the hero would have failed in his first attempt.)
  • By making such wrong connections, the Fixed Mindset person believes that hard work is pointless - definitely not for talented people like him or her.
  • Lack of effort leads to failure at a higher standard. 
  • Repeated failure and dropping performances at higher levels makes the person avoid bigger challenges and give up easily. 
  • This reflects in compromised ability, stagnation and even regression in skill, mental and physical capability. 
  • Gets defensive when pointed mistakes are out and ignores feedback.
  • This person is likely to get jealous of others success. 
  • The Fixed Mindset is about knowing the answers and showing how much he knows.

In the end, due to lack of a correcting mechanism, lack of purposeful, growth oriented effort the person fails to achieve his potential.

The Learning Mindset or the Growth Mindset
On the other hand the growth or learning mindset is highly empowering.

  • Here the person has no desire to prove that he is smart - the only desire is to learn. He has no desire to say he knows everything. 
  • He believes in effort, and not fancy words like intelligence and talent. When the results are not to satisfaction he will work doubly hard.
  • Since he works hard at his work, he loves challenges and likes to test his learning. 
  • He loves taking tougher challenges and grappling with them. How-far-can-I-go is his mindset and not how-will-I-look-to-the-others-if-I-fail.
  • The Learning Mindset people persist in the face of setbacks because they are keen to know how to crack the problem. 
  • This allows them to seek help to improve from any source, including competitors, without any ego issues. 
  • They learn from all criticism, from those who are doing better than themselves. 
  • They take lessons and inspiration from others and in the end do better than their potential

The learning mindset is about questions and increasing the limits of learning.

The learning mindset allows you to say you don;t know what you do not know and know what you know. The moment you say you do not know you buy yourself a lot of freedom to learn. All you need to do is say I do not know and the world is ready to help you. You can ask anyone.

The Growth Mindset is about hard work, high standards and equipping oneself with the right tools to handle the process.
This is their biggest strength. they do not hide their shortcomings.

How To Change from Fixed Mindset to a Growth Mindset

  • Ask for help
  • Learn the process
  • Do small acts that change things
  • Get mentors and coaches
  • Get over the-world-owes-me and denial (that you don't know)
  • Play against better players
  • Set high standards
  • Don't give up and instead make small progress daily
  • Find something harder to do when things are achieved easily.

The guy at the end of the line can slowly worm his way up the chain.
Success is a given for someone with this attitude and who puts in the effort. Clearly there is no escape from effort. But effort that is filled with learning makes the ride enjoyable - its no effort at all.

I left them with a thought - to look at themselves like a product, to price themselves based on their value, to position themselves and to promote themselves. If possible I would love to do the workshop for them on the 4 Ps that will help them gain more clarity in that process. The idea for me is to create secure people who can then easily become secure leaders.

Good luck then, students of the IPE. I would love to come back to the campus and interact with you all in a more relaxed manner. Thank you Prof. Narendranath Menon and hope to see you soon.

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