Monday, October 23, 2017

Talk at Silver Oaks - The Mindset, How to Learn and Get Better

A talk at Silver Oaks on 31 July, 2017. I forgot to complete the post because things got too hectic around that period. Ms. Seetha Murthy who was with me on the TED Talk at VNR VJIET some years ago invited me to speak in their speaker series and I was only too happy to go. I decided to speak about the Mindset - Dr. Carol Dweck's concept which I thought was the corner stone for every kind of a learning and perhaps dwell some on the concept of Secure and Insecure leaders and people and what makes them so.
On the dais
It was a lovely campus. I just about managed to reach there - thanks to some unexpected traffic snarls. A huge hall was filled with about 500 children. The sound system was perfect.  I started off with a small cricketing anecdote - how my friend Venkatapathy Raju and I, both got the same start but how he went ahead to play for India. The difference I said was our Mindset - Fixed and Growth Mindset. That was the beginning of every speaker's nightmare. All the kids shouted that they knew about Growth Mindset and Fixed Mindset. After a moment of being taken aback - I asked them what they knew about it. They shared some view points. Not all of them were bang on - or coincided with my understanding of the Mindset so I decided to share my thoughts on it.
The disciplined audience
I shared my perspective of a fixed mindset and growth mindset. That a fixed mindset has limiting ideas about intelligence or talent, has this overwhelming desire to prove they are smart, that to them smart means achieving things easily, easily means no effort (effort is not cool), effort means not smart. This would lead to a stagnation of skill and would reflect on the performance, finds it difficult to handle setbacks and subsequently takes lower challenges. The fixed mindset blames other factors and takes no responsibility for the failure, not take feedback, be jealous of other people's success and over a period does not do justice to his potential. The mindset is fixed on trying to prove they are smart.
Another view
That growth or learning mindset is one where the student only wants to learn, that any shortfall in performance can be met through greater effort, wants to compete in greater challenges because they give them a scope to learn more and challenge themselves, sees effort as the key to mastery. Setbacks and dealt with greater effort. Feedback is sought to improve oneself, seeks lessons in others successes. Over a period of time, they tend to achieve their potential. The mindset is focused on learning.
Making a point
The idea that one could say - I don't know - as the first step to learning was discussed. Secure people are secure in their knowledge of what they know and what they do not. They find it easy to say they do not know and do not wish to prove that they know everything. The difference between a secure person and an insecure person is just that - one is ok with the truth and not knowing while the other tries to act like he knows everything even when he does not know. It makes them difficult to handle in teams and as managers or subs because they are constantly insecure.
Meeting the cricket team
Tying in with the idea of the learning mindset I urged the children to be comfortable saying I don't know because it gives them a lot of freedom for the burden of knowing. It opens to door to learning. Even if they know - it is but one perspective - and they can still ask many questions. The route to learning is through questions and not by knowing answers. They should have more questions than answers.
Cricket coaches
There were several questions from the children after the talk. One was interesting - when I explained about strengths and weaknesses and how champions focus 80% on strengths and 20% on weaknesses - one child asked me if she should only focus on one subject and not the weak ones. I told her that we normally do try to score maximum in our strong areas first, secure that space, and then work on doing the best we can in areas that are not so strong. The idea that if we were to throw a ball in a competition - would we use the strong hand or the weak hand was presented. So many more questions but this was a tricky one.
The Vice Principal, Director and others 
I met the cricket team members, the coaching staff, the teachers and then we went to eat some fine breakfast in the canteen where we had a long chat. I promised the cricket team that I would be happy to come by for one of their net sessions and they said they would call me before their inter-school games started. It was a fine initiative and Ido wish schools do this a lot more - children learn so much from different perspectives and should be exposed to it more and more.

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