“What do you do?”
We’ve all been asked this question. Probably dozens if not hundreds of times. And if you’re like me, you always have to think about how you’re going to answer it because the response can be situational.
I’m a son. But I’m also a husband. A father. An author. A teacher. A podcaster. A radio DJ. An editor. A musician. A Pittsburgh Penguins fan. A Netflix junkie. And on, and on…
If you have a singular, dedicated profession, such as a doctor, you may find yourself always answering that way because it’s simple for people to process and contextualize. We all know what “doctor” means, whereas not everyone knows what a podcast is or what a podcaster does.
“What do you do?” cuts to the essence of mindset. Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, is probably the most thorough and lucid explanation of mindset. People with fixed mindsets believe that they are what they are. No amount of experience or education will change the core essence of what makes a person who they are. Growth mindset, however, is the idea that humans are constantly growing, changing, and learning. And that you can have multiple identities and they can change over time.
It’s not hard to see which camp I fall into and I’m guessing that if you’re reading this blog, then you are in the growth mindset camp, too.
Without a belief in hope, that we can better ourselves and the world around us, we’re left with a miserable experience. This is not to say a growth mindset is delusional.
At 48 years old and having never played basketball beyond eighth grade, I do not believe I could play in the NBA. No amount of training or practice would get me a contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, although recently, they might benefit from my wicked outside jump shot.
However, I could practice foul shots for hours each day, for months at a time. And I feel confident in saying that I could probably get my foul shot percentage up to 90% or higher (take that, Shaq) because I believe I could learn and improve against my previous self. And that is key.
Staying fixed is easy, requires little effort, and appears to be safe. If you become competent at something, then you never have to be vulnerable. You have a low risk of failure. However, a fixed mindset will eventually lead to boredom and disengagement.
You know what else has a “fixed mindset?” Bots—they do the same thing, all the time.
True growth is always relative to who you were, not measured against who someone else has become.
Other than the obvious benefits of having a growth mindset, other advantages come from adopting the practice.
You’ll discover other interests, hobbies, passions. You’ll start projects that you wouldn’t have attempted before, and in the pursuit of those, you’ll develop new talents and skill sets, which will then propel you into yet unforeseen directions.
As a businessperson, your growth mindset will provide revenue diversification, protection against having a sole source of income.
In your work, your days will always be interesting and engaging because you won’t be stuck doing the same thing for months, years, or decades, on end.
Mostly, I tell people, “I’m an author.” But I’m not just an author. And I’m sure I’ll be more than just an author 10 years from now.
What do you do?
Each week in this blog series, I’ll discuss what it means to live the author life, delving into topics about mindset, craft, audience, finance, publishing, self-improvement, spirituality, technology, and more.
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