Growing out of the Box

I have been invited by Don Bosco Publication, which reaches out to families and communities globally, to share my thoughts on the theme ‘Accompany the Youth for a Bright Future’. My previous post for the publication was focussed on how families can ensure they have a better chance of their children bringing forward the best versions of themselves, and this time around, I have decided to share some of my learnings on the topic of embracing a Growth Mindset.

I was watching a Vinod Khosla interview recently. For the uninitiated, he is amongst the bigger Indian names in Silicon Valley with immense contributions to the ecosystem as an Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist; and who even at 62 years of age, still continues to learn and hustle at a pace which would put most folks half his age to shame. From the interview, in Vinod’s words: “One of the really interesting things I have observed is that how nothing you learn is relevant to what you end up doing. But what is really important is to be able to go into any area and learn about it very rapidly”.

As someone who is super curious, excited and always learning about ventures, businesses and scaling them, in a day and age where changes (technological, demographic, political etc) happen at lightning pace, I couldn’t help but dwell on as to how important Vinod’s advice was.

I have discussed with some leading educators in India incl the leadership at my Alma Mater, St. Columba’s School, New Delhi* as to how important it is for us to plan for the entire generation of students who will be going through the rigor of our current education system, and whether they will be equipped for the world they step into 13 years from now. If we were to turn back time by just 10 yrs, the world had just got it’s official first commercial smartphone (Thank you, Steve Jobs) and within a decade of this, we are now seeing what is the Smartphone Revolution. With the advent of Artificial Intelligence and Automation, Driver-less Cars, Inter-planetary Space TravelHumans merging with Machines and other changes still unknown and in the offing, the world is expected to accelerate at a much rapid pace, than ever before. I will stay away from specific domains which might/ might not be relevant for the youth 13-15-20 years from now, but instead focus on what might be helpful to them no matter where their interests align.

One can’t stress enough as to how many times we all have been at places where we feel we have fixed abilities or talents, and we more or less accept the version of ourselves that has been handed out to us by ourselves and the external world, rarely seeking our way out of our cocoons to learn more about who we really are. With such an internal belief system, it will be difficult for us to adapt, let alone thrive, in such a changing world. At such times, it would serve us well to remember that one can improve upon and master any skill set one might be internally drawn to (different from others telling us which skill sets we ought to master), regardless of how we fare the first few attempts. This entails embracing what is termed the ‘Growth Mindset’.

You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!  | Picture Credit : Rocky Movie Official Page, Facebook
“You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!” | Picture Credit : Rocky Movie Official Page, Facebook

The Growth Mindset is different from a Fixed Mindset in that on being faced with minor setbacks, one knows that one has not just succeeded yet at mastering the skill and is willing to put in the deliberate practice required to reach the level desired, not getting disheartened by the setbacks but looking on them as feedback as to where one needs to improve further. Those with a Fixed mindset on the other hand look at setbacks as final sentences and labels, telling themselves that maybe they were just born with fixed amount of intelligence, talent or ability; and that the setback means this skill-set is not meant for them, or will make them look dumb for not being able to master it quickly. If folks like Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs, J K Rowling, Michael Jordan, Eminem etc had just given up on what they wanted to do the times they were told they were not good enough (yet), the world sure would have been a whole lot different today.

As families, one way to ensure we are supporting the youngsters right is to ensure we cheer their efforts to make progress as against compliment them on their innate skills such as intelligence or ability. In fact, it has been found that simply praising youngsters for their innate talents actually takes them off on the road to true learning, as they want to protect the image that they now have of themselves. Wherein when we are encouraging a growth mindset in individuals, we see them taking on more challenges to get better at what they are trying to achieve. Do note that empty praise for just trying or simply telling youngsters they have what it takes, tends to not much results or achievement at the end of the day.

Fun Fact : For 85+% of my life till date, I have been on the ‘healthier’ side. I was the kid in school who consciously stayed away from track events esp and believed anything which involved moving my generous weight from point A to point B, oscillating through feelings of death, desolation and despair, was not meant for me. : )

If anyone had told me in Nov 2015, that not only was I going to publicly declare my attempt at a Half Marathon towards a cause, but post completing my First Half Marathon (21.1 Km), I would also end up doing a Full Marathon (42.2 Km) and then an Ultra Marathon (50 Km) within my first year of attempting long distance running, (Less than 2 percent of the world’s population has attempted, let alone complete, a Half Marathon); I would have simply laughed it off, dismissing even the idea of something like that happening in a parallel universe. If someone like ‘me’ can manage to do this and grin at the end of it, so can you – i.e. if you have the curiosity and the foolhardiness to test what you are capable of achieving, should you be willing to put yourself in a position where you can fail publicly and spectacularly.

Here’s an instagram which shows how well my training for my First Ultra Marathon went during the same year:

During your practice runs, by the 11th km, you now notice your palms getting pale & wrinkled as if you have kept them soaked in water for hours – You check with your friends in #WDR (West Delhi Runners) who suggest your body is probably undergoing acute dehydration.

Given you can’t change the weather, quitting training is not an option (you don’t want to embarrass yourself, or let others down, on the day) & you certainly don’t intend to die attempting this, you just improvise & stock up on Electral to keep going – Attempting my 1st Ultra Marathon (50K) within my first year of long distance running, representing the kids at @9ism9, in just one more month.

* panic – never sure if it’s a good thing *

#FightUnfair #MakePovertyHistory #NineIsMine #UN #UNICEF #ChildRights #SDGs #RunJogWalkCrawl #BeBetterThanYouWereYest #NeverGiveUp #ConqueringSelf #ShockBadiCheezHain #AnElectralADayKeepsTheDoctorAway #TrainHard #DieAnotherDay

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So hey, keep smiling with your whites, and go ahead and do what you have to do – don’t worry about the falls, bruises, scars et all that you might encounter on your way forward – You have ‘no idea’ what you might achieve, and how many people you might inspire along the way. Take care, and keep winning!

* Amongst other honors, Monce has been invited by his Alma Mater Leadership to serve on the Platinum Jubilee Core Committee (PJCC) of St. Columba’s School, New Delhi on the momentous occasion of 75 years of the institution. Monce has previously also been part of the Official Trust of the institution, in the capacity of Exec Secretary.