Did you know that Albert Einstein was not able to speak until he was four years old and his teachers said he would ‘never amount to much’? The Beatles were rejected by a record company who said they ‘didn’t like their sound’ and they ‘had no future in show business’. Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for ‘lacking imagination’ and ‘having no original ideas’. Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she ‘wasn’t fit for television’. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and Beethoven ‘s music teacher once told him that he was a ‘hopeless composer’.
How would things have been if they had not persevered?
A few years ago, I watched in amazement as two men conquered a free climb that had previously been considered impossible. After 19 straight days of clinging and climbing, they scaled the dizzy heights of the Dawn Wall on El Capitane. To be successful, they had to complete all 32 pitches in succession, without returning to the valley floor in between. That meant living for nearly three weeks on the side of the rock! So, what allowed them to succeed where others hadn’t? What gave them the strength to eat, sleep and climb for 19 days when their hands were bleeding and they were in severe pain? Quite simply – a growth mindset! They learned, practised and persevered until they achieved their aim – to scale a previously impossible climb.
As a child, I had a fixed mindset and would often give things up because I wasn’t ‘as good’ as others around me. I believed that my ability was carved in stone. I viewed challenges as risky because I could fail, and I was terrified of people viewing me as stupid. As an adult I am slowly coming to realise that success has much more to do with perseverance and a lot less to do with ‘being good’ at something.
I have discovered that persevering and developing a growth mindset brings me a great deal of peace and contentment. With a growth mindset, I hold the view that talents and abilities can be developed and that challenges are the way to do it. Learning something new, something hard, sticking to things—that’s how I improve. Setbacks and feedback are information I use to help me learn. Now, don’t get me wrong – I am not going to be able to win a gold medal at the Olympics if I take up running today, but I might be able to run a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon and maybe even a marathon if I approach running with a growth mindset and persevere.
I don’t think that I have met anyone in life who hasn’t come up against adversities and setbacks – these appear to be part of living a full life and I want to be happy despite the setbacks and adversities I face. As an adult I am no longer afraid of failing and have discovered that there is something truly wonderful about persevering, dealing with setbacks and then achieving. I think Jackson Kiddard put it beautifully when he said: