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I Can Do Hard Things | Growth Mindset | Mindset Mondays

Michael Jordan is my favorite athlete of all time. I grew up watching him, and I devoured anything he put out, from his documentaries like Michael Jordan’s Playground and Come Fly With Me to his books like Rare Air.

The two biggest takeaways that I have from Jordan’s career are how his competitiveness drove him, and how much he wanted to learn and get better.

The Last Dance was a documentary that revolved around Jordan’s career with a particular emphasis on the 1997-98 season, his final with the Chicago Bulls. My favorite parts of the documentary were the college years because you heard from his teammates and coaches at the University of North Carolina about how hard he worked to get to where he got.

His college teammate, James Worthy said Jordan was a big-mouth, overly confident freshman when he came to UNC. At the time, James Worthy was the best player on the UNC team and one of the best players in the country. James said, “I was better than Michael Jordan … for about three weeks.”

His assistant coach at the time, Roy Williams, said "When I think of Michael Jordan, I think of 3 years of watching that youngster get BETTER and BETTER and BETTER.  Michael Jordan was the only player who could ever turn it on and off… and he NEVER turned it off."

His head coach Dean Smith said that Michael was very inconsistent as a freshman, but he was one of the most competitive ones that they had in their drills. He said that MJ WANTED to get better, and he had the ability to get better.

Michael Jordan was the definition of having a Growth Mindset.

Psychologist Carol Dweck has studied mindsets for years. In a talk with Google, she said, “Some people believe that their talents and abilities are just these fixed traits where you have a certain amount and that's it, but other people believe that talents and abilities can be developed through hard work, good strategies, and good mentoring from others.”

She also said that some people wilt in the face of failure and shy away from challenges, while others who are no more talented and capable embrace challenges and thrive in the face of failure.

The best athletes on the best teams have a growth mindset. A growth mindset is an optimistic belief that you can learn and get better with deliberate practice and time. 

It means that you are willing and able to learn how to do hard things.

But it starts with listening, learning, trying, and being willing to fail. When you have a fixed mindset, Dr. Dweck’s research shows that you might be afraid of challenges that might unmask your deficiencies and withdraw in the face of difficulties so that you don’t look or feel ‘stupid.’ People with a growth mindset, the idea that their abilities can be developed, are always looking for ways to get better by taking in challenges and seeing them through.

Dr. Dweck goes on to say, “A growth mindset doesn’t mean that everyone is the same and that they don’t differ in talent and ability. It just means that everyone can grow.”

Michael Jordan once said, “If you're trying to achieve something, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don't have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don't turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.”

When we see someone who is really good at what they do, like Michael Jordan, it’s easy to think that they are born that way and that they have had an inevitable rise to great success. But when you research your heroes, you realize that they didn’t catapult to success solely because of their amazing, born talent. Every hero put in a great deal of work, and when they were met with obstacles, they powered through them.

Leadership guru John Maxwell once said, “If your leadership level is a 4, you can’t lead anyone above that, so every day I’m learning and striving to become better so I can lead better.” In an interview with Ed Mylett (37:00 mark in the video below), John said, “If I had one wish, it would be that the people could have seen me at the beginning. They would have seen a person who wasn’t a very good communicator. If they saw me at the beginning, they would have great hope for themselves. Every person would say I can do that. I can bore people for 35 minutes like he just bored me. I have spoken 13,000 times in over 100 countries in the world. What people don’t understand is that it's the practice. You can’t separate intentional practice from success. After 13,000 times, of course, I’m good because I have been practicing, and practicing, and practicing.”

Growth, confidence, and success take time. Just because you aren’t great at something right now doesn’t mean you will never be great, but you have to be humble and be willing to say, “I don’t know what I don’t know.”

Simon Sinek has one of the most watched Ted Talks ever, and is one of the most sought out leaders in the world He said one of the biggest lessons he has learned was, “I don’t have to know everything, and I don’t have to pretend I do. I've learned to say I don’t know, and I need help now, and it turns out I have always been surrounded by people who wanted to help me but didn’t know I needed it because I didn’t ask.

In the video below (37:10 mark), Simon Sinek said one of the biggest lessons he has learned was, “I don’t have to know everything, and I don’t have to pretend I do. I've learned to say I don’t know, and I need help now, and it turns out I have always been surrounded by people who wanted to help me but didn’t know I needed it because I didn’t ask.

He said when we are leaders, we think we have to know more than everyone else and do everything better than everyone else, but our ability to lead is not tied to our intelligence but to our ability to see those around us rise.

Having a Growth Mindset starts with knowing that you don’t know everything, but with time and practice, you can learn, grow, and do hard things.


1 - What does Growth Mindset mean to you, and do you believe you have the ability to learn how to do hard things?

2 - When is having a Growth Mindset the easiest?

3 - When is having a Growth Mindset the hardest?

4 - What can you do/do you do to overcome those obstacles when it becomes hard?

For a PDF of this post, click here: I Can Do Hard Things

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