What is Talent—and How Important Is It? What Lies Behind Great Achievement? What Stops People From Pursuing Their Dreams? How To Boost Achievement (and Fulfillment) Through Mindset

Benjamin Barber, an eminent sociologist, once said, “I don’t divide the world into the weak and the strong, or the successes and the failures... I divide the world into the learners and nonlearners.”

What on earth would make someone a nonlearner? Everyone is born with an intense drive to learn. Infants stretch their skills daily. Not just ordinary skills, but the most difficult tasks of a lifetime, like learning to walk and talk. They never decide it’s too hard or not worth the effort. Babies don’t worry about making mistakes or humiliating themselves. They walk, they fall, they get up. They just barge forward. What could put an end to this exuberant learning? The fixed mindset...

In the fixed mindset it’s not enough just to succeed. It’s not enough just to look smart and talented. You have to be pretty much flawless. And you have to be flawless right away... After all, if you have it you have it, and if you don’t you don’t...

This desire to think of yourself as perfect is often called CEO disease. In Mindset, I explore several CEO who had bad, even fatal, cases of this disease.

Beyond how traumatic a setback can be in the fixed mindset, this mindset gives you no good recipe for overcoming it. If failure means you lack competence or potential—that you are a failure – where do you go from there? Are you like Bernard Loiseau or Jim Marshall? Both of them had big setbacks, but only one of them survived. In Mindset, you’ll find out why.

The Truth About Ability and Achievement

Try to picture Thomas Edison as vividly as you can. Think about where he is and what he’s doing. Is he alone? I asked people and they always said things like this:

“He’s in New Jersey. He’s standing in a white coat in a lab-type room. He’s leaning over a light bulb. Suddenly, it works! [Is he alone?] Yes. He’s kind of a reclusive guy who likes to tinker on his own.”

In truth, the record shows quite a different fellow, working in quite a different way.

Edison was not a loner. For the invention of the light bulb, he had 30 assistants, including well-trained scientists, often working around the clock in a corporate funded state-of-the-art laboratory!

It did not happen suddenly. The light bulb has become the symbol for that single moment when the brilliant solution strikes, but there was no single moment of invention. In fact, the light bulb was not one invention, but a whole network of time-consuming inventions each requiring one or more chemists, mathematicians, physicists, engineers, and glass blowers.

Yes, Edison was a genius. But he was not always one. His biographer, Paul Israel, sifting through all the available information, thinks he was more or less a regular boy of his time and place. ...What eventually set him apart was his mindset and drive... There are many myths about ability and achievement, especially about the lone, brilliant person suddenly producing amazing things. Chapter 3 dispels those myths.