Imagine it's a Saturday morning. Our alarm is going off and we reach for our phone to shut the damn thing up. And have a cheeky pre-day scroll through Instagram.
We spot a post about an unknown actor who's just booked the biggest, juiciest and most coveted gig of the year — perhaps even the decade. Tens of thousands of people taped for the role — we did too, in fact — and yet it's come to this actor. This actor who'll now be taking on the role and journey of a lifetime. This actor whose life and career is about to change forever.
Take a beat.
Now consider: what story does our ego want to hear about this actor? There's no right or wrong answer, only awareness.
a) They were born this way. They've been consistently booking jobs since they were five.
b) They epitomise the definition of an "overnight success". Their first audition and all.
c) They swear by their systems. They've been intentionally refining their craft for 10+ years.
If we answered "a) They were born this way."
We might experience this in our body as jealousy.
Answering "a" may indicate the presence of "fixed mindset" thinking. Popularised by Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck in her brilliant book, Mindset, this term is used to describe the view that our traits (intelligence, personality, talents etc.) are "unchangeable". Historically reinforced by Western society, most of us have at least some residue of this thinking in some area of life.
The difficulty with this mindset is that it doesn't allow space for us to grow and evolve. It limits us exclusively to the hand of cards we were dealt with at birth, cutting us off from the possibility of fulfilling all we might become. If we weren't born with the royal flush this actor was, why bother?
If we answered "b) They epitomise the definition of an "overnight success"."
We might experience this in our body as resentment.
Answering "b" may suggest a handing over of power — however large or small — to luck and good fortune. While there's inevitably some percentage of magic behind every success story, we do ourselves a great disservice to overestimate what this percentage may be.
The difficulty with this mindset is that it acquits us of taking full responsibility. If we believe luck accounts for, say, 70% of results received, and we believe we have bad luck, we give away at least 60% of our control before we even start. And in an industry such as ours, we could be putting that 60% to far better use.
If we answered "c) They swear by their systems."
We might experience this in our body as guilt.
Answering "c" may hint to a recognition that we could be doing more. We might already be doing some work — maybe even more than most others — but deep down we see if we really, truly wanted success right now, we could be doing more. After all, "success" is just a better set of actions.
The difficulty with this mindset is that there are now no limits and no excuses — our success lies in our own hands. If this actor has risen through their intention, discipline and commitment, we can too. Sure, nature and fortune play their part, but they haven't been given centre stage. That spot's ours.
Peyton Manning, considered one of the best American football quarterbacks of all time, says, "The attitude with which we approach the situation can determine our success or failure."
The point of this thought experiment is to recognise that any one of the above is an absolutely valid response. And that being so, we come to recognise our ability to choose another equally valid response — should we desire. If our current narrative isn't serving us, we can decide to test drive a more empowering alternative.
Should Manning's statement be correct (and there's a lot of science supporting him on this), making our mindset an ally is then an extremely high leverage move. Yet one we can even make while scrolling Instagram in bed on a Saturday morning.
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Thoughts / feedback / challenges? We'd genuinely love to hear.
While we can't always reply to every message, we honestly do read each one.