It was Back to School Night yesterday at my daughter’s middle school. With three kids in three different schools, I would be lying if I told you that these evenings are the highlight of my week, but I believe, when possible, in seeing the faces and hearing from the teachers who will spend the next 9 months with my kids. I paid attention to each teacher presenting, but my ears opened when her math teacher, Mr. Keeley, spoke about the ability of each student to take on greater difficulty in algebra throughout the school year. He said he is working to instill the concept of “yet.” When a child says, “I can’t solve this equation,” he reframes the statement for them and adds one key word onto the end of it. The word is YET.
Simple concept, right? It sounds much more positive to say “I can’t solve this problem yet” than it does to say “I can’t solve this problem.” And while this seems easily applicable to 8th grade math, the truth is that it is applicable to life at every stage.
You see, I had a moment this week where I left “yet” out of the sentence. I am working with a friend on creating a website for my business. Part of the creative process requires me to scan the websites of some pretty accomplished people who do what I do. Let me tell you that my intimidation factor was through the roof as I scanned these amazing creations. It was so high that I texted my friend and said…”I am not prepared with most of what I need to create the site and I don’t want to waste your time. Give me some time to pull it together.” Like a great coach and friend, he called me immediately and talked me out of my tree. He told me that websites are built iteration after iteration and that I did not need to have everything that the others did from day one.
Essentially, he reminded me that I did not have everything I needed to build my website YET.
What happens next in my story is the critical moment. If I embrace the YET and listen to my friend, then I will work with him to create Version One. I will accept that Version One of my website is just that…a starting point. I will accept that, as a starting point, it doesn't have to be perfect, and I will commit to making it better over time. Much like the new algebra student, I will embrace the fact that I don't know how to solve the equation…yet. And I will work with the people who do know how to solve it to learn more. This is what psychologists refer to as an Open Mindset (first articulated by Carol Dweck in her book, Mindset). It is my desire to learn and have a tendency to embrace challenges, persist in the face of setbacks, see effort as a path to mastery, and learn from criticism.
And if I take the path of dropping the YET from the end of the sentence and say to myself…why don’t you hang up the website idea for now…I will be operating with a Fixed Mindset. Living with a fixed mindset means that I value looking smart over improving myself, which can cause me to avoid challenges, give up easily, see effort as fruitless and ignore useful constructive feedback.
I believe that on any given day we wake up and find ourselves operating from a growth mindset or we wake up and find ourselves operating from a fixed mindset. New school years and new fiscal years bring us the opportunity to reassess where we are at with goals that we set for ourselves. They bring us the opportunity to add YET to the end of a few statements. In adding the YET, we give ourselves the opportunity to grow.
Here’s to a year of growth for all of us from the classrooms to the boardrooms.
P.S. Stay tuned for the website. I’ll make sure to share Version One when it is ready.
P.S.S. A big thank you and shout out to my friend, coach and web developer Nitin Krishna!