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DCR: Growth Mindset

Published 9/25/2017

Today's episode is the next of a series of episodes extending our previous discussions from the Developer Career Roadmap. The first episode from that series can be found here: https://spec.fm/podcasts/developer-tea/49656

In this episode, we're talking about having a Growth Mindset. You can find Carol Dweck's book, Mindset, here.

Today's episode is sponsored by Rollbar. With Rollbar, you get the context, insights and control you need to find and fix bugs faster. Rollbar is offering Developer Tea listeners the Bootstrap Plan, free for 90 days (300,000 errors tracked for free)! Head over to rollbar.com/developertea now for the free 90 day offer!

Transcript (Generated by OpenAI Whisper)
I think it's a pretty safe bet to say that most, if not all, developers have asked themselves the question at some point or another, am I smart enough to be a developer? And because the answer is almost impossible to figure out, a lot of developers end up asking this question over and over and over, end doubting their own skill level, doubting their own capacity. In today's episode, we're going to be talking more about the traits that every good developer shares. My name is Jonathan Cutrell. You're listening to Developer Tea. My goal on this show is to push you and coach you to become a better developer. One of the things we do on this show is we try to identify common patterns and common pitfalls that many developers fall into. One of the patterns that we've uncovered is imposter syndrome. This is such a common discussion amongst developers. This question of am I smart enough to be a developer? It points directly at imposter syndrome because the answer, once again, is nearly impossible to find. Now what he's going to give you is stamp of approval and say that you are smart enough to be a developer. Sometimes we expect that stamp of approval to be success, business success, or maybe we expect that stamp of approval to look like getting a particular job that we want. But in today's episode, I want to share with you a trait that every good developer shares that can really overcome this question. It can make the question basically irrelevant. That is the growth mindset. This is nothing that I've come up with. This isn't a novel idea. This is actually an idea that psychologist Carolyn Dweck came up with. She wrote a book about it called Mindset. But the essential idea here is the growth mindset is an opposition to the fixed mindset. A fixed mindset might ask the question, am I smart enough to be a developer? While the growth mindset might ask, what level of effort do I need to put forth to become a great developer? The hope I have for a Developer Tea is to inspire you to have that kind of growth mindset. Instead of thinking in terms of my future is fixed and there's nothing I can do about it, my intelligence level is set and my IQ is going nowhere. I'm neither getting smarter nor am I getting less smart. I'm stuck right where I'm at. What kind of mindset is going to limit your capacity as a developer? Instead I want to encourage you to think in terms of a growth mindset. What this really means is internally and even externally if you work with coworkers, especially if you lead others, I want you to celebrate effort. What you to celebrate the concept of fluidity, the concept of learning as a means of increasing your capabilities, increasing your intelligence level. Some signs of a fixed mindset might be that you reject criticism or you otherwise feel defeated by criticism. Whereas a growth mindset, you take criticism and you use it to become better, to refine what you do. Your sign of a fixed mindset would be that you try to avoid difficult things. You avoid difficult problems not because they aren't worth solving but rather because you don't think you have what it takes to solve them. A growth mindset would embrace those difficult problems, embracing the difficult problems especially when they matter. A fixed mindset would believe that if the people around them are succeeding, that that's a threat to them. They see that other people becoming better than them. They see that as a threat because they don't believe that they can grow together. They don't believe that their coworkers growing is going to help them grow. A growth mindset believes that other people doing better is just a sign of growth of the organization. It believes in growing together and working together to push each other to better and new ways of thinking. There's one other type of fixed mindset that I want to talk to you about today but first we're going to talk about today's sponsor, Rollbar. Rollbar allows you to see errors before your users do. If you've ever relied on a user reporting an error to you, then you know how difficult and frustrating it can be to try to solve that error and make that user happy again. Here's the other thing. If a user finally gets to the place where they're reporting an error to you, it's almost guaranteed that there are many other users who encountered that same error but never actually decided to report it. In other words, you could be losing users and certainly losing user engagement without even knowing it. Rollbar fixes this on every major language and framework. You can start tracking your production errors in just a few minutes and you can integrate Rollbar into your existing workflow. You can send errors, the alerts for the errors to your Slack or your HIP chat. You can link the source code in all of your version control stuff like GitHub, Bitbucket or GitLab. Of course, you can turn the errors that you're receiving from the production system into issues that you can track through things like Gira or Pivotal or Trello. Some of the customers of Rollbar include Heroku, Twilio, Kayak, InstaCart, Zendesk and Twitch. These are all major, major platforms with tons of users. I don't know, the exact number on each of those platforms, but tons of users and those companies are trusting Rollbar. On top of that, Rollbar is providing you as a developer T-Listener a free plan, the Bootstrap plan for free for 90 days. Go and check it out. You can find it at rollbar.com slash Developer Tea. They're going to give you the free plan, the Bootstrap plan for free for 90 days. Things again to rollbar for sponsoring today's episode of Developer Tea and for helping people create much more stable applications. We're talking about the growth mindset versus the fixed mindset, asking the question, am I smart enough to be a developer? I want you to completely wipe this question out of your mind. Your intelligence is not fixed. There's studies that show that your effort matters more than whatever your natural, built-in intelligence level is. It's challenging the notion that your IQ is fixed. Instead, your effort, in the way that you perceive the value of effort. In other words, hard work. We talk about this all the time on this show. I'm not here to teach you how to take shortcuts. I'm here to teach you how to work hard and make it count simultaneously. That's the goal. A great developer understands that they need to work hard and they need to work on the right thing. You don't luck your way into being a good developer. It takes some effort. It takes hard work. That's exactly what the growth mindset values. There's another kind of fixed mindset that I want you to be aware of, so you can avoid it. This goes back to our very first trait in the developer career roadmap traits of a great developer. That is humility. A fixed mindset that believes that you have arrived. That believes that you have learned all of the tech that you need to learn. You've learned all the languages and all the frameworks. You know all of the refactoring techniques that you need to know and that nothing new is going to change what you do. No new relationship is really important. This actually happens. It may, especially to younger developers, people who are new to this, you may be surprised by this, but there are developers who get to this spot where they kind of turn off that learning valve. They stop because they feel as if they've gotten all of the essential stuff. They've put it into a basket and they can just carry that basket around and that's enough for them. Let me be the first to say that this is an absolutely incorrect perspective. If you stop learning, if you decide that you have enough of what you need, then you're not going to get any better. Period. This is going to help you learn and practice is going to underline the importance of continued effort, the importance of continuous betterment. This fixed mindset is not one that believes that they aren't smart enough, but rather that they are smart enough and that nothing needs to change. And here's the main problem with that. Your success is going to be directly tied to your effort. Not directly tied to your capacity or your intelligence, your IQ, your intelligence question, your success and your ability to succeed in the future is going to be tied to your perspective, to your effort. So if you have this fixed mindset that you no longer need to push forward, that you no longer need to learn anything new that's coming out and that all of the new stuff is a waste of time, I challenge you to think differently from that. To change your mind about that, to continuously look at your work as a series of increased effort. So here's what I want you to do. I want you to take a few minutes, pull out a sheet of paper, use your note taking app on your phone or on your computer, whatever it is that you do for getting ideas out. I want you to write down two or three places, two at minimum, but two or three places where your mindset has stagnated. In other words, you've kind of stopped pushing forward in those areas and this really can be anything. It can be related to your personal life or to your professional life. For example, for me, I've stagnated in creating performance web applications. I reached the point where I had kind of have the intuition that I've made something performant enough and now I'm not pushing forward into learning newer and better ways of making more performant applications. So this is a place I've stagnated and I need to intentionally challenge myself in that area. Another place you might identify yourself having a fixed mindset in is encounters with your coworkers, your perspective of your coworkers. If you're starting to shut down or if you're rejecting criticism, if you're being defensive, these are all kind of signs that you may be cultivating a fixed mindset. Now here's the other thing I want you to do. So you've got this list and it's important to identify places where you have a fixed mindset. The next time that you congratulate someone, I want you to notice how you are congratulating them. The next time you celebrate something that you've done, I want you to notice how you celebrate it. So these times where something has gone well, I want you to understand that your reinforcement matters in those times. So in those moments, I want you to identify if your celebration is more from a fixed perspective or from a growth perspective. The very easy heuristic is if you are thinking in terms of somebody's intelligence or capability and where they are today, then that's very likely from the fixed mindset. Whereas if you celebrate the effort, if you celebrate the amount of energy that somebody put forth and how hard they worked to get to where they are, that is from the perspective of the growth mindset. This isn't the only thing that matters. Even Dr. Dwak has said very specifically that this isn't the only thing that you can judge, fix, and growth mindset from, but it is a good heuristic and you can start thinking this way. I highly recommend you go and check out the book that Dr. Carolyn Dwak has put out. She also has an application. This is not a sponsored episode by any means, but she has an application called Curio. It's a kind of a lifelong learner support application that allows you to learn about all different kinds of subjects. Go and check that out if you're interested as well. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode of Developer Tea. Thank you again to today's sponsor, Rollbar, with Rollbar, you can find errors that are lurking in your code before your users do, and you won't have to go digging through the logs to do it. Go and check it out. Rollbar.com slash Developer Tea. They're going to give you 90 days on the Bootstrap plan for free. Thank you so much for listening to today's episode. I'd really love for you to take a moment and subscribe in whatever podcasting app you use. There's a couple of really great apps out there, by the way, Breaker, for example. I've been using Breaker quite a bit recently. If you use Breaker and you subscribe, we can actually see the number of people who subscribe in Breaker. It's kind of cool. You can also comment on the episodes right inside of the app. Go and check out Breaker. Again, Breaker is not sponsoring this episode. I think it's a great podcast player, and it's improving the podcast ecosystem. Go and check that out once again, that's Breaker you can find in the app store. You can comment on the episodes. That's going to let me see what you're thinking about specific episodes, not just reviews and iTunes. Thank you again for listening. Thank you for participating. You can always send me an email and developertea@gmail.com if you have comments or questions or if you just want to say hello. Thanks so much for listening and until next time, enjoy your tea.