Dan Has Another Good Book for You – Mindset by Carol Dweck (#2)

tennis racket and balls

He was reasonably coordinated.  Others thought so and he believed it, too.  He wasn’t the athlete Gabe or Lenny was, but he was decent.  He played all the sports as a kid.  A tennis court down the street was where he hung out most of the time.  He got good, made the high school team as a junior, even played first singles his senior year.  Unbeknownst to many, he was nervous on match days and didn’t really relish the playing.  He liked the winning and he liked the status of being #1; he just didn’t like the pressure to win.

He played on his small college tennis team but dropped the sport as soon as his college days were over.  His college coach thought if you won, you played well.  If you lost, you didn’t.  The quality of the post-match meals depended on whether the team won or lost.  It was all about winning.  He enjoyed the camaraderie of his teammates, but his fixed mindset on the outcome drove him from tennis.

Carol Dweck

Carol Dweck

I didn’t know it then, but I needed coaches who focused on my effort not the results, a coach who had embraced Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.  I believe a focus on my effort would have improved my results.  And it’s not just coaches, it’s parents, grandparents, people in relationships, and teachers who could benefit from the insights of this book on the value of praising effort over outcomes.

Listen to what Tammy from California, one of our favorite parents and teachers says.

I am so glad that Mindset is getting around & getting some love!  I think it’s one of the most important books I’ve read.  I’ve bought copies for my principal, Keegan’s principal & his teacher, as well as several other wonderful peeps.  I’ve talked with the superintendent of our school district about getting it in the hands of every teacher that works here. 

Adolescent brain diagram of fixed and growth

Check out this mind-blowing example from Mindset:

Dweck and her researchers set up an experiment with a group of adolescents.  First, all the young people were given ten challenging non-verbal questions (IQ-type questions).  As a group, these kids did reasonably well on all ten problems.  But afterward, to half of the students, the researchers praised them for their ability, for being smart.  To the other half, they praised their effort, for working hard.

Then she gave all the students ten additional questions, more difficult than the first ones.  All the students didn’t do as well.  The students that were told they were smart started to doubt their ability.  If success meant they were smart, a lack of success meant they were not.  The kids praised for their effort thought the more difficult questions meant they just needed to work harder.

After the success of the first set of problems, everyone loved working on them.  After the challenging problems, the kids who were told they were smart said it wasn’t fun anymore.  The kids praised for their effort loved the challenge.  All the kids were then given some easier questions similar to the first ones.

The scores and performance of the kids who were told they were smart plummeted while the kids who had their effort praised improved.  By having their ability praised, their IQ actually went down.

Asked later to write a letter to students who were going to take this kind of test and also asked to include their scores, 40% of the students who were praised for being smart lied about their scores.  Praising them for being smart turned many into liars.

Fixed and growth mindset diagram

Those students that were told they were smart fell into the “fixed mindset” as I had as a tennis player.  They were praised for their talent and ability; praised for the outcome.  “Fixed mindset” people are overly concerned with mistakes and failure.  In the end such students see teachers and parents as judges not allies.  As seen in the above example, praising intelligence harms motivation as well as performance.

brain is like a muscle

The kids who were complemented on their effort were of the “growth mindset.”  Those with a “growth mindset” love a challenge, believe in effort, and the value of being resilient.  Their focus is on improving and learning.  These people value what they are doing no matter the result.  It is not surprising that practice, persistence, and finding good strategies support motivation and performance.

In the last chapter of Mindset, Carol Dweck elaborates how to change from a “fixed mindset” to a “growth mindset.”

ping pong table

And you should see me play ping pong these days with my friend George.  I make each point about learning, getting feedback to improve.  We do keep score, but the joy is in the extended rallies, making incredible shots and “gets,” and celebrating each other’s good shots.  No one will remember or, in fact, care who won the games.  We will long remember the joy of just playing and getting better and better.

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Final Thoughts on 29 Gifts in 29 Days

Cami Walker

Cami Walker

So my 29 days of giving based on Cami Walker’s 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change your Life comes to an end.  Some thoughts:

Reflection MonkeesAs the Monkees (circa 1966) said, I am a believer.  I do believe daily giving can change your life.  Whoa, big fella, let’s take it down a notch, you might be thinking.  I really do.  I believe active giving can get you out of your own way and make sense of your world, your purpose.

Day 8 ellipticals

I got more than I gave.  Reading to my friend Vin or saving the elliptical machine at the gym for Hannah are examples of the glow that lives in me when I give.

Rather than money, my gifts often have been a giving of myself.  Something we can all do, even if we have little money.  Going to visit a friend in the hospital or seeking out a friend for connection were more the norm for me than gifts that cost money.

I have to be intentional to give.  There’s this private time of joy I have in bed early in the morning when I think about my upcoming day and where giving might occur.

Giving helps me build my connections and sense of community with my friends and family.

Day 5 FPC

As I look back I found that being a member of church gives me many opportunities to give beyond putting money in the collection plate.

The subtext for this experiment was to have you consider taking on the 29 Days of Giving challenge in your home town.  Giving can be a meaningful, seamless part of your daily life.  Maybe it already is.  If not, think of the 1971 Alka Seltzer catch phrase:  Try it; you’ll like it.

Reflection Speedy Alka Seltzer

It just may change your life.

Dan’s Day 29 of 29 Gifts – Building Strong Families

Day 29 Richmond map

Our son Will and his girlfriend Laurel have invited us some 600 miles south to Richmond, Virginia for Thanksgiving.  In their home, they make turkey day with all the usual suspects: sweet potatoes with pecans, brussel sprouts with cranberries, stuffing, both with and without sausage, tossed salad, candied carrots, corn casserole, biscuits, and one big bird.

Day 29 Rook deck

Then we bring the gift that, like Wonder Bread, builds strong families: a deck of Rook cards to play Mormon Bridge.  This easy-to-learn game combines some strategy and a decent amount of luck so that everyone has a chance to win.

Day 29 Rook hand dealt

It’s a game with whoops of surprise and groans of “oh no’s” when one trumps another’s card.  The game comes with a surprise ending that Hannah and I will show you when we next get together for Mormon Bridge.

Day 29 Will and Laurel with cards

Dan’s Day 28 of 29 Gifts – Owen’s Blue Ball

Day 28 Owen blue ball 1

At 16 months our grandson Owen motors around his apartment, climbing on tables and couches with a wide smile of joy.  Lately, chucking utility balls around the living room has been his thing.

My gift is a new blue utility ball for Owen.  The joy is first in the opening.

Day 28 Owen bb 2

Day 28 Owen bb 3

Day 28 Owen bb 4

Day 28 Owen bb 5

Day 28 Owen bb 6

Now that the unwrapping is complete, let Owen show you what happens next.  Here’s Owen………….

Dan’s Day 27 of Day 29 – Arizona State University Brother

Day 27 ASU

Heading south to Virginia from Maine for Thanksgiving, Hannah and I spend the night in south Jersey at the home of our friends, Rich and Mary.  Rich is a friend from our years as students at Arizona State University.

Day 27 Meyer photography

He and I met the first week of the fall semester in 1969 at Irish Hall.  Both Jersey boys, we had no idea he was from the town (Hawthorne) right next to Fair Lawn, where I grew up.  After college he returned to “Joisey” and created a career based on his love and talents as a photographer.  Now an accomplished wedding photographer, he makes it his mission to put the bride in the best light on her special day and to make her wedding day the best it can be.  (As politically incorrect as it may be, I believe it’s all about the bride on the wedding day.)

Day 27 ASU shirt

Rich is a “having a beer” kind of guy who keeps it real.  So my gift to him is an ASU shirt to remember where our friendship all began:  Go Sun Devils.

Dan’s Day 26 of 29 Gifts – A bag of nails

Day 26 hammer

I email this story to for our kids, their sweethearts, and Hannah as my gift for today.

Once upon a time there was a little boy with a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he should hammer a nail in the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. But gradually, the number of daily nails dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence. 

Day 26 bunch of nails

Finally the first day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He proudly told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone. The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence.

Day 26 nail in wood

“You have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.” 

 Author Unknown

Dan’s Day 25 of 29 Gifts – Real hunger in Maine

Day 25 my canned food

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving I am one of the many church members who bring canned goods for the York Food Pantry to distribute to families in need.  It is easy to think that in an affluent town like York on the coast of Maine, Really, there are hungry families in this town?  Oh, but there are and probably in your home town, too.  We as a church acknowledge that even though we often can’t always see them, they are there.

Day 25 end 68 hours of hunger

Hungry kids are a serious, sometimes invisible problem.  Locally, the End of 68 Hours of Hunger program serves kids for the approximately 68 hours that some local school children go without eating from the time school gets out on Friday afternoon until they return to school on Monday morning.  End of 68 Hours now serves nearly 500 children per week in Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire.

Day 25 canned food at church

I believe families are hungry amid our affluence though I don’t see them.  I take on faith that the problem is real.  Churches at their best get us to think of others and serve and support them.

Dan’s Day 24 of 29 Gifts – Dad’s 97th

Owen with his great grandmother

Owen with his great grandmother

Dad would have been 97 today.  My gift is a letter to Mom inspired by a conversation with our friend Corky.

What I learned from Corky is to infuse my conversation with Mom with references to how she and Dad influenced our life in a positive way.  For example, I’ll mention in my note to Mom how Hannah and I value our time together and learned from Dad’s and her example.  Hannah and I sit by a fire many evenings with a glass of wine as Mom and Dad did at Bolton Place in Fair Lawn, NJ.

Day 24 fireplace scene

Dad taught us kids tennis, a sport for a lifetime.  We saw them play bridge with their friends.  Now we get together with our kids and friends to play a 21st century variation of bridge: Mormon Bridge.  Hannah and I took our kids cross country as my parents did with my siblings and me.  Mom and Dad live on in us, and my gift is to let Mom know that – in writing, in a letter that she can read over and over again.

The Family Rothermel (brother Richard, sister Patty, Dad, Mom, and me)

The Family Rothermel (brother Richard, sister Patty, Dad, Mom, and me)

Dan’s Day 23 of 29 Gifts – 50 years ago today

Day 23 FLHS

For those of us over 60, November 22, 1963 was the most earth shaking day of our young lives.  It was the day Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John Kennedy in Dallas, Texas.  Whereas the younger generation (and older) all remember where they were when the planes attacked the World Trade Center in New York (I was getting ready to teach a class at Eastern Connecticut State University), those of us over 60 will never forget where we were on that fateful day in November fifty years ago.

Day 23 JFK quote

I was in Dave Pooley’s tenth grade biology class at Fair Lawn High School in New Jersey when the chemistry teacher, George Steinmetz, came across the hall to tell Mr. Pooley that the president had been shot.  At that moment we didn’t know if he had died.  As a newspaper boy, I had to wait for the afternoon edition of the Bergen Record til nearly 530P (when the newspapers were usually ready for me at 3P) with the news of Kennedy’s death.  I delivered the papers in a fog.

Day 23 MCAHV

So on this 23rd day of my 29 Gifts I want to find something to commemorate this auspicious anniversary.  What is Kennedy known for?  Civil rights?  Peace?  Justice?   And then it’s clear.  I’ll donate to prevent gun violence here in Maine.  Online, I find Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence.  In John Kennedy’s name and in my father’s memory, my gift today is a donation to prevent gun violence in Maine.

Dan’s Day 22 of 29 Gifts – Surrogates

Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire

Seacoast Maine and New Hampshire

Our daughter Molly, her hubby Tip, and our grandson Owen live in Virginia.  Molly and Tip are local kids, having grown up on the Seacoast (southwestern Maine and the entire 13 mile seacoast of New Hampshire).  Virginia has the temperate winter climate that we Mainers can only dream of.  When it snows (they’ve had four inches in the Arlington, VA/DC area in the last two years), it melts the next day.  December snow in Maine rears its ugly head (okay I’m not a skier.) through March.

Dan and Hannah's picnic table

Dan and Hannah’s picnic table

The down side of living in Virginia is that it’s 550 miles away when big events happen.  Tip’s Aunt Pat died this past week.  The Virginia Family Rawding is unable to come so Hannah and I are their surrogates.  Woody Allen says that 90% of life is just showing up.  And showing up for calling hours in Portsmouth is what we do.

Day 10 90% quote

A popular woman, Aunt Pat has the line snaking out the front door of the funeral home in Portsmouth, NH even after two hours of visiting hours.  It’s important that Tip, his folks, and sister know that we are forever a part of their extended family.  Family shows up.  We hug, we meet Aunt Pat’s family, and just remind them by our mere presence “they are not alone.”

Day 22 you are not alone