We are lucky. We live in an age when more scientific research about the human brain and human behavior is being conducted than at any time in history. It’s true. We have learned more about our brains in the past five years than in the previous five thousand!
Why is this so important? Because we can actually apply what we are learning to our lives and careers right now, and get better results for our efforts.
Our ThoughtRocket research team has uncovered two big breakthrough ideas that have recently intersected that can change our careers. Together they are a science-based instruction manual to our individual greatness. They illuminate the path to becoming indispensable in our jobs and creators of unique value. Pretty cool.
The first finding comes from Stanford University professor Carol Dweck who has mapped the brain patterns to two foundational beliefs that we humans hold. The first pattern is called a fixed mindset. This mindset is a core belief that “I am who I am” period. It’s the conviction that you have a certain amount of intelligence, a fixed set of strengths and abilities, and that’s that. People with fixed mindsets are convinced that failure to excel is largely due to limitations of talent and intelligence.
Other people have growth mindsets, which rest on the belief that we can improve at nearly anything we invest time and energy into. Here is the science that unlocks greatness.
A fixed mindset experiences failure as a final indication of limitations. “I failed because I am not capable.”
A growth mindset’s response to failure is “I must learn and practice if I want to improve.”
What’s a little mind-blowing is that scientists can actually now “see” our brains’ response to failure. A fixed mindset produces very short neuro-reaction to failure. When people don’t believe they can improve, they blow off failure quickly, and simply try to avoid having to try again. Growth-focused persons have a much bigger brain stimulus to failure, and start to analyze what they could do differently to get a better result. We can now see this brain activity on brain scans. By experimenting with students who are praised for learning, rather than strictly for performance, we can also see that we can re-train our brains for learning and mastery. It boils down to this. If we are willing to persist in learning and feedback loops, we can measurably increase our capability.
Now for Finding #2.
True greatness in our careers comes from clusters of competence, rather than just a single strength. That’s good–except we “naturally” seem only to be super competent at just one thing. (If we are at all.) Research from Dr. Joe Folkman concludes that people are valued in the workplace for things they do that are better than 60% of their peers. (They are considered “good.”) We are viewed as great at something if we are better at it than 90% of our peers.
Here’s where it gets interesting. There is a huge multiplying effect in our horsepower when we develop complementary capabilities (things we are good at) that support what we are great at. It’s this simple. Most people who run things are very good or great at one of two things. Either 1) getting results, or 2) inspiring others. When one person is great (in the top 10 percent) at both these things, you get Steve Jobs.
But very few leaders are great at both. Many leaders are great at one and actually bad at the other. In fact, they will often be let go because of the things they’re not good, at in spite of their other major strength.
Folkman’s research team says career success boils down to five major strengths:
- Character—Trustworthiness, optimism, empathy
- Personal Capability—Expertise, problem-solving, innovation
- Getting Results—Focus, initiative, goal achievement
- Interpersonal Skills—Communication, inspiration, teamwork
- Leading Change—Connecting and including, strategy, motivating
To become highly valued, we must become great at one of the five. That means being in the top 10 percent. But remember–if we are merely good (better than 60% of others) at one of the other five, we can become indispensable. Here’s how.
All we must do is focus on developing our additional good ability into a great one. And because of Dr. Dweck’s work, we know that we can. In fact, the easiest thing for us to do is develop something we are reasonably good at into a superpower that we are great at. It just takes practice and feedback. When we have the interactive effects of two great leadership strengths, we can write our own future.
I am so excited about this research on developing our greatness that I am including a workshop and tool-kit on it in my upcoming course, “Turn Your Super Power into Your Career.” ThoughtRocket’s research team found these studies and experts as the result of your questions.
So if you have questions about your career choices, your strengths and interests, or just how to get or create a job, please keep sending them to email@example.com.
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