Notes from 20-23 October, 2015: hard work, sick times, fixed/growth mindsets

A non-what-I’m-working-on post! A mega-post of multiple days!

Last Tuesday was a fine and hard morning, and then I felt kinda weird in the afternoon, and by evening I was feeling awesomely awful and cancelled plans I’d been looking forward to (in a nutshell, I was Too Sick For Twitter).

Took Wednesday off, which the cat appreciated.

Thursday and Friday were well-intentioned, and I got algorithms time in the morning (later than planned, but I did it!), and then the afternoons kind of fell away. This Coursera class is kicking my ass. I regularly feel like an idiot, like I can’t possibly learn this stuff, like I’m missing something critical and there’s no reasonable way to find it.

Relatedly, did I tell you about the note I taped to my computer that says “HARD WORK IMPROVES INTELLIGENCE”? This is an actual thing that I did. Why? Let’s talk about it.

As a related aside, I would love to learn about beliefs around intelligence that formerly-labeled-“gifted” kids had, or developed. I’ve largely had the impression in my life that things are either easy, meaning I am good at them, or hard, meaning they are probably out of reach.

There is good science suggesting this is not a helpful belief — and that post is excellent, and even if I haven’t finished it yet, you should still read it [okay I’ve finished it now]. Anyway, Carol Dweck! Sociologist, intelligence-belief researcher, probably rad person. Allison Kaptur (writer of the piece above), former Recurse Center facilitator, speaker, programmer, beloved by pretty much everyone I talk to who has met her.


[Dweck has] found that there are two different frameworks for thinking about intelligence. The first, which she calls the fixed mindset, holds that intelligence is a fixed trait, and people can’t change how much of it they have. The other mindset is a growth mindset. Under a growth mindset, people believe that intelligence is malleable and can increase with effort.

I’d run into this before, but now I have an easy-to-access resource. And then we get to here:

Several studies found that people with a fixed mindset can be reluctant to really exert effort, because they believe it means they’re not good at the thing they’re working hard on. Dweck notes, “It would be hard to maintain confidence in your ability if every time a task requires effort, your intelligence is called into question.”

HI. You rang?

And then THIS:

there is some research in [the book Mindset] about gender discrepancies, and findings that high-achieving girls are more likely to have a fixed mindset and less likely to risk failure when they hit something hard.

I once dated a dude who came from a science/programming background, and he got really into astrology, which a lot of people find surprising/weird. “I don’t know whether astrology is real,” he once told me, “but I don’t really care, because it’s given me a framework to finally come to terms with parts of myself that I’ve struggled with my whole life.”

The more I learn about intelligence mindsets, the more a lot of things about my self-perception start to make way, way more sense. Not that I now have something to blame, or that I’m off the hook for those things — but I finally have a starting point, a way to address them directly.

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