Customer Review

122 of 125 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant in conception, underwhelming in execution, 6 Aug. 2012
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This review is from: Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential (Paperback)
Despite the three star evaluation, do not underestimate the quality of the central thesis of this book. The idea that there are two mindsets - fixed and growth - and that these mindsets are basic in determining many things about success and happiness in life, is incontrovertible, radical, and perception shifting. Dweck has based the book on a bedrock of sound, academic research. She has applied it to several key spheres of life. She has witnessed its power to change lives.

What's the problem then? The problem is this book and how it is written; specifically, Dweck underestimates her audience's ability to handle the strong stuff. Instead of explication and application, we are treated to story after story, anecdote upon anecdote, and imaginary dialogues with non-existent people. I'm by nature a careful reader but I found myself flicking, scanning and otherwise anxious to get it finished. That's what I usually do when I read the psychology section of a magazine.

And the worst about it is, Dweck has so much of depth and detail to say. I suspect that she has said it in her more academic book on the same subject, 'Self-Theories: Their Role in Motivation, Personality and Development'. I suspect, further, that someone convinced her of the need to write a popular account of findings, dumbed down for us plebs. Perhaps this is slightly unfair; Dweck's passion for facilitating positive change in people's lives does shine through. But I needed less motivational patter, more on her theory of motivation. I'm a big boy, I can take it.

What frustrated me the most were the hints in her book of the workshops and training sessions she has supervised in order to help people grow a growth mindset (140-141 and 218-220). I wanted details, details, details. Instead, there were brief overviews, references to techniques without the possibility of follow-up, and dead ends. But surely this should be the very hub of the book. The concept of 'how to' might seem beneath the purview of lofty academics but for the average buyer of this book I'm guessing this is almost all of what is required. A large chunk of other reviewers seem to agree.

As well as more detail on use and how-to, I'd have appreciated some thought from the other end of the spectrum. What I mean is, if true, I think Dweck's theory constitutes a deep interpretation of human nature. She does recognise that mindsets run at a more basic level than the techniques and approaches of therapies such as CBT or REBT (216). Maybe I'm over-doing it, but I kept thinking of the debates in pre-Socratic philosophy between the worldviews of being and becoming, Parmenides versus Heraclitus. It also minded me of debates about personal identity and persistence over time i.e. whether personality is fixed, in flux or a fiction. One reason why I rate Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi`s 'flow' concept so highly is because he interacts with it on all these levels.

A few other little points niggled me. Dweck's excursus into business ethics was an exercise in naivety (esp. 118). Her habit of taking every businessperson, every sports star, every relationship issue, and using it to illustrate her fixed/growth dichotomy seemed stretched to me. And an academic writer who feels the need to quote Malcolm Gladwell as one of her prime sources is surely getting things the wrong way round (40, 90, 108-9).

Dweck's fundamental thesis will stay with me. Her stories will not. Her method lies elsewhere. So, probably, should your money.
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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 12 Mar 2013 23:38:39 GMT
P Evans says:
I can see from your review that you are obviously well read and assume you must have academic qualifications to some level. You mention that she has a more academic book on the same subject and that this is probably the "dumbed down version"; what's wrong with that? People like yourself who need more depth are free to read the other book. I think it's great that there is a more accessible version, not for "plebs" but for people who maybe don't find academic reading so easy but are still interested in the subject. Maybe it wasn't your intention but your review reads that if this book is pitched at the right level for some one they must be a pleb! You are able to handle more detail but not every one can (or wants to) and that's nothing to be ashamed of. Having said all that, it is really useful to know what you feel the restrictions of this book are and the fact that there is an alternative, so thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Mar 2013 18:46:16 GMT
Last edited by the author on 14 Mar 2013 18:47:22 GMT
Allen Baird says:
Thank you P Evans for taking the time to write a comment on my review of Mindset.

Yes, I have academic qualifications (PhD) but I was not writing an academic review, nor reading Mindset from an academic viewpoint. Perhaps I can explain my perspective here if I make a distinction between a book that demonstrates technical scholarship and a book with depth. When reading Mindset I didn't expect the former and so didn't judge it on that basis. As you say, it's not supposed to be an academic book. But I did feel that it lacked depth - intense reflection, penetrating analysis, and creative application.

If I had to point to a few other books in this field that do demonstrate depth but are still aimed at a popular audience I would suggest Mindfulness by Ellen Langer and especially Flow by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. They are two academics who have authored a range of books for all sorts of reader but who never dump down. A quality author can make their work accessible without making it 'plebby' IMHO.

And aren't there enough 'common' books out there already?

In reply to an earlier post on 14 Mar 2013 22:34:20 GMT
P Evans says:
Seems I did misinterpret your meaning and i apologise, thank you for those recommendations, I will check them out. Best wishes

In reply to an earlier post on 16 Mar 2013 17:01:38 GMT
Last edited by the author on 16 Mar 2013 17:02:38 GMT
Allen Baird says:
Thanks again for the comment and reply.

BTW my wife agrees with you. When I told her I had given this book a three star rating we had a 'frank exchange of views' on the matter! She is a big fan.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Feb 2014 04:55:08 GMT
Theo says:
Thanks for a genuinely helpful review, Allen.

I seem to remember encountering you somewhere in the Amazon jungle before, although I can't say precisely where...


In reply to an earlier post on 27 Feb 2014 19:27:29 GMT
Allen Baird says:
Chances are if you've met me before in Amazon it would be in personal development, business thinking, Nietzsche or play studies. Anywhere apart from Fifty Shades...

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Feb 2014 19:52:42 GMT
Theo says:
I just scanned through your reviews. I think it might've been your review of The Wisdom of Psychopaths.

Incidentally, I noticed from your profile page that you have a business book club. I hope you don't mind: I've sent an email to the address on the web page you provide.
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