February 13th 2013 by Andrew S Gibson
Let me ask you a question:
Do you believe that your level of photographic ability (or talent) is fixed, and that there’s little you can do to change your innate level of talent? Or do you believe that your ability level is changeable, and that you can become a much better photographer through hard work and continuous learning?
I’ve just finished reading an interesting book called Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck. She explores the idea that people have one of two mindsets in areas like intelligence, creativity and talent at various skills (for example, photography).
A person with a fixed mindset believes that they have a finite amount of talent or intelligence and that there is little they can do to change that. No matter how much they try and learn or improve themselves they are not doing much more than trying to make the most of what they have got.
A person with a growth mindset believes that intelligence, creativity and talent can all be developed. The pursuit of excellence involves hard work and learning but ultimately it is possible to achieve excellence in these and other areas.*
When it comes to photography, which mindset do you have?
If you look at the work of professional photographers and think ‘I could never achieve that’ then I have some news for you. You’re wrong. Isn’t that a liberating idea? It means that you’re not limited by your perception of how much talent or creativity you have. If you’re willing to learn, and to put the hard work in, you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve.
Six years ago I didn’t have a clue how to write an article or an ebook. But I learnt, and now I make a living as a writer.
Developing a growth mindset
How do you move from the fixed mindset to the growth mindset? Here is a list of attributes that I think help, based on my observations of people who are successful at what they do (you may be able to think of some others):
- They have curiosity. Successful people are driven by curiosity. What happens if I do that? How does this work? How did that person do that? Curiosity drives us to find the answers to things we don’t know.
- They have little fear of failure. Sometimes people are afraid to do or try something in case it goes wrong. Why? I think learning is a continual process of trying, failing, tweaking and trying again until you are successful. If you try and fail, all that really happened is that you found a way that didn’t worked.
- They work hard. This takes discipline and involves learning how to work smart and manage your time well. People with the growth mindset understand that there are very few successful ‘get-rich quick’ schemes. Success is the result of years of learning and hard work.
- They love what they do. Essential. It’s hard to put in the effort required to become good at something if you are not motivated and don’t enjoy what you do.
- They like to learn. A growth mindset requires a desire to learn new skills and the discipline to find the time to study.
- They have a positive attitude. It’s hard to learn and to grow if you have a negative outlook on life.
- They take action. Seth Godin talks a lot about ‘shipping‘. That’s his term for getting something to market. The growth mindset requires that you don’t just think about something – you take action and make it happen.
- They set goals. A goal has a measurable outcome and a specific target date. For example, ‘I want to have a photo published in a photography magazine by the end of 2013’ is a specific, measurable goal.**
- They network. They get to know people who can help them achieve their goals or learn more.
Of course, if you want to learn more about photography my website is a great place to start! I’m going to post a series of short articles analysing some of my photos over the next few weeks. I’ll explain some of the factors behind them, and point you to a few resources that will help you become better at photography.
**Sign up for Brian Tracy’s free newsletter and you’ll receive a free PDF copy of his book Goals! I’ve learnt a lot from Brian’s newsletter (and his book) that has helped me in my career. It’s well worth the effort.