I wrote this article after I just got off watching this great and important video for Heidi Grant Halvorson in 99u. (that was back in March 2015)

Heidi Grant Halvorson: The Incredible Benefits of a “Get Better” Mindset

She was talking about “be good mindsets” and “get better mindset”. Summarizing those will be as follow:
– be good mindset is all about only looking at the final goal, building a perfect image of that, then suffering not reaching there. It encourages comparison with other people and focuses on “what is everybody else doing”.
– get better mindset is about focusing on the vertical line of growth and always comparing your current own progress with your past progress to notice the difference and keep growing.

Heidi just phrased, scientifically, what I believed for a long time. So from here on these are my thoughts and experiences on the subject.

I grew up with a lot of high expectations. My dad is a smart professor at the university, my mom is a very bright person with firm believes and full of hopes and dreams. I am the first child for my parents, and have been an honor student almost all through my elementary and middle school life, and still considered a “good kid” till my graduation from high school (not sure of now though. lol). I spent my kindergarten life in England, so that gave me an upper hand in terms of language ability.

I was always in the front line of everything until we went to the States. It was 2002, and I was 13 years of age. Due to differences in calendar counting and a whole another bunch of stuff, I entered 9th grade as the youngest freshman in Shorewood High School (Milwaukee, WI) that year. This particular year shaped my whole life experiences, as everything that I thought was “perfect” just collapsed. My english level turned out it can’t hold a whole sentence together , my athletic ability was near to non, and my level of thinking couldn’t get past the action and sci-fi novels I was reading. When all of this reality broke, all the “be good” mentality just went down with it. The experience was so horrifying, specially for a 13 years old kid. I mean, imagine sitting in class and be the ONLY ONE that literally can’t understand what everybody else is saying. During the first semester my life was a disaster, my grades were really bad, my soccer and then basketball training was proving that I was made of pure fat, and above all, it was fucking freezing in Milwaukee and I have to enjoy the snow.

But what I love about that particular experience, is that everybody around me was praising every simple step. My family, my teachers, my coaches and almost everybody. I remember I went to the student councilor once (I visit every now and then), because there was a parent day thing, and I have to tell my parent to come, but I didn’t understand what was the event about! So, I talk to him, and I mention the word “available” in my talk, and the councilor (I think his name was Mr. Green) said “available is big word!”. I remember this exact moment so clearly because it had a really big impact on me, and I can see him praising the very tiny small progress I had over the months. This went on and everyday I am fighting to cross my way through. Until the second semester came in and the biggest learning moment in my life just came in out of nowhere. I was checking the grades for the mid-term test for my most unfavorable subject: Integrated Health. I can see that I had a B- (or a B+ not sure, but anyways), and I was thinking to my self “Wohoo! I got an awesome grade!!!”. Then this American kid just comes beside me, sees his grade, and he shouts in disappointed voice “Oh man! C’mon, a “D” … ”. In that exact moment lightning struck. I thought to my self “wait a second, this guy is an american, he is born and raised speaking english and yet he got a D”, then I just realized “holy shit! even in Saudi everybody speaks arabic, but there are still students who fail and students who pass with varying grades”. Then I just realized, and here is the moral of the story, it is not all about language, there is the whole hard working and dedication part.

Such important realization changed the way I view life entirely, and it let me appreciate effort more and more. It let me see the meaning in working hard and the unexpected results and joy it can bring. Fortunately, around this time I was also hitting puberty, while it was almost mid season for freshman basketball, my physic changed a lot and became much better too. I turned from the roundish fat geek, to a much more slim normal kind of teenager. This all added up to me starting to think in terms of appreciating efforts and small steps.

fast forward years later at college in Japan. This sort of thinking was and still the most fundamental core of how I think, act and progress. When I arrived in Japan, I didn’t speak Japanese. like my Japanese was “hi” and “thank you”. But I believed that consistent effort will lead somewhere, and it actually led me to get to one of the best universities, and my Japanese skills kept improving drastically over the years. But language is something simple, and you are pressured to acquire it over time. My real problem was communicating with people, specially with girls. I went over a very long process, due a lot of time constraints, I did micro acts of bravery to overcome my fears to talk with girls and strangers in general. Because my progress was so slow, my friends didn’t notice it that much, so I had to keep watching and praising myself. Every time there is a failure, I keep looking for how it was a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, and thank god that I evolved so much from that time. Specially now after 9 years in Japan, I can positively say that it almost impossible to identify me with the person that arrived here in 2007. (except for some stupidity part I guess lol)

Over all, in everything I do, specially now, I am more and more conscious about small steps and how will they lead to the future image I want to accomplish. This is helping me out more and more because we just started our startup, The 10th Floor, and this mindset becomes a core ground for our progress and how we keep on believing in doing what we do.

Come to think of it, my mom and dad never demanded perfection. They always, as every parent of course, wanted me (us) to have high grades and be the best, but they were very mild about it. Mom was the one handling education, and she always appreciated every little step along the way. Even when I was as young as 3 years of age, she used to play with me finding alphabets in the house games and there are always rewards for finding and identifying each alphabet. I used to study a lot so I don’t really get in much trouble, but when I do get bad grades, I remember -vaguely though- that I wasn’t punished that bad, or more of asked to explain the reason why I got bad grades. I guess this lead to my current character of trying to resolve the problem when it happens instead of just screaming around.

So to conclude this, it is always important to have a vision. The clearer the vision is the easier it is to navigate through chances, but what matters more is progress, even if it is super tiny mini steps. consistency and hard work will result in something. Just keep believing and work smart. We might talk about the same topic and how motivate yourself with numbers in a later post.

Cheers!
Mutaz