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  • Writer's pictureEsther

How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset: Balancing Humility and Confidence in Practice and Execution

At a work event where Matthew Syed, a British journalist, author, and former table tennis player, spoke, I learned about his ideas and thoughts on the Growth mindset

As his words inspired and resonated with me, I peeked into his books to learn more about and from him.

It turns out that he is writing about many of the beautiful topics that I am excited about, such as developing a mindset of being open and able to learn from failure, overcoming obstacles, and allowing for greater ideas by engaging with people who are not like-minded. 

And there was one thing he said I couldn´t stop thinking about: You need to be humble when practising and confident when executing.

Be humble when practising

To be humble when practising means, first of all, acknowledging that you need to practise - despite all the things you believe you know or can do. And secondly, you are allowing yourself and others to watch, teach, and criticise you. And that can be a hurting experience.


But sacrificing feeling good now for feeling even better in the future is worth it.

I was ten when I started to learn English in school. I followed class and did my homework but never focused on learning vocabulary. I assume I thought it wasn’t necessary as I could follow class easily. 

But it didn’t take long for my first vocabulary test to come and show me the painful reality: I was not smart enough to learn a language without thoroughly teaching myself the vocabulary. The result of my first test was that I got a 6, the worst grade in Germany possible. 

As an innocent 10-year-old, I failed dramatically. Still, I learned a powerful lesson: I needed to practise to become proficient in English, and there was no way around the long, annoying and rocky road of learning the damn words and the grammar.

But the good news is that practising allows for a beautiful thing subsequently: Becoming good at something.

In my example, good enough to talk, write, and work in English.

Of course, there is always something that I could have said better, and I need to maintain my vocabulary for it to remain by practising carefully. Additionally, new challenges are coming my way constantly, such as strange accents, abbreviations, idioms, phrases, and the list goes on. It is all about being open to learning, practising, failing and repeating - humbly.

Many other jobs require practice, too; think about surgeons, pilots and bus drivers.

When engaging with them, we all want them to be really good at their job. No one wants a surgeon who doesn’t bother to practise how to operate patients successfully. And no one wants to be on the plane those pilots haven’t practised landing hundreds of times before - in the simulator and real-life - humbly learning to become better and better to avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Be confident when executing

When it comes to execution, however, we want the pilot to be confident. We want them to trust their capabilities and training, and, despite the circumstances, we want them to keep calm, think analytically and get the plane with everyone on board safely back on the runway.

The same applies to the surgeon performing an operation. We want them to be confident that they can bring through their patients successfully, we don’t want them to freeze and second-guessing everything they are doing. We want them to routinely and confidently help us. And hell, yes, they may even be arrogant when succeeding as long as they return to humble practising, knowing that every life on their tables matters and is at risk and needs the doctor’s full attention and skills.

And the same applies to you: You are asked to present something at work or university? Well, practise!

Learn as much as possible about the topic and practise delivering it. Humbly, ask for feedback, film yourself and cringe through the recording, but learn from what you see and improve. Lean in and challenge yourself, and then on the big day, go on stage, stand up straight with your shoulders back, and execute confidently.

Don´t worry about being unable to answer every possible question coming your way, don´t freeze when it happens and don´t second-guess your abilities. Remember what you have practised and that the good thing is when the task is a presentation, you can follow up with the correct answers to your audience later. 

Be humble when practising and confident when executing.

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