As a two-year old toddler, Tiger Woods golfed on national television in a putting contest against Bob Hope. Shirley Temple had already won an Academy Award at age seven. Mozart composed a symphony before his eighth birthday. Surely the great talents are born and not made€¦right?
A counterpoint to the stories of child prodigies can be found in the life of Anna Mary Moses. A widowed farm wife, Moses took up painting after arthritis rendered her unable to embroider. Beginning at age 75, she painstakingly taught herself to paint. After time, she began selling her oil paintings at county fairs alongside her prizewinning pickles.
In 1938, an art collector discovered Moses` paintings at a pharmacy in upstate New York. After buying the paintings, the collector took them to Otto Kallir, an art dealer in New York City. In 1940, Kallir brought national attention to Moses by showcasing her art in his Manhattan gallery. Very rapidly, the amazing story of the farm widow turned artist began to spread. The art world was abuzz with talk of Grandma Moses` folk paintings, and the popularity of her work soared.
Moses would go on to achieve international acclaim, and she would be featured on the cover of Time and Life magazines. By the time she died, at age 101, Grandma Moses had produced an astonishing total of 1600 works of art€”250 of them after she celebrated her 100th birthday. Although she never painted until well into her seventies, amazingly, Grandma Moses is now considered one of the finest folk artists in American history
THE CASE FOR GROWTH
In their recent article for Fast Company, brothers Chip and Dan Heath consider how people are affected by their attitude toward growth. Although they don`t delve into the nature versus nurture debate, they do present an interesting case study in favor of a growth mindset.
In the article, the Heath`s cite an educational experiment involving the growth perspectives of two sets of junior high students. Over eight weeks, the first group was taught to embrace a growth-oriented mindset. Lessons in their classes emphasized the importance of strengthening their minds with messages such as:
€¢ Your brain is like a muscle that can be developed with exercise;
€¢ Just as a baby gets smarter as it learns, so can you;
€¢ Everything is hard before it gets easy–never give up because you don’t master something immediately.
The second group did not spend time talking about the potential to grow during class time. By the end of the experimental period, the growth-oriented group considerably outperformed the other, with several students exhibiting spectacular jumps in their test scores.
The Heath`s speculate that a similar growth mindset might help a person to enhance his or her leadership skills. They conclude their article by stating, €œHow you think about your skills–as fixed or growing–affects your success.
As an elderly farm widow, Grandma Moses believed in her ability to cultivate new skills late in life. Her attitude toward growth enabled her to create world-renowned art for posterity to enjoy. Looking at her life begs the questions: What is your attitude toward growth? Are you constantly challenging yourself to improve, or have you settled for your present level of skill?
To read all of Dan and Chip Heath`s article, €œLeadership Is a Muscle, visit Fast Company at: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/117/column-made-to-stick.html.