Growth Mindset & the Power of “Not Yet”

Growth MindsetSo, I’ve been learning as much as I can about launching a ‘software as a service’ business. Since I also have a day job, I am doing this by listening to podcasts and audio books (see the page Stuff I Like for a list). Am I an expert?? Er, NOT YET! The amount to learn seems overwhelming. Mail Chimp, Google Analytics, Word Press, SEO, Libsyn. And so the list goes on….

However, a side benefit has been a reminder about something that I fundamentally know to be true, but which I often forget. The powers of a growth mindset. In other words, brains and talent are a good starting point, but dedication and hard work will lead to accomplishment.

A fixed mindset is the opposite to a growth mindset. That is the mindset of people who say things like “I am just no good at xxxx”, or “Oh, I could never do that”. Growth mindset is also the enemy of “all or nothing” thinking. This is when you say “Either I am really good at xxxx, or else I am a failure at it”. As a teenager, I was a master at this line of thought.

The “non-runner” who trains for a marathon is a great example of someone who has a growth mindset.  Or the person with no formal education who decides, midlife, to go back to school to get a post secondary qualification.

In my own life, it is what allowed me to go from a 30 year old smoker who couldn’t jog 1 mile, to a mountain biker who podiumed in a 24 hour, solo mountain bike race at 44.

Anything is possible. That is, if you want it badly enough and are prepared to work for it. You need to have a healthy ego, because the chances are you’ll fail along the way. Oh, and a great sense of humour.  Because, let’s face it, life is a shit show.

Also, you’ll notice that 15 years passed between my first, dreadful, running experience and the longest MTB ride of my life. Progress is about chipping away, little by little, at a goal. I learned to recognize small wins and forgive myself when you I didn’t meet my own (arbitrary) expectations. Out of pure frustration I have thrown my bike in to the bush more times than I care to remember. This didn’t do me (or my bike) much good! Forgive yourself but don’t give up. It’s easier and less damaging to personal property than throwing things.

I’d also suggest that you stay away from the FMP (fixed mindset people). You know, those negative nellies, who constantly wang on about what they can’t do, or worse, tell you what you can’t do. Enough said.

I’ve heard others describe this mind set as “believing in the process”. I have adopted this as a personal mantra for when things get a bit tough.

Recently I watched a great Ted Talk by Carol Dweck. She describes a school in the US that added the grade “not yet” to their marking process. If a child doesn’t pass a subject, they receive a “not yet” grade instead of a failing one.

In this way the message they gave to kids was that, although they hadn’t reached the required standard yet, it wasn’t a permanent situation. The door remained open for them to try a different approach, work harder and, with support, get to where they needed to be. Contrast this with the prevailing trend to give everyone a congratulatory slap on the back and a gold star, regardless of performance*.

One of the things I’ve noticed with a growth mindset is that, sometimes, I apply it to certain aspects of my life, but then not others. This happens with other people too. I know individuals who have achieved remarkable success in their careers, yet shy away from fulfilling their burning ambitions out of a fear of failure.

For me, I have always wanted to start my own online business. I am perfectly placed to do so. My husband is a top notch software developer, I have business experience, a wonderful network of smart people, and a relatively flexible life (read: no kids). But I haven’t done it until now because I didn’t know the first thing about it. I would probably still be thinking about it unless a good friend had asked me to join her. Once she did, and we took the first step, I was hooked.

Who knows where this latest venture will take us. We haven’t bet the farm (yet!), we are learning as we go along, and our progress is slow. However, even if this doesn’t turn in to a viable profit making endeavour, I will benefit in other ways. I always do. I’ll prove I can do it, and so gain self confidence. I’ll learn something new. I’ll meet new people and I’ll have a great story to tell.

So what is your burning ambition? What can you do to take small steps to move towards it? If I can, believe me, you can.

*Full disclosure here - I don’t have kids so this comment is based on my own experience working with undergraduate students for 7 years. Those kids whose parents have used the “everything you do is awesome” approach to parenting have fragile egos and don’t know how to deal with criticism.


Rock City MTB, Ellicottville

Rock CityRob, myself and the three tiny terrors were bit pooped today after mountain biking in Holiday Valley on Saturday and Sunday. At one point last night, I had to poke Sprocket to check he was still alive. So the prospect of more climbing (which is pretty much a given when mountain biking in EVL) wasn’t that appealing and instead we opted to ride Rock City.

Rock City, part of a NY state forest, is gorgeous. Riding the trails there feels like you’ve gone back in time to when the dinosaurs roamed. JP & Rock CityHuge rocks covered in moss are everywhere and the trees are large and old, with enormous roots. It’s a fun place to ride when it is dry, although for those who are nervous of rocks and roots, there might be a bit of walking involved. That said, there are worse places to hike a bike.

Looking at WNYMBA‘s review of the trail, it gets five stars and I understand why. I think their review is of a much smaller section than the one I call “Rock City” as they say it is 1 mile long and I clocked about 6km from the entrance to the end where we joined the Tournado ByPass loop and rode out on to the South Pale Ale Trail to the road, making about a 9km loop in total.Rob & Terriers There isn’t a lot of elevation and so if you feel like working on your technical skills without coughing up a lung, this is a great place to do it. You may not ride all the sections, but the sense of achievement for getting through a rock garden that you’ve not managed before is unmistakable.

I’ve included the MTB Projects map of the EVL area below so you can get a sense of where it is if you’re interested in riding there. Or you could go to the MTB Project site and search for Ellicottville for more information.

Full Steve aHed-ley

This time last week (it has been a crazy one) Rob, and I got up at 6am on a Sunday. It was one of those mornings when you hear the wind and the rain lashing against the window and think that it would be much wiser to stay in bed. Dave dropped Mari off at our place and took the dogs and then Rob, Mari and I drove 1.5 hours north of Toronto to Dufferin County for a mountain biking event.

I think if this had been just any event we would have all stayed in bed, but this had been organized as a fundraiser for the family of a fellow Hamilton cyclist (Steve Reynolds) who recently died in his late forties after a brief but brutal battle with cancer, leaving a wife and two daughters behind. As we drove further north the skies cleared and the sun came out and we experienced one of those beautiful autumnal mornings that make you glad to be alive (if a little chilly).

About 40 people turned up for the ride which was to be an all abilities 40km jaunt through the forests around Dufferin County with a stop for lunch. Afterwards we joined family members and non-riders at Steve’s brother’s farm for an amazing meal (a relation of the family has a catering company and the food was incredible), a few beers, a silent auction and then, the highlight of the evening, a private performance by the Flamenco guitarist Jesse Cooke who apparently lives just round the corner. All hosted on a beautiful property surrounded by forest.

Although I wasn’t close to Steve I felt privileged to be a part of the event. The speed with which the cycling community pulled it together, the atmosphere during the ride, and then the live music made it a day to remember.


Rob  and Mari getting ready for the day. It was a cold start so we were grabbing as many layers as we could.





Hugh Black from True North (the guy that made our bikes) was there. He donated a bike to the silent auction. Results to be announced in November!


Below left – Rob with dogs and beer, what more could a man want? Below right, Mari and I showing Jesse Cooke what great flamenco dancers we could be.

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Summer-Fall 2010 023 I’ve started term again which means that two nights a week (Monday and Tuesday) I am in school. On top of working and with all the other stuff we try to cram in to our leisure time, this makes for a fairly hectic existence, not that I am complaining. The point of mentioning it is to explain why everything I write about, at least until next summer, is going to be a little bit after the fact as I only really get one or two chances in the week to blog. Hence a report on a race today that I actually rode last Sunday!

The Off-Road Squeezer is a citizens mountain bike race in St Catharines run in conjunction with the Niagara Wine Festival. As a participant you get some tokens you can spend at the food and wine stalls at the end of the race (not that I usually feel like a glass of wine after riding until my lungs burst for 30km, but the idea is nice). I road as a member of five women team called the Hardcore Biz’nitches (a name I cannot take any credit for) along with Mari, Mel, Anita and Amanda. A very fun bunch of women indeed. Mari and I drove down together and got an enviable parking spot right next to the festival site.

I was a bit apprehensive about my ability to ride 30km as I haven’t done much racing this year I was also racing on a single-speed for the first time. Be warned – DON’T RIDE THIS RACE SINGLE SPEED! The course is probably 60% road and double track. So, whilst I was spinning out like mad to keep up my speeds on the flat sections, I was being over taken by riders who, when they got to the single track in front of me, could not maintain their speed. I’d spend the single track sections trying to ride around people who were freaked out by the technical stuff, or not able to climb, only to pop out onto the road again, have them overtake me and start the whole thing again when we got back on single track. A somewhat frustrating experience.

That said, I felt really strong, was a little bit keyed up by the whole experience and so I really hammered round the single track and found out exactly how far I could push the limits of my True North, which was very, very fun. I love my bike (right). Phil Spectre

I should also say that the day was absolutely gorgeous, the trail was perfectly dry and I bumped in to a bunch of people I knew, and met a whole load of other lovely people, which, truth be told, is my favourite part about racing anyway. So it was well worth the trip. The Hardcore Biz’nitches won third place in the female team category and both Mari and I pulled in some pretty impressive times, even given our single speed handicap!

The race organizers, gave out plaques that looked like road signs to the winners – photo top left. Much cooler than a medal – it will take it’s place at the chalet next time we are down.

Mountain Biking Widow

This weekend has been a busy one. Mari and I celebrated the genesis of Rob and Dave’s new business venture on Friday night with one or two bottles of Malivoire (M2 and their blush, which was a lot dryer than a rose would usually be, and very tasty). I’ll leave Rob to write about this venture, and update the photos…

On Saturday we went to Rob’s brother Mike’s wedding. It was a great day, both Mike and Diana’s family and friends were out in force, beginning in downtown Toronto at 10am, and ending at who knows what time at a banquet hall in Vaughan. I felt like I needed a medal at the end of the day for staying on my feet. We even managed to dance. It wasn’t only the longest wedding I’ve ever been to, it was the most multicultural – a truly contemporary Canadian experience.

Diana’s family is Hindu and so the night before was a tradition Hindu ceremony. We weren’t able to make it, but I am told that Mike rode up to the ceremony (which was held in Scarborough) on a white horse in full traditional Hindu dress. The ceremony the next morning was at a Catholic church and Diana had a dress with a train that was longer than she is tall. That afternoon, the reception began with a traditional Chinese tea ceremony for the immediate family, and then went on to cover traditional Indian drumming, a salsa show, and a break-dancing demonstration. The food was Chinese meets south Asian and the drinking and high jinks were very much North American in nature.

Next morning Rob and I crawled out of bed at sunrise so that we could get him to Morriston in time to meet his friend Phil, one of the six guys Rob is heading down to Vermont with for the week on a guys mountain biking trip. We were both remarkably fresh given the antics of the day before. Rob headed out to Vermont (to return a couple of hours later, I understand, because Phil had forgotten his passport) and I went to collect Daisy from Dave and Mari’s and had breakfast at Earth to Table, the new addition to the fold that includes the Ancaster Old Mill and Spence’s.

It was fantastic to have a whole Sunday to myself. I walked Daisy at Kerncliffe Park, tidied up the house and watched the Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus with my dinner on my knee, a nice glass of Cab Sauv and my dog curled up next to me. Even better knowing that Monday was a holiday!

Dukes Epic 8 Hour Endurance

EnduroRob and I are a bit stiff in the legs and lower back this morning after the Dukes Epic 8 hour race yesterday. We rode round and round a 9km loop as many times as we could for eight hours. It was a hoot.

We were lucky to be parked in the solo area with the True North team and their support crew. Housed underneath a huge tent, complete with Max the dog, they adopted us and were just brilliant, helping us with their encouragement, filling water bottles and passing us food.

I felt dreadful at the end and didn’t really have as good a day as I had hoped. With the pain behind me, I can see where I need to improve in my training and, it was a great learning experience to take forward to the rest of the season (most notably the Crank in September).

In a nut shell, my long distance training to date has been to do a maximum of four and a half hours of riding, and, sure enough, up to the four and a half hour mark yesterday I felt great but after that, I was more or less just focusing on finishing without doing myself any damage.

All that said, Team Wanderlust (Rob, Tecla and I) and the True North guys did really well. Mari and Jen (True North), who were doing a tag team, came 1st in the Women’s Tag Team category, Rob was fourth in the Solo Men’s 40+ category and I was sixth in the Womens Solo (which isn’t defined by age groups because there were only 13 of us, so, just in passing, I’d like to note that two of the women who beat me where under 29).

Jasmin took quite a few photos of the day, and I’ll link to them when they are up on the web, but just to give you an idea of the sort of state you get into after 8 hours of riding in the dust, check out the one above taken at the end of a similar race last year. I’m still trying to get the grit out of my eyes this morning.

Our First Ever O’Cup

05-Juliette trail1For the uninitiated, an “O’Cup” refers to the Ontario Cup cycling races that take place each year here in…Ontario. There’s a cross country mountain biking O’Cup and a road riding O’Cup. I don’t know much about the road series, but the MTB series consists of 8 races over the course of spring, summer and fall at various locations across Ontario (surprise!).

You get points for where you place in each race. The best five of your races gets added up to decide on where you place in your category for the season. Top 3 get some kind of kudos, and probably a prize. There are various categories for both men and women as well as a “Sport” category for people who are less serious and an “Expert” category for the hard asses. Needless to say, this being my first O’Cup season, I am in the Sport category and after last weekend, very glad to be there. The standard is high!

We drove up in the VW with Mari, bumped into Debs and Carl on the way, and met loads of people we knew once we were up there. It served to soothe the nerves a bit, seeing so many familiar faces.

The race was really very different to anything I’ve done before. Usually we do long races of 60km and more. You keep eating, maintain a certain heart rate and at the end, sheer guts and determination get you through to the finish line.

An O’Cup race is totally different. Firstly it’s very short, about 18km-20km. There is no time to eat, drink, look behind to see where your competitors are, or make any major technical or mechanical mistakes, it’s over in a little more than an hour. You ride like your pants were on fire and you’re being chased by a bear. You can’t hear yourself think because you’re breathing so heavily and you wonder whether your lungs are going to explode. You feel like you are going to vomit as you push, push, push to the finish line. The gaps between first second and third can be less than a minute. It’s bonkers. I loved it. I have never ever felt my competitive streak in such a visceral way. I am hooked.

I pulled in a respectable fourth in my category, due partly to the fact that Tecla was hot on my heels the entire race (and there is just a smidge of friendly rivallry between the two of us). Rob actually podiumed with a third place in his group and Debs and Dave also came third in their category.

We did really well as a group and afterwards hung out in the sunshine and swapped war stories. Our next one is in two weeks. I can’t wait.

Lisa, Dave’s wife, who is the best support person anyone could hope for, took some photos of the day. I have put the ones she sent to me on my Facebook page and Tecla has some other really nice ones on her Flickr site.