October 5, 2018

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

New job is a reminder of the ‘growth mindset’ of Jesus

Patti LambRecently, I took a new job to be on my children’s schedule and to shorten my commute. When I met my sisters for breakfast last weekend, they asked about my new employment.

I told them I’m reminded of how humbling it can be to learn a new role. I gave them a quick rundown of the highlights of my first few weeks:

  • One morning, I poured out an entire pot of my boss’s “good” coffee (the expensive kind) because I thought it was from the day before and I wanted to tidy up the kitchenette.
  • I was asked to deliver nametags to a school that was undergoing construction and got lost. I had to ask a first-grader for directions back to the main office.
  • I got locked in a hallway adjoining two buildings and was finally rescued by a kind maintenance technician with an understanding smile and a full set of keys.
  • I learned that saying “Code Yellow” over the radio elicits a quicker response since custodians know that indicates a child has expelled bodily fluid.
  • The corporation just switched to Google, and there’s a huge learning curve with technology.
  • And—I saved the best for last: “I have to punch in on a time clock.” (At this point, one of my sisters gasped and slightly choked on her omelet. She collected herself and kindly said, “But you run on ‘Patti time,’ which is a little different from the rest of the world.”)

God is good. I’m grateful to report that I’m still employed! Fortunately, my supervisors are former teachers who don’t believe that early performance is always an indicator of success. They believe we can all learn and thrive.

I work for two bright, grace-giving directors, who have turned my bumpy start into a lesson I didn’t truly understand until this point in my life: “Put on your growth mindset.”

One afternoon, amidst my comedy of errors, the assistant director handed me a book titled Mindset by Carol Dweck.

In a nutshell, the book illustrates that just because some people can perform a task with little or no training does not mean that others can’t do it (and sometimes even better) with training.

A person operating with a “fixed” mindset is pleased when something is easy for him or her, but others can’t do it easily or well. Someone using a “growth” mindset relishes the experience of growth. They persistently work at something, even when it doesn’t come easy, and find satisfaction when they begin to figure it out.

I find that I’ve been living with a fixed mindset. When I first started my new job, I would make a statement like, “I have a poor sense of direction.”

But I’ve adjusted my mindset and now I’ll say, “I’ve discovered a new way to get from the kindergarten wing to the main office.”

In this book, I also read that good teachers believe in the growth of talent and intellect. My supervisors consistently say, “We’ll get there.”

I’m finding that sometimes I learn more from my failures than I do from my victories. My failures make me reconsider how I might have done something differently.

I find hope in the truth that Jesus is the ultimate “Good Teacher,” patient, merciful and gracious in ways we’ll never comprehend. His is the ultimate growth mindset.

Despite our repeated mess-ups, when we feel especially unworthy of his love, I think this is what he wants us to hear: “I love you. We’ll get there.”

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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