Recently I failed at something I'm supposed to be really good at.
I was interviewing Dr. Dawn Fox, a Lecturer at the University of Guyana who was about receive the OWSD-Elsevier Foundation Award for Women Scientists in the Developing World at AAAS. I asked good questions, and she answered them eloquently, speaking passionately and too fast for me to keep pace with pen and paper. But that was OK – I was recording the conversation on my smartphone.
Or so I thought.
When I went to save the recording, I was mortified. It had vanished into the ether.
Ironically, Dawn had been talking about something I needed to hear at that moment – and she was quick to remind me.
“One of the life lessons I’ve learned on this journey is not to be afraid of failure,” she had said. “And in fact, it’s a part of the scientific method.
“If you have a hypothesis and you test it and it doesn’t work out, you change things and you go again,” she explained. “And we learn a lot more from failure than from an outright success because we study failure more.”
Her advice made me realize that I needed to reconsider my own “method” of recording coversations.
For the moment, I opted to use two recording devices while recording smaller portions of interviews rather than waiting until the end to save all.
And so we continued our conversation with Dawn graciously offering to extend the interview.
Sometimes I think ideas get “in the air.” Soon after I returned, I ran into my colleague Sumita Singh, Managing Director of Reference Solutions at Elsevier, and she told me about a topic she’s passionate about: the importance of a “growth mindset” for girls and women. In fact, she had spoken about it recently at the 2018 Women’s March on New Jersey. Here is what she said in her speech:
We must raise resilient young girls with a growth mindset. As parents and educators, it is an imperative to allow our wives, daughters, nieces and sisters to embrace failure, to welcome challenges, to persist despite them. Setbacks are nothing more than teachable moments for us all.
A growth mindset and a resilient personality benefits girls and women throughout their lives. In my professional life in a global business, I take a growth mindset and embrace challenges, and it has served me well. So, my message to the women and girls to day is to not let gender stereotypes define who you are. Don’t let the media and pop culture define who you can be. There is no such thing as failure but just a lesson to do better next time.
In our conversation in the social hub of our New York office, and on her LinkedIn post about the march, Sumita pointed out that much had been written in the literature about “growth mindset.” She recommended this article about the research being led by Prof. Catherine Good, a social psychologist and math educator at Stanford University: A Growth Mindset Helps Girls Learn Math.