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Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn

Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas 

Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn. I wish I could take credit for coining this phrase, but sadly I stole it after seeing it on a wall-art plaque. When we have a Growth Mindset, we don’t really lose as long as we learn something so we can do better next time. It says we have control over whether we win or not. On the other side of the coin, we have the Fixed Mindset; sometimes you win sometimes you lose. In the fixed mindset, winning and losing is out of our control. Growth mindset people learn that no matter what their natural intelligence, talents and abilities, they can work to improve themselves. These people also know that they have a lot of control over their lives, no matter what their circumstances. It’s their choices that determine life’s outcomes, not circumstances. Fixed mindset people, on the other hand believe they’ve been dealt a certain hand of intelligence, talents and abilities and that the hand won’t change much over time. This leads to a fear of trying anything new or difficult because failure means they’re not good enough and there’s nothing they can do about it. Fixed mindset messages are pervasive in our society. Do poorly on a standardized test in school and you won’t be successful. Do poorly on your SAT’s, not getting into that prestigious college and your life is over. 

Sports, when done right, can help develop the growth mindset in athletes, fostering personal development and collaboration. Sadly, we can see many examples of sports gone awry, from many parents’ and coaches’ behavior on the little league field to actions by the professional athletes not only on the field but also in their personal lives. 

Many of our institutions promote a fixed mindset. One of the most prominent is state-sanctioned gambling; we like to use the word gaming instead as it sounds much more acceptable.  

If I was a politician—and I’m glad I’m not—and I were to say “I want to levy a tax against the poorest Kansans, taking away money they could be using to better care for themselves and their families.” I’d likely be run out of office. Yet this is what we’re doing with our state-owned casinos and state-run lotteries. It is these people that take up substantial space in the casino parking lots and lottery ticket lines in the convenience stores. There are huge negative implications resulting from gambling that affect much more than just the money we lose. Gambling promotes a fixed mindset that says we’re stuck in our life’s situation and we can’t get out of it unless we win the lottery. Sometimes you win, but most of the time you lose. If you’re trying to lead a region, say Southeast Kansas, out of poverty, more casinos and lottery tickets is not the answer. By the way, we can’t really blame the politicians for state-sanctioned gambling. We asked it, in the name of economic development and to support education, and they delivered. 

If you want to know more about growth and fixed mindset and be shocked at how much it affects our youth and, indeed, all of our society check out “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Carol Dweck. Dr. Dweck has done much research and observation and she not only spells out the ill-effects of fixed mindset, but she offers great techniques on helping people change their mindset from fixed to growth. Fortunately, Fab Lab ICC activities of making things and learning to do things you couldn’t do before supports the change from fixed to growth mindset. 

You’ll never see poker or craps tables or slot machines at Fab Lab ICC. You’ll never see a casino logo grace our walls on a sponsor banner. We want our theme to be “Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn.” Losing does not enter our mindset. 

Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at or Twitter @jimcorrellks. 

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