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Our Mindset Keeps Getting in Our Way

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

As we approach the seventh birthday of Fab Lab ICC, something I notice more and more with all of our Lab connections is that it is our mindset that gets in the way of our success not only in the Lab, but in our lives. As I make observations outside of the Lab, I see the same thing in all ages of people in all walks of life. From middle school students in the Lab to college students on the campus to participants in weight-loss programs to members of congregations and communities it is the lack of a mindset of self-empowerment that gets in our way of success and happiness.

Knowledge and Effort Yield Positive Outcomes

This excerpt from "Who Owns the Ice House?"--the book used in my Entrepreneurial Mindset class--demonstrates that it is with a closed mindset that we blame our circumstances for our disappointments rather than our choices or behaviors.

"For many, there is a disconnect between knowledge, effort and outcome. Without realizing it, we develop a closed mindset, a mindset that dampens our curiosity and discourages learning. We become blind to new opportunities.

Many engage in behavior that perpetuates their circumstances rather than improving their lives. Some people become convinced that life is a lottery, and that they have been left behind. Like survivors in a lifeboat, they respond to the wind and currents and tide rather than steering for a destination reflecting their own desire. They feel no reason to be curious, to seek knowledge, to look for answers and to learn. Rather than accepting responsibility and reaching for a better life, they passively accept their circumstances. They stop trying.

Some blame others for their circumstances. Rather than seeking knowledge that can help improve their lives, they tend to focus their time and energy blaming others for their disappointments while overlooking opportunities to improve their own lives. Without realizing it, they inadvertently adopt the position of weakness and victim-hood that renders them powerless to change. They become attached to an attitude that is at odds with their own self-interest."

Knowledge is Not a One-Time Proposition

The excerpt comes from a chapter on knowledge and how knowledge is not a one-time proposition where you finish school and you're done learning. Indeed, knowledge is a life-long process, and we should be using all kinds of methods to improve our knowledge as we live.

Self-Empowerment is Pervasive

We see big improvements in the self-efficacy--sometimes I use a more intuitive term, self-empowerment--of those involved in Fab Lab making and learning activities. Interesting thing: self-empowerment from one activity or learning experience creates self-empowerment in other areas of our lives. So much so that our primary mission is now to improve the self-empowerment of all who experience Fab Lab ICC and our programs.

Given what we've learned about this in the last four years, it occurs to me that every agency and institution that helps people should shift their primary focus to one of inspiring self-empowerment within their constituents and stakeholders. From community colleges to K-12 education, from hospitals to medical clinics, from retail to service businesses; if we shifted our focus to empower those we serve, not only would those lives improve dramatically, but the things we measure for our own success would improve as well.

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 or by email at Archive columns and podcasts at

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