Growth MindsetWinning is not a sometime thing; it’s an all-time thing…”  I write these words of Vince Lombardi after just watching Matt Cassel, playing with his fifth NFL team, throw a terrible floater towards the end zone, resulting in his second interception of the game.

So how does Matt Cassel, branded with a losing record, and the Dallas Cowboys, with not much to celebrate since the mid 90’s, “never lose”?

Before I answer this, I must confess that I consider myself a realist.  My wife may use more choice words.  Perhaps she’d even use the word “skeptical” to describe me at times. I’m just not inclined to think everything will somehow fall into place, and my tendency is to call things how I see them.

I say this because I don’t necessarily believe in spinning a negative into a trite positive.  “Well, Matt, at least you made it into the NFL.  Think about how many quarterbacks don’t make it that far.”  Saying something like this would not console me, nor do I believe it would console him.

However, I do believe a growth mindset provides a sense of comfort and hope.  And I believe that with this mindset, a person never loses.

If every experience, every venture, every failure is viewed as a learning and growth opportunity, a person will always come out on top.

This person will be more likely to take risks, and ultimately, to succeed. If not in one thing, then in another.

Now I don’t know Matt Cassel.  I don’t know his mindset.  But if he finishes his NFL career with a losing record (which is very likely – Sorry Matt, just the realist in me), I personally don’t consider him to have had a losing career.   Given that Cassel values the ability to persevere, this alone can have him come out a winner.

Perseverance.  Many have been admired for possessing this trait.  People seem to innately respect it.  And rightfully so.

Who is more likely to break when true hardships present themselves?  The one who has been tested and persevered or the one to whom winning always seems to come easy?  Although I believe you can learn many life lessons from football, there is much more to life outside of football.


Grit.  It’s a powerful predictor of future success.  Angela Duckworth discusses the challenges of instilling and developing this trait in students.

With this in mind, in an attempt to develop this trait in my students, I’m doing my best to praise the process rather than the product.  To celebrate mistakes as successes.


After each math assessment, I have students complete a WIN.  WIN stands for “What I Noticed” and when I hand back each math test, the WIN sheet is stapled on top of the test.  The incorrect answers on the tests are circled, often with little clues to help point students in the right direction.

On the WIN sheet, students must record 1. Their original answer 2. What they believe to be the correct answer 3. What they noticed about their mistake (ex. “I noticed that I should have…” or “I noticed that I need to….”)

In my classroom, hanging is the picture included at the top of this post.  Underneath it, I recognize and display (with permission from my students) WIN sheets from select students who have really put in the effort to thoroughly learn from their errors.

I celebrate mistakes.

I Never Lose

This definitely wasn’t true growing up. Perhaps being a “realist” caused me to always play it on the safe side, to avoid risks and things I deemed too challenging. If I wasn’t good at something or didn’t feel I had the potential to be good, I didn’t really try.  That’s how I made my decisions, and that’s how I grew to identify and value myself.

I Either Win or I Learn

I’m tempted to sometimes view those years as lost time, but I now purposefully shift my mindset to view those losses as gains. They and other losses along the way fuel me to move forward.

And with that, I Never Lose.