Nancy and I recently saw My Week with Marilyn. We loved the  movie and we hope Michelle Williams wins the Oscar. As you may know the movie is about a week in 1956 when The Prince and the Showgirl was being shot in England, and it is based on two books.

Watching My Week with Marilyn, I was struck by Marilyn’s struggles to believe in herself. She was terrified, insecure and nervous acting with  Sir Laurence Olivier. Marilyn’s acting coach, Paula Strasburg  constantly reminded her that she was an incredibly talented actress.

I suspect that throughout her career Marilyn Monroe was told she was a talented actress and that she had natural gifts in front of a camera. While the camera loved Marilyn, She seemed to never believe she was a good actress.

What does this movie and icon have to do with you as a lawyer and a parent? Have you ever heard of Stanford Psychology Professor Carol Dweck? I have written about her several times.

For thirty years she has studied and written about how mindset influences achievement. Click on Mindsets, and If you are a parent, you will find fabulous articles about how to and how not to praise your children.

The same lessons apply to praising young lawyers.  Some senior lawyers believe junior lawyers either have the ability to get business or do not. They tell those who “have it” how wonderful they are. I am living proof a lawyer can learn how to develop business and I enjoy showing junior lawyers that with focused effort, they can do it.

I believe I first became aware of Dr. Dweck’s work when I read a July 6, 2008 New York Times article titled:” If You’re Open to Growth, You Tend to Grow. I was especially interested, because the article focused on why some people reach their creative potential in business while equally talented others do not.

People who believe in the power of talent tend not to fulfill their potential because they’re so concerned with looking smart and not making mistakes. But people who believe that talent can be developed are the ones who really push, stretch, confront their own mistakes and learn from them.

I have been around lawyers who believe in the power of talent. Their parents and teachers have told them how smart they are and how talented they are. I rarely can help them. I have coached lawyers who believe they can develop their skills. Like the quote above, they really push, stretch, confront their mistakes and learn from them. I love coaching those lawyers.