Turia Pitt: An Agile Learner in action

Turia Pitt is an Agile Learner. She has a Growth Mindset and knows how to take on challenges and overcome adversity.

Completing a double bachelor’s degree in Engineering (Mining) and Science at the University of New South Wales in 2010, Turia went on to successfully apply her learning as a mining engineer at a prestigious diamond mining company in Western Australia.

Not content with only pursuing academic and career goals, Turia excelled in many other areas of her life. She was a contestant in the Miss Earth Australia contest, a professional model, and a successful ultramarathon runner.

Tragically, on 2nd September 2011, while competing in a 100km ultramarathon in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Turia was caught in a grass fire. She suffered burns to 65% of her body, including her face. Turia was placed in a medically-induced coma for six months, underwent more than 200 operations, had her left foot amputated, and lost all the fingers on her left hand and two on her right. In total, she spent more than two years in hospital recovering from her burns.

Turia’s life would never be the same. To say that she’d suffered a setback would be an understatement. But Turia did not let the events of September 2011 define her. She understood that, although circumstances beyond her control had radically changed her life, she was still able to grow. She had achieved so much growth in her life already – why couldn’t she achieve more?

In the years that followed her recovery, Turia took on many new challenges. These included:

  • Completing a Master of Business Administration at Southern Cross University.
  • Competing in Ironman events, including the grueling Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii.
  • Walking the Great Wall of China and Kokoda Track.
  • Authoring best-selling books, including Everything to Live For and Unmasked.
  • Becoming a sought-after and acclaimed speaker, headlining the National Achievers Conference in Brisbane 2018.
  • Finalist for Young Australian of the Year.
  • Shortlisted for Australian of the Year.
  • NSW finalist for the Telstra Business Woman of the Year.
  • Winning Westpac Woman of the Year 2013.
  • Founding the School of Champions to show others how to achieve their goals.

Turia Pitt completes Ironman Hawaii in 2016. Photo: Delly Carr for Ironman

Turia credits much of her success to her Mindset. She understands that the person she is today does not have to be the person she is tomorrow. She knows she’s capable of significant growth.

But where did Turia get her Mindset from? 

The Authentic Growth Mindset V’s the Learned Growth Mindset

In my book, The Agile Learner, I explain how the achievement and experience of growth lead to a cascade of emotions that result in the Growth Mindset. With some initial success, we experience a sense of progress and satisfaction. Then with further growth comes a sense of achievement, confidence and, eventually, a sense of courage.
So, in a very real sense, the Growth Mindset is the Courage Mindset. As Turia says, “As I overcame each barrier and obstacle in my way, my confidence grew and grew.”
"This is how an authentic Growth Mindset is developed. Not by simply believing you can grow, but by taking the right actions and experiencing the reality of your own growth!"
Unfortunately, many Growth Mindset programs promoted today teach what I call the “Learned Growth Mindset”. These programs describe a Growth Mindset. They advocate a Growth Mindset, and they tell you that you should adopt a Growth Mindset. But that’s not how it works. 
"No one had to teach Turia about a Growth Mindset. She never attended a seminar. She learnt how to nurture her growth herself by developing her Habits of Mind, stretching herself beyond her Comfort Zone, and experiencing her growth."
A Growth Mindset is not Growth

More importantly, most Growth Mindset programs fail to recognise what I consider to be the most important aspect of this work: a Growth Mindset is not growth! 

Psychologist Carol Dweck, in her landmark book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, cites many examples of people with a Growth Mindset who fail to grow. She also cites examples of people with a Fixed Mindset who have achieved enormous growth.

A Growth Mindset is simply the understanding that you are capable of growth. To develop your abilities, improve your performance and grow, you must take the right sort of actions. Your Mindset only determines whether you are willing to take any action. An Agile Learner understands what type of actions they need to take!
The problem is that many Growth Mindset programs advocate “not yet” but fail to recognise that without the right type of actions, “not yet” will turn into “still not yet."
 And Turia understands that.

Habits of Mind - bloody powerful and totally learnable

On her School of Champions, Turia says: “Don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’ve been able to do all of that because ‘I’m just like that’ … It’s because I’ve picked up some really bloody powerful and totally learnable strategies along the way.”

The “bloody powerful and totally learnable strategies” Turia describes are what I call Habits of Mind. These patterns of behaviour were identified by Professor Art Costa and Dr Bena Kallick as the dispositions that are skilfully and mindfully employed by characteristically successful people when confronted with problems, the solutions to which are not immediately apparent.
"Or, put simply, the Habits of Mind are what successful people like Turia do when they are in the business of taking on, and succeeding at, increasingly difficult challenges!"
And to do that, we need to change the way we behave. That means developing our Habits of Mind.
So, there are three elements to Turia’s success. The first is a Growth Mindset – she understands she is capable of growth. The second is that she develops her Habits of Mind. And the third is that she constantly gets outside her Comfort Zone and challenges herself. 

In his book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Anders Ericsson, the world’s expertise expert, describes the importance of stretching and challenging yourself in order to grow. He says, “This is a fundamental truth about any sort of practice: If you never push yourself beyond your Comfort Zone, you will never improve.” 

Turia is what I call an Agile Learner. This is someone who not only understands they are capable of growth (a Growth Mindset), but they also recognise how to go about achieving that growth by developing their Habits of Mind and pushing outside their Comfort Zone.

"Yes, Turia believes in herself, but she backs that up with action. Her Mindset gives her the courage to step outside her Comfort Zone, to stretch and challenge herself. And then she works on developing her Habits of Mind to succeed at those tasks."

 Achieving growth takes more than just belief. It takes action. Slogans such as “believe and you can achieve” are only half truths. It is more accurate to say, “Believe and you will act. Act effectively and you can achieve.”


Today, leaders are increasingly interested in developing a Growth Mindset in their employees. They want to create a Growth Mindset culture in their organisations. This is an important first step – but it’s not enough. 

Programs that focus on understanding “about” a Growth Mindset adopt slogans like “not yet”. But those “not yets” quickly turn into “still not yets” if we don’t focus on how to achieve the growth! 

If you’d like to work together to help develop Growth Mindsets and a love of improvement in your organisation, simply reply to this email and tell me a little about your context. Alternatively, use this link to book a time in my calendar to discuss how I can support your work. 
Best wishes

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