The Lessons Of ‘Growth Mindset’ and The ‘Forrest Gump’ Movie

The ‘Forrest Gump’ movie is about a guy named Forrest Gump(Tom Hanks), a slow-witted, low IQ guy, who goes on to become a college football star. After college, he enlists himself in the US Army, goes to Vietnam, saves many of his platoons during an ambush, receives ‘Medal Of Honor’ for his bravery and becomes famous. Later, he discovers a talent for Ping Pong, becomes a celebrity. After retiring from the Army, he starts Shrimping business, as promised to his friend and grows into a millionaire.

Note: The below content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.

At the beginning of the movie, Forrest Gump(Tom Hanks) says “My momma always said, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’.”

Forrest Gump himself would not have known what he would become — Even his mother or his caring girlfriend could not predict how his life would turn out to be. His life shows that a person’s true potential is unknown. With years of passion, toil and training, we can accomplish things which we would not have imagined.

Forrest Gump shows that one’s skills, abilities, intelligence are not fixed or carved in stone and can be changed. He improves his attention, memory, judging ability, athletic ability, intelligence through his own efforts, with practice, with methodical training and help from others. His success exhibits that anyone can cultivate necessary skills, ability and proves that effort is what makes a person smart or talented.

In the movie, some bullies try to chase Forrest Gump and throw rocks at him. He just runs, runs away from them. He is not worried whether he would appear dumb or not.

He joins his college football team — He is not worried whether he would succeed or not but he emerges as a star.

After college, he joins the army. He is not worried whether he would be accepted or rejected but gathers a ‘Medal Of Honor’.

He learns Ping Pong, enjoys playing and participate in competitions. He does not worry whether he would win or lose but plays against Chinese teams in ping-pong peace diplomacy.

Gump’s high school football coach calls him ‘A Local Idiot’ — He faces many criticisms at different times in his life. Many call him stupid. He does not take anything personally.

There’s a huge amount of freedom that comes to you if you take nothing personally — Miguel Ruiz.

Gump is not afraid of challenges. He is not afraid of ‘not being’ smart. He is not sensitive to being wrong or making mistakes. He focusses on action rather than on the consequences.

Mrs.Gump wants his young Forrest Gump to have the finest education and takes him to a famous school. The school principal rejects him saying that Forrest is five points below the normal I.Q required for the admission.

Mrs.Gump persists “What does normal mean anyway? He might be a bit on the slow side, but my boy Forrest will get the same opportunities as everyone else. He’s not going to some special school to learn how to retread tyres”. She strongly believes that Forrest would eventually succeed in life although he may have to put a little bit extra effort, in comparison to others.

Psychologist Angela Duckworth, in her book ‘Grit’, says that intelligence or talent might not be the best indicator of future success. Instead, she credits “grit” a combination of passion and perseverance for success.

Mrs.Gump teaches Forrest how to be grittier, how to be happy to put extra effort.

In Shrimping business, Forrest faces continuous failures but he is not discouraged — Maybe he thinks that he is not failing but learning the business. He perseveres with a passion(gritty), stretches himself, sticks to the tasks or routines even things were not going well. This gritty attitude helps him and Dan thrive the most challenging situation when Hurricane Carmen rips through the Gulf Of Mexico and finally, they find themselves in an abundance of shrimp.

Forrest Gump and Lt.Dan Relationship — In the Vietnam war, during an ambush, Lt. Dan was hit in his legs, and he was looking forward to the honour of dying in combat. However, Forrest Gump rescues him despite Lt. Dan’s objections. Later, Dan’s legs are amputated and he has to live a crippled life. He gets upset, angry on Forrest.

As time passes, Dan makes peace with the situation, becomes a friend and a business partner of Forrest Gump. Dan is a kind of a guy who does not like to heap praises on a friend — he doesn’t talk anything to shore up Gump’s self-esteem. In fact, he makes it obvious that Gump is imperfect in many ways and has flaws.

LT. DAN: They gave you the Congressional Medal of Honor!

FORREST: Yes sir, they sure did.

LT. DAN: They gave you an imbecile, a moron who goes on television and makes a fool out himself in front of the whole damn country, the Congressional Medal of Honor.

FORREST: Yes, sir.

LT. DAN: Well, then, that’s just perfect! Yeah, well I just got one thing to say to that. Goddamn, bless America.

Though Dan criticises Gump often, he does not let anybody else to denigrate him. He defends Gump with utmost sincerity.

Dan may bear somebody calling him a cripple, but he would hurt the person who dares to call Forrest “Stupid”.

When Forrest proposes the idea of starting a shrimp business, Dan mocks him but then challenges him to go ahead with the plan.

LT. DAN: Now hear this! Private Gump here is gonna be a shrimp boat captain. Well, I tell you what, Gilligan, the day that you are a shrimp boat captain, I will come and be your first mate.

As promised, Dan joins the shrimp business, helps Gump to overcome the challenges.

What kind of relationship do we need? The one to bolster our egos or ones that challenge us to grow? The one who praises or highlights our flaws?

Dan believed that his destiny was to die as a hero in the war but ends up as a wheelchair-bound cripple.

Lt. Dan says to Forrest, “We all have a destiny. Nothing just happens. It’s all part of a plan!”

As things are too challenging due to the disability, Dan loses interest and feels that his life has lost its meaning. He keeps on ruminating over his problem, tormenting himself mentally, with the idea that he is incompetent and unworthy. He sinks into deep depression and alcoholism. He was at his lowest point. When you are at the lowest, everything that could go wrong has gone wrong. He gave up on himself. The more depressed he felt, the less he took action to solve the problem. This is a trait of ‘Fixed Mindset’. Dan has to change his mindset (Abilities can be relearned) to come out of this vicious cycle of worries.

Looking at Gump’s life, Dan realises that he too has a choice — Either to sit in the misery or could do something about it. He could relearn things in a new way. Instead of situations controlling him, he could start putting efforts to control the experience from those situations. This attitude helped him to enjoy even the most challenging situation — when Hurricane Carmen rips his ship on the ocean.

How we react to the failure defines us.

Slowly, Lt. Dan becomes a millionaire, invests in Apple inc., buys an expensive pair of titanium legs and marries a sweet girl of his choice. Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get’

Note: The above content is part of the following book

Business and Life Lessons From The Movies by Shah Mohammed M on Amazon.


21 KEYS to SUCCESS in BUSINESS -A Guide for Every ASPIRING ENTREPRENEUR by Shah Mohammed M.

References: “Mindset” by Carol Dweck, Grit by Angela Duckworth, Four Agreements by Miguel Ruiz, Forrest Gump Movie.

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at or

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