Living Life As a Beginner


Experience.  It seems to be the foundation for any type of achievement.  We spend our lifetimes collecting, gathering and packaging our accomplishments to impress and convince others that we are valuable.  Sometimes we do it to address a physiological need but, other times, we showcase ourselves seeking affirmation and confirmation that we are headed in the right direction.   But, can too much experience be a liability?

A couple of weeks ago, I took a trip to Burlington, Wisconsin with a few friends.  It was a rainy Sunday and the festival was somewhat underwhelming so two of my friends decided to relive their youth and jump on one the crazy spinning rides.  The result:  well, they were not feeling too good after the ride but seemed to have a fun experience.  They probably would not do it again but at least they tried.

This is an example of the Beginner’s Mind.  While my childhood experiences prevented me from trying something different, my friends created a new experience.  I had gotten so caught up in something that happened 20 years ago that I could not really see past it.  The Beginner’s Mind requires humility, the ability to say “I don’t know” and the desire to continuously live life as a student.

While sometimes warranted, many times, we box ourselves into profiles that may be inaccurate or outdated.  For example, have you ever said (or heard someone say) these things:

“It has always been this way.”

“I don’t need to change”

“Based on my experience, we should do X”

I have said all of these at one time or another.  Each statement was prohibitive.  I was gravitating to what seemed like the lowest risk approach but I realized I was simply attached to familiar outcomes.

Recently, I have become bored with my exercise regimen.  My initial idea was to run more and hope I changed my mind.  After more thinking, I decided to take a different approach and sign up for a boxing class.  I have never boxed so I am uncomfortable and excited at the same time.  My life will look different. It may not be easy in the beginning, but I will stretch my body in new ways.  I am applying the Beginner’s Mind.

I will end with one of my favorite quotes to guide work and life.

“If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything, it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. ” ― Shunryu Suzuki

Do you want to be a beginner or an expert?

6 responses

  1. Beginner mind is cool. I have moments where I’m empty but not by trying to be. That part still eludes me. I love the martial art flicks where the teacher overfills the students cup who is arrogant and cocky. Every time, I crack up over that. Some people (me included) keep our cups full of things. Great post! Cheers and peace!

  2. Right before I read this… my sister asked if I wanted to volunteer at a neighbor festival. I said no (because I don’t like crowds, noise, drunk and noisy crowds) … thanks for making me second-guess myself! But I think I know on this one. Or rather, I think I think I know. Great article!

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