I first read about the idea of the “beginner’s mind” — a buiddhist conception — while reading one of my favorite books — The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin.

Josh was a chess prodigy at a young age and eventually became a world champion. He eventually took a break from chess, but re-focused his efforts on Taiwanese Push Hands — a martial art of which he also became world champion.

What’s his secret? One of them is his ability to aproach things with a “beginner’s mind”:

Beginner’s mind is approaching things with that wonderful, fresh, open spirit of a child

This is easy or almost natural if we are approaching something we are not really sure about — but it gets harder the more we know:

Its an incredibly easy thing to have beginners mind when we’re a beginner when were learning…then we start to be told that we are good, we start to feel proficient, then we start to have our ego attached and we start to think that we have some answers — and thats when things get dangerous

Often when we encounter subjects — we already think we know the answer. We have lost the spirit for discovery. You are quick to identify the reasons why something can’t be done rathter than re-imagining the future. I am certainly guilty of this.

In the workplace, I am amazed at how pervasive some truly bad ideas are. For example: the performance bonus. People who have been getting year-end performance bonuses are so convinced at their effectiveness — mostly because that is what they have been rewarded with throughout their entire career. It must be right.

However, the challenge is not understanding that the current system is broken — but coming up with a better alternative. If we started with the beginner’s mind — where would we end up?



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