Thinking with a Beginner’s Mind

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s mind there are few. Shunryu Suzuki

You are an experienced professional who knows what you’re doing. Right? Your education, your work history and your skills all combine to make you an expert in your chosen field.

It’s only natural if you want others to rely on you for your expertise, but be careful when you’re tempted to think of yourself as an expert. Being labeled an expert can lead to rigidity and inflexibility.

We gain experience as we learn from the mistakes of ourselves and others. Experience teaches us what works and what does not. Be cautious, though, because the more we become vested in the status quo, the more likely we are to get stuck in a rut.

I enjoy being surrounded by people who think with a beginner’s mind. Though they may be experienced and have reputations as “experts” they approach projects differently than do those who label themselves as experts.

A beginner’s mindset has these characteristics:

  1. Insatiable curiosity. A beginner is filled with wonder and looks at the world with a sense of awe. Like a child, a beginner asks lots of simple yet profound questions.
  2. Playfulness. The beginner has fun experimenting with different ideas and various options. A good beginner plays nicely in the sandbox and knows that teamwork can make the game even more fun.
  3. Flexibility. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. Innovation and major breakthroughs come from people who are not rigidly defending the status quo.

My wish for the coming year is that you will remain forever young and that you will always be relevant because you are a beginner, not an expert.

2 Responses to Thinking with a Beginner’s Mind

  1. Liz says:

    It’s nice to know all my screw ups are appreciated 🙂

    • Duane Hallock says:

      Liz, I love working with you. Honestly, I can’t recall any screw ups, though we have had several good learning opportunities. You are a valuable member of our marketing team because of your expertise, but the value any of us brings to the table declines as we hold on to the label of “expert.” (I wonder if the label “guru” falls under that same cautionary advisory.)

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