3 Reasons Why I Love Being A Beginner

She must have been five feet tall but she laid me out.

“I’m not very good at that move,” she said.

“Really? It seemed pretty good to me.”

This is what happened last night at Aikido practice. I only started learning the Japanese martial art about five months ago. I'm a beginner, so it's okay.

In Zen Buddhism there is a concept called Shoshin - “beginner’s mind”. It means being open, eager, and nonjudgmental when studying a subject. It’s possible to have studied something for your whole life and still maintain a beginner’s mind.

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

I used to really fight the idea of being a beginner. I used to think the above quote meant that, in the expert's mind, the only possibility was to win. Now I know better.

Here are 3 reasons to cultivate a beginner's mind:

1. Everybody loves a beginner

Being a beginner leaves you more open and flexible around people. Being an expert makes you brittle. You don’t want to be an expert.

“But I do want to be an expert. I feel dumb being a beginner. I feel like people are judging me.”

What I’ve come to realize is that people actually respect you more when you have the mindset of a beginner. You’re still allowed to have the knowledge and experience of an expert. But no one wants to interact with someone who thinks they know it all.

2. It’s more fun to be a beginner

I love the word “practice”. You can have a yoga practice, a coaching practice, or a law practice. There's a reason we don't call them “performances”.

When you view your business as a practice instead of a performance, it frees you up to try things. To experiment. To enjoy the process.

I think Aikido is one of the first things that I’ve actually let myself be a beginner at. I’m not worried about belts. There’s no endgame. I just want to learn.

Why would I not treat everything in my life this way?

3. Beginner’s mind is necessary for mastery

If there is only one thing you take away from this post, let it be this: Being a beginner is not just okay, it’s actually the only way to master your craft.

A fellow coach who has been practicing for many years recently sent me this:

“I think that as coaches, we must begin over and over again. Being a beginner is the BEST place to coach from. Be an expert at fishing or skydiving or pool. But as a coach, being a beginner leaves us open to the miracles that coaching naturally invites.”

If you're already a master, stay humble. The moment you start calling yourself a guru is the moment you stop learning. Let other people call you a guru.

The Bottom Line

Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Not just when you start something new, but all the time. It takes so much of the pressure off.

Here's a reframe for you:

People always talk about living each day like it’s your last…

What if you lived each day like it was your first?

(Photo credit: Daniele Oberti via cc)