Have you ever went into a class, competition, client meeting, or other important event afraid that most of the people there are smarter or more talented than you? Have you ever pumped yourself up with reminders of glowing things clients, coworkers, coaches, and bosses have said about you? Have you ever tried to fake it until you make it? How’d that go for you? If you’re anything like me, it didn’t go nearly as well as you’d planned.
On the flip side – Have you ever just embraced and admitted what you don’t know when a question or situation arose? Have you ever just pretended this was your first competition, networking/speaking event or conference even if you’ve been to hundreds of them before? Have you ever just let go of your preconceived notions of how some meeting or event would unfold? How did that work for you? If you’re anything like me, it went way better than expected.
That’s beginners mind. And it can be summed up in this quote:
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
but in the expert’s there are few.” ~ Shunryu Suzuki
That Time I Forgot to Have Beginner’s Mind
I was brutally reminded of just how important beginners mind can be just 2 days ago. I was out running errands and needed to go to a store I only go to once or twice a year at most. They’ve been in the same location for 10 years and are always busy so I was shocked when I saw that the sign (and entire facade) on the front of the store was gone and the parking lot was completely empty. Someone had told me just a few days prior that they found a different location of this store in a similar state recently so I “knew” that something was amiss and I’d have to find a new source for the few things I buy there. I knew this so deeply that as I was passing the next shopping center (literally the next driveway), I totally missed seeing the store sign at the road or the fully intact store front and FULL parking lot. I discovered the next day that I had simply misremembered the exact location of the store. The store I used as a landmark was not next to the store I wanted to go to as I thought; it was in the shopping center before the one my store was in. Thankfully I mentioned something to my husband about it and he went online, got their phone number, and actually called the “closed” store and found that they were happily still open. (Thanks babe! I owe you one.) Why didn’t I think of that? Because I “knew” they had closed up suddenly. Oops.
That’s just one example (of many) in which I forgot to have beginner’s mind. Some ended in extreme embarrassment whereas others offered more inconvenience than anything else. Either way, it was needless suffering on my part.
Earlier this year, I had a much better experience with beginner’s mind. In August, I was getting ready to take a continuing education class that I had been wanting to take for years. It was going to be taught by someone I highly respect; someone whose books and articles I’ve read and whose webinars I take whenever there’s a new one available. To say I was excited was an understatement. To say I didn’t want to embarrass myself by saying or doing something stupid (or not knowing something everyone else did) was an even bigger understatement.
Instead of my normal routine of trying to be all confident and knowledgable, I reminded myself that this was a class and I was the student not the teacher. I was taking the class because I didn’t know this information. If there was some basic piece of information that I “should” have already known, I’d just take in the info and be grateful for getting it. If others became aware of my “deficit,” I wouldn’t let it bother me. After all, we all have holes or weaknesses in our education somewhere; we all have things we don’t know. It’s not our fault if we weren’t taught something, but it is our fault if we refuse to learn it when we have the chance simply because we’re too proud to admit that we didn’t know it in the first place. Basically, I went into this advanced continuing education class as if it was my first day of school – bright eyed and eager to learn. OK, I’ve never felt like that on the first day of school, not even massage school. But that was the attitude I adopted when attending this class.
So how did it go? Freaking Fabulously!! I got more out of that continuing ed class than I have out of any other. Why? Because I went in there like a sponge instead of a mirror. I went in ready to absorb knowledge instead of showing how much knowledge I already had. It made all the difference in the world.
Years ago I was told that saying “I don’t know, but I can look it up and get back to you” will garner more trust and respect from your clients, coworkers, and bosses than BSing your way through a total BS answer. Based on personal experience, it made a lot of sense. The idea that it’s ok to not know something is an example of beginner’s mind.
Other examples are:
There are so many more examples of beginner’s mind but this short list will have to suffice. This post is getting long and you probably have other things to do today. So, let me leave you with a question to ponder as we approach the New Year. What is one way that you can begin to incorporate beginner’s mind into your life? Think about it for awhile and if you’re so inclined tell me about it in the comments below.