Have you ever heard someone say one of the following phrases? Have you ever said them?
"That's the way we do things around here."
"That's the industry standard."
"We can't do it that way."
"That's just the best way to do it."
Almost all of us hear these phrases or ones like them. Not infrequently, but daily.
The more we hear them, the more numb we become to them. And the more numb we become to them, the more likely we are to rely on them ourselves.
Do not let this happen.
These sentiments betray a startling lack of curiosity and openness about the world.
They betray what Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki calls "The Expert's Mind."
It's not as flattering as it sounds.
The expert's mind is closed off to new possibilities. When we are experts, we think we know everything. We mistake experience with omniscience in our field. We forget that the situation we face now is completely new and different than any we have ever faced before. We forget that the best answer may not come from us, but from the newest and most inexperienced person.
Have you ever worked, played, or competed alongside someone who is new to your industry, company, sport, or game? If you have, you're lucky. For you will recognize an infectious sort of energy in many of these newcomers. Where does it come from? It comes from being unbound by the constraints that long-timers carry with them.
The constraint of knowing how an organization "does things."
The constraint of having been so immersed in the standards of their field for so long that they can't see outside of them.
The constraint of having an identity so wrapped up in being an "expert" that they are deathly afraid of not knowing, or trying something new.
This does not only apply to others. It applies to all of us. It applies to you and to me right now at this very moment.
Yes. Stop and think: In which parts of your life is your vision less fresh than it used to be? In which parts of your life is your perception unfortunately clouded by preconceptions, baggage, experience?
In your job?
With your partner?
Your fitness routine?
With your family?
In Zen Buddhism, there is a concept called Shoshin, which translates to "Beginner's Mind."
To approach the day with a beginner's mind is to bring curiosity, openness, possibility, and enthusiasm to all that you do and study, just as a beginner would.
Learning to approach every day and every task with a Beginner's Mind is important when starting something new, and even more critical the further we advance.
In the words of Shunryu Suzuki:
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few.
If we want to learn to become better learners, one of the prerequisites is cultivating a beginner's mind. For in the beginner's mind, there is room to learn. In the expert's mind there is no learning to be done.
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