The power of having a beginner’s mind
Has anyone ever called you an expert? Have they declared that you know what you are doing in a certain area?
I have been called that at certain points in my life. When I hear it, I am always left with a lingering thought about how they know I’m an expert. What is it that certified me as an expert?
Expertise comes with a lot of time and experience. It comes with lots of practice and lots of failures. It is backed up with a long history of mistakes and learning from them.
I appreciate when people call me an expert in something, but I don’t ever want to think that I have arrived. I don’t want to think that I have reached the pinnacle in any area of my life. To reach the pinnacle would mean that I can’t go any further. It would mean that I can’t learn any more about a certain thing. That would be boring to me. I don’t want to be bored.
I’m always striving to be a better musician, a better writer, a better husband, and a better human being. If I believed that I was an expert I might stop trying to improve.
Let me clarify.
You might be thinking that I see being an expert as a bad thing. I do not. I appreciate it when my doctor tells me he is an expert at fixing my ailment. I want him to be an expert. If I was having brain surgery, I am going to hire an expert to go inside my brain and fix whatever needs to be fixed. When my car breaks down, I am going to hire an expert to repair it.
I like and appreciate having experts in my life.
I just don’t want to see myself as having attained a pinnacle of success so high that I can’t grow anymore.
I struggle with perfectionism, and maybe that should have been the title of this essay. I have always struggled with wanting to be an expert, but never feeling like I could claim that title.
I have a good friend of mine who says that he wants to have the mind of a beginner. This is the mind that is always seeking, always taking risks, and always assuming they don’t know everything. It is the beginner’s mind that allows for expansion and mistakes. The beginner’s mind is not afraid of stretching because they know they will grow from the experience.
This is the mind I want to have. It’s the mind that knows that there is lots of room to grow.
What is your relationship with being an expert? Do you have a beginner’s mind? Do you allow yourself the space to grow and take risks?
This topic is especially poignant for me this week. I was interviewed by a prominent writing association in South Florida. Here is the interview:
Starting a new project will always bring up my insecurities. It will always bring to the surface the issues of expertise and beginners mind. I want to be confident when I put out my work, and at the same time I don’t ever want to see myself as having arrived somewhere. I don’t want to put myself in a box where no more growth can occur.
I have no idea whether the interview conducted this week will be received well, and I have no idea whether my new project will be a success or not. What I do know is that if I never did the interview and if I never started my project, they would not succeed. Trying is the only way I will ever know.
As you move through your week, I invite you to explore this idea of being an expert. What would having a beginner mind look and feel like? What is your relationship with being a student of the world?
I would enjoy hearing how you interact and wrestle with this. I have a lot to learn about this and would love to hear what you have to say about it.
Essay by John C. Davis All Rights Reserved 2020