“Beginner’s mind” is a philosophy derived from the Zen Buddhist term “shoshin.” It refers to being open-minded rather than falling into the trap of viewing yourself as an expert with answers. Beginner’s mind has proven to be a valuable method, and top companies like Amazon and Salesforce encourage their employees to practice it. Let’s take a closer look at what it entails.
A history of shoshin
When you incorporate the idea of shoshin into your life, you let go of your preconceptions and have an open attitude to whatever subject you’re studying or working on. True beginners have no previous experience to based opinions or conceptions on, and thus their minds are empty and open. They can learn freely and consider all the information they’re presented with.
As soon as you think, “I already know this,” or, “I’ve done this before; I know what I’m doing,” you close yourself off from possibilities and opportunities. When we age, we create knowledge blocks that prevent us from seeing new things. Shoshin intends to keep your beginner’s mind available and open to all potential.
What does beginner’s mind look like in practice?
In essence, beginner’s mind perpetrates the idea of tapping into your curiosity when presented with a situation or a task. When you put aside any past experiences or expectations, you’re more likely to see a clear direction.
This can be beneficial whether you’re starting a company or maintaining one. Some of the best entrepreneurs out there recognize that having a billion dollars in revenue doesn’t keep a successful company in business long-term. Thriving companies like Amazon and Salesforce have both adopted the beginner’s mind method to help maintain their entrepreneurial culture amongst their employees. Here’s what it looks like for each of them.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff uses beginner’s mind to help inform his management style. He says his beginner’s mind informs him to “step back so that I can create what wants to be, not what was.” It helps him be in the moment and innovate to maintain the entrepreneurial culture that they’ve created. This is important because entrepreneurial culture is one of the five key tenants of building an innovative business along with speed, data-driven decision making, commitment to innovation from the top leaders, and a relentless focus on the customer.
Salesforce supports beginner’s mind by creating mindfulness zones in their offices as a place to get away from screens and technology. The spaces are intended for reflection and meditation.
Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO and richest man in the world, believes the best work occurs when an individual has a beginner’s mind mentality as well as a vast library of knowledge. Even if an investor has a high level of expertise, Bezos believes that they should maintain a beginner’s mind. Although difficult, he says this is what produces truly revolutionary work. He believes Amazon does this well culturally within its organization.
How to rediscover your beginner’s mind
Are you lacking shoshin in your life? Are you looking to rediscover your beginner’s mind to find success in your entrepreneurial ventures? Here are a few ways you can do so.
- Don’t feel the need to add value
High achieves often feel overwhelmed when faced with a project. They need to add value to everything and feel an enormous pressure to do. While this may sound like a great thing, it can also impede your success because you never have a conversation where you observe and listen to other value players as you would as a beginner. Control your instinct to take control and work as a team player.
- Assume you have something to learn
As we learn more and more about a topic, it’s easy to think you know everything. Yet, a beginner’s mind is never done learning. There is always something else to glean. Some other nugget of information you’ve yet to uncover. Approach every situation with the same thirst for information, the same quest for success. When you assume you have something to learn, you can shrug off the idea that you have all the answers, which often takes you in circles.
- Talk to someone about it
When faced with a new problem or idea, engage with someone about it. Sometimes just having a conversation and hearing it out loud can allow your mind to work differently. The other person may also provide a different perspective that you’ve never considered. Discuss this problem just like you would if you weren’t an expert. Beginners constantly seek advice and counsel from those around them – don’t stop with this approach!
The beginner’s mind is a method that successful CEOs love, and it could help you push forward on your own entrepreneurial path. What are the ways you can incorporate it into your job now?