‘Shoshin: The Beginner’s Mind’

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12th July, 2022

There is a concept in Zen Buddhism known as ‘Shoshin,’ which means “beginner’s mind.”

Shoshin refers to the idea of letting go of your preconceptions and having an attitude of openness when studying a subject. It means you look at every situation you are placed in as if it’s the first time you are seeing it.

When you are a true beginner, your mind is empty and open. You’re willing to learn and consider all pieces of information, like a child discovering something for the first time. As you develop knowledge and expertise, however, your mind naturally becomes more closed. You tend to think, “I already know how to do this” and you become less open to new information.

There is a danger that comes with expertise. We tend to block the information that disagrees with what we learned previously and yield to the information that confirms our current approach.

We think we are learning, but in reality we are steamrolling through information and conversations, waiting until we hear something that matches up with our current philosophy or previous experience, and cherry-picking information to justify our current behaviors and beliefs. Most people don’t want new information, they want validating information also resulting in a cognitive bias called the ‘Confirmation Bias.’

The problem is that when you are an expert you actually need to pay more attention, not less.

Why? Because when you are already familiar with 98 percent of the information on a topic, you need to listen very carefully to pick up on the remaining 2 percent.

As adults our prior knowledge blocks us from seeing things anew.

To quote zen master Shunryo Suzuki, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

In his fantastic book, ‘Fooled by Randomness,’ Nassim Taleb writes, “I try to remind my group each week that we are all idiots and know nothing, but we have the good fortune of knowing that we know nothing”

We are all idiots, but if you have the privilege of knowing that, then you can start to let go of your preconceptions and approach life with a beginner’s mind.

Adopt Shoshin & Stay blessed forever.