Beginner’s Mind

So I’m a bit behind on my writing. What can I say? It’s been a crazy few weeks

Darren Kuropatwa thinks it’s difficult to be a change agent if you are an expert.

Dan Meyer (sorta) disagrees:

Darren thinks his situation requires more novices when instead it requires better experts. Hungry experts. Experts who empathize with the novice, who constantly re-evaluate their own assumptions from the perspective of a novice, who get outside their own heads as much as possible and as often as possible.

Anytime you think of yourself as an expert – hungry, empathetic or otherwise – you have already put yourself at a disadvantage. The Zen master Shunryū Suzuki said:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind (p 1)

The most effective teachers are the ones who approach every unit, every day, every lesson like it was the first time. They do not ignore their wealth of accumulated knowledge and experience; nor do they let that knowledge or experience dictate their actions. Rather, they let their current situation – the one they are experiencing for the first time, the one in which they are the beginner – determine the best course of action.

I know from my own experience that my colleagues who have been the most effective and inspirational were the ones who were never fully satisfied with their work. They never seemed to use the same lesson plan twice because there was always something that could be improved. They never saw themselves as the expert and thus able to rest on their laurels; they saw themselves as beginners with many possibilities to improve.