Learn with a beginner's mind

On May 17, 2013

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's mind there are few.
- Shunryu Suzuki

Learning a new skill isn't easy. What makes it difficult is our conditioned mind that's programmed to think in a specific way.

When programmers learn designing, they try to learn it with a programming mind; when designers learn programming they learn it with a designing mind. No doubt most of them give up thinking the other craft is too difficult.

What they fail to realize is that any skill should be learned the way it is meant to be.

Programming is meant to be learned in its own way and designing is meant to be in its own. Mixing one way with another seldom gives the best result.

That's why you should read the above quote again, and always try to learn things with a beginner's mind.

A beginner's mind can see what the expert's fail to see. When you practice a skill for several years, you become aware of its possibilities as well as its limitations. While this helps you in making informed judgements, it also stops you from taking risks.

But a beginner can't see these limitations. For him the field is open in every direction. He can use the tools of the craft to create anything he want.

Anything.

No limitation. No pressure. No expectations. And, best of all, no one to stop him and say that it's impossible.

That's why many artists tend to do some really exciting work at the early stages in their career.

While experience has its own benefits, but so does a beginner's mind. Both can create things that are great in their own ways. No need to compare one with another. But having an open and fresh mind always helps you in making the best decision.

When we learn new skills, we try to find the similarities between it and our old skill. We do this because then it becomes easier for us to relate one skill to another. And this makes it easier to learn the new skill. I did something similar with my article “Programming and Writing”.

If it helps you to understand a concept better, use it. But don't let the limitations of one craft transfer to another. Take only the possibilities from your earlier experience, never the limitations.

Just because you couldn't do something with your earlier skill doesn't mean you won't be able to do that with your new skill.

Learning is fun when you start playing with the tools of a craft. As a beginner you have no idea what great things they can do, and what they can't.

And that's why you just play with them and keep playing till you are exhausted. And you have such a great time, and you learn so many things, that you soon become ready to make your own things using it.

And that's when another fun ride begins. You start creating things based on what you know, not what others think you should know. You try to do things that you think you can do, not what others think you should do.

Just because you are a beginner, doesn't mean you shouldn't dream big. Sure you can't see what the experts can, but even they can't see what you can with your beginner's mind.

When you become an expert it's easy to create things that you immediately understand, but what new users have tough time understanding. But as beginner you are less likely to do this mistake, as you are that new user yourself. So, the things you create will be for everyone, not just experts.

And when you see things in your own unique way, you see unique possibilities with it. That's why even for the same technology, a programmer sees one opportunity, a designer sees another.

For a beginner, it's not about programming, designing, or entrepreneurship. It's more about creating something for fun and having a good time. It's something that even experts should remember.

When your cup is empty you can fill it with anything you want - tea, coffee, or lemonade. Similarly, when your mind is empty you can fill it with anything you want.

So keep learning with a beginner's mind, and start living a life of possibilities and opportunities.

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