Recently, I came across a concept from Zen Buddhism known as shoshin, which means "beginner's mind." Shoshin is the idea of letting go of preconceptions and being open when studying a subject. When you are a true beginner, your mind is metaphorically empty and open. As you increase knowledge and expertise, your mind naturally becomes more closed off because you tend to think, "I already know how to do this."
This is where expertise can become dangerous. If we find information that disagrees with what we already seem to know, we tend to block it. Instead of truly learning, we are just cherry-picking information that matches with our current beliefs or previous experiences. Instead of new information, we want validating information.
Here's where we need to flip the narrative. When you are an expert, you should actually pay more attention, not less. When you're already familiar with 95% of the information on a topic, listen carefully to pick up on the remaining 5%.
How Do You Embrace the Concept of Shoshin?
- Tell me more. Pour your energy into listening to someone else. I try to ask people, "Tell me more about that." This way, you can learn how to have an open mind and figure out the world through someone else's eyes.
- You don't need to win every argument. If someone makes a statement that you disagree with, try not to correct them. They don't need to "lose" the argument for you to win. Instead, you should think to yourself, "Wow, they look at this in a different way, that's interesting!"
- Assume that you know nothing. We all learned information from someone and somewhere, so all of us have a system that guides our thoughts.
No one knows everything, and if you have the privilege of knowing that, then you can approach life with a beginner's mindset.
What are your thoughts on the concept of shoshin? Let me know in the comments below!