How to Keep a Beginner’s Mind at Work

The other day Geno and I were grabbing coffee at the Village Grind (which is right next to our new Greenville SOON-TO-BE OFFICES!) and something he said hit me and captured my heart.

Geno says often that he can’t begin any project with “ideas in mind.” He likes to keep his mind “agnostic” for as long as possible.

We talked about this idea for a while. I’m a bit of a fixer, and tend to jump to solutions and next steps too quickly. I’m pretty self-aware, so I know sometimes this isn’t always the best idea.

Much of what Geno and I discussed is about looking at all of life and work with a “beginner’s mind.” Some of my favorite people on the planet have a constant childlike wonder. Don’t you love to be around people who see the world with fresh delight and excitement? I like to think that is a collective trait of many of us at Brains on Fire. At least it’s something we try and keep alive. You don’t hear a lot of “that’s not how we do it” here at Brains on Fire.

So what are some ways to keep a beginner’s mind at work?

1. Constantly try and learn new things.

Embrace what you don’t know. Brandy is someone who lets her fear motivate her – in a really good way. If it scares her a wee bit, she does it anyway. Run for mayor of her hometown? She does it. Cut her long hair short? She does it. All with amazing grace.

2. Embrace new things even if they seem silly at first.

Don’t make snap judgements about anything. Snapchat? Try it. Slack? Lean in. There is so much change in our world it can be tempting to crawl in a cave, but what if you look at it as a challenge to take on all the shiny, new objects. As a person of a certain age I can say with certainty… it’s all good. It’s all fun. We have never lived in a more exciting time in my humble opinion. So try it all.

3. Don’t let your expert mind take over.

Experts have a few ideas. Beginners have so many more. Let go of your ego and your expert mind.

4. Bring your beginners mind to your relationships at work.

Try and understand, with fresh eyes, what is happening when someone communicates (or mis-communicates) with you. I’ve come to believe that we’re all just trying to do our best. Nothing is personal and yet it’s all personal. I get it. It’s so easy to get your feelings hurt over small things. Beginners work hard to UNDERSTAND.

5. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake.

Experts need to be right. Beginners try new things. I was talking to the founder of a wonderful company the other day and what struck me most as we discussed a possible project was when he said, “We can try some things. It might work, it might not.” I love that point of view. We have to be willing to try things that might or might not work if we are going to create anything meaningful in this world. A little fear is good, but too much and you’re doomed.

6. Drop your anxiety. Replace it with curiosity.

What will I learn in this meeting? At this speaking event? Who will I meet? You can’t be curious and anxious at the same time. Trust me, this is so helpful.

7. Don’t take yourself too seriously.

(Unless you’re a brain surgeon. That you should take seriously.) Otherwise, play is a good thing at work. Get messy. Make things. Put ideas on the wall for others to consider. Invite others in. Bring cookies. Play music and dance. Work is not meant to be so freaking serious. At least in my opinion. And lastly…

8. Keep learning. Keep learning. Keep learning.

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