Beginner’s Mind, Zen Mind

October 19, 2015

buddhist_monk‘How do they get non stick material to stick on non stick pans?’ A user question posed to Richard Cornish, the columnist of Vexing Culinary Questions. Puzzled and unable to answer, he asked his 8-year-old daughter. ‘Simple,’ she replied, ‘It’s non stick on one side only!’

Ahh the genius of kids. But what kids have that we tend to lose as adults is what the Zen Masters call ‘a beginner’s mind’ – curious, no tunnel vision and open to possibilities.

As adults  fear of failing particularly in public, can shut down our beginner’s mind. Alain de Botton – British philosopher, writer, and television presenter – explains this stating, ‘Why we fear failing is not just a loss of income, a loss of status. What we fear is the judgment and ridicule of others. And it exists.’

Kids with their beginner’s mind (that anything is possible) on the other hand are uniquely placed to succeed when taking risks, and not being wedded to looking good matters.

For example, Peter Skillman in his TED Talk entitled The Marshmallow Challenge presented teams of 4 with the following resources:

  • 20 strands of spaghetti
  • 1 yard of string
  • 1 yard of tape
  • 1 marshmallow
  • 18 minutes

The goal was to build the tallest freestanding structure, with only one rule: the marshmallow must be on top. Peter Skillman conducted marshmallow challenges all over the world with diverse teams – engineers, business school students, leaders and entrepreneurs. His findings are packed with insights. But the most astonishing finding is when Skillman declares, ‘Kindergarteners on every objective measure had the highest average score of any group that I have ever tested.’

5-year-olds consistently outperformed adults. The best towers were always built by kindergarteners. As Skillman puts it, kindergarteners kicked ass!

The beauty and joy of the beginner’s mind. Today, what challenge can you bring a beginner’s mind to?

Light of the party

‘Yamini is to storytelling as apple is to pie.’
Peter Baines OAM, Founder, Hands Across Water

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