There is an Eastern tradition that states, “A cup that is full, cannot be further filled. You must empty your cup.” The essential idea is that when the mind gets full of knowledge and experiences, one can often get locked into traditional thinking or rely too heavily on those past experiences. An expert mindset is prone to becoming rigid, inflexible and closed off to new ideas.
Information and learning today move at speeds never seen in human history and as a result also have a shorter shelf-life than ever before. What you learn today is relevant for about 18 months by some estimates and your entire knowledge set is only about 15% relevant after five years. Scary stuff for those who have that full cup and rely on experiences from fifteen years ago. For many professionals and organizations, this became a stark reality during the economic crisis beginning in 2008-09 as they faced what is no less than “Economic Extinction”.
As children, human beings are full of curiosity and without preconceived notions of the world. They ask questions, are open to new ideas and eager to engage with the world around them in creative ways. They take risks but remain close to home. As an adult, it is possible to wed this sense of curiosity with the common sense wisdom that experience teaches. It is often referred to as “Beginner’s Mind”.
The phrase “Life Long Learning” gets overused and can end up with a narrow connotation. Continuous learning is important but it can easily become too focused solely on a person’s circle of interests. If a person is a sports enthusiast for example and all they engage in is learning more about sports, then they never push outside the boundaries of their comfort zones. Beginner’s mind is like that first year of college where one is forced to engage in a variety of topics and stretch that mindset beyond that comfort zone. This leads to creativity, new ideas and new ways of thinking. It can also lead to new professional opportunity…so, are you embracing a beginner’s mind?