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Noise in the Beginner's Mind

I started taking a course recently.

It's a course about something that I know very little about, and yet it involves elements of things that I know a lot about.

That's like saying, it's a course about archery, and I know how to use my hands to hold things.

It's not an archery course.

The topic of the course is irrelevant. What you need to know, is that it's something new to me.

I am a beginner.

During the pandemic, I learned about a very old idea called beginner's mind.

The concept is easy enough to understand, it's almost self-explanatory. It means to approach something with fresh eyes. The fresher the better.

The word something in the line above, can really be anything. You could approach your very next thought with beginner's mind.

Until I started this course, I hadn't actually tried taking on something brand new since first learning about beginner's mind.

In this post, I'd like to discuss a few things I've experienced so far in this course, through the lens of beginner's mind.

More specifically, in thinking about how to frame this, I've landed on the idea of noise.

Expectations are Noise

The problem with taking a course as an adult, is that you're an adult.

You've done things before, perhaps even successfully.

You believe (falsely) that you should be able to do something new, with some ease. Especially if that new thing contains elements of things you've done many times before.

All this expectation does is create an uncloseable (is this a word?) gap between what you're feeling and what you think you should be feeling.

A true beginner has no expectations.

Habits are Noise

The problem with taking a course as an adult, is that you're an adult with habits.

The most deceptive of these are the ones that are invisible to you, until you're forced to do something to reveal them. Then you realize how much you've relied on them and how much they are getting in your way now.

I'll digress for a second to give you a funny example.

The chair I sit on for most of the day at work, has arms.

For some reason this week, I had the idea to remove them.

An invisible habit I had was that whenever I used to get up from my chair, I would push on the arms to get myself up.

I took off the arms a few hours before writing this post.

I nearly fell off my chair twice today.

I kept reaching for the invisible arms to stand up, and realized ... this habit is now getting me into trouble.

A true beginner will bring no habits.

The Inner Critic is Noise

The problem with taking a course as an adult, is that you're an adult with an inner critic.

Trying something new requires you to get vulnerable in some way.

I've found that my inner critic has a talk track that is trying to prevent this vulnerability from revealing itself.

Yours might have a different talk track.

A true beginner has no inner critic. What is there to be critical of? As I said before, a true beginner brings no expectations.


Dear reader, if you are an adult, you should shut off the noise and try your hand at something new.

If you're truly able to give yourself over to the idea of being a beginner, the feeling of renewal that comes with it is something worth feeling.

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