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Beginner's Mind

John Nicholas
John Nicholas
2 min read
Beginner's Mind

We all have to start somewhere.

Even Paul Graham (one of the great essayists of our time) didn't start off being brilliant:

“Before college[...] I wrote what beginning writers were supposed to write then, and probably still are: short stories. My stories were awful. They had hardly any plot, just characters with strong feelings, which I imagined made them deep.”

But starting is tough. Since we have high expectations of ourselves, odds are our first attempts will fall short of our lofty standards.

One way I tricked myself into starting was by embracing beginner's mind (also known as the spirit of the fool).

By looking at everything as a learning opportunity, I lowered my expectations. By saying everything is an experiment, I removed the pressure.

This mindset has helped me overcome imposter syndrome. By definition, I am an imposter, a fool trying my hand at online writing against the pro writers and creatives. And I wear this tag with a smile.

I've happily looked naive and inexperienced, while trying to figure out how to build a website, draw visuals (like the one below) and put my ideas into words.

I posted this messy image about controlling the controllables in an essay. Still proud of it.

If I waited until I had all the answers, I would never have started. Waiting for the perfect conditions "one day" would have left me at square one.

Starting allowed me to kick on and improve. Through practice and experimentation, my illustrations started getting better.

To the point where I’ve built up a collection of Visuals.

I would never have been here if I didn't embrace beginner's mind.

The funny thing is, in many respects, I'm still starting out.

I still have a lot to learn. I'm just a little bit above the bottom. I'll always be the young caterpillar.


John Nicholas Twitter

Actuary and creator.

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