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Great Leaders Aspire to Keeping A Beginner’s Mind


While I was in the early stages of my career, I began to devour books. I was, and continue to this day, to be a advocate of continual learning and a voracious reader.

During those early days, I read a book that has become a classic by Shunryu Suzuki called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind. This book elaborates on a concept in Zen Buddhism that refers to having “an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would.”

The book starts with this sentence. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

I have taken the wise advice of Suzuki to heart and when I mentor someone, this is one of the first concepts I attempt to instill. I encourage my mentees to always be the student. In my experience this is one of the finest attributes of a great leader.

Self-mastery is a lifelong endeavor.

I once heard, “You never find out how much you know until you find out how little you know.” I don’t know who to attribute this quote to, but it has stuck with me. I have discovered that staying open and eager to learn helps in the acquisition of knowledge, but it also shows you that learning is an infinite endeavor. To this day, I still study, I still seek to master aspects of myself that could be improved.

If you desire to be great, study the greats. Become well read in all industries. Study constantly. Even though I am a top executive in my field, I still go to seminars and workshops. I also have a coach and a mentor.

One of my favorite quotes is by Sandra Bullock. She says, “Always choose people that are better than you.  Always choose people that challenge you and are smarter than you. Always be the student.” That’s a great way to keep learning.

If you want to achieve greatness in any arena, my advice to you is to continuously challenge yourself to learn and keep your mind open like a beginner.

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