Shoshin is a concept in Zen Buddhism meaning "beginner's mind". It 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. (Wikipedia) This is a concept that I always try to keep in mind. It's difficult because the ego really gets off on being an "expert". It's fun to set a goal, work hard to accomplish it, and bask in the glory of making it to the top of the mountain. The real trick is to then let it all go and start over; not throwing away your new-found skill, but rather approaching your next hurdle with a fresh perspective.
This week there were two separate incidents that brought this concept into view. Both gave pause for reflection, and had me looking at my own life in a fresh way.
The first incident was a new job for a good friend, fellow TurfNetter Mark Perry. Mark left his assistant's position and took a new job as a superintendent. Now this situation occurs pretty regularly in our industry, but Mark's case was unique for a couple of reasons. First off, this job did not come along by accident. Mark was chosen for this assignment because he laid the groundwork. He consistently went above and beyond and made this job happen. He became the first assistant to volunteer on the local association's board of directors. He also took over as the moderator of the association's website and turned it into a hub of activity. All this while working his tail off and learning as much as he could at his previous course. Long story short, he created opportunity in a job market where one did not exist.
Still, Mark had a hard time leaving his old job. You see, he is also the type of person who is loyal to a fault. He struggled to look at this opportunity as a new beginning and a real chance to fulfill his dream of running his own course. He could have toured the new property, been easily overwhelmed, and chosen to stay safely tucked in the cocoon of his old job. But he chose to start over, view this opportunity with a fresh, creative outlook and in the end decided to take the plunge.
Now I mentioned that this new job did not happen by accident, but there is more to the story. The owners of Mark's new course also came to the realization that a fresh perspective was necessary after years of letting their course slide. Things had gotten so bad that they were left with no choice but to start over. The course was never in the top echelon of golf in the area, but it definitely filled a niche; the problem was that years of neglect and poor decision-making had left the owners in a precarious position.
They had to try to look at their course in a new way. They had to acknowledge the mistakes of the past, let them go, and choose to start anew. It's like anything negative in our lives that builds to a tipping point. It eventually takes us over the edge and it is during this freefall that we can look at things with a beginner's mind. We don't let go of the wisdom we have gained, but we have to look at things in a new light if we are going move forward in a positive direction.
The second example of this beginner's mind took place at my own course. We are fortunate enough to have taken on a summer co-op student for the next few weeks, a Chinese immigrant who had moved to PEI two years previous. He is a quiet, polite fellow who has fit into the crew pretty well. The problem was he had never stepped on a golf course before in his life. He had no reference point for the training we were giving him. He did not even have a driver's license so even driving a golf cart was a foreign concept.
Working with this new student forced us to look at the golf course and our training methods with a beginner's mind. None of the assumptions we had made before while training people familiar with the game of golf (or North American culture) applied. We had to pause, break things down to their most basic level and start anew. It was a very interesting process that allowed us to view things in a completely new way. He has fit in and can now drive a golf cart and fill a mean divot.
The best thing about this life is that you can always choose to start over. Whether you are trying to lose weight, kick a habit, or figure out a problem that has plagued you for a while, you can always step out of you normal mindset and approach the issue from a beginner's perspective. It's easy to stay in a rut and come up with any number of reasons why things can never change. It takes real courage to look at your life through a completely different lens and choose to make real change.