Three years ago, I took the big plunge and started the company Seeker Health, a digital patient
finding platform for clinical trials. Though I had worked in the biotechnology industry for decades
by then, every aspect of starting this company made me feel like a beginner. Until then, I’d
never incorporated a business, or developed a software product, or filed a patent. Until then, I’d
never hired every single person in the organization, nor been the person that each of these
employees looked to for decisions, motivation and culture. After decades of feeling I was
becoming an expert in biotech commercial and drug development, I was finally….a beginner?!
Day after day for the last three years I showed up to be a beginner at my startup. But quite
soon, I came to the realization that this Beginner’s Mindset was exactly what was propelling me
and my startup forward. This mindset was part of the secret sauce to our eventual success.
The Beginner’s Mindset is about approaching all that comes your way with the curiosity, humility
and patience of a person who is engaging with this task for the very first time and is mindfully
aware of this fact.
Why is the Beginner’s Mindset a productive way to start and build something?
A beginner is curious – Albert Einstein once said “I have no special talent. I am only
passionately curious.” A beginner is comfortable with this strong desire to know or learn.
A beginner is humble – Being a beginner frees you from any delusion of self-importance.
A beginner approaches tasks with the reverence and respect required.
A beginner is patient – A beginner has the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble or
suffering without getting overly upset. This tolerance is paramount when trying to build a
company, a relationship or anything else that endures.
A beginner understands that (temporary) failure is part or (enduring) success – Failure is
one of the most effective tools for learning. There…you failed – now you know what
doesn’t work and can focus on what may.
A beginner is free of expectations – Experts suffer from so much pressure to live up to
other’s and their own expectations, but beginners – we are free!
Now a poem on being a beginner, which I auspiciously encountered as I was beginning my
journey into mindfulness. This poem was read by the facilitator of the very first workshop I
attended at Esalen Institute.
"Be patient towards all that is unsolved in your heart
and try to love the questions themselves...
like books that are written in a foreign language.
Do not seek the answers,
which cannot be given to you
because you would not be able to live them.
And the point is to live everything.
Live the questions now...
Resolve to be always beginning –
to be a beginner"
Rainer Maria Rilke
And finally, a guided meditation for you to harness this beginner’s mindset.
Take a deep breath. Bring all the energy that may be occupied in activities that our outside your
body, back into your body. One more breath and once you feel centered and fully in this present
moment, begin reading this:
Recall the time you first learned to ride a bike. You were probably 4 or 5, or 6 or 7 years old. A
parent or loving adult gifted you this bike and you felt excited about the possibility to riding
away, feeling the breeze on your cheeks – oh the places you could go, if you only knew how to
ride it. You were a beginner. You were new to the task but excite about it. You were humble
about it – there were no pretenses that you knew how to ride a bike. And you needed the help of
others to get going, so there was likely an adult or older sibling behind you, holding the seat,
and prepared to begin a brisk and unpredictable jog, once you figured out that you could indeed
balance yourself on the two-wheeled vehicle and take off.
Feel that energy of the beginner (visualize and pause after each of these) :
the acceptance of temporary failure on the road to success
the gratitude for those that hold the seat so we don’t fall
the patience to get up time after time
the reward of this beginner mindset
Take a few more breaths as you internalize this Beginner’s Mindset and begin to think of an
area in your life that can benefit from this mindset. Perhaps this is your startup, or your job, or a
relationship, a sport, or a hobby, or your practice of mindfulness. Can you afford not to be a
beginner in this area? What could move forward for you in this area if you’d decide to approach
it as a beginner.
With that take one more deep breath and I wish you great beginnings.