Novice to Mastery

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“I have learned the novice can often see things that the expert overlooks. All that is necessary is not to be afraid of making mistakes, or of appearing naive.”
– Abraham Maslow

If you fear making mistakes or being made to look foolish then you fear being a novice. The problem is that all roads to mastery lead through a long period of apprenticeship. Some never actualize their dormant talents, talents that could make them masters in various areas, because they want to protect their egos from the pain of going through the fire.

But there are lots of reasons to embrace being a novice. It’s all about perspective really. Where one person sees humiliation and frustration another sees opportunity and joy. If you embrace being a novice you will notice that other people in that discipline will be drawn to you and will love being around you because they get to feed off of your energy and excitement. It’s kind of like why people love being around toddlers. It’s nice to see that there is still wonder in the world, and our own imaginations are sparked, we shake off some of our jadedness, by observing the curiosity and imagination in young children.

Thich Nhat Hanh calls this state beginner’s mind and it’s not just for the beginner. He has cultivated it throughout his life. It is that source of curiosity, energy, and aliveness that infuses everything we do with meaning. Pursuing new interests where you are once again thrust into the role of novice even though you may have mastery in some other area in life is, in our opinion, a great way to stay turned towards life, to keep adding logs to the flame of curiosity, and to infuse everything you are doing with the attitude, even things you have begun to take for granted now that they seem commonplace.

Another great part about being a novice that Maslow touches upon in the quote above is that you have a fresh perspective, you’re not biased by the forms and rules that govern the discipline you have jumped headlong into. You can’t know what you don’t know and this puts you in a unique position to have special insight, to think in ways that even experts overlook or cannot do. Having the courage to just go for it can plant the seeds for your own unique style and vision to grow, separating you from the chaff.

All you have to do is leave behind that false pride, not the pride of accomplishment but the pride that comes from not having to risk failure, and know that wherever you are in the process of learning is good enough as long as you are giving it your all.