Beginner’s Mindset; Present for the First Time (Again!)

When was the last time you did something for the first time?  Again?

I’ll repeat the question.  When was the last time you did something for the first time, again?

It seems like an Oxymoron, right?  First time?  Again?

What do I mean by, “doing something for the first time, again”, and how can this strategy help you to:Nervous

  • Revitalize existing presentations and content
  • Breakthrough performance barriers
  • Overcome fear
  • Increase confidence
  • Practice bravery
  • Make you a better presenter

Before I share this strategy, let’s discuss the benefits of trying something for the first time.  When was the last time you did something for the first time?

Here are a few of my examples:

  1. I sang in public, twice.  Not in in the shower or in my car or blending in with the congregation at church.  I sang in public, out loud, by myself, in front of an audience at nightclub.  A friend did not believe me, so I sang the song again, in front of strangers, acapella.   I’m not a singer, and if you don’t believe me, I’ll prove it to you.  I know what you are thinking but don’t worry, I won’t be singing today.
  2. A few months ago, at a Las Vegas nightclub, I did 10 minutes of standup comedy.  The club’s owner asked me to return with a 20-minute set.
  3. Recently, I’ve taken dance lessons.  According to a New England Journal of medicine study, frequent dancing apparently makes us smarter.  No, I will not be appearing on “Are you smarter than a Fifth Grader,’’ or “Dancing with the Stars,” not yet.

In each case, like a roller coaster, I was simultaneously thrilled and terrified.  Every time I stepped outside of my comfort-zone cubicle, I experienced breakthroughs, increased confidence and overcame some fears.  Another side effect of trying something for the first time, I practiced bravery.

One of my favorite songs is If I Were Brave by Jana Stanfield.  Here are a few lyrics from the song:

What would I do if I knew that I could not fail?

If I believed would the wind always fill up my sail

How far would I go, what could I achieve /Trusting the hero in me


(Chorus) If I were brave I’d walk the razor’s edge

Where fools and dreamers dare to tread

Never lose faith, even when losing my way

What step would I take today if I were brave?

(If you would like to hear the entire song and witness examples of people acting bravely, check out the link at the end of this post.)

So when was the last time you tried something for the first time, again?  In Zen Buddhism this concept is called a “Beginner’s Mind.”

Beginner’s mind” 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 term is especially used in the study of Zen Buddhism and Japanese martial arts.

From the book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by the Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki we get the following thought:

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.

Recently, I had to practice being brave and to do something for the first time (again), or to simply use a beginner’s mindset.  I’m a certified facilitator for a company called Enlightened Leadership Solutions.  They are the creators of the award winning leadership development program, Making Managers into Leaders®.  We have taught over 25,000 executives, from 2000 companies in 65 countries.  With our tools, we’ve helped our clients solve some dramatic problems and produce some amazing results.  For example, one client was 18 months behind schedule on a $100 million dollar project and at risk of paying $66 million in late fees and fines.  With our help, they completed the project one month ahead of schedule, avoiding the $66 million in penalties.

We were training the top leaders at a major American university in California.  I found that I had forgotten my Making Managers into Leaders instructor’s manual.  I would have to teach this program without my security blanket – the facilitator’s guide.  The only materials I had were the handouts and PowerPoint slides.  I had to trust the hero in me.  What happened?

I taught the content with a beginner’s mind.  That is, I looked at every aspect of this program as though it were the first time.  For example, at the end of the program I typically allow ten minutes for Action Planning.  But with my beginner’s mind, we spent close to 45 minutes on Action Planning.

  1. I asked the participants to review their leadership challenges.
  2. We reviewed the leadership tools.
  3. I discussed which tools they would use to solve their leadership challenges.
  4. Participants were challenged to make an appointment with themselves for the following week to solve one of their leadership challenges.  It was important that they did not break that appointment.
  5. We also assigned accountability buddies to keep the momentum going.

The participants felt it was the most complete ending to a training program they had ever experienced.

According to my co-facilitator, Jonette, it was my best work.  I have taught this program hundreds of times before thousands of people, for over a decade.  When was the last time you did something for the first time, again?  When was the last time you had a beginner’s mind attitude?

What are the benefits of presenting your content with a beginner’s mindset?

  1. It will infuse new life into your existing presentations.
  2. Gain new insights, nuances and discernments.
  3. Amplified awareness.  You will increase your awareness around how you deliver your existing content and you’ll notice how your content affects your audience.
  4. Break through your existing performance levels and have an upsurge in your growth.
  5. Increased confidence.  My confidence has grown every time I have applied this strategy.

Let’s review the beginner’s mind process:

Let Go of Your Security Blanket

  1. Be open to everything and attached to nothing.
  2. Don’t worry about public embarrassment.  Take a risk.
  3. Let go of your security blanket; abandon your notes, manuals, pocket speeches or habits.  That is, let go of your customary way of being, speaking, teaching or training.
  4. Be curious.  Ask ‘what if’ questions.  What if I spent 45 minutes on Action Planning rather than ten?  What would that look like?
  5. Be vulnerable.  People recognize that you are doing something for the first time. They’ll be patient.
  6. Look at all of your content with fresh eyes.
  7. Have fun
  8. Be brave.

I invite you to share your examples of doing something for the first time or what you have done that was brave for you.  I cannot wait to witness your examples.

Play Jana’s song.

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