Last month, I took up rock climbing; something I haven’t really pursued since I was a kid at summer camps and birthday parties at our local rock gym here in Davis, CA. I’m not sure if it was the rediscovering of muscles long-neglected in my forearms or wondering where the “n00b routes” were, but there was no mistaking the fact that I was a beginner.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be a beginner, and what it takes to fully embrace and grow from that role in my own life. One quote that I’ve always resonated with is from tech guru Steve Jobs after he got relieved of his duties from Apple in 1985:
“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.”
This quote has always amazed me, since “beginner” is far from what comes to mind when most people think of (even a young) Steve Jobs, perhaps the greatest influence on this generation’s technological revolution. The more I think about it though, the more it makes sense. Whether you are rock climbing, picking up an instrument, or starting your own business, being a beginner can have it’s benefits.
Benefits of being a beginner:
1) Being a beginner allows us to free ourselves from our (sometimes wrong) pre-existing beliefs
Part of being a beginner to me is the ability to say “I might be wrong” and to challenge my pre-existing beliefs. It’s not easy (I know, I can be pretty stubborn sometimes), but I’ve found that the growth I’ve experienced from challenging and tabling my personal views has allowed me to discover so much more than I would have otherwise. It allows me to quiet down and listen to and understand more perspectives and viewpoints, and make room to focus on listening to what more experienced people have to say.
2) Allows us to seeking out experts and ask questions
What I’ve learned in the past month is how friendly and welcoming the rock climbing community really is. As a beginner, people are willing to show you the ropes and make your time at the gym more enjoyable. I get the impression that they like seeing beginners in there, and are stoked on helping you progress and get better. I spend a good portion of my time there chatting with people and asking them questions. I’m not afraid to let them know I’m a beginner, and I feel like when I let them know that, they’re more willing to help out. It seems like people appreciate it when you let go of your ego and genuinely want to learn from them and their experience.
3) Allows us to be a lifelong learner
You know that look of a baby taking in it’s surroundings where you can see that they are a sponge just soaking everything in? That’s kind of the feeling I get whenever I’m in “beginner mode” and is what makes being a beginner so appealing to me. In the search engine optimization world (and tech in general), given how rapidly the algorithms change and new technologies are coming into play, the most knowledgeable people seem to be the lifelong learners who are always trying to discover the latest and greatest.
What do you think?
Would you rather be a beginner or an expert or both? Sound off on the comments!