The beginner's mind – or how to embrace the suck

The beginner's mind or what is referred to in Japanese martial arts as the Shoshin mind is a simple yet very profound concept that practitioners of any art should understand.

 

Below is a video of me falling on my ass and failing at a parkour line attempt,

 

 

This clip is what the Shoshin mind is about. Growing up I read a lot of Samurai literature and the concept of the Shoshin mind was always something I was amazed by and growing up around a lot of craftsmen I saw it first-hand.

 

So what exactly is Shoshin? Working with GMB they introduced the concept of “embrace the suck”. This is a very different idea to “embrace the grind”. Embrace the grind has been formed into the idea of one rep more and push yourself to breaking point and beyond which in my opinion is not the best way to train. But of course, has its time and place. The idea of embrace the suck is a simple version of what Shoshin is about it means that whatever it is you start doing you will suck at it. If you do something and are naturally great at it then it’s likely you won’t stick with it. If you accept that you will suck then you will be able to get through the initial phases and frustration of training. Then when you don’t suck you need to step back and view your practice as a beginner to really understand how you can improve. 

 

For more advanced practitioners of any discipline, it means embracing the parts of your practice you know you need to work on in order to improve the rest of your practice. We all like to do what we are good at and you will hear many excuses from people to not work on these areas.

 

One of the most common things I hear clients say to me is “I can’t do it” then they give up. My answer is often very simple “I know”. Why? Well if you could do it then you would not come to me and seek out a teacher. So you need to accept that you can’t do it and are going to suck at it when you start or simply put you need to be humble.

 

But this is where Shoshin goes deeper and why you should embrace the suck. Even when you feel you have reached a decent level of any skill if you step back and really view it as a beginner again you may see something you missed and need to work to improve. This is why personally I always seek out other teachers in the areas I train in. No matter how good of a coach you might be it is often very hard to train yourself impartially. As you will almost always train to your strengths and I have seen this among some great coaches and practitioners I know.

 

But the truly great coaches and practitioners I know are never content with their practice. Without this pursuit of improvement, you will never reach a high level and be able to enter that flow state or Mushin mindset where you begin to nail a skill without thinking about it.

 

So accept that at the beginning you will suck and that that’s ok, that with time you will get better. If you are a long-term practitioner step back and see what it is in your practice that sucks or needs to be improved.

 

Just like the craftsmen I knew growing up they are always looking for something to improve on or finding what will help them move to the next level. This is the Shoshin mind.

 

 

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