The Real Key to Success

Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Jeff Bezos have a lot in common:

  • all are successful innovators

  • all have consistently challenged the status quo

  • all have an estimated net worth well over $10 billion

This kind of success takes more than intelligence, it takes savviness.

True success is less about a skill set and more about a mindset. Specifically, a beginner's mindset.

What does it mean to have a beginner's mindset?

The definition of beginner's mindset stems from Zen Buddhism (referred to as "Shoshin"). It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, curiosity, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

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New Hires & the Beginner's Mindset

"What you seek is seeking you." - Rumi

Ironically, new hires often struggle to have a beginner's mindset... despite the fact that the have two very real advantages: an outsider's perspective and the opportunity to ask questions.

Instead of leveraging those advantages, many new hires have a "fake it till you make it" mentality, trying to come off as capable and competent as possible.

Approaching a new role with genuine curiosity enables new hires to leverage their outsider's perspective in a meaningful way. Asking the right questions may even lead to the discovery of organizational blind spots.

Just like the above quote suggests, if someone is seeking true competency, the curiosity that comes along with a beginner's mindset will enable them to find that competency.

Established Salespeople & the Beginner's Mindset

"Those who think they know it all have no way of finding out what they don't." - Leo Buscaglia

Experience is a beautiful thing in many ways, but one disadvantage of experience is that it leads us to stop questioning the status quo. The human mind is fallible to confirmation bias. So if you think a specific thing you're doing is actually working, anything that happens in your day-to-day to support that thought will further confirm your instincts are right - and that's not always the case. 

Any experienced sales professional should constantly ask themselves: Is the best way to do things? What could I be doing differently?

Asking these questions brings the beginner's mindset back to the table. And if your KPIs aren't providing you with the answers to those questions, perhaps you should track some metrics of your own.

Leaders & the Beginner's Mindset 

"Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has 'cursed' us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can't readily re-create our listeners' state of mind." - Chip and Dan Heath | Made to Stick

When incorporating a beginner's mindset to your leadership approach, it's all about receptivity - the recognition that valuable information exists outside of your experience set. What are other companies doing? What are other markets doing? Are you listening to employee suggestions? What lessons could you learn from them? Leading with a beginner's mindset is about committing to the idea that you still might have more to learn.

At the end of the day, the beginner's mindset forces you to set your ego aside by recognizing the full range of possibilities out there over the few that exist in your limited experiential sphere.

Curiosity over competence. That's what makes this mindset so challenging and so valuable.

So... instead of focusing on having all of the right answers, I challenge you to focus on having the right questions.

Kate Jacoutot

Spire Workforce Solutions, 5575 Peachtree Dunwoody Road Northeast, Building C, Suite 240, Sandy Springs, GA, 30342, United States