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A Beginner Mindset

Last week, I broke a board. Not just any board. I broke my first board in karate. It was a front kick on the first try. Then I broke my second board. It was a side kick on the first try. I felt invincible! My nine-year old son hugged me. A 16 year-old girl who has been doing this for years beamed at me and congratulated me. Another mum high-fived me, smiling. The Master put her arm around me and grinned the same giddy grin I had.

This accomplishment was routine for each of those individuals. My son is an orange belt and broke his first board a year ago. The other students range from orange belts to black belts. But the joy was contagious.

I have been reflecting (and relishing) in that moment, and how my learning experience in karate has been for me. I think about how I felt going into something I had no idea about. I was unsure as to how after years of learning and honing my professional (and sporting) craft to have expertise and mastery, I was going to be humble enough to step into the role of a beginner.

It was hard to learn how to do precise movements, remember different patterns of movement, and make your body do new activities. My nine-year old is much better than me. I have had to park my ego, lean in, and learn from all of those around me. I am learning from other mums, I am learning from teenagers, I am learning from experts, and am I learning from my son.

To my surprise, it was easier to be a beginner than I thought. That is because learning is not a solo sport. We spend so much time thinking about how to “squeeze in” learning, saving videos to watch later and demanding learning opportunities such as asynchronous learning. As I stood in the studio, surrounded by people who were younger, more experienced and had different perspectives than me, I smiled to think about how I am learning from them all – and how they are supporting me in my journey. Learning is a social endeavour, and we seem to have forgotten that post-pandemic.

Don’t throw out those Ted Talks you have saved, and keep reading things that interest you. But also look to learn with and among others like you, different than you, and with those that will support your journey. Embrace the beginner mindset with the joy that comes with breaking a board.

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