February 19, 2019

Beginning again

Tim Ferris often refers to this passage of Seneca’s in his books, podcast and blog:

Set aside a certain number of days, during which you shall be content with the scantiest and cheapest fare, with coarse and rough dress, saying to yourself the while: “Is this the condition that I feared?”

He recommends it as a recipe for building resilience and living the stoic life.

While this quote is about material goods and possessions, there has to be a parallel for knowledge and skills.

Recently I moved from a world I know, and by some measures, an expert in – the world of digital product design to a world I know nothing about, selling beverages.

So, I am a beginner again. Design Thinking recommends one to adopt a beginner’s mindset. Zen talks about the beginner’s mind. And it is easy to talk about it, but pretty damn hard to go through once you have spent years being an expert at something else.

In short, being a beginner sucks. I’ve been seeking advice and mentorship from folks who have worked in this space. It is surprising when the person in front of you sees a clear path forward and all you see is this fog that you cannot seem to make head or tail out of.

It feels small to be asking them to clarify words and phrases they use with an air of obviousness, while you take notes down like a man seeking water in the desert.

You marvel at stories they tell of people who are innovators in the space while you feel like little more than a sentient vegetable.

It also truly made me empathize with folks I had been advising in the past on design. There would be times I would think ‘How can they not get this? This is obvious’. But I realize now how others might feel when you can see a path through and they cannot.

So it sucks but perhaps is exactly what I need. It’s new to be a nobody, to not have my education and experience to be standing on top of.

“Is this the condition I feared?"