Reaffirming The Fundamentals

“Begin – to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.” — Marcus Aurelius

“What’s so fascinating and frustrating and great about life is that you’re constantly starting over, all the time, and I love that.” — Billy Crystal

There was this silly board game called Don’t Break the Ice, that I vaguely remember playing as a kid.

A character (Polar Bear? Penguin?) stood dangerously on a raised grid of ice cubes. I guess to simulate a frozen lake or treacherous mountain pass. Each player took turns chipping away at the ice with colorful little hammers.

If the little animal dude falls on your turn, you lose. Now that I’m thinking about it, It’s basically like if Jenga was played horizontally, not vertically.

Learning and mastering skills remind me of Don’t Break the Ice.

When we become good, even great at something, we can easily fall into the pattern of holding onto what we’ve got like we are about to fall to our deaths. We learn, and then we stop. We don’t stay up-to-date. We don’t want to try new things. And we eventually become complacent with our skills and inevitability grow rusty and obsolete.

But getting good at multiple skills requires us to be comfortable with starting over.

A beginner’s mind is learning to enjoy starting over. It’s not only the willingness to start again but the drive to continuously learn and relearn what you know.

Starting over isn’t a bad thing. It’s a blank slate. It’s our chance to reinvent ourselves and take in knowledge with a fresh and deeper understanding.

Whatever skills we cultivate, we should always be reapproaching the fundamentals and what we think we know. Just because we think we know something doesn’t mean we do.

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