White Belts and Infinite Learning
For many people, learning ends when they finish school or get good enough at their job to be successful enough (if not before).
They may continue to experience situations that challenge them, and they might adopt new practices here and there, but generally the desire to continually learn and grow gets replaced by the desire to appear competent, capable, and above reproach.
This represents a finite learning mindset. It is a very safe place to approach the world from.
The risk of appearing completely foolish or wildly inaccurate is greatly reduced. However, real growth only happens when there is something on the line. The best gymnasts still fall, the greatest musicians still miss notes and forget lyrics, and the finest authors still come out with books that disappoint.
Sometimes, a safe approach is best. You don't want pilots, Uber drivers or your mechanic to be on the bleeding edge. You want assurances of reliability and security.
But when it comes to music, art, friendships, love, and many careers, risk-taking, courage, and the immense desire to learn from mistakes are not only warranted, they are vital.
I recently started carrying a Judo white belt with me on my travels. It is now one of my prized possessions. To me, it symbolizes a willingness to start new things, to fail forward, to fall and get up again.
In Zen Buddhism, this idea is called Beginner's Mind. It involves learning without pre-conceived notions of one's pre-existing capability.
But I think the idea of infinite learning means more than merely being open to learning as though one were a novice.
Newly acquired skills, improvements, and applied ideas lead to a ripple effect. Improving your mindset to perform at 3x efficiency does not only make you 3 times as efficient for as long as you employ that mindset.
It also means that you encounter dead-ends and refine the path you are taking more quickly, which means learning faster, sooner, and better. An insight learned and acted on quickly can mean life or death to a company, a project, or a relationship.
Infinite learning is continuously learning, applying new learning to all domains of interest, and using that learning towards practical ends. It means going cross-disciplinary. It means sacrificing the stability of being right and foregoing the ability to rest on your accomplishments.
From a perspective of infinite learning, there is no arbitrary finish line, no conclusive victory or defeat. There is only growth, learning, and the highest, noblest purpose imaginable.
What can you achieve from a position of infinite learning?
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