B is for: Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset

beginner's mindset

A child’s favorite question is invariably, “why?” They will also throw in a “who, what, when, where, and how”, as well. They want to know more. Having a beginner’s mindset allows them to see the world with new eyes. You can use that same beginner’s mindset to take a fresh look at any hurdles that are in your way.

Children are learning machines.

They are born with the innate desire to create and to experience the cause and effect of the world around them. I remember when my first child was about two years old. She discovered the stereo and the VCR[1]. Summer couldn’t help but push the buttons and turn the knobs. She even tried to put her toys in the VCR slot. It drove me crazy. She would suddenly crank up the volume on the stereo and scare herself so she ended up in tears. I couldn’t understand why she would do this until I realized she had a beginner’s mindset. She just wanted to discover what all of those moving parts and pretty lights did

Sometimes our expertise gets in the way.

Have you ever had someone try to teach you something but it was way over your head? When I was in the 9th grade, I failed a semester of Algebra. It was so devastating to me. I did the homework but I failed all of the tests. I asked for help from 2 different Algebra teachers. They worked with me after school every day for weeks. They tried. Oh, how they tried! But they just couldn’t get me to understand equations. Finally, my teacher told me I should plan on retaking the semester—again.

I sat in the math department hallway with my back against a locker and cried. Then, Mr. Johnson, the special education math teacher came down the hallway. He had crazy hair, sort of like Albert Einstein. I’d never talked to him before and I was embarrassed when he asked me if I was okay. But, for some reason, rather than saying, “I’m fine.” like I normally would have, I spilled my guts.

I told him about failing—and probably failing again.

When he asked me what my number one problem was, I pointed to the equations. “I have no idea how to figure these out.”

Then he did the silliest thing I had ever seen a teacher do. He began making smiley faces all over the problems on the page. “You just need to remember to smile,” he said. Then he explained that the lines in those smiley mouths connected the numbers that should match up. Mr.Johnson spent about 5 minutes showing me what 2 other teachers couldn’t teach me in 2 semesters. He was able to do it because he approached the problem from a beginner’s mindset.

Mr. Johnson used this same approach to teach kids who didn’t learn in the same way other kids did. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn. They just have to learn differently. I had to learn differently, too. I needed a beginner’s mindset.

Try having a beginner’s mindset in your writing

Have you ever thought about how much you know? Sometimes we take that wealth of knowledge for granted and forget what it’s like to be a beginner…at whatever it is we are talking or writing about. We forget that our readers don’t have the same knowledge base as we do. This can be a big problem, especially if you are writing non-fiction.

To solve this problem let’s learn to think like a beginner.

Start by learning something completely new. Cast aside all of the things you know. Invite your curious inner child out to play. Let him or her ask those, “who, what, when, where, why, and how” questions. Best of all, ask “why?” Consider some mistakes that are commonly made by beginners. This can help you ensure that what you are writing is clear to your readers. Having a beginner’s mindset will enable you to anticipate questions your readers might have, in advance, making your writing clear and effective.

Ask “why not.”

When you ask, “why not,” you eliminate the roadblocks to innovation.  A beginner’s mindset allows you to “think outside of the box,” and come up with new ideas and solutions that conventional people might push aside. There are too many people out there who feel like they have to have all the answers before the questions are even asked. Instead, try being the one to ask the questions.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge

I’m doing double duty this month during the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Here at Heather Erickson Author/Writer/Speaker, I will share ideas for “Thinking Creatively.” I’ll also be doing the challenge at Facing Cancer with Grace, where I will focus on “Avoiding Burnout.” I hope you’ll visit me at both sites. While you’re here, sign up for my email list. Today’s post is B is for Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset

What questions have you asked lately?

What Are YOUR Thoughts?

I’d love to hear in the comment section, below. I appreciate my readers as well as the writing community. To show that appreciation, I use Comment Luv. Just leave a comment below and your latest post will get a link next to it. Thank you!

About Heather EricksonThe Ericksons

I am an author, writer, and speaker and homeschooling mom of 3. Since doctors diagnosed my husband, Dan with stage IV lung cancer in 2012, I’ve focused my writing and speaking on helping cancer patients and their families advocate for themselves and live life to the fullest, in spite of their illness. My goal is to help people face cancer with grace. My books are available at Amazon.com:

The Memory Maker’s Journal 

Facing Cancer as a Friend: How to Support Someone Who Has Cancer

Facing Cancer as a Parent: Helping Your Children Cope with Your Cancer

I also blog about living with cancer at Facing Cancer with Grace.


[1] For those of you who are part of the younger generation, a VCR is what we had before DVD players, which are what we had before streaming video.


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8 comments on “B is for: Adopt a Beginner’s Mindset

Excellent advice, similar to ‘back to basics’. And it works.

Hi Jacqui. Yes. wipe the slate clean and start as if you don’t know anything about what you are doing. What do you need to learn? What questions do you need to ask? Too often we think we have something locked down. But, maybe there’s a better way. It’s good to explore this. That’s why continuing education classes are so important. Have a wonderful day!

The part about the hallway teacher showing a new way to learn algebra brought tears to my eyes. Totally agree that people learn in different ways.

Thank you, Gail. Teachers are so inspiring. I think every person must have at least one teacher who has mad a significant impact on their life. Have a wonderful day!

Sometimes it’s hard to forget all you know. Beginning can be hard.

Hi Liz. you’re right. Although teachers are better at it than most people. 😉

I sure wish my College Algebra professor would have learned this! I was all set to get a degree in Accounting when I took his class. He was the kind of guy who wrote his own textbooks. I ended up failing the class and ultimately not getting that degree.

Hi Mary. I’m sorry to hear that. it is so frustrating to get a bad professor. It can completely change your life’s plans.

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