Beginners' Mind Kind of Sucks

For a while, I have been wanting to become more “handy” around the house. A lifetime knowledge worker, I have never had the chance to learn many practical skills to fix things in the real world.

I have a few projects, damaged siding, light fixtures, screen door repairs, that I am determined to get through on my own. So I figure, I can learn this, right? I’ll apply my investigative skills to the analog world. I am good at learning.

This is a great chance to embrace my Beginner’s Mind and aproach this whole thing with fresh eyes.

Problem is, Beginner’s Mind kind of sucks. Well, let’s say it has a definite down side.

Yeah. Beginner’s Mind is not what it’s cracked up to be in the Eastern Spirituality section at Barnes and Noble. No, it’s not all wide-eyed openness to possibilities and experience.

It might be a little of that, but mostly it’s an exercise in deep humility. Being humiliated about how little you know, making and admitting mistakes (after mistakes), and not being able to get by without asking for help.

Jeez. How did I get to the age of 43 and not know at least a little of this stuff? Why can’t I walk into a hardware store an get the supplies for one small project without being lost and perplexed? I can’t even tell the nails and screws apart. (Why do nails have to be “hot dipped?” What are they hot dipped in?)

I repaired my mailbox after the hurricane. I felt so empowered. I rehung the back screen door, but it does not close flush and I can’t figure out why. I think it may be due to the fact that I didn’t choose the right sheet metal screws. My attempt to fix the rotten siding failed — an $80 dead end detour. A friend looked at my aborted efforts and patiently explained to me my mistaken assumptions. He’s going to help me figure it out next week.

Beginner’s Mind means being willing to understand how little you understand. Beginner’s Mind means being willing to feel like an idiot. And, as a man in the midst of men who know these things and women who lament that you do not know these things, it means feeling like less of a “real man.” Letting go of your own self image and pretensions is not a pleasant thing.

Thing is, this downside, this humbling, is probably the most important benefit of Beginner’s Mind. But it still kind of sucks.

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