Beginner’s Mind and Dumb Luck

Once mindful software developers can become jaded or closed-minded.

We can sink into complacency. We might find ourselves spinning in the tires of familiarity. We might concede to our stakeholders, “That’s just the way we do it”. We can unwittingly give safe harbor to habits-of-mind born from insecurities we hold onto.

Beginner’s Mind, from the Buddhist Shoshin, means cultivating an attitude of openness and eagerness. When one maintains an innocence of preconceptions in one’s approach, one practices Beginner’s Mind.

Beginner’s mind is like the mind of child: full of curiosity, wonder, and amazement.

Do we approach our day-to-day tasks in such a way? Can we? Do we look at aspects of our professional lives with this mindset — open to see what there is to see? Can we?

We can, but like other patterns for mindfulness, it requires practice, patience, and vigilance.

In Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, Shunryu Suzuki says,

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.

Beginner’s Mind and dumb luck are two sides of a coin — a coin that every developer needs. Beginner’s Mind is a mind that’s not calcified. It’s a mind in discovery mode — curiousness and openness to what happens.

A Beginner’s Mind is ready to welcome dumb luck.

Potter Randy Johnston‘s term for dumb luck is The Nourishable Accident. Working with clay, potters relax their expectations. Randy is mindful of the opportunities in unforeseen occurrences. That’s one of the qualities that makes his work sought after.

As pragmatic developers, perhaps our mantra should be to

Mine change for its nourishable accidents

Perhaps our daily practice should be to welcome change with Beginner’s mind.

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