The Japanese Zen term “shoshin” translates as ‘beginner’s mind’ and refers to a paradox: the more you know about a subject, the more likely you are to close your mind to further learning. Psychological research is now examining ways to foster shoshin in daily life.

Read the Story

Show Top Comments

It’s also a concept in martial arts – one of the “five spirits of budo”. That context is a very good example of how it works in practice – as soon as you think you know how to do any technique correctly, you stop making any changes to it (because it’s already perfect, so why?). This means you’re completely closed to any growth, and can’t improve anything. And there’s a great chance you’re not actually doing that technique as well as you think, or there’s some weakness you didn’t notice, so someone who does it better will defeat you. Another interesting aspect to that is that at some point teaching others is the best way to improve your own skills – because they, as beginners, ask about things you don’t even think about anymore. Or they ask why something looks the way it looks, and you need to consider if what you’re doing actually makes sense, or you’re just repeating something mindlessly, because that’s the way it’s always been. The teacher I practiced under is practicing Aikido for some 30 years now, and he still comes up with some new perspectives or interpretations of some basic things. This translates very well into his effectiveness both in doing those things, and as a teacher.


Sadly, this is one of the most prevalent conditions in research and development. It usually happens because a new technology or approach to problem solving may invalidate years of work, and the PhD types that gatekeep don’t want to have carpet ripped out from under them. Great article though. This is what we strive for at our company.


The more you know, the more you don’t know


Not sure that’s a Japanese thing, as Zen is really a buddism concept and Shoshin, CHUXIN in Chinese in its phonetic spelling, has long been psychological idea in Chinese literature. Also, many of the comments got this concept wrong. In both Chinese and Japanese, Shoshin is written as two Chinese characters. Sho means when in the beginning, Shin means heart. As a whole it means the initial intent when you first start doing something. Very often we start something with a lot of passion, as we get better we get easily distracted by other things along the way, then forgot why we chose to get into it in the first place, then eventually we could get lost in all the glory that has brought to us and become the person that we used to hate the most when we were standing at the starting point. It’s not hard to feel related to this concept in a world where wealth and power are treated with more respect than kindness and integrity.


I think the idea is if you want to learn more about something, then assume you don’t know anything about it already.