John Ashworth - just prior to training camp circa 1991

podcast produced by john c ashworth

produced by john c ashworth

How to cultivate your passions - Beginner's Mind
written by john c ashworth

You are NOT your mind. Put another way, the essence of who you are in this world is not defined by the thoughts that run through your head. Those thoughts, ideas, and conceptions are coming from somewhere close to you, no doubt. But they do not define you. The challenge is that all of those thoughts do come from your daily life, along with the interpretations you form that are also based on past experience. Your belief systems, in other words, shape every single one of your reactions in every moment to everything that is around you. And as the associated emotions from these thoughts and experiences stir inside your heart and mind, they too begin to cloud your judgement. Your clarity. Your peace of mind and most importantly, your ability to see clearly what comes next.

This is why Emmerson once said that, "every institution is the shadow of one man." In today's world, it is important to add 'man or woman' of course. And if you found yourself reacting to that quote in a way relating to the inherent gender bias therein, you and I are getting close to being on the same page as we begin this discussion of 'beginner's mind.'

Milton Friedman once said that, "only a crisis, actual or perceived, produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around at the time." I would add that those ideas that might be lying around are born of everything that has led you to that moment, and shaped your belief sytems to that point in time. So, those ideas, good or bad, may in fact require a closer look when and if you're willing to see them in a new context. Because those ideas have been shaped by belief systems that may need to be re-born. Granted another chance to begin again.

This is why a crisis, like the pandemic of 2020-2021 can be a real turning point for societies.

I feel it is very important for all of us to constantly make time for consideration that we might not know as much as we think we do. No matter our level of experience, when you work to cultivate the slight edge inside your life, and your business, you must work to keep your mind from sending you down dark alleyways that lead to danger and dead-ends. You must adopt the mindset of beginners mind and clear the backroads for the potential of new exploration. You must work hard to rid yourself of automatic reactions to life and business events, and instead find the clarity you need to experience each and every situation as if you were looking at it for the first time. If you can do this, the results will be transformative. If you can't? Well, you may just become lost.

Steve Jobs once said that, "People with passion can change the world for the better." This is an easy and inspiring statement to run with, but doesn't tell the whole story for you and I. Because you and I don't choose our passions. They choose us, but you have to be listening. And if you're mind is a constant cloud of conundrums, and old and worn out perspectives and beliefs, there will exist a constant buzzing in your ears and you will not be able to hear anything; and eventually go deaf.

So many of the funeral directors I speak with every day in my work (for Frazer Consultants) experience their service and their work and their mission as a calling. The best thing in life is to have or find this calling. Your passions will lead you there. Just please be careful not to let your intellect and the lure of logic drown out your passions; and always keep in mind that your passion is never enough on its own. Hard work must come along for the ride too. Adopting your beginner's mindset will provide you great support in this effort.

For the funeral directors I work with every day, this is paramount because your profession is changing drastically every day. I know you know this, so the real question is what you choose to do about it? And more to the point (of this first chapter,) how are you relating to it?

Be bold and brave and focus on things that are no yet working. Life and career harmony come from finding meaning. Meaning comes from following your passions. And passions are discovered when you keep an open mind. Be nimble and robust, and always lean into the future, becaue if you lean away, the future will always win. Adversity is a great teacher but only if you choose to do the hard things, and focus not on your gifts, but your willingness to dig into the trenches and work very very hard. Your gifts were given to you so be gratefu l and be bold, and also remember that ideas are the easy part. It will be your stubborn and relentless pursuit of those ideas that will bring those convictions to life and allow you to serve humankind and cultivate true meaning.

Be stubborn about your vision and flexible about the details. Remember, 'beginner's mind.' Because you will often discover that you were not right about everything, and as such, you will have to change course and learn along the way. Stay focused and prevent yourself from chasing the hot passion of the day. Never stop learning.

-John

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About the Author
John Ashworth is a salesman, writer, Dad and full time Bohemian Athlete. aka Johnny Renaissance.

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