Recently, I attended at business event where we opened ourselves up to learn, to inquire, to ask and to be a beginner. This is not as easy as it may seem.

If you’ve been in the pet industry for a while, or been in business for a while or owned, loved and trained a pet for a while, it’s easy to forget that there are levels to attain and things to learn and relearn that are vital to your success.

It’s funny to listen to someone who has loved and lived with a dog for more than 10 years.

Usually, the pet lover acknowledges that her old dog is the “best dog ever!” And how well trained he is, how wonderful he is and how easy he is to live with. These pet lovers are usually unaware that the ones well-trained are them. Or that it’s less about how well this dog is trained and more about how long this animal has coexisted with them.

When it comes to our businesses, we fall into the same thinking. We’ve been at this a while, we know stuff — usually stuff we wish we had known earlier — and we feel confident in handling things, making decisions and taking risks. It’s part of who we are now, and it feels good.

And, at the same time, we could be hurting our innovation, our creativity and our higher success. Mostly because we’ve stopped using or living in the “beginner’s mind.”

This is much easier to think about than do. I know, since I just experienced it. I think I am open for new thinking and new ideas, and I think I welcome learning.

So, I was a beginner at some processes during this business retreat. I acknowledged my ignorance about some things, I felt fear, and I was put into situations where I had to be vulnerable and raw. A beginner.

This was not easy, but it was amazing.

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The lesson I want to share with you is this:

It’s easy and painless to think or believe we are open to being a beginner.

The reality is, it’s far more difficult and painful to be in a position to not know, to fail, to look silly or stupid than we remember.

Like our well-trained and beloved old dog, it’s comforting to think how good we are at something when the reality is that we are simply in a well-worn groove.

My challenge to you is this: What are you doing to bring forth your “beginner mind?”

If you want an example of how set we’ve become in our ways and to be startled about how little you know, get a puppy. You’ll realize quickly how little you know and how much you need to shift to deal with this beginner being that will live with you for the rest of his life.

Or, you can take a class in something you’ve never done, a beginner for sure. You could simply download some new software and learn it.  The point is, do something different.

Here’s to your new, or renewed, thinking!

Shawna Schuh  is a certified speaking professional, an executive coach, master neuro linguistic programming practitioner and president of Women in the Pet Industry Network. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of PETS+.   

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