"beginner's mind" by Shunryu Suzuki


“beginner’s mind” by Shunryu Suzuki

I am writing with a partial update. We had some mixed results with the made-to-measure Riding Jackets. It is going to be a few weeks before our partners have had the chance to look into the issues and we’ve had a chance to get to the bottom of them so we can know which are fixable versus larger issues with our made-to-measure production system. When I have this information, I will write with a clearer update on the status of this work.
In the meantime, some reflections…The latest step in this process has been a big learning experience for my leadership abilities, getting intimate with uncertainty, and patience. When I got the news that the muslin Riding Jackets were shipped I put a calendar together of what came next: 1) Appointments with tailor for fit assessment, 2) Share feedback with partners and understand implications, 3) Share status with beta-clients, 4) Share status with YOU and the iFundWomen supporters, etc. etc. And each week since then it seemed that life has just laughed at my list and my cute paper calendar. A huge, belly-rolling laugh. Instead, it has felt like I’m at another summit, the place of leading as things evolve in an uncertain environment standing on new terrain for all parties involved.
Now more than ever I am leading in a place where I don’t know what comes next. I just don’t have the information, and we are not following someone else’s roadmap that tells us what to expect. What is required right now is totally foreign to me: keeping an open mind, likened to the Zen Buddhist beginner’s mind, and not rushing forward to the next thing. Rest here in the uncertainty for however many weeks it takes to learn everything I can about where we are at.
Rushing forward has real risks. Potentially deadly for this sort of work. If you jump to conclusions or rush past your partners to decide something, or push them into making a decision before they’ve had a chance to assess the information themselves, you squish the life out of it. There are vast possibilities available where we are currently, but if we rush past where we all are, in this moment, we have taken a blossoming flower and squeezed it into a flat narrow road. No going back to letting life unfold, where you blew right by it.
Where is this at those start-up talks with the spreadsheets, and calendars, and frameworks? Undoubtedly, the leaders who have created beautiful, novel businesses have experienced this, are probably experts at this dance. But their wisdom lies hidden with all the other gems below the strategic plans and the impressive revenue numbers and the demonstrations of greater efficiency.
I’ve been hearing and reading a lot about the type of leadership where the work itself and the relationships that form it are like a bird you hold in your hand. If you grip it too hard, you can kill it, but hold it too loosely and it will fly away. And so we learn, everyday to strike this balance. The stakes are high. The bird is important.
So I’ve had to rest in an uncomfortable place where I am working on various scenarios for the outcome of this work, while still remaining totally open to the unknowns of where we are currently. Super difficult, but it has enormous value for making me stronger as a leader.
OK that’s all for today. I hope you are growing similarly muscled by your adventures. There is beauty and enjoyment in it, even if it is hard.
Lots of love,

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