There is a value in being a beginner. It’s not something that you can enter into a spreadsheet, plan for, or even try to replicate, but it is there and is something that should not be beaten out of beginners. Having beginners mind is about more than just being new to something — most people are in reality new (or shall we say ignorant) of most things. No, beginner’s mind is more than just ignorance though the former does require the latter. Beginner’s mind is that quality someone who is new to a craft has when he or she is very eager and is keen to tackle tasks that are perhaps a rung or two beyond his or her level. I had it when I did martial arts when I was younger. I had it when I first saw that through some mysterious writing that I now know as code I could control the computer and get it to stuff even if that stuff was just a silly guessing game or getting a Unicode rocket to launch from a Basic terminal. I remember the feeling of “knowing” Java after taking just a few months worth of classes and I also remember the feeling of about a year later realizing that I knew basically nothing about Java or really anything else I was doing. I can honestly say that, for me, the best time (or most fun time at least) in my career saws when everything was new.
Sadly, that was years ago and I’ve learned a lot since then and now have a fairly developed understanding of what I know (some stuff) and what I don’t know( just about everything). With that comes a loss of enthusiasm. Strangely, at least for me, the blasé comes not from knowledge of my own ignorance but rather actually from knowing what I do know. Though, like most developers I “know” a modest amount of “stuff”, I’ve com to see anything new through the lenses of my existing experience. Frankly, nothing looks shiny anymore. I find myself a bit like a child who realizes that his new Christmas bike is just his old one from four years ago with a splash of paint.
Part of me feels like this has been accelerated by the increased tribalism in the development space. In truth, it doesn’t really matter. Software still needs to be written and I still need to write it, but part of me does wonder if there is anything coming on the horizon that will restore that sense of eagerness that I see in the greener developers around me. Would love to hear your feedback, please find me on Twitter or Google+.