Exploring the Unknown
I was inspired by John Smith’s post “Don’t Know Nothin’ About This …” to appreciate the value of inexperience. When I look back at my life, some of the most powerful experiences came about because I just didn’t know better. Here are a few examples of times when I went into new adventures inexperienced.
In my 20’s, when I was still in university I joined Robelle, a young software startup, as the first employee. No one told me that startups were risky. I had worked with the founder Robert Green on a project and I thought it would be fun to join him and his wife Annabelle in their new company (Robelle = Robert + Annabelle).
As part of joining the firm, I had to agree to write my first technical paper. While still attending the University of British Columbia, I took a week off to fly to San Jose, where I presented to the International Association of Hewlett Packard Users Group Meeting. I was 22, standing on the San Jose convention floor telling other computer geeks about this cool software and what it could do for them. I was too inexperienced to know that this was the essence of marketing and selling products. Or that 22 year olds never gave papers or sold software.
In my 30’s, after having worked at Robelle for a decade, Annabelle Green, the co-founder, decided she wanted to move on to other things. I agreed to purchase her stake in the business.
At that time, Karalee and I had two young children, aged 4 and 2. Much of the purchase was on credit and had to be paid out of future profits of the company. While I did know the market and the company, the credit came with terms that were onerous if I failed to make a payment. While it all turned out okay, I am glad that I didn’t fully appreciate the risks that I was taking when I did the transaction. Thankfully, Robelle continued to grow and succeed. I stayed for another ten years, building the company into a global powerhouse, while paying off all the debt incurred to make the purchase.
A Life Adventure
In my 40’s, I ended up selling my stake in Robelle. It was 2001 and the whole tech sector was melting down with the end of the dot com era. I had hardly noticed and while I was busy chasing new opportunities, I met a woman who pointed out a fundamental truth—our children would never be 11, 9, and 5 again. Did I need to work right away or should I take a break and live a life fully engaged with my children?
That was a light bulb moment in my life. Choosing to take a break, Karalee and I commissioned a sailboat in France and home schooled our three children, while traveling more than 5,000 miles in the Mediterranean. While we had sailed together for two decades, we had no idea that the Mediterranean is one of the windiest and roughest seas in the whole world. I’m thankful we didn’t know that before we went, because we may never have taken the risk of our adventure if we had known how boisterous the Mediterranean is before we left Canada.
While I live in Vancouver, a city many consider to be the yoga capital of North America, I
had resisted all of Karalee’s suggestions to give yoga a try. In my 50’s, I finally agreed to start going to weekly yoga classes with Karalee. For over seven years now, I’ve been practicing yoga once or twice a week.
To me, yoga is the ultimate expression of having an attitude of inexperience. In all mindfulness practice, including yoga, the notion is to start every time with “beginner mind.” The point is that the experience you had last time has nothing to do with the experience that you are having right now. Start every yoga class as if you were a raw beginner and learn from what shows up today. The ultimate expression of inexperience.
Through four decades of my life, I’ve had the opportunity to try new things that I was completely inexperienced at. In every case, my inexperience contributed to either trying things or taking risks that I just didn’t know about forever enriching my life. May you try something new with a “beginner mind.”