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The Beginner's Mindset

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

A couple weeks ago I sent an email asking you guys to send in snippets/quotes that have helped you in your own life. This week, I want to feature one of the responses from a guy called George who studied at Oxford for 3 years and is now applying to graduate-entry Medicine.


From 2015 – 2018, I found myself gradually developing some sort of Oxbridge imposter syndrome (aside from other mental health issues), feeling like a bit of a failure and perhaps a bit unintelligent, and like I was letting myself and my family down by not coping very well or understanding things fully. Whether it be my tutors, or my peers who ‘claimed’ to be struggling just as much as I was, I felt constantly surrounded by people who were far brighter than me, who could grasp new concepts much quicker than me, and who seemed to need less support.

George came across the following quote that helped at the time:

This advice gives a nod to the Beginner's Mindset, an idea that I’ve found quite helpful over the years.

The Beginner’s Mindset is, well, the mindset of a beginner. When you’re a beginner in anything, your ego doesn’t get in the way. You know you’re just starting out and probably aren’t very good, and that’s okay because you’re a beginner and you’re there to learn. You work hard to improve, you actively seek out advice from people who are ‘better’ or more experienced than you, and you never feel bad about your inadequacies because, well, you’re a beginner.

I find that adopting this Beginner’s Mindset is useful in almost every domain of life, not just those in which we’re legitimate beginners. A beginner’s mindset means that when we're in a supervision or seminar with our own peers, but we don’t understand something that everyone else seems to, we have no qualms about speaking up and asking for clarification. It means that when we're studying with friends, we're not trying to prove our intelligence or knowledge in any way - we’re simply there to learn. And it means that we don’t feel bad if others are ‘better’ than us, because we can learn from them and actively improve ourselves.

There are always going to be people who are smarter, faster, stronger than we are. Having a Beginner’s Mindset approach to life means that when we come across these people, rather than feeling inadequate, we rejoice at the opportunity to learn from them and better ourselves.

Have a great week!

Ali

PS: I'm giving a talk at the University of Birmingham next Tuesday (30th Oct) at 7:30pm. If anyone happens to be around, it would be good to see you there 😁

Stuff I've been enjoying this week

The non-fiction book I'm reading - I'm making my way through Atomic Habits by James Clear. So far there's a tonne of really great actionable advice that I've been highlighting the hell out of on my Kindle.

A new morning routine - I've been trying out Bulletproof Coffee. If I'm honest, it's a bit grim, but I think that might be because I'm adding too much butter / not making the coffee properly. A lot of people seem to swear by it so I guess it's worth sticking with it for a week or so and seeing if I enjoy it.

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Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.