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June 28, 2024

Find Guidance Anywhere With Shoshin Mindset

Ben Williamsen

Find Guidance Anywhere With Shoshin Mindset

Recently I wrote about the spirits of Budo and how they can help us in our lives, both on and off the mats. Today I was thinking about shoshin, “beginner’s mind,” and how that mindset helped me find guidance and leadership where I least expected it. 

As a father, I’ve always assumed that I am the leader, and my child is my follower. That is mostly correct, of course.  However, the inverse helped me get through some personal struggles in the last year.

My son and I train together.  He is currently 14 going on 15, and has been consistently training Jiu Jitsu since he was about five years old.  As he has grown significantly in the last year or two, both physically and mentally, his skill and prowess on the mats have skyrocketed. 

Images: Collin Perryman.

During that same time period, I was struggling with some health issues as well as some setbacks in Jiu Jitsu.  (Some for legitimate health reasons, some due to me being stuck in a rut and just not wanting to train.  Watching my own son do so well in Jiu Jitsu and wrestling lit a fire in me.  He inspired me

Most of all, I started to sense that my son could clearly see my own weaknesses at play.  He might not fully understand what’s driving those weaknesses, but neither do I, to be honest.  Excuses.  Procrastination.  Delays in taking action.  All of these were sliding into my life while my son was doing the exact opposite  — there was never an excuse to miss training or even some exercise in between.  Procrastination? Nada.

He took action on his own to improve his strength and diet.  He listens to his coaches (in BJJ and wrestling).  It became very clear to me that, although I wasn’t actively being a source of inspiration and leadership for him, he was taking matters into his own hands.  I started to realize that he was going to work towards greatness, with or without me. 

We’ve heard that it takes a tribe to raise a warrior. I believe there’s no such thing as too many positive role models in a child’s life.  I know that my son will be fine without me, with all of the positive role models surrounding him. His work ethic is there. He’ll someday likely pass me in rank in Jiu Jitsu.

Is this fear of missing out on my part? Maybe. But, what kind of father would I be if I don’t do everything in my power to be one of the leaders within that tribe?

When I sensed all of this, a decision had to be made.  Do I want to be a part of this, or do I want to passively let others do my job for me?  The answer was clear.  Action had to be taken.  I must be part of my son’s “tribe.”

Image: Forrest Bishop.

[Improve at Any Age with Better Sleep, Diet and Stretching]

Role of the Shoshin mindset

What’s the point of this?  Having a shoshin mindset can break our traditional thinking habits, such as only listening to those senior to us.  We can learn from our juniors too.  We can listen. 

At work, using shoshin, we can truly listen to the younger workforce and make changes when necessary. On the mats, we can take inspiration from younger or less experienced martial artists.  A beginner’s mind lets us leave our egos behind and allows us to learn from unconventional sources. Those with less experience also have unique thoughts and perspectives.  If we don’t pay attention, we could be missing out on many things.

We all know that good leaders take action and lead by example.  I might not be able to keep up with my son in Jiu Jitsu as he grows and capitalizes on almost a decade of consistent mat time.  I might not even be as quick at learning and adapting.  My own fitness and health are more of an uphill battle as I approach 50 years on this wonderful planet. 

Yet, those don’t have to be excuses, either.  I can show up.  I can remain humble.  I can choose health over comfort and fun.  I can work hard to reclaim my place in the tribe as a leader, one based on actions rather default hierarchy. 

Images: Collin Perryman.

Hopefully, this will become contagious to those around me.  If I can take that mindset and help even one new white belt not get discouraged at how hard our martial art is, it’s worth it. Or remind that older blue belt that we don’t need to compare ourselves to the younger, athletic men and women. 

After all, it’s the journey up the mountain that we should be in love with, not the summit itself.  Is there a summit in martial arts?  I don’t know if I want there to be.  I don’t know if I want a finish line in martial arts.  We can always learn and grow, and we can always find leadership and inspiration in places where we might not be looking.  

And, to my son: thank you for reminding me of this and helping me through some tough times.  You didn’t plan it, and you might not have even noticed, but your hard work and wisdom beyond your years has inspired me to take more action.

It’s inspired me to look in the mirror and make adjustment, and to realize that my role as your father and leader should never be taken for granted — yet continuously earned.  You are a champion in my mind, and I’m thankful every day for your existence.

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