I've been reading a lot lately about "Beginner's Mind," one of the core concepts of Zen Buddhism. In essence, it means to enter into a situation without any preconceived notions, perceiving each new situation through fresh eyes.
I rather like this notion. Obliquely, it reminds me of a book on Chess I once read called The Amateur's Mind, by Jeremy Silman. Of course, they are not the same thing at all. While the former is an admirable trait, the latter refers to "average" thinking - default thinking, if you will - which the improving player should seek to expunge.
The Beginner's Mind is advantageous; The Amateur's Mind rarely so. In fact, it can even be dangerous.
I think there is a fine line between the Beginner's Mind and the Amateur's Mind. I reflected on that line tonight, on a quiet night in the skies between North Carolina and Massachussetts. At first, I wondered if there were not some kind of interplay between confidence and competence that suggested this line. Ultimately, while my ride was bumpily descending through 6,000 feet, I rejected that thought as too judgmental.
Instead, I think it's this: The Beginner's Mind knows what it does not know.