Beginners Luck - What Is It?

We have all heard the expression "beginners luck." But is there such a thing? Yes, and that leads us to the next question; "What causes it? Here's an explanation.

In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few. - Shunryu Suzuki

The quote above points to a phenomenon that is common in humans: The more we know about something, the more limited we become in our thinking. For example, smart business people (the experts) could have given Gary Dahl many good reasons why he couldn't sell a rock in a box. Nonetheless, his "Pet Rock" sold millions, because he didn't "know better" than to give it a try.

As a non-expert or beginner at something, you won't know all the "good reasons" why your ideas shouldn't work. That leaves you free to try them out, and get feedback from reality instead of from a mind full of negative or limiting ideas. Many ideas born in ignorance won't work, and often for exactly the reasons that the experts dismiss them. But sometimes things have to be tried, because we cannot predict all things based solely on the past and the ideas we carry with us from there.

Experimentation is common for the beginner, because he or she doesn't know what works. The expert tends to think he knows what works and what doesn't, or that a bit of "reasonable" thought can answer all things - and that answers found in this way can be trusted. This is why innovation in a given industry sometimes comes from "outsiders."


One of the things you find in someone who is new to an endeavor is excitement. Beginners don't yet know all the ways they can fail, and don't yet have a mind that spells out this "helpful" information for them on a daily basis. In fact, this is a problem of both knowledge and intelligence. Like a man who knows too much to want to try anything new, an intelligent man often has a powerful ability to find great excuses for not going after a goal. It's a terrible ability to have, and though it isn't necessary, it is common.

This is related to the first reason for beginner's luck. A beginner has not yet learned to find reasons why things can't be done. This means he is less likely to talk himself out of trying things. He may succeed or fail, but we can all see that doing nothing certainly decreases the odds of success.

Less Ego

A man or woman who has made millions or won a war or is famous as an actor or writer may be very proud. People look up to such examples of "success" and ask how they got there. In fact, their opinions are sought in virtually all areas - even those not related to their primary skills or abilities.

This encourages them to build their ego and voice their opinions, but not to ask for help or advice. Again, this is not a necessary outcome, but a common one, and ego can lead us to bad choices and bad luck in more ways than we could count. A person who is new to something usually has less ego involved - the focus is more on the goal. Such a person is more likely to be open to new ideas, advice, and a change of course if necessary. All of these things lead to more opportunity and success in the long run.

These are some of the reasons for the "luck" that beginner's have. Most of them originate in what is known to Zen practitioners as the "beginner's mind." You goal then, as you continue towards your goals, is to try to retain that frame of mind that brings such creativity and opportunities with it.

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