Black Belt Leader as Beginner: Part Two


“Every minute I’m a different man.” Pablo Picasso


How do we maintain “beginner’s mind” and sustain a constantly fresh outlook, one that will give us clear insights instead of dull, routine or unimaginative perceptions  so as leaders we may inspire those who follow us? 


Arthur Rubinstein, the great classical pianist, had a response to the above question, and it came as a result of a lesson from Pablo Picasso. This is what he said: “You know Picasso and I are good friends, and we used to see each other a great deal. I used visit him while he was painting at his studio in Paris…Well, for some months I saw Picasso stand in front of his easel and paint a bottle of sherry, a table, a guitar that was lying around, and some banal ironwork on the balcony. I saw about fifty canvases of those same objects. I became a little impatient and also a little bored. I wanted to see a new Picasso! So, one day I said, ‘Look, here, Pablo, what is the matter with you? Aren’t you getting tired painting day after day always the same thing?’ Well, I saw a furious glance at me. He became really angry. ‘What rot are you talking to me? What stupid things are you telling me? Every minute I’m a different man, every hour there is a new light, every day I see that bottle with a completely different personality. It is another bottle, another table, another life in another world and everything is different!’ After a moment to catch my breath, I told him: ‘Pablo, you are completely right. I catch myself thinking the next morning in a completely different way about something I was proclaiming as true the day before.’ And it still is so….”


As in the arts, the real secret to becoming a Black Belt Leader is always be a beginner. This is not so easy to accomplish because of the connotation the word beginner carries in our culture: someone without much experience, an amateur, an individual who can’t be fully trusted in her job or position; someone of low competency. I mean, would you want to fly in a jet that was piloted by a beginner? Of course, you wouldn’t. It wouldn’t be safe.What Picasso was pointing out, though, is that one can be very experienced, a master, and still be able to see things afresh at every moment. 


Personally, I would be more than happy to fly with a pilot who navigated the airways from this perspective…or follow a leader – a Black Belt Leader – who possessed this capacity of beginner’s mind.