Beginner’s Mind

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I’ve been working hard on what I hope are the final steps of editing the book I’ve just finished. Up until now, I would have said that writing the book was the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done, and I’ve never been known to do anything that was easy.

As it turns out, finishing the book was nothing compared to the process of editing it. The reason is perspective.

You start writing from your own perspective, telling the story the fates have compelled you to tell. But, you turn the whole thing on its head when you start editing because the only thing that matters once you’ve made the decision to send your work into the world is your reader!

They are the ones who ultimately will judge whether or not what you’ve written was meaningful to them, which is the reason you dedicated more than two years of your life to the project in the first place.

After all that, this isn’t really about the book. At least, not directly. This is about something that happened while I was immersed in the process. Something I had no idea was going to happen.

It has to do with character development. Fleshing out one of the two central characters in the story I came to tell. Or, more accurately, the story they have chosen to tell.

You see once you breathe life into a character, they take on a life of their own.

As you might have guessed, one of the central characters in my story is a shop owner. And, he became the master of his own destiny almost instantly.

It would be reasonable to assume that, as the author, you get to direct your character and their growth throughout your story. But, that is only partially true. True only when the character is submissive.

When the character is substantive, they are quite capable of telling their own story. And, that’s exactly what my shop owner did and continues to do.

What is really fascinating—at least to me—is the profound emotional impact that shop owner’s journey has had on me. You see, I couldn’t write about him without understanding where he came from, and, since writers write about what they know, there are parts of our collective past that mirror one another. One of those parts was understanding what draws people like us into this insane pressure cooker of an industry: an industry that is over-regulated and filled with turmoil and misunderstanding.

For me, it was returning to a beginner’s mind. It was re-engaging with the child that grew up in a service station in Brooklyn, but never really planned on being a part of that world. At least, not until its richness and beauty was revealed.

That beginner’s mind—that blank slate—led me from a place of profound ignorance to a state of insatiable curiosity about everything that had anything to do with our business.

Admittedly, that thirst for knowledge was originally focused on becoming the best mechanic I could be and resulted in thousands of hours of study, leader-led training and post-professional education. But, ultimately, as with so many of you, it spilled over into leadership, management and administration.

You can file this under “counter-intuitive,” because you wouldn’t think the character you created—the child of your imagination and experience—would or could know anything you, the author, did not already know and understand. But, that is not always the case. In my case, the character I created took me to school and re-introduced me to all the reasons I fell in love with this business and all the folks who struggle within it.

He reminded me of the role we play in the society we serve. The critical place we inhabit in the culture the machines we work on everyday helped create. Or, should I say, created almost single-handedly!

He pointed to you and me and the difficult road that needs to be followed if we are to achieve the success so many of us seek, and said, “Sure! It’s near impossible. But, if it was easy would it mean as much? If it was easy and you managed to achieve success without the struggle, would you appreciate it? Would you still seek it?”

We are an amazing group of individuals and individualists who keep the wheels that move our society from falling off—literally!

We offer our clients freedom and mobility, two of the things we all cherish most. We offer business cheap and dependable transportation. We offer individuals within the communities we serve employment and local municipalities, as well as our state and federal government, a steady revenue stream of fees, licenses and taxation.

These are all things I was able to see through the beginner’s mind of a character in a book I just finished writing. Think of what you might see if you closed your eyes and then opened them without any of the misconceptions and erroneous notions you’ve collected and carried with you all the years you’ve toiled in this industry.


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