There is a wonderful book called Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki which lays out this thesis much more elegantly than I can. My thesis is that you know more about branding than the experts. The book begins with these words: “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s there are few.” The message of the book is that the beginner’s mind is open. And the expert’s mind is closed. Sounds like it’s more fun to be a beginner, doesn’t it?

Listen to your own voice. The most difficult thing, according to the book, is to keep your beginner’s mind. If you can, you will see what is going on while the expert misses everything. The experts are the priests–the brand gurus–of the branding business. They are in charge of the tabernacle.  They give the sermons. They spell out the rules. They maintain the status quo. The sharper their focus, the blurrier their vision.

Be careful who you talk to. The more you see your brand as a reflection of who you are and how you see the world, the better off you will be. Your own feelings and thoughts about your brand are important because you need to start somewhere and you might as well start somewhere that’s really close to home. Don’t worry about all the things you don’t know. Don’t worry about what other people think. Start with your own point of view about what is important.

Wrestle with the tough questions. How far back you go depends on your nature and your patience. If you are comfortable wrestling with the question, Who am I?, you will be starting at the beginning. Look at people like Steve Jobs and Richard Branson and Yvon Chinouard. They didn’t have any rule books. They had the inner vision, they understand that how is as important as what, and they were incredibly open to change. They had the mind of a beginner.

See the world as it is. According to Shunryu Suzuki, “The mind of the beginner is empty, free of the habits of the expert, ready to accept, to doubt, and open to all the possibilities.” If you have beginner’s mind you can see things as they are. If you are ready to leave behind some baggage and want to build a powerful brand, I will try to show you how in this series which I am calling Branding Is Just Like Life. We will use the simplest language and situations of everyday life, because you already know all the material. You’ve been studying it all your life.

Branding is Just Like Life is a weekly series about corporate and product branding that shows you how to think about your brand while steering clear of gimmicks and shake ‘n’ bake formulas. See you here next time, or drop us a line.

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki on Amazon.

Share on