Ancora Imparo: Yet, I am learning.

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“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” – Shunryu Suzuki

“Ancora Imparo” is an Italian phrase that means “Yet, I am learning.” The phrase is often attributed to Italian sculptor, painter, architect, and Renaissance man Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni (Michelangelo). He is said to have made the statement when he was 87 while working on St. Peter’s Basilica. For most of us, we let our schooling interfere with our education; we do not heed the sage words of Mark Twain, who advised, “Do not let your schooling interfere with your education.” We often equate formal schooling with the end of our education. Schooling is for a certain period, but education is a lifelong pursuit that never ends.

Education is derived from the Latin word “educare,” which means to draw out, mould, and bring forth our hidden potential. Schooling is supposed to make us become lifelong learners and figure out things for ourselves while navigating the various vicissitudes of life with poise and character. Still, unfortunately, our schooling system is not optimized for building independent-minded individuals. It is more like a factory for building automatons, robots and individuals who are programmed not to question the status quo. Life-long learning requires staying curious, developing a beginner mindset and always striving to become a better version of yourself on an ongoing basis through personal growth and development.

Anna Mary Robertson Moses (AKA) Grandma Moses started painting at age 78, and her 1943 Sugaring Off painting was sold for a then-record US$1.2 million. Warren Buffet is probably the most significant value investor of all time and one of the wealthiest men in the world; he reads for an average of 5-6 daily as he prioritizes lifelong learning.

“I just read and read and read. I probably read five to six hours a day. I don’t read as fast now as when I was younger, but I read five daily newspapers. I read a fair number of magazines. I read 10Ks. I read annual reports, and I read a lot of other things, too. So, I’ve always enjoyed reading. I love reading biographies, for example.” – Warren Buffet

Once when Spanish-Puerto-Rican cellist, composer, and conductor Pablo Casals was asked at the age of 93. by a reporter why he continued to practice the cello for more than three hours in his old age, he replied, “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.” With life-long curiosity, one continuously improves like Casals, and the quest to become better is a source of fulfilment, joy and meaning.


American billionaire Stephen A. Schwarzman is the Chairman, CEO, and Co-Founder of Blackstone, a global private equity investment firm with total assets under management of US$1 trillion. In his memoir, What It Takes: Lessons in the Pursuit of Excellence, Schwarzman describes his philosophy on lifelong learning. He writes: In the final speech I made as student council president, I laid out a philosophy on education that has remained remarkably consistent throughout my life:

“I believe that education is a discipline. The object of this discipline is to learn how to think. Once we have mastered this we can use it to learn a vocation, appreciate art, or read a book. Education simply enables us to appreciate the ever-changing drama fashioned of God’s own hand, life itself. Education continues when we leave the classroom. Our associations with friends, our participation in clubs all increase our store of knowledge. In fact, we never stop learning until we die. My fellow officers and I just hope that you will become aware of the purpose of education and follow its basic tenets, questioning and thinking, for the rest of your life.”

I believe that education is a discipline. The object of this discipline is to learn how to think. – Stephen A. Schwarzman

Empty Your Cup

Once, a university professor went to visit a well-respected Zen Master to learn about Zen. The Master first invited him to sit for a cup of tea. The professor sat down and started talking about Zen. The Master quietly prepared and poured the tea. When the tea was filled to the cup’s brim, he kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” blurted the professor. “The same with your mind. How can I teach you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Develop a Beginner Mindset

Zen monk and teacher Shunryu Suzuki advised developing a beginner mindset as a tool to becoming great in life. In his book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice described the Japanese phrase “Shoshin” whim means “beginner’s Mind”. He remarks:

In Japan, we have the phrase shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. Suppose you recite the Prajna Paramita Sutra only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recited it twice, three times, four times, or more? You might easily lose your original attitude towards it. The same thing will happen in your other Zen practices. For a while you will keep your beginner’s mind, but if you continue to practice one, two, three years or more, although you may improve some, you are liable to lose the limitless meaning of original mind.

For Zen students the most important thing is not to be dualistic. Our “original mind” includes everything within itself. It is always rich and sufficient within itself. You should not lose your self-sufficient state of mind. This does not mean a closed mind, but actually an empty mind and a ready mind. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything. In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

   If you discriminate too much, you limit yourself. If you are too demanding or too greedy, your mind is not rich and self-sufficient. If we lose our original self-sufficient mind, we will lose all precepts. When your mind becomes demanding, when you long for something, you will end up violating your own precepts: not to tell lies, not to steal, not to kill, not to be immoral, and so forth. If you keep your original mind, the precepts will keep themselves. In the beginner’s mind there is no thought, “I have attained something.” All self-centered thoughts limit our vast mind. When we have no thought of achievement, no thought of self, we are true beginners. Then we can really learn something. The beginner’s mind is the mind of compassion. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless.

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.


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  • The word Sonder was coined by John Koenig in 2012 as part of his project, The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, which aims to define neologisms for emotions that do not have descriptive terms. The word Sonder captures the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and as complex as our own, and with this realization comes a lesson: We can’t be so quick to judge others.
  • In our daily experience, we are the main characters of our own story; we view life as if it rotates around us. But each and every person working on this earth is equally important and has their own story.

“Judge tenderly, if you must. There is usually a side you have not heard, a story you know nothing about, and a battle waged that you are not having to fight.” ― Traci Lea LaRussa

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  • Society has its own ideas of what success looks like a nice house, a big title, lots of money, maybe a jet-setting lifestyle, but none equate to happiness or fulfilment. None of those equates to success. According to the dictionary, success is accomplishing an aim or purpose. The aim and purpose can be up to you. Material success doesn’t guarantee happiness like happiness doesn’t guarantee material success. They may feed each other and co-exist, but that is not always the case.
  • Authentic happiness means living in alignment with your values, from being at peace with yourself and finding meaning in your life. Only you can decide what matters most, and once you identify what gives you happiness, it’s you who has to prioritize it.
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All the best in your quest to get better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.

Lifelong Learner | Entrepreneur | Digital Strategist at Reputiva LLC | Marathoner | Bibliophile |

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