Beginner's Mind

When I learned to play volleyball, there were nine players standing on a blacktop volleyball court on the playground of my elementary school.  I was in 6th grade and the coach was a teacher, standing in his slacks wearing his tennis shoes and carrying a clipboard.  He was about 6’6 and a basketball guy, but […]
Wendy Jones
April 8, 2022

When I learned to play volleyball, there were nine players standing on a blacktop volleyball court on the playground of my elementary school.  I was in 6th grade and the coach was a teacher, standing in his slacks wearing his tennis shoes and carrying a clipboard.  He was about 6’6 and a basketball guy, but he taught us to rotate in a zig zag from left to right through the three rows of players and what I remember most was that I  wanted to get to the back of the court so I could serve.  That serve was underhand, the kind they don’t even teach kids anymore, but there was one game at an opposing elementary school that I served 15 points straight and we won 15-0.  These are my earliest volleyball memories, and they still make me smile. I was a beginner, and for a kid who didn’t like school much at that point, learning the sport was the most fun part of my day. 

Have you ever heard of a beginner's mind? It’s a zen buddhist term that teaches us to approach everything with an attitude of openness and without preconceived notions of what we know or how things “should” go.  A mindset like this allows us to stay curious and keep learning no matter what level of the game we have already mastered.  It helps us stay humble, even as we progress through skill levels and keeps us hungry to learn more. No matter what age or stage of the game you have come to, and even if your game is that game of life, do you allow yourself to approach things with a beginner’s mind? From my perspective this approach is one of the  greatest tools we have to BE BETTER at what we want to accomplish.  

Conversations with other coaches are something that I have a passion for.  I could talk for hours about the best ways to help people unlock the potential that is already inside them.  I was lucky enough to record an epic conversation this week with my dear friend of over 30 years, Russell Raypon.  Our conversations go back to when I would pick him up to carpool to high school when we were 16. Today he is a husband, father, school psychologist, basketball coach and amazing writer with his own blog.  During our ‘What I Meant to Say’ podcast conversation, he hit on the topic of how to convert potential to performance.  As athletes, that is always something we are after.  As Russ broke it down for me, he described  a conversation he had with his wife, who was a professional ballerina and trains dancers today, the top three things they saw that converted potential into performance were:

  1. Technique - having the attention to detail and the skill to execute 
  2. Discipline - having the tenacity to come back again and again to get it right
  3. Be able to perform on command - having a process in place that allows you to put yourself mentally in a place to understand that you can do what needs to be done to achieve. 

But beyond these things, Russ and I agreed that self awareness was the key to long term high performance.  Why? Because when we understand the why beyond what we are working toward, there is a different well of energy that we are able to draw from.  We stop working to produce a certain result, and find joy in the process.  This is what I refer to as a High Performance Zen lifestyle, that embraces beginner’s mind, helps us understand ourselves better, continue to sharpen our edges to BE BETTER, and be kind to ourselves in the process as we travel the path of learning new things.  I believe in High Performance Zen so much, I have even created a course to help train it. Self awareness and coachability go hand in hand.  The greater our self awareness the easier it becomes to reframe negative thoughts that have the potential to sabotage high performance, we are able to stay mentally tough, and keep our head in the game. 

I’ve come a long way from those blacktop volleyball courts in 6th grade, but one thing that has never changed are the life lessons that I have gained through sports that have made me a stronger, tougher, and better person.  The mission of BE BETTER with Wendy Jones is to inspire self awareness to create strong athletes, connected teammates, and better humans. These golden conversations on ‘What I Meant to Say’ are just the beginning.  Embracing my own beginner’s mind and drawing from the well that converts potential to performance in my own game of life and grateful for every single person who has supported me and said yes through this amazing creative and worthy process. Look for the good and you will find it.

With love & optimism, 


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About the author:
Wendy Jones is a mother of four, lifelong athlete, writer, and optimism & resilience coach and speaker. Through 20 years of parenting and relationship struggles, she believes that vulnerability and our willingness to share our stories is a way to heal ourselves

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