Your Most Underutilized Career Tool…a White Belt

I was finally finished.

Career Advancement Tool

Ready to Try This On?

My long, intense coaching training was complete.

I made my way to the front of the hall to receive my credentials, and my master teacher handed me…a white belt.

It had been such an enriching experience to that point but this final curve ball caught me off guard.

There was no explanation, just the white belt.

At the time it just seemed strange and a bit weird, but I knew there had to be a good reason.

The Career Master’s Tool

I remember reading in Mastery by George Leonard that when the master looks in the mirror he/she sees an image of the “newest student in class, eager for knowledge, willing to play the fool”.

I finally got it.

When you reach mastery, your learning continues.  Perhaps the real learning is just beginning.

I’ve realized that my white belt represents the most powerful career advancement tool I’ve ever known.

If you don’t have one then you’re likely going to be at a disadvantage in the workplace.

If you think about it, you’ve probably never seen a career take-off, avoid burnout, and even close to maintaining altitude over the long haul without it.

Being the Beginner

Wearing the white belt is the epitome of being a beginner.

And it’s not necessarily easy to be a beginner unless you’re like my own 10-month old who has no problem being one.

It’s the very essence of who she is, and it doesn’t bother her one  bit.

She falls down and drops her sippy cup on the floor (over-and-over).

She looks at the world with curiosity and awe.

On the other hand, I frequently find when I start something new it can be unnatural and even awkward.

For her, she just plugs right along patiently practicing.

It’s inspiring.

The Challenge of Remaining a Beginner in Your Career

Fast forward a few decades later from childhood, and it becomes much tougher to declare yourself a beginner in Corporate.

In fact, there is natural progression (even pressure) to become an expert as quickly as possible.

Once you’re an expert you might find that things get easier at work and more comfortable (just for awhile).

However it seems like life’s challenges eventually pop-up and being the expert at the old stuff just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Eventually if you’re always the expert, you run the risk of getting frustrated, burnt-out, and bored on your career path.

Learning to Love Being a Beginner in Your Career

What may surprise you is that being a beginner (even loving it) is actually a huge advantage in your career.

It can open new doors and propel you much further down your career path than you ever realized.

Here are 5 ways that wearing the white belt and declaring yourself a beginner helps your career:

  1. Less Stress – As a beginner, you’ll start to catch yourself when you get frustrated and stressed at work. It’s usually a sign there is something more to learn.
  2. Get Promoted – It’s easier to see and appreciate the world through the eyes of others when you don’t have all the answers.  This can lead to better collaboration and relationships, which in terms makes you a better candidate to lead.
  3. Generate Better Ideas – You’ll find you have better ideas as you open to new and more innovative ways of seeing the world and the problems you face.
  4. Alleviate Boredom – You won’t get bored when you experience the world as a beginner.  You’ll realize that there’s almost always a new fresh idea out there that you haven’t even considered.
  5. Grow Patience – You find yourself having greater patience, which is huge because it takes time for new skills and ways of thinking to sink in.

When you remember your white belt, you’ll start to find new career possibilities and enjoy the journey more.

Never underestimate the power of wearing the white belt.

Go ahead and try one on!

To Your Career!

Ben

Benfanning.com

PS: To start down the career path of the white belt and for more free tips for igniting your career, sign-up here for the newsletter (if you haven’t already)

7 Comments

  • Ale

    Reply Reply January 10, 2012

    The perfect article to start the year!!

    • benfanning

      Reply Reply January 10, 2012

      I declare that 2012 is the year of the white belt in Corporate!

  • Greg RS

    Reply Reply January 11, 2012

    Very interesing perspective Ben! Very apt, especially today as I take off to LA to start a new job.

    • benfanning

      Reply Reply January 12, 2012

      Good luck, Greg. When you start a new job it’s a particularly useful time to break out the white belt. You’ll probably run into a lot of people the first week that have forgotten their own!

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