What the ‘beginner’s mind’ can teach us about politics — and life


Completely enamored with his pluck — and his touting of the power of the so-called “beginner’s mind” — I reached out to Vanderbilt to ask him about his quest and what it all could tell us about our political moment.

Our conversation, conducted via email and lightly edited for flow, is below.

Cillizza: What made you decide to try — in your mid-40s — to take up things like juggling, singing and surfing?

Vanderbilt: It grew out of a curious experiment I did with my daughter, then aged 4, who wanted to learn to play chess — something I’d never managed to do. I thought: What if we learned at the same time? Do kids really have that much of an edge when it comes to learning? As it turned out, we both had our strengths and weaknesses, but when the day finally came I actually had to face her in a tournament, at New York City’s Marshall Club, she was able to beat me. And I wasn’t letting her win.

But as this was happening, I had the sudden realization that it…

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