Jason Beem's Thursday Column for Oct. 5, 2023

October 5th, 2023

Jason discusses learning new things and concepts in life and racing and doing so with a "beginner's mind." 

A good Thursday morning to you all! Big weekend of Breeders’ Cup preps on both coasts and excited to spend much of the weekend just relaxing at home with Twinspires cued up to watch all the action. A lot has been made of how much Breeders’ Cup preps and campaigns have changed with horses running less or training up to the races, but this is still always a very fun weekend. 

I wanted to write today about a concept called “Beginner’s Mind” and how I’m trying to work on it in all aspects of my life, including with racing. A rough definition pulled from Wiki says that a beginner’s mind is “having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and a lack of preconceptions when studying, as a beginner would.” 

The last 10 months or so I’ve taken up the hobby of painting, and it’s truly become something I’ve found great joy in. I’m one of those people who can’t even draw a stick figure, and I always just assumed that art was a natural talent that people had and I just didn’t have it. But I went to one of those sip and paint nights at a local community center here in Florida, and we did a Christmas painting, and all be darned if it didn’t look mostly like what it was supposed to look like. I went out and bought paints the next day! 

Fast forward to this last week and I started taking a class learning how to paint with oils. There are some similarities to the acrylic painting that I’ve been doing this year, but many differences, so in a lot of ways it feels like starting over again. I think as we get older our patience with learning or re-learning things is a little shorter. We want to be good or excel at something right away even though that’s just not how these things go. I’ve spent my spare time this week basically painting fruits and vegetables to learn some concepts of oil paintings and something that seems like it should be so easy, just isn’t. It’s easy to get frustrated and want to stop. 

Tying the concept of beginner’s mind to horse racing, I’ve found it’s particularly useful. For years I tried to learn as much as I could about horse racing and horse betting. I read all the books and played the races most days, and generally tried to get better. For the record, I never got very good. I think at a certain point I took all the concepts and cliches and theories of handicapping and used them in the same way each time I’d look at a race. It was as though I thought I knew enough and then would dive in. My results clearly indicated otherwise, but I just got complacent and kind of thought I was done learning. 

For me the idea of trying to learn with a beginner’s mind in racing came when I got to interview Inside the Pylons on my show back in November of 2018. He said during that interview that it would be easier for someone who knew nothing of racing to learn good betting than it would for someone who already had years and years of bad habits built up, even if they were knowledgeable about racing (i.e. me). 

Even with learning all sorts of new concepts, I wouldn’t be able to fully put them into practice and actually reap the benefit from those concepts unless I was able to purge the old habits that were incredibly ingrained. It doesn’t do you much good to know some principles of good betting and then proceed to spread with logical horses, use favorites defensively, or create several legs of negative equity throughout a sequence. I’m always so shocked at how autopilot I have become in so many areas of my life. I took Twitter off of my phone for my vacation and still constantly found myself picking my phone up subconsciously and going for the Twitter app even though it wasn’t there! 

I think finding new things to learn is one of the great joys of life, and many of us fall into doing the same old things in the same old ways because it’s what we know. But that’s not where we grow or improve! So get out there and try some new things in your horseplaying or your life, and try them with a “beginner’s mind.”