Empty your Cup

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868-1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring. The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. “It is overfull. No more will go in!”

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

Your career as a technical writer is a journey of continuous learning. But how can you learn if you do not un-learn what you have already learnt? When a colleague or a documentation lead teaches you to format a document in a different way, or a senior suggests a minimalist method of writing, or when an editor asks you to rewrite an entire chapter, empty your cup first.

Only when you are free from your own views, ideas, and prejudices will you be able to see the other’s point of view. Exist in the possibility that what the other person is saying must also be true. Maybe it IS a better method. Holding on to one’s own thoughts and ideas is like the overfull cup of tea. No more will go in!