Mastery is defined as having comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject. Comprehension is expressed as understanding all, or nearly all, elements or aspects of something. By these definitions, it is obvious that to become a master takes a great deal of time, effort and desire.
The cool thing about reaching this level of expertise is the payoff.
Dr. Angela Duckworth, social scientist and acclaimed author of “Grit,” discovered after 15 years of research with athletes, business people and individuals from various fields, that there is an actual formula for achieving success. Here's the adapted version:
Practice + Effort = Skill
Skill + Effort = Achievement
Let’s break this down. The intensity of practice (effort) defines the pace and degree of skill. Check out this example:
Two kids show up at the gym and ask the coach to teach them how to shoot a basketball. The coach says, “I will be happy to help. I am always looking for new players to develop.” He gives them each a ball and explains where they should place their fingers on the ball to maintain control and direction. He shoots the ball himself to demonstrate how to put the ball thru the hoop.
Child A practices for one hour and takes 100 shots. Child B practices for four hours and takes 1000 shots. Child A practices once a week. Child B practices every day. Which child will develop the skill of holding the ball correctly and putting it through the hoop the fastest with the best technique? Obviously, Child B. Even if Child A is a better natural athlete, Child B’s hustle and dedication will push him or her ahead faster. At a minimum, Child B is on the way to becoming the best that he or she can be.
Acquiring a skill, executed with continued intensity, results in high levels of achievement, according to Dr. Duckworth’s research. As you become proficient in one area, you then move to the next level of skill and repeat the process (i.e., shooting to dribbling to rebounding to defense to passing, etc.).
The reason some people attain greatness and others perform adequately is not because of some God-given talent. Passion followed by dedication and tenacity is the differentiator.
Masters are made, not born!
Passion alone is not enough
Passion is a wonderful thing. Applied passion is a powerful thing. “If you can dream it, you can be it,” as the saying goes. However, defining what it takes to realize your dream and committing to the necessary effort, is critical. It is very common for a person or a group of people to be very passionate in conversation about a goal and never get out of their seats to do anything about it.
Educating yourself on a topic to gain a firm understanding of a subject is extremely important in preparation for success. Gathering information from others is also very valuable. However, too much of this will result in creating the killer of all dreams: procrastination! Nearly every task seems more difficult in anticipation than in execution.
At some point, we should stop reading and talking about a subject and start doing. Vision without execution is a hallucination. The toughest thing you will ever do is begin.
Why masters never stop practicing
The key to continued success is establishing and maintaining momentum. It takes a great deal of energy to create it and a healthy degree of new activity to keep it. The fear of losing motivation is what drives top performers to remain vigilant in the pursuit of the next opportunity.
Mastery is the art of perfecting your craft
In life and business, the only constant is change. You can depend on the fact that your current life-situation is not permanent. At some point the kids grow up, you move up in your job, take on greater responsibilities, begin working out, get into fabulous shape, etc. The list of things that will not remain the same in your life is limitless.
The same is true in your business life. That fantastic customer you built your career around gets acquired, or they move to a city with greater tax incentives and access to more talent. Again, the scenarios are endless. When we become too comfortable with ourselves, mastery dwindles, and our skills become stagnate.
Intensity is the enemy of complacency
Mastery reaches new heights when we push ourselves during moments of change. Complacency bears no reward in the scheme of perfecting your skill. When you cease to nurture momentum, and the wheels come off the bus, it is challenging to start again. Lack of intensity not only dismantles progress towards personal greatness, but it also inadvertently affects others. When you stop providing your best effort, you negatively impact your skills, team, firm and family.
Reaching mastery is undeniably a feat of conquering one’s self. Self-doubt, lack of motivation and obstacles can often get in the way of that. Use these steps below to maintain your intensity throughout your mastery journey.
8 steps to become a master of your craft
1. Pick a skill wisely. Whatever skill you desire, hone in on pursuing just that. Mastery requires intensity and dividing your attention on various pursuits will only slow your journey. Steer away from being a “jack of all trades and master of none.”
2. Commit to your goal. Mastery is a long-term journey that never ends. After all, mastery is the process of becoming a life-long learner. Those who don’t commit or quit during plateaus and challenges are dabblers. Masters remain steadfast for the long haul.
3. Get doing. While most people desire to perfect their craft, many people lack in execution. Becoming a master requires repeated action and constant intensity. Don’t get caught up in wishful thinking. Make a habit of practicing your skill and scheduling time to do it.
4. Find a coach. It is critical to have a great coach, and this should be someone who has been in your shoes and made it through. Ideally, a coach should inspire you to be successful. They can provide mentorship and navigation throughout your skill progression.
5. Leverage a support system. A supportive parent, friend, coworker or significant other that cares for you and has your back, can be very advantageous during your mastery journey. Stay focused with an intimate circle of people that can pick you up when you fail and keep you humble when you achieve success.
6. Focus on desire. You must have a strong personal desire, backed up by a commitment to put in the work. Muster additional strength by realizing that many people before me have been through this. I CAN DO IT, too!
7. Get inspired. The trials and tribulations of influential people like Abraham Lincoln, Dr. King and others are very inspiring. Use their stories of triumph over obstacles as motivation. If that is too high brow, pick up Jeff Olson’s "The Slight Edge." This is a fantastic, easy-read book about how the little things add up on the path to glory.
8. Practice and repeat. The best way to learn something is to do it. Get obsessed with perfecting your craft through deliberate practice. Practice with matched intensity and commitment will make all the difference in your level of skill.
Execute these actions daily to build your momentum. Before you know it, the needle will move forward, and your confidence will fuel your pursuit in reaching mastery.