The Path to Mastery
How You Master Anything is How You Master Everything
…and the truth of why you don’t try.
You often hear from friends and colleagues that they can’t do something, and then they give a list of reasons why not. A list we all know is bollocks. And you hear it most often from yourself, and even though you’ve done everything you can to convince yourself that it’s true, deep down you know the truth – it’s all bollocks.
You know what I’m talking about.
- The guy who plays five different sports saying he can’t dance because he has “two left feet” – bollocks.
- The coworker who can draft spreadsheets in his sleep (and you’re almost certain he has) who can’t get his office to look anything other than like a hurricane just struck – bollocks.
- The person who can spend the entire day walking all over the zoo, but they don’t have the time or energy to walk for 15 minutes a day for their health – bollocks.
There are countless more examples, but let’s face it, you already had a half dozen pop into your head reading this. You know exactly what I’m talking about – and we both know you’ve done it more times than you can count.
So what’s the real reason? And why do we accept these “reasons” from others when we know it’s all just BS?
The answer to the latter is simple enough, and comes in two parts. Firstly, it’s part of the social contract. Even when we acknowledge to ourselves that what we’re hearing is nonsense, we let it go by. We do so because we know that at some point, maybe very soon, we’ll be doing the very same and we want them to overlook and accept our “reasons” as well. They know the truth (and so do you), but for social harmony we’ve all agreed to act like we believe them.
The second reason is somewhat obvious, but you’ll still need a moment to process it. You don’t know what mastery actually is, and more importantly, how to attain it.
It’s why we know, deep down, that the athlete who regularly does coordinated, physical activities, can learn to do another coordinated, physical activity. What he fails to realize is, however, the same way he learned to play all those other sports is the exact same way he’ll learn to dance. Or mix the perfect cocktail. Or learn to paint. Or do anything else in his life.
The way to master anything is the way to master everything, and the answer to why we fail to try is in the path of mastery itself.
Mastery is process, and follows the same path every time, regardless of what is being mastered. It can be charted on a basic graph like this.
Two axis, Effort and Skill. Everyone, regardless of what it is, starts out with no Skill and exhibits no Effort. To gain mastery one must put forth the Effort to develop the Skill. Let’s take dancing as an example.
Starting out, most men stand on the sidelines watching. They’ve never done it before, it looks strange, and what’s with these lights? No Effort, no Skill. Should our intrepid man decide to learn this skill, he will first increase his Effort, but skill is still absent. This is a traumatic time for many of us. For the beginning dancer, they put forth the energy, they’re clearly trying, but it looks more like they’re having a complex seizure than dancing.
The next stage of mastery is both high Effort and high Skill. They’re trying hard, putting in their time, paying their dues. And it’s finally starting to look like dancing! Not Fred Astaire, but dancing. Many men who actually reach this level stop here. It’s a lot of time and effort to get here, and now they can finally pass as a good dancer. And for most men, that’s enough. But not for everyone.
So press on, and reach that final stage: high Skill and low Effort. Where it all comes together, and everything seems so easy. They were clearly “born talented”. No, they put in the time and effort. And now, finally, they are toe to toe and step to step with Fred.
Dancing, automotive repair, painting, public speaking – it’s all the same.
So what’s the deal? What’s the real reason we never start? Why do so many men say they can’t learn to do something? Again, let’s return to dancing.
Dancing is one skill a man can learn that will score him major, MAJOR points with the ladies. It puts him in an elite class, separating him well apart from other men. And it’s manly. It has long been a skill of cultured, manly men – Bruce Lee was a champion Cha-Cha dancer. No joke. So why don’t all men learn this, or any number of other skills?
It’s in that second stage – high Effort and low Skill. That stage where you’re giving it your all, and still looking like an idiot. Who wants that? It’s so much easier to stay in the bottom stage, no Effort and no Skill, and make up a bollocks reason why. And we’ll convince ourselves its true, and rest on others adhering to the social contract and letting us slide.
But not me. I’m calling you out. I’m calling you on your bullshit.
Get out there and look like an idiot. We’ve all done it before, more times than we care to remember. Sure, some people will get a laugh out of it. You’ve provided a service to your fellow man while developing a new skill. Pat yourself on the back, and press on. Mastery is within your reach.
To start, might I recommend learning to dance.