Mastery: the tip of the spear
We have reached the final, and most important, post in this series. If you are just joining, I recommend going back to the beginning to learn about my framework of personal empowerment.
Mastery is without a doubt the most important part of this framework. Without it, we cannot create value for the world.
There are no shortcuts to reach this stage. What is required is hard and diligent work that moves you closer to your goals.
You Cannot Master Them All
Our first step in mastering a skill is first to unpack a lesson from economics: Every single decision we make is a trade-off.
When it comes to mastering a skill, the trade-off we make is investing time into developing a skill that will provide a living. A lot of the literature surrounding mastery suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.
10,000 hours is about 416 days where you are working 24 hours a day. If you work two hours a day, it will take almost 14 years to master something.
Most of us will spend more time than that, but I just want you to see that this is not something that just happens overnight.
Choose Your Skills
I am not here to confirm or deny if it truly takes 10,000 hours to master something. However, if we take that as a rule of thumb, we can start to see that we cannot master all of the skills we want to.
Since we all have a limited number of hours to live, we must choose where to spend our time. This is where the first three steps in this framework will help you.
You need to have a rough idea of where you are going before you go for mastery.
As you move towards your goals, you will naturally have to work on different skillsets. Some will stick with you and others you’ll never use again.
What is important is to work diligently on a skill you want to master once you have identified it.
When deciding which skills to master, I would like to begin with an analogy.
Imagine your skillset as a spearhead.
The skill that you master is going to be the very point of the spear. Without it, your weapon is useless. But if your spearhead doesn’t have the support it needs itwill crumble.
You don’t master one skill to the exclusion of all other skills. The skill that you master will be what separates you from everyone else so choose it well.
All of the other skills that you have acquired will support and add additional value to the thing that you have chosen to master.
How Do You Master a Skill?
Skill mastery does not come about by doing the same thing over and over again.
Mastery comes about through deliberate practice. I’ll do a longer post on deliberate practice in the future but for now, a simple explanation will do.
In essence, deliberate practice is when you stretch your abilities by doing something that is just outside of your comfort zone.
For example: if you want to be a musician but the only song you practice is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, you will never be a good musician.
Your skill improves as you take on challenges that push you to the next level but do not result in utter failure. The process should be difficult and mentally draining but not completely frustrating.
This aspect of skill mastery is what a lot of people leave out when they talk about doing what you love for a living.
No one wants to pay a shitty woodworker, no matter how much you love woodworking.
Because no one talks frankly and openly about the difficulty of getting to a place where you can do what you love for a living, very few people achieve it.
They send their wishes out to the universe in a vain hope that it’ll come back to them.
I have never been one to leave something to chance and if you are reading this blog you probably don’t either.
I would rather take the sure path of hard work to deliver me to the realm of prosperity than bumble along until 45only to realize I’ve wasted the most productive years of my life.
We have reached the end of the framework that I use to make decisions about where I want to go in my life. I hope that it has been helpful for you.
As a recap I’d like to reiterate what I said in one of my earlier posts:
I think the analogy of a blacksmith is appropriate in this case. But I don’t view my life as a single project. I view it as an armory. Sometimes I need to make a sword, sometimes armor and other times horseshoes and nails.
This is how I think about it in my head: I take the raw material (my biological drivers) and heat them in my furnace until they are ready to be shaped (introspection). I then begin to hammer the metal into the shape that I need it to be (skill acquisition) then I sharpen and polish it (mastery).
While some items like horseshoes and nails don’t need to be polished, they are still a critical component of my work. Without them, I cannot ride my horse to the market and sell my expensive items (okay, I have tortured this metaphor enough).
Most people approach their lives in an unsystematic way and so never really develop a sense of who they are and what they want.
Do not let that happen to you. Try out what I have said and see if it works for you.
Another word of warning: if this system does not work for you do not keep trying in vain to make it work.
Each one of us is an individual, and each one of us needs different tools to reach our goals. If my system does not work for you, find something that does.