“Contrary to popular wisdom, knowledge is not power – it’s potential power. Knowledge is not mastery. Execution is mastery. Execution will trump knowledge every day of the week.” – Tony Robbins
Do you remember your first experience of driving a car (or anything else you weren’t familiar with)?
It might have felt awkward because you perceived it as being a complicated undertaking. You had to be extra vigilant while following the modus operandi for safely maneuvering the vehicle. A wary instructor might have been sitting by your side, incessantly barraging you with information and safety tips.
Over time, you gained confidence in your abilities behind the wheel. After accumulating a sizable mileage, you felt at ease because you didn’t have to put in as much thought and effort as you did in the past. Your driving faculties can now get activated and run on auto-pilot mode once you hit the roads.
What happened between the time you were a novice at driving and the time you became a road ninja? The simple answer is that during that stretch of time, you honed your skills by practicing and familiarizing yourself with the procedures. During this process, your mind got accustomed to the mechanics of driving and you picked up on the many unspoken nuances. You gradually mastered the art of driving.
This is, in essence, the blueprint for mastery, which can be applied in any other domain of life. Unlike what most people believe, experts and geniuses aren’t born, they are made. We might be naturally predisposed to being better at certain things than others because of genetic advantage, but it is not sufficient for achieving mastery. Raw talent and intelligence still needs to be cultivated and nurtured.
In fact, research has shown that once a person crosses an IQ of 120, there is minimal relationship between more intelligence and better performance. While people with high IQs are good at logical, computational and linear tasks, they may not necessarily have real world intelligence that’s needed to excel in whatever it is they are naturally gifted at doing.
An individual’s ability to go the distance is indicated by the presence of certain mental dispositions and traits in their character constellation, such as courage, discipline, imagination and sensitivity. We need a combination of mental force and moral character, which are exclusively a product of experience and effort that is forged into the deep recesses of our mind.
For us to gain proficiency, our mind needs to be trained and conditioned by consistent repetition and deep work. By repeatedly attempting the same task, we strengthen any existing neural connections within our brains. The data gets stored in our subconscious mind and can be swiftly retrieved when the relevant occasion arises. This practice improves our ability to intuit solutions and recognize patterns.
In his book, The Outliers, Michael Gladwell states that it takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to truly master a skill, be it playing an instrument, learning a sport or running a business. If we look at anyone who has mastered their craft, we will see that it was their dogged dedication to their craft that influenced their total immersion in their pursuit during those 10,000 hours.
Gladwell also goes on to say that the biggest factors for success are not luck or innate talent, but our commitment to our craft. He supported this claim with some examples of famous creative geniuses of our times, such as Bill Gates and The Beatles. These illustrious exemplars give us the empowering impression that we can all achieve greatness and mastery if we are willing to put in the time and effort.
Yet most people lack the emotional bandwidth to apply themselves to the rigors of mastery. They get tempted by the allure of instant gratification or intimidated by the arduous climb towards unguaranteed success. It is the presence of faith and the capacity to control one’s impulses that ultimately sets the masters apart from amateurs.
Individuals who excel in a particular field are rare commodities, which is why society admires and rewards them. Their exceptional skills and superior knowledge are highly sought after for both their monetary and intrinsic value. All the effort we put in to reach the top will ultimately pay off in a big way.
The good news is that the formula for achieving mastery is not a complicated one. Everyone is capable of emulating it so that they can reach a distinguished level of success. I have listed a few guidelines on how you can easily apply the roadmap towards mastery in your daily life:
- Immerse yourself in something you’re passionate about: The simplest way to attain the natural drive to achieve enduring success is to select a vocation that you are passionate and curious about. Your internal motivation and enthusiasm will fuel your willingness to rise up to any challenges that you might encounter along the way and also stay fully committed to the process.
- Gain deep and comprehensive knowledge: If you want to be amongst the top of the line in your field, it is imperative to have a thorough and comprehensive knowledge that will set you apart from others. Learning and understanding any skill or subject requires dedicated focus and deep engagement for many hours, during which we saturate our mind with relevant books, advice and other research material.
- Practice, practice, practice: Having text book knowledge is a great start but it’s only through the application of that knowledge that we can reap tangible results. According to Michael Gladwell’s 10,000 hour theory, we will need to put in a sizable number of hours of practice before we can truly gain expertise. We all need that span of time to experiment and engage in trial-and-error so that we can learn from our mistakes and improve our learning curve.
- Create structure in your environment: The deep work and engagement needed to achieve mastery necessitates an environment that is structured and stable. This includes allotting a designated work space and time slots that are free of distractions and obligations. Geniuses such as Bill Gates were known to lock themselves for hours in isolation to crack complicated programming codes. We also need to build structure within our personal life to maintain emotional and physical balance. It’s a challenge to apply ourselves to any demanding feat if we are tired, stressed out or facing emotional ups and downs.
- Be patient and focused: The road to success is a potential minefield, filled with unforeseen obstacles and tricky terrain that could throw us off guard. For this reason, we need to fortify our inner reserves to catch any unanticipated curve balls along the way. Achieving breakthroughs in any novel endeavor requires courage and a willingness to step out on faith. We have to get comfortable with taking risks and the possibility of encountering failure. The path to mastery ultimately requires inner strength, patience and focus while we keep our eyes on the prize.
According to author, Deepak Chopra, “All creation is pure consciousness and potentiality seeking expression from the unmanifest to the manifest.” When we take the initiative to nurture our skills and talents, we are essentially acknowledging the pure potentiality that lies within our True Self and aligning it with the Universal Power that manifests everything else in nature. We allow this cosmic magic to work through us and for us.
All my best on your journey,
Questions for you: Is there a subject or topic that you would like to master? If so, how will you go about achieving it? Do you have any of your own ideas on how to become a master at something?
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