Before Mastery, Fail You Must

Begin with one mindset, and mastery is impossible. Begin with the other, and it becomes inevitable.

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The thing about mastery:

Those who have the drive to pursue it have to come to terms with one indelible truth – that you will never really be comfortable with where you are on the path – and that’s not a drawback, rather, it’s the essential component making the effort of chasing perfection meaningful.

This component is what gets referred to as ‘flow’, the moment you’re at the perfect balance point, at the very edge of your ability. A state which stretches your limitations in such a way as to make you lose yourself in function, and catch a glimpse of the possibilities just out of reach (for now), spurring you to grow toward ever more challenging goals.

What it comes down to is your willingness to commit to failing along the way, and whether you can embrace the kind of next level thinking you need to get the next level results.

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Rules:

Anyone is capable of a level of mastery. The thought that someone exceeds your own ability because you believe they are ‘naturally-gifted’ is too often used as a reason not to try. Trust me, more often than not; they just work consciously toward whatever it is a lot harder than you. Remember, even Jordan had to practice.

In some cases it can be a matter of confidence; someone is convinced others have been blessed, and this is the reason for their success, thus excusing their own lack of achievement. The flip side of this is when someone is labeled as ‘smart’, and it becomes part of their identity; then you have a different kind of aversion to risk. In this instance everything they encounter is seen as not an opportunity for growth, and rather, is interpreted as a threat to this identity. Q.E.D., there is an endless need to prove their label, and so they only engage challenges in which they already know themselves to shine. Both circumstances create stagnation through affirmation of existing skills or confirmation of existing beliefs; neither do anything to expand or grow.

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” – Michaelangelo

In contrast to this, you have those with a growth mindset, who value effort, strategy, and creativity over intelligence, and believe their abilities aren’t carved in stone.

The trick is to find the balance in how you challenge yourself to become better in a way you stay motivated. Not too hard and not too easy. Too hard, and the result is anxiety and frustration; too easy and you get bored. If you feel any of these things, unplug for a few minutes, reset from a slightly lower benchmark, and be comfortable with the occasional need to regress before you can progress.

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What you want is to be authentic in your movements, conscious in your efforts, and fearless in your attempts to push a little further out of your comfort zone with each attempt. So take the following cues: 

  • Listen to your gut when it comes to knowing how hard to push; some days you’re more capable than others.
  • Commit to something that truly matters to you; you’re looking for a ‘HELL YES!’ goal, not a ‘that would be cool’ goal. It should scare you just a little.
  • Take it day by day, be humble, be consistent, and remain mindful of what opportunities emerge when things don’t go as planned.

 “Everything negative—pressure, challenges—is all an opportunity for me to rise.” – Kobe Bryant

You can apply these thoughts over anything in which you have the desire to achieve mastery. Whatever it may be, take a breath, and try, you’ll be surprised what you can accomplish when you’re comfortable with failure.

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