We’ve been asking the wrong question.
We’ve been asking: “How long does it take to get good at something?”
Do you want to become a world-class athlete? A renown musician? A wildly successful entrepreneur? Th burning question has been: “How much time will it take?”
The idea that it takes 10,000 hours to become great, a concept popularized by Malcolm Gladwell’s best selling book Outliers, has been hotly debated.
Let’s shift focus and ask a better question.
Rather than: “How long will it take to get good?” Short answer: “Probably longer than you’d like it to.”
Let’s ask: “How do I make sure I stay on the path of mastery?”
Ask: “How do I stay on the path of mastery?” Rather than “How long before I get good?”[bctt tweet=”Ask: “How do I stay on the path of mastery?” Rather than “How long before I get good?””]
Mastery takes how long it takes.
A more empowering question might be: “How do I increase my chances of persistence? Whether it’s 10,000 hours, or over five years, whatever. What can I do to stick with the process so I can become great at this?”
Here are seven ways you can cultivate a Mastery Mindset so that however long your journey to become extraordinary takes you, you have the mental toughness to stay the course.
1. Adjust quickly based on feedback.
Whatever skills you seek to master, see each day as an opportunity to learn and to improve your craft.
Deliberately notice information that will help you to do better tomorrow.
Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, talks about “feedback loops” such as input you’d receive from a seasoned coach. They can also be something as simple as a mirror in a ballet class.
Sometimes aspiring entrepreneurs can overthink their work. They don’t want to send it out until it’s perfect.
There are at least two fatal flaws in that line of thinking. One: If you don’t get your stuff out there, people can’t buy it. No sales, no income. No income, no business.
Two: Feedback from your intended audience, only possible when you make your stuff available, will help you remain agile and quickly adjust what you develop so you can create what your customers actually want to buy.
2. Surrender your ego. A continuation of our first idea.
Stoic philosopher Seneca suggests you cannot successfully acquire mastery and “preserve your modesty at the same time.”
In short, on your path to mastery, you’ll fall down. Often. You will look like you don’t know what you’re doing. Often.
Check your ego at the door and be ready to get up fast, and make a different mistake next time. Always.
Letting go of your fear of making a mistakes and of others seeing you make that mistake is easier when you develop a growth mindset.
Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success wrote that people with growth, rather than fixed, mindset understand talents and abilities can be developed though “effort, good teaching and persistence.”
Wherever you are not on your path to mastery, remember that you can control your effort and persistence, and you can avail yourself of good teaching.
3. Accept that life isn’t an endless beer commercial
Wow, those people in beer ads have a pretty amazing life, don’t they? Everyone is always surrounded by fabulous friends who are good-looking and outrageously happy.
Nothing wrong with having a great time.
However, with a mastery mindset, you appreciate that those highs are really infrequent. And, you need to be okay with the quotidian.
Seriously. Make peace with the plateau.
In his book Mastery, George Leonard points out that the reason some people aren’t as successful as they could be is they become intolerant of plateaus. When progress isn’t steadily moving forward, the “Dabbler” moves on to something else, and the “Obsessive” tries to intensely push through. Neither approach allows mastery.
4. Be consistent, especially when you don’t want to be.
It’s easy to be consistent when you’re motivated. The challenge comes when you’re not.
Aristotle says, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
In her book, The Willpower Instinct, Stanford psychology professor Kelly McGonigal suggests the next time you’re tempted to give in to your bad habit, ask yourself “Do I want the consequences of doing this everyday for the next year?”
Chances are, you won’t exercise that bad habit because you can see the negative cumulative effect.
Recognize when you are choosing to procrastinate rather than to do what you know you need to do. Then, in the wise words of Stephen Covey exercise “integrity in the moment of choice.”
5. Calmly embrace the goal/process paradox.
You know since you won’t stumble upon success by accident, you need a clear goal. Just as a GPS can’t help you if it doesn’t know where you want to go, your brain can’t help you make and carry out a plan if it doesn’t know what your objective is.
Yes, you need a clear goal.
The paradox is, you can’t get so wrapped up in the goal that you ignore what actually gets you to the goal. And what gets you to the goal is the day in, day out process.
The doing. That’s what gets you to the goal.
6. Accept the discomfort of growth.
On your path to mastery, you’ll constantly be pushing against your limits. It’s just like lifting weights in the gym when your goal is to get stronger.
If all you ever want to do is to life five pounds, you’ll never feel uncomfortable. But, if you’d like to get stronger, you’ll feel the discomfort when you move on to higher weights.
Not sure who said it first, but someone smart said, “Everything you want is on the other side of your comfort zone.” True.
7. Love the journey.
Mastery includes a lot of pushing past discomfort, making mistakes, and not minding looking like you don’t always know what you’re doing.
But if mastery were about nothing but drudgery, only the most masochistic among us would pursue it.
Love the journey of mastery. See it as a never-ending process of self-actualization.
Zen Buddhist wisdom tells us, “Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water.”
Imagine the joyful process as you discover and unfold the depth and breadth of your potential.[bctt tweet=”Pursuit of your potential is a life-long adventure. Fall in love with the process of becoming.”]