The Mastery Curve

The Mastery Curve

Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it. 

To take the master's journey, you have to practice diligently, to attain new levels of competence. But while doing so, you also have to be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau, to keep practicing even when you seem to be getting nowhere.

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Mastery

Mastery

by George Leonard

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The Anti-Mastery Mentality

It is focused on quick fixes: Heart surgery rather than diet and exercise. Lottery tickets rather than retirement savings.

"Fast, temporary relief" is the battle cry. Symptoms receive immediate attention; underlying causes remain in the shadows.

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Definition Of Mastery

Mastery is the curious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice.

If there is any sure route to success and fulfillment in life, it is to be found in the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery. It's available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it—regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.

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  • Linguistic
  • Musical
  • Logical/mathematical
  • Spatial
  • Bodily/kinesthetic
  • Two types of personal intelligences that might be described as intrapersonal and interpersonal.

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"Ultimately, liberation comes through the acceptance of limits. You can't do everything, but you can do one thing, and then another and another. In terms of energy, it's better to make a wrong choice than none at all."

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  • Instruction: For mastering most skills, there's nothing better than being in the hands of a master teacher, either one-to-one or in a small group. 
  • Practice: It can be anything you practice on a regular basis as an integral part of your life—not in order to gain something else, but for its own sake
  • Surrender: The courage of a master is measured by his or her willingness to surrender.
  • Intentionality: Intentionality fuels the master's journey. Every master is a master of vision.
  • The Edge: Playing the edge is a balancing act. It demands the awareness to know when you're pushing yourself beyond safe limits. 

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"The achievement of goals is important. But the real juice of life, whether it be sweet or bitter, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how it feels to be alive."

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Our Resistance To Change

Resistance is proportionate to the size and speed of the change, not to whether the change is a favorable or unfavorable one.

Every one of us resists significant change, no matter whether it's for the worse or for the better. Our body, brain, and behavior have a built-in tendency to stay the same within rather narrow limits and to snap back when changed.

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  • The Dabbler: Starts everything with enthusiasm. He delights in signs of progress. The plateau that follows is unacceptable and he starts looking around for new things.
  • The Obsessive: He or she knows results are what count, and he wants them fast. He simply won't accept a plateau. He redoubles his effort. He pushes himself mercilessly and is likely to get hurt. 
  • The Hacker: After sort of getting the hang of a thing, he or she is willing to stay on the plateau indefinitely. At work, he does only enough to get by, leaves on time or early, takes every break, talks instead of doing his job, and wonders why he doesn't get promoted.

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"A human being is the kind of machine that wears out from lack of use. There are limits, of course, and we do need healthful rest and relaxation, but for the most part we gain energy by using energy. Often the best remedy for physical weariness is thirty minutes of aerobic exercise. In the same way, mental and spiritual lassitude is often cured by decisive action or the clear intention to act."

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  • A stage ends when the habitual system has been programmed to the new task, and the cognitive and effort systems have withdrawn. 
  • This means you can perform the task without making a special effort to think of its separate parts. 
  • At this point, there's an apparent spurt of learning. But this learning has been going on all along.

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"To see the teacher clearly, look at the students. They are his work of art."

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  • Conflicting way of life
  • Obsessive goal orientation
  • Poor instruction
  • Lack of competitiveness
  • Overcompetitiveness
  • Laziness
  • Injuries
  • Drugs. If you're on drugs, you're not on the path
  • Prizes and medals
  • Vanity
  • Dead seriousness
  • Inconsistency. Consistency of practice is the mark of the master
  • Perfectionism.

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Practice for the sake of the practice itself. Not for the result.

Rather than being frustrated while on the plateau, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it just as much as you do the upward surges.

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