Mastery Is A Never-ending Game

May 22, 2024

Over the last few weeks, I've had several conversations in which the subject of mastery has come up.

When I look around the world of business and personal development, I hear quite a lot of deep philosophies, great concepts, and wise words, but when I speak with people directly, I often end up being surprised by how they go about their daily lives.

We say we want mastery, and we only work on quick results.

We say we want quality, but we want it now.

There is a lack of willingness to be a learner, not for months, but years, someone to be willing to see themselves as a permanent student of life.

The cost of the quick fix, fast money and culture is huge. Let's get some results now!

We mistakenly mixed our movie impressions and romantic ideas with mastery, creating the impression of an always comfortable path in life. We discard anything that does not feel this way quickly, leaving no space for the development of true mastery in anything.

We end up falling for promises that sound too good to be true because they are.

Yet, precisely in this culture of faster change, AI, and more information thrown at us than ever, I want to make the point that the mastery mindset is still valid, or even more valid than ever.

In a fast-paced world where everyone is running around like headless chickens, the ones who can focus on something for an extended period of time, needing little reward to continue their study and practice, will stand out by far.

When I was practicing as a dancer, I started out as I would say, talented in terms of movement, no special gifts in execution, the only the thing to my advantage was my musicality, my joy of dancing, and my willingness to persevere.

I remember vividly when I organised a dance workshop with one of my favourite dancers from the US and he came over, teaching about 25 people for two days. After the workshops, him and I where driving together with a friend of mine in the back of the car, he would give my friend massive compliments for how he danced. My friend is one of the most talented movers I know, and he had performed every choreography perfectly.

I on the other hand, had massively struggled to follow the fast routine and would count myself as one of the worst students in the room.

After giving a compliment to my friend, he turned to me and said, "I know a boy who wanted to be a dancer.  He came to every dance class, but he had no talent; he would be in the back of the class, practicing for hours, always falling short of being able to follow the routine.  He had long legs and they just wouldn't move smoothly; he had no special talent. The only thing he had was that he came back every week for years. He slowly started to develop himself and in the end, he got asked to do shows, events and to teach others. You know who that boy is?"

"No," I said

"Its me! Moritz you are like me, you have the will to practice. If you stick with that you can master any dance."

Mastery doesn't look as sexy as the movies portray it. It's not the two minutes of practice you see in the scene just before the big breakthrough; it can last for years; it did for me, and it doesn't end.

"The problem with all students," he said, "Is that they inevitably stop somewhere. They hear an idea and they hold on to it until it becomes dead; they want to flatter themselves that they know the truth. But true Zen never stops, never congeals into such truths. That is why everyone must constantly be pushed into the abyss, starting over and feeling their utter worthlessness as a student. Without suffering and doubts, the mind will come to rest on clichés and stay there until the spirit dies as well. Not even enlightenment is enough. You must continually start over and challenge yourself."

“Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.”

- Robert Greene

I love the study of Zen as it invites us to embrace the beginner's mind; the mind never finished, never certain, never at an end point.

If you think about your business, your work, your approach to living, you will see where in your life you are involved in the mastery conversation and where it is the quick fix, fast-paced, everything needs to be perfect kind of approach.

Mastery is not about perfectionism and spending years without showing your work but the continued willingness to practice, practice, and practice.

The price to pay is ego and quick money.

The price you get is peace and real impact.

Not the kind of always feel good peace but the kind of peace you get when you are there like fully present doing what there is to do for the sake of doing it.

Mastery isn't about getting somewhere but about being where you are while you are there. Mastery is the antidote to the rushing mind of modern man, a conversation that is more relevant than ever and one that the people are willing to engage in reward with a deep sense of satisfaction and fulfilment.

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