Ten years to mastery

Have you ever had a personal catchphrase? 

I have one- or at least, I had one back when I was regularly attending kung-fu classes.

See, every class our teacher would show us a new technique, and he’d have us practice it with each other for a while.  Some classes I would struggle to learn that night’s technique.  Other times it would come naturally to me, and I would be doing the technique even better than some of the masters (people with over a decade of experience) in the class.

After a while, the instructor would ask all of us if we had mastered the technique yet.  Some people would say yes.  Some would say no.  I always said the same thing:

Ask me again in ten years.

Because I knew that however quickly I had picked up the technique, I was one hell of a long way away from truly mastering it.

In an email not long ago, I told a story about an obese man I once met who asked me how I had lost weight.  When I told him I lost it by eating less, he became very disappointed, shrugged and stopped talking to me.

His crestfallen reaction when he realized I didn’t have a magic fat loss secret to share has stuck with me because it demonstrated just the opposite of the attitude he needed to take. 

Instead of committing himself to making gradual progress, he wanted fast results.  Instead of focusing on the fundamentals- in this case, eating less- he wanted to skip ahead to the fancy stuff. 

Now this isn’t to say that you can’t score some quick wins, that you have to struggle for years before seeing anything for your efforts- only that true mastery takes a long time. 

You can learn a new punch in a day, but learning to fight takes months, and mastering kung-fu takes a decade. 

You can lose 10+ pounds in your first month- a lot of it will be water weight- but getting shredded might take years depending on your starting point.

Mastering a skillset takes tremendous dedication.  It takes a lot of time and effort- and you can’t put that much energy into everything you do.  You have to be selective.

I’m not dedicated to mastering the skill of cooking, for instance.  The basics are good enough for me.  Same with singing- I practice it, but I haven’t chosen to master it.  Maybe I will sometime later. 

On the other hand, I have committed myself to mastering two things: physical fitness, and building an online business.  Both of those things are important enough that I’ll work as long as it takes to master them. 

Everyone should have at least one area of their life that they’re committed to truly mastering- to putting in the work to become one of the best in the world- or at least in the top five percent.

If you haven’t made that commitment yet, it’s time to do some soul-searching, decide what’s important to you, and resolve to do what it takes to become one of the best in that one area.

If you have made that commitment, I want to hear about it- comment on this article and tell me what you’re committed to mastering.