It’s the first steps of the mastery journey that are all uphill

Gain Mastery—For All My Philosopher Friends, Both of You

Gain Mastery like the swordsmith
Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

# 71 on my 99 Life Tips–A List is: Attempt to gain mastery at something, whether it be a topic or a skill.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, asserts that it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to achieve world class mastery in a field. A new study debunks that idea, but it doesn’t negate the importance of striving for mastery. Whether it’s 10K hours or half that, mastering a subject, topic, area of interest, or skill, is valuable as both a means and as an end. So, attempt to gain mastery at something.

My journey hasn’t been so focused. I’ve adopted the shotgun approach to both interests and career paths. I rationalize it by claiming to be cut out of philosopher cloth. The truth is probably closer to an ADHD diagnosis. Regardless, I am heeding my own advice; I am going to master writing as both craft and career, and guitar as both hobby and personal therapy method.

I can summarize almost all counsel for burgeoning writers in the phrase, “write what you know.” That’s fine. I mean, who would want to read non-sense from someone who doesn’t know what the hell they’re talking about? But a problem with this is that the other universal piece of writing advice which usually couples with the first in short order is, “be the first voice people think of in your niche.”

A niche, you say?

It’s that second part that is worrisome. Being a philosopher is fine, but it’s niche-averse. Having wide-ranging interests and even having some familiarity and expertise in a variety of disciplines is fun, exciting, and wards off boredom and monotony, but it’s not the recipe for mastering a niche. 

The downside of niche-less-ness is amplified when you feel compelled to add your voice to a wide variety of topics. Where are my talking points, anyway? There’s a tendency to live off-script, which is sometimes more fun for you than the people around you.

So, the attempt to gain mastery at something specific is worth the effort. It serves as a focal point, is measurable, gains are scalable, and can become exponential. What is difficult, requiring intense concentration and concerted energy in the beginning, can become second nature, autonomic, and fluid as mastery increases.

It’s the first steps of the mastery journey that are all uphill. But those first steps are worth lacing up the hiking boots in anticipation of the gains along the path and the rewards at journey’s end.

Besides, someday someone may come looking to you for Japanese steel only you can produce, regardless of your sushi-chef disguise. You wouldn’t want to let them down. 

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