Can you recall the last time you watched as someone who was incredibly skilled in their craft was immersed in what they were doing? We tend to watch in absolute amazement and awe at the way they focus and accomplish what they’ve set out to do.
Being that the Olympics just concluded, many of you can probably relate to this. The athletes at the Olympic Games train day in and day out literally for years to hone their timing, build their muscle memory, and otherwise create absolute certainty in their bodies about the endeavor that they’re preparing for; all for a single moment in time – sometimes only seconds!
And when it’s time to perform on the grandest stage in the world, we sometimes see what we can only call sheer perfection. When it’s done to this high level, we call it mastery.
Mastery is defined as: 1. Command or grasp, as of a subject: a mastery of Italian. 2.Superiority or victory: mastery over one’s enemies. 3. The act of mastering. 4. Expert skill or knowledge.
I, too, have marveled at feats such as this. But not just in the world of athletics. That may be the most prevalent place where we can witness such astounding feats of skill. But what’s more, when we do see them, it’s simply a moment in time. We don’t see the countless hours spent honing their skills, training morning till night, battered and bruised, many times falling, and getting back up again and again.
“Repetition is the mother of skill.” – Anthony Robbins
I recently witnessed one such display in a rather unexpected place. I had decided that for some weekend fun, I would take my 10-year old son and my son-in-law to play paintball. This was the second time that the three of us had made the trek, so we were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We’ve done this. We know what to do. We’re warriors!
My son, Trevor, ready for battle.
After we had played a few rounds of 2-on-1, seeing that we were only three competitors, a young man at the facility asked if he could join and make it four. Saying “yes” was our first mistake!
We played several rounds, each time mixing up the teams so that we each had a chance to play on his side. And his team won 8 out of 9 times…
“If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you.” – Jacques Pepin
I recall one specific round, when I had my son pinned down behind one of the barriers, waiting for him to poke his head up so I could get a clean shot. I was focused; hiding behind a large barrier myself, thinking my son-in-law had the other guy engaged.
SPLAT! The next thing I know, I feel the painful sting of a 200 mph paintball hitting me square on my left thigh! Looking down in utter astonishment, I see the telltale paint splatter on my pants.
It was over. But what was most surprising was when I realized exactly how small a window he had to get the shot off. He knew where I was, and the only way he could risk a shot without being seen was to aim at a very small exposed portion of my thigh. And he did it with astonishing accuracy.
We talked after the slaughter, and I found out that he was 19 years old, but had been playing paintball since he was 6 years old! I’ve played paintball twice…he’s been playing for 13 years! Do you think mastery had a little something to do with his obvious advantage over all of us? It really showed when we played 3-on-1 and he still beat us!
How masterful are you at the things you do? How much do you continue to read, learn, practice and hone your craft? If your answer is “not much” then that is what you can come to expect from your performance. Mastery, or the pursuit of mastery, takes time, effort, energy, and a commitment to be YOUR absolute best!
“Repetition of the same thought or physical action develops into a habit which, repeated frequently enough, becomes an automatic reflex.” – Norman Vincent Peale
Many times it takes someone who has already shown mastery of a subject or a trade to coach us, teach us, help us develop our own level of skill. No one gets there alone. Look at every skilled athlete on the planet. They all have a coach.
They say it takes 10,000 hours to gain mastery of any endeavor. I don’t know who “they” are, but I can assure you that the shortest road to mastery is to just do it. And then do it again, and again, and again. If you’re committed you can absolutely achieve a level of mastery.
I’m not saying it’s easy. Few things worthwhile are. Sometimes, mastery can even be painful. I have the welts on my body to prove it!
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Kevin Ciccotti, Human Factor Formula
Helping companies create sustainable, effective teams that are committed to the success of their projects, the organization, and the individuals with whom they work