Thursday, September 4, 2014

On Mastery

The capability to accomplish a task is ability.
The capability to accomplish a task easily is mastery.

When we see a great feat accomplished, we sometimes think, "I'd like to have that level of skill, that wealth of success, or that record of achievements." For the majority, it is but a passing thought. Of those who take action, many stay comfortable with just the basics. A lesser group keep going, and become professionals. Rarer still are the ones who attain mastery.

What makes this phenomenon happen is usually not the lack of consideration or knowledge for what is needed to improve, but the irregularity of practice. Irregularity can be measured in terms of frequency, effort, duration, technique, and recovery. The following list briefly covers each of these points:

  • Frequency - How often we practice. Practicing frequently will help us retain familiarity with the skill, and make progress instead of backsliding.
  • Effort - How hard we try. To advance in a skill, we must make the effort to exceed our existing capability.
  • Duration - How long we go for. Each session we practice must be long enough such that we actually increase the proficiency of our skill.
  • Technique - How we execute the task. Our practiced method of execution will be our natural reflex when performing it outside of practice, so make sure this is correct.
  • Recovery - Whether we have an adequate break. Sufficient rest allows we to recover and let what we have learnt sink in, so that we are better prepared for the next session.

How can we achieve mastery? Through perseverance. Perseverance keeps us from inaction, from half-heartedness, from giving up. It keeps us consistent. In the adage, "good things come to those who wait", to wait is not to be idle; it is to continue practicing and improving, and in time, the good that we strive for will come.

The action we practice will be the habit we form. In order to achieve full mastery of a skill, the action we repetitively practice must be optimal. If someone has already established a successful technique, learn from them. When experimenting with a new technique, evaluate its effectiveness regularly so that it is either refined further or discarded early - conserve energy.

Attain mastery, it is needed in this world.