Are You Willing to Give Up Comfort For Mastery?

Are You Willing to Give Up Comfort For Mastery?

Are You Willing to Give Up Comfort For Mastery?



In the Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance by Josh Waitzkin he writes: “Usually growth comes at the expense of previous comfort or safety.” As human beings we are hardwired to like our comfort. We have a small range of comfort and like a thermostat are looking to return to this preset area of comfort. If the thermostat is set at 70° Fahrenheit, and it gets too hot or cold, systems will turn on to heat up or cool off so that we return to 70°.

Mastery requires moving outside our comfort zone. It means sticking with the practice of whatever we want to master to the point of boredom, monotony and potentially pain or discomfort and then beyond that to new revelations and greater skill.

How many times have we read about musicians with calloused fingers from practicing their guitar? Or ballet dancers with bloodied feet from practicing “en pointe” which involves supporting all their body weight on the toes of their fully extended feet. I would imagine that even Michael Jordan got bored sometimes practicing basketball shots over and over again. And yet these are some of the building blocks of mastery.

Why do we strive for mastery? It is a choice we make to delve into the depths of some skill in order to “master” it. To reach a level of competency that goes beyond the ordinary. And yet, it is not an end goal.

In Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by George Leonard, he describes the master’s journey: “This journey will take you along a path that is both arduous and exhilarating. It will bring you unexpected heartaches and unexpected rewards, and you will never reach a final destination. . . You’ll probably end up learning as much about yourself as about the skill you’re pursuing.”

What are some of the skills that support developing mastery? One technique “in the pursuit of excellence” described by Josh Waitzkin is: “The theme is depth over breadth. The learning principle is to plunge into the detailed mystery of the micro in order to understand what makes the macro tick.”

He also warns that this concentration on the detail can be difficult in our society because we can so easily become side-tracked by the many things clanging for our attention. It is not easy to focus on the minute details and yet those details hold clues to the larger subject. This understanding of the micro is what separates mastery from ordinary skill.

George Leonard has a complimentary perspective for achieving mastery, “To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself.” This is one of the simple paths towards a greater understanding of what you wish to master. It is common knowledge that to become a master requires consistent practice. Combining narrowing down your perspective to the micro with a consistent practice and there are bound to be insights that will lead to mastery.

Super-Leaders strive for mastery in leadership. It requires self-awareness, curiosity, a willingness to experiment, a willingness to fail and the courage to change. Masterful leaders care about the people they lead and are interested in learning and refining the skills they need to lead successfully.

Do you want to pursue mastery? What might be your reasons?

  • For the love of the topic
  • To demonstrate exceptional competence in an area
  • To compete

Understanding the motivation for pursuing the journey towards mastery is just as important as taking the journey. If you know your why and can keep it front and center, it may make it easier to keep going when times get tough.

As a final point of inspiration, consider this quote from Robert Greene, “Mastery, I learned, was not something genetic, or for a lucky few. It is something we can all attain if (we) get rid of some misconceptions and gain clarity as to the required path.”

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Welcome to the Listening to the Leader in You Blog

Super-leaders arm themselves with insight. This blog is where you’ll find concepts, ideas, resources and more for honing your full set of leadership capabilities. 
Lynn Schaber, MCC
For the past 20 years, I’ve been privileged to partner with individuals intent on cracking the code to leadership beyond the ordinary.