The Hard Truth About Mastering Any Skill

Like all skills that don’t come naturally, practice makes perfect. The key to building anything right is repetition. Mastery does not require you to be perfect, but it does require you to pursue perfection.

You can’t “smartcut” your way to mastery. But you can work your way to the top. Excellence is borne not of any particular innate ability, but of practice. Success in any field is more about commitment to a process than it is about finding one magic trick.

Professionals stick to the schedule. Everyone else lets life get in the way. Professionals work towards mastery with purpose. You don’t need a giant leap of faith or big breaks to be a professional at what you do.

Jeff Goins explains it perfectly: “If you want to be a pro, you’re going to have to break this terrible amateur habit of looking at what people have without paying attention to what they did to get it. Chasing the results without understanding the process will lead to short-lived success, if not outright failure.

Self discovery is key

“The happiness of a man in this life does not consist in the absence but in the mastery of his passions.” — Alfred Lord Tennyson

A lot of what you want to do, be, or create is tied to who you are, and where you want to get to in life. You have to be clear on your identity and what you want out of life. It come down to desire, to passion, to what truly motivates you.

So the real question is if you spend thousands of hours and something like a decade practicing your craft, will it be worth it? The last thing you want in life, to paraphrase Thomas Merton, is to climb a ladder only to realize it was leaning against the wrong wall.

Here is how James Clear explains it:

Decide what you want to be good at. Purpose is everything. If you know what you want, then getting it is much easier. This sounds simple, but in my experience even people who are smart, creative, and talented rarely know exactly what they are working for and why.”

You’ve got to appreciate and respect the process

You could work smarter, instead of harder, but it is still a process. That doesn’t change. I am not a pro writer. I am far from it. I still suck at writing. But I value the process. I show up every week to share what I find and learn from amazing writers. I will continue to learn every day to be better. It’s the only way. Shortcuts won’t help me.

You have to put the time in. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Thomas Edison, in his efforts to invent a working light bulb, once said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Think about the number of times he tried to get to a working light builb. And how long it took him to make it work like it should. Mastering any skill to become a professional takes time and effort, which most people don’t have or aren’t willing to give.

There is no substitute for hard work

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward. — Henry Ford

What made Tiger Woods great? What makes Warren Buffett the world’s premier investor? We think we know: Each was a natural who came into the world with a gift for doing exactly what he ended up doing. You are not a born innovator or investor or chess grandmaster.

You’ve got to practice and perfom your way to into professionalism. You will achieve greatness only through an enormous amount of hard work over many years. And not just any hard work, but work of a particular type that’s demanding and painful.

Approaching your goals with the attitude of a professional isn’t easy. In fact, being a pro is painful. In order to get good, and even great at what you want to do, youv’e got to submit yourself to the teaching of past professionals. You have to study their work and emulate their techniques until you begin to find a style of your own. When you face setbacks, give yourself time to adjust, but don’t give up.

You have to practice, even when it hurts.

The simple fact of the matter is that most of the time we are inconsistent. You have to keep challenging yourself, keep pushing yourself beyond your limits. I can guarantee that if you set a schedule for any task and start sticking to it, there will be days when you feel like quitting. That never goes away. But the ultimate goal will keep you sane.

When you start a business or any project, there will be days when you don’t feel like showing up. But you have to be consistent to be better and smarter than your previous self. Stepping up when it’s annoying or painful or draining builds character. Be good at making time for what matters to you — especially when you don’t feel like it.

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