How to effectively master any skill using these 2 simple philosophies

The more you practice a skill, the closer you become to mastering that skill. Even if you fail numerous times, you are still making progress. Most people don’t see failure this way. They interpret it as something that needs to be avoided at all costs. So if they’re not getting the results they desire, they don’t believe they’re improving. 

If you base your progress on immediate results, you have a skewed perception of your progress. This is going to make it extremely challenging to master any skill. How you quantify your progress is critically important, this separates those who are successful in mastering a skill from those that quit. There are two distinctly different perspectives on learning a skill; let’s see which one will lead to success.


The Short-Term Perspective 

Having a short-term perspective means that you are focused on the short-term results you’re getting. You are willing to put in the practice under the condition that you are compensated for your practice. Compensation comes in the form of progress. 

If you put in 10 units of practice, you expect to receive 10 units of progress in return. You expect to be a certain number of steps closer to mastering the skill. If you spend 60 hours learning to play the guitar, you expect to play 10 songs by the end of that 60 hours.

The expected units of return will vary from person to person, but everyone has an estimate of how far they expect to be after a certain amount of practice. Unfortunately, most people don’t have the patience that it requires to master a skill. If they’re not being compensated with the progress they were hoping for, they quit. Many people think that they want to master a skill, but truthfully they only want to master it if it will satisfy their short term goals. For this reason, it’s extremely rare to come across somebody who has mastered a skill.


The Long-Term Perspective 

Having a long term vision means that you aren’t concerned about the short term progress. You are willing to put in the practice, irrespective of the results. If you put in 10 units of practice and don’t receive any units of progress, you’re willing to continue practising the skill regardless. Detachment from outcome is one of the key principles in mastering any skill.

To truly master any skill, you need to unhook yourself from short term progress. We are rarely compensated with results as quickly as we’d hope for. If you’re too concerned with your progress, you’ll become distracted from what matters, which is the practice. You won’t be focused on improving your skills as much as possible, so it will take even longer to master the skill. 

If you’re running a marathon race but you’re constantly checking who’s around you or checking your pace on your phone, that’s going to impact your finishing time. When you unhook yourself from needing results, you free yourself up to enjoy the practice. It’s possible to turn your hobby into your career and earn a tremendous amount of money. However, not many people can do this because they’re too concerned with the money in the short term. If you focus on running each mile as well as possible, that will give you the best result in the end.


How Important Is It to Have Goals? 

Applying the long perspective doesn’t mean that you won’t be working towards goals. Goals are necessary to keep you motivated and working hard. Without having goals, you’ll lack the direction required to master any skill. There’s nothing wrong with checking your progress sometimes, but it becomes problematic if you’re only practising under the condition that you’re meeting your targets.

It can be motivating to look at the progress you’ve made, but it’s important not to become reliant on your progress as you won’t always achieve the progress you were expecting. If you’re dedicating years of your life to mastering a skill, you’re going to encounter a lot of frustration and disappointment along the way; that is just part of the mastery process.

If you’re always hoping for more progress than you’re getting, that’s going to leave you feeling despondent. It will be difficult to sustain the motivation to continue practising for long enough to master the skill. Any skill that you genuinely want to master, you should expect it to take you years, sometimes decades of practice. That is the point at which you will have mastered the skill.

So the key is to find a balance between working towards goals but not becoming too absorbed in the goal. This balance is one of the many paradoxes of personal development. You have to be results orientated, but you also have to be outcome-independent. Doing so ensures that you continue to work towards mastering the skill, despite what obstacles come your way. 

For this reason, it’s crucial to have both the goals and the long term perspective. If you don’t have powerful goals, you won’t have the necessary motivation to master the skill. But equally, if you don’t have outcome independence, you won’t have the fortitude to overcome setbacks.


Dealing with a Lack of Progress

So when you’re not seeing the progress you expect, how do you deal with that? Rather than getting frustrated, take a step back and appreciate that it might take longer to see progress than you initially thought. You need to have faith that the results will eventually come.

It’s easy to become so focused on the end goal that you forget to enjoy the process. If you spend years trying to master a domain, expecting that you’ll feel fulfilled once you’ve achieved it, you’re going to be disappointed. 

The fulfilment doesn’t arrive at the end once you’ve finally mastered the skill. The fulfilment builds up gradually each day that you are working on your craft. You become more passionate and enjoy it slightly more each day. Over the course of 5-10 years, that accumulates into a vast amount of passion and excitement that you feel consistently.


How Skilled Can You Become?

If you want to become a billionaire, develop a new technology, or become a world-class athlete, these things may sound insurmountable. But the only way that anyone achieves these things is through practice. You can learn any quantity or complexity of things; it’s all just practice.

Some life skills are highly challenging to master, but that just means more steps are involved in the learning process. Any skill that you want to master can be broken down into small steps. If you want to build a clothing brand, how would you go about doing that?

Breaking It down into Smaller Steps

You would first research the market you wanted to enter, find out who your competitors are, what steps they took to enter the market. You would want to study their business models and find out what separates a successful clothing brand from a failed clothing brand. 

You also want to establish who your target market is. What is your market looking for in a clothing brand? What can you offer them that’s valuable? You would also spend time researching marketing and developing a marketing strategy of your own, planning an effective way to reach your target audience and differentiate yourself from competitors.

You would need to research the business and accounting aspects too. How much capital would you need to launch your clothing brand? How would you allocate your budget between all the different areas of the business like marketing, equipment and staff wages?

Product design is another crucial area to understand. Developing knowledge about the materials you’re using and the processes required to design and produce your product. This can sound overwhelming; there are so many steps involved in starting a business. 

Whilst this is true, what happens if you break each one of these areas into smaller steps?  So if someone asked you to spend 6 months learning marketing and becoming proficient in it, does that still sound insurmountable or does that sound like something you could do? Or what about if they asked you to spend 6 months researching your competitors and knowing the ins and outs of their business models and strategies? Is that also something that you believe you could accomplish?


What Is Holding You Back?

If you can complete one of these steps, then you can complete all of them. The mastery process is just an extensive collection of these smaller tasks. The quantity and complexity of all of these different areas are what prevents people’s from mastering anything. They think it will be too complex or too difficult to complete. But really, the training involved in any skill is the same; it’s just a cycle of practising step after step. So this is the second philosophy, breaking tasks down into steps that are small enough to complete.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy to master these skills; mastering a skill is one of the most challenging things you could ever do. First, however, you need to understand what makes it difficult. It’s not the skill itself that’s challenging; it’s your psychology—all of your limiting beliefs, procrastination habits, lack of control over your emotions and so on.

If there were no emotional labour involved, everyone would be working their way towards becoming a billionaire. But there is emotional labour involved; lots of it. The way to overcome your psychology and master a skill is to continue reminding yourself that it’s just a series of practice steps. Every time you encounter some kind of roadblock, or every time you’re not seeing the progress you expected, you’re going to forget this. So you have to keep reminding yourself that practice is just a long sequence of small steps. Practising and mastering these philosophies will help you to master any skill in your life.

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