Here is a good post from Jeff Hayden of BNET giving a basic overview of the concept of Mastery. He addresses three fundamental areas of skill development that are often misunderstood and can cause you to become discouraged or disillusioned:

1.Hitting a “plateau” is a major step forward

At some point, your practice becomes repetitive, mundane and loses its luster. You don’t even have to think about what you are doing. The perception is that your skills are not improving and that your progress has hit a plateau, but the reality is that you are beginning to experience what is referred to as “Spontaneous Right Action”. Your actions begin to be almost instinctive, natural and your reactions & movements are correct more than they are off. That’s huge progress! In Japanese, it’s referred to as “Mushin” or ‘no mindedness’, in Chinese it is often referred to as “Wei Wu Wei” or ‘acting without acting’. Western culture talks about being ‘In the zone’  as a state with similar attributes.

2. You need to shake things up:

Humans are paradoxical creatures, they crave new challenges yet fight them for their need for a comfort zone. Jeff gives some specifics on how to shake that human paradox and move the skill development forward. They can all be effective, but one of the best ways to really challenge your skill level is by teaching it to someone else. You are forced to be at your best because you are trying to communicate a skill correctly, both physically as well as mentally and that requires you to sharpen your knowledge of the details. At the same time, your focus tends to be on the other persons learning, not your own. That anxiety of leaving your comfort zone loses much of its sting.

3. Purposeful & correct practice makes perfect

Practicing skills incorrectly can lead to bad habits and set you up for failure, this much is true. The phrase “perfect practice, makes perfect” can be just as misleading however as people often; ‘don’t know, what they don’t know’. What may seem perfect to the practitioner, may turn out to be their lack of knowledge and experience misleading them. That’s why there are coaches, teachers, trainers and mentors, they provide guidance to help keep the practice correct. Also, having a sense of purpose often improves the level of practice exponentially. It’s one thing to train to play football well, it’s quite another training to win the Super Bowl. Having a specific direction, vision or goal creates intrinsic motivation and can give that extra boost to push past developmental obstacles.

The other great thing about this article is that it is written in a business forum. It serves as another reminder that the concept of Mastery can apply to business as well as personal skills. There might really be something to this whole idea of being a Black Belt in Business…

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