4 Minute Read
In life, we are pushed to succeed.
Everywhere we turn we see symbols of success and we are told that we’ll only be happy if we can get to that same level.
But is success all that matters? Should we be aiming for it in every aspect of our life?
This probably where you are expecting me to give you some insightful counterintuitive response. But, I hate to tell you, that’s not going to happen.
At least not yet…
Success is what drives us. We are wired for success and it makes us feel good. In brain science terms, success creates dopamine. We are designed to think in a way that rewards successful behavior so that we can do it again, and again, and again. So much so that we even get hits of dopamine before we achieve success.
Whether you like it or not, success is helpful, useful, and it matters.
But there is something else beyond success. Something that matters even more and it’s something we should all be reaching for.
In our lives, we often measure success by one-time achievements. When we do well on a test, or get married, or score the game winning shot.
But the thing about these successful moments is that by their very nature, they are momentary. They happen in a tiny split second.
We wait for their arrival and then they leave us. Never to truly be experienced again in the same way.
And if all we care about is that one-time success, we are going to end up very disappointed with the entirety of life. Because in case you haven’t figured it out yet, life is not always a string of successful moments. We can go days, weeks or months without “success”.
These stints without success can be very challenging. Unless you can figure out how to change the definition of what success means to you.
And the first way to do that is by reshaping the way you view daily tasks. You must look beyond success and strive for mastery.
But what is mastery? What’s the difference?
Well, it’s actually quite simple. Let’s use the practice of archery for example. In archery, the goal is to hit as close to the centre as possible. If you hit the centre (bullseye), it’s worth 10 points. And to hit that target would be considered a success. In that moment you would be successful.
Mastery, on the other hand, is knowing it means nothing if you cannot do it every single time.
Mastery is a simple shift in mentality from
“I hope I hit the target this time”
“how do I learn to hit the target every time?”
Good to Great
If you just want to be a “good” athlete, that’s fine. You will probably enjoy your sport, you will have moderate success, you may even get to play at a high level some day.
But to become a “great” athlete, you must have the mindset of a master. Daily training is not just something that you “get through” or “show up for”. For people who are set on the path of mastery and greatness, they understand that the difference lies in their patience and persistence. They recognize that in order to get better at a skill, they need take it one step at a time. They can’t get frustrated when they see people around them pulling ahead. They understand that everyone is on their own journey and we all have different starting points.
***Side note: Never assume that just because someone posted a picture on instagram of themselves doing something amazing, it doesn’t mean their life is always that exciting. People post highlights online, not biographies.***
In order to truly master something, you have to be willing to work at it every single day. Not just when you “feel like it” or when it works for your schedule. You have to make time for it and must be willing to sacrifice other things which may give you temporary joy.
Video Games Create Masters
The best way I know how to explain this concept is through the world of video games.
For anyone who is familiar with gaming, they know that the early phase of learning a new game can be challenging. You have to figure out the buttons, learn how certain concepts work, how to progress, and how to deal with setbacks when you fail. The first few times you play, it’s a little awkward and feels strange. This isn’t your first time playing video games, yet you are still struggling to get started.
But because you are determined to succeed, you keep going. You restart when you fail and learn something new from each attempt. Without even realizing it, you are slowly mastering these new skills.
Flash forward to a month a later. Your skills have multiplied tenfold and you hardly even have to think about what buttons you are pressing, it just happens. At this point, you are well on your way to becoming a master. Best of all, you hardly even remember those old clunky days of learning to play the game.
The game has now become second nature and instinctive.
Now video games are designed to have a quick learning curve. The developer understands where gamers may struggle and they provide assistance to ensure a quick understanding of new concepts. Unfortunately, life isn’t a video game.
At least not one that we are aware of…
So instead, we have to be the game developers of our own lives. We have to look for ways to learn new concepts. And as the gamer playing out our lives, we must seek out everyday success.
We have to learn how to perform certain skills consistently.
We have to push ourselves towards mastery.
But also in this pursuit, we have to prepare for setbacks, failure, and “game over” moments. We have to see the broader picture of what we are trying to accomplish. We have to be willing to put in the hours if we want to achieve true mastery.
Some believe that with enough hours, anyone can become an expert. Meanwhile, others speculate that it’s not the quantity of hours that matter, but the quality. Yet, the wisest among us recognize that it’s a combination of the two. Something known as deliberate practice.
What is deliberate practice?
Well, first it’s practice. But more importantly, it’s practice that is intentional, self-corrected, guided, and aimed at specific outcomes. In other words, it’s the complete opposite of just “going through the motions”.
We all know what deliberate practice feels like and we’ve all done it at some point. Yet, when we get tired, impatience, or bored – we quickly slip into complacency. We lose focus on actually mastering a skill.
What am I supposed to do about it?
Here are three simple steps:
- Pick a specific skill you want to improve. It could be your passing, shooting, hitting, blocking, throwing, or any other specific skill to your sport. It could even be a mental skill like resilience.
- Next, before your next practice, plan how you are going to specifically improve this skill. If you don’t know how, ask a coach or a more advanced athlete what they would do.
- Immediately after training, take a few minutes to write down what happened during practice. What did you learn about this skill? Did you catch yourself losing focus? How could you further improve the skill tomorrow?
I’m fully aware of the simplicity of these three steps and that collectively they hardly even pass as revolutionary advice. But after enough personal experience and research of many other masters, I’ve come to one final conclusion:
Earning the label of “master” “genius” or “GOAT” does not come from predetermined genetics, fate, or through pure luck. No one is born with the mastery gene. In order to obtain these titles, it takes one simple thing.
There is no secret formula to the top. If you want to reach your goals and go beyond momentary success, you have to be willing to put in the work every single day. Plain and simple.
Now, what does that “work” look like? Well that’s for you to figure out. No one is going to spoon-feed it to you.