Rascals are able to boldly march in their own direction because of the confidence derived from their competence. Getting good at something is a great way to gain assuredness of direction. The better one gets at something the harder it is for anyone or anything to knock one off that path. Stated more simply, the harder you work at something, the harder it is to quit it.
Mastery is a concept little understood in today’s world. We tend to glorify top-level athletes as “gifted,” top business pioneers as “geniuses,” and top leaders in many fields as “born” leaders. While there may be some truth to this, there is a lot of research to suggest that success is more about mastery than it is about inborn ability. Malcolm Gladwell wrote, “The question is this: is there such a thing as innate talent? The closer psychologists look at the careers of the gifted, the smaller the role innate talent seems to play and the bigger the role preparation seems to play.”
This is why it is so important to understand the difference between being busy and being focused; anyone suffering from the effects of busyness will never be able to muster the focus required to obtain mastery of a certain subject. This is because mastery is the product of applied and focused practice over time. No focus, no mastery.
Most people do not understand the power of incremental improvements over time. The compounding effect of effort over the long haul is staggering to behold. The fact is that success requires mastery in one’s chosen field. Mastery utilizes the compounding effect of effort over time. And there is a certain type of effort that is required: passionate and perfect.
Passionate effort is the kind that has heart behind it. There is a drive and a desire for success that empowers the development process. Half-hearted effort and practice is useless. If one is not passionate about what he is doing, some other area of endeavor should be chosen. As the mountain bikers say, “Go big or go home.” Life is too short to fumble along in the wrong vocation. Rascals find something they can be passionate about, then pour their whole self into its mastery. They show up to practice early, work hard, demonstrate a desire to learn with a positive attitude, and push on through the pain of getting better.
Perfect practice is the other component, as it is the only kind of practice that leads to improvement. Anything else is wasted time at best, counter-productive at worst. Practicing for the sake of practicing, or simply to “put in the time” is not really practice, it is dishonesty. No one is served by a partial commitment. Also, practice that doesn’t lead one to mastery of the fundamentals and to a mastery of proven techniques is also wasted time, because it leads to the learning of bad habits and ineffective methods. This is why the quality of coaching or mentorship is so important. A student on the journey toward mastery needs expert guidance and proper fundamentals.
The concept of mastery should be stimulating. This is because the message is that anyone can become great if he is willing to put in the time and effort over the long haul to fulfill his calling. Sure, there may be those who are bigger than you, faster than you, smarter than you, or better positioned within society than you. The facts are, however, that it doesn’t matter. Victory goes to the one who decides to accomplish his dreams, then sets out consistently to master his craft, working hard over the long haul without faltering. What this all means is that achievement comes about as a result of commitment, and commitment is a choice. You can literally choose to become great because you can choose to master your craft.