The Drive Toward Mastery

passion-2There are two long-term pursuits that have come to define my life the most: writing and jiu-jitsu. I’ve invested a decade into one, and three-quarters of a decade into the other.

That may seem like enough time to promote some sense of mastery, but the truth is I’m just now beginning to understand what it will take to someday become a master of either.

I started thinking about mastery in this context the other day, about how long the path to mastery is, and how hard it is to master most things worth doing. I came to some conclusions that I wanted to take the time to discuss here on the blog.

Within any worthwhile pursuit there are an inherent set of thresholds, setbacks, and catapults that drive a person’s improvement and understanding. The more challenging an activity is, the more likely the pursuer is to encounter failure and setbacks, particularly early on, as they work to improve.

In the beginning of pursuing a new activity, the hardest part is understanding that every lesson comes disguised as a failure. By making mistakes the practitioner learns how to do things right, or at least how not to do them wrong. This process is often referred to as “investing in loss” in athletics, but it holds true for non-athletic pursuits as well.

It’s only by putting in the work to get past each failure that a person can become proficient in something, let alone obtain mastery. There are no free rides in life, and adversity serves as the chief barrier that keeps the “unworthy” from accomplishing what they set out to do.

Not to suggest that anyone is unworthy, because I definitely don’t belive that. But mastery requires that a person harness their vital energy over and over through constant failure or negative feedback, that they dig deep in those moments of failure to find the courage to move forward.

The master is simply a person who refused to give up when things got hard, who kept going even when others gave up and quit . But why do some people continue these pursuits when others give up? Are they more disciplined, or determined? Perhaps. But there’s another factor that carries far more weight in determining success: Passion.

When a person loves what they’re doing, immediate success takes a back seat to the experience of just participating and growing in that thing day in and day out. Passion provides the fire to push the practitioner through the unavoidable defeats and setbacks. It allows the practitioner to enjoy the experience, win or lose.

The passionate practitioner puts put in the work that feels unbearable to the less passionate individual, because they understand that failing at difficult things is the first step toward succeeding at difficult things. Embracing and enjoying the day-by-day grind is key to rapid improvement. Passion transforms an experience from difficult and overwhelming to enjoyable and engaging.

This shift in mindset allows the practitioner to endure the long, hopeless hours of failure it takes to achieve mastery. Mastery, then, may also be viewed as passion incarnated.

Few things build character better than pursuing something difficult with a sense of passion and dedication. Such pursuits hold the key to unlocking hidden potential. if there’s one thing I’ve learned through my experiences in jiu-jitsu and writing, it’s this: If you want to cultivate mastery, cultivate passion. In that sense passion is key to living a happy, fulfilling life!

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