Mastery: The Relentless Pursuit of Self-Improvement
“It soon became clear that doing one thing better and better might be more satisfying than staying an amateur at many different things…”
― Angela Duckworth, Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
As visionaries, leaders are often revered as experts in their field, but have we ever considered what it takes to gain that level of mastery? In the fifth part of this leadership series , we will explore how lining the road of self-improvement with passion, intention, and persistence will lead you to mastery.
Anecdotally, mastery is hardly ever born out of indifference or lukewarm interest. Mastery usually begins to take form through a passion that cannot be escaped. It is that inner drive and voice that returns ever so often, reminding you of your north star. It is a flame, starting as a flicker, that evolves into a guiding light; it is your passion. Passion connects us to our mission and motivates us to persevere through hardships, reminding us that our pursuit of mastery is driven by an unyielding and compelling commitment. Angela Duckworth reflects on the studies of cognitive psychologist Anders Ericsson, the “world expert on world experts.” In her New York Times Best Seller, Grit, she lays out the research that supports the concept that experts practice differently. She specifically calls on the example of how Benjamin Franklin improved his writing. Duckworth notes, “Like the modern-day experts Ericsson studies, Franklin zeroed in on specific weaknesses and drilled them relentlessly.” Mastery is achieved through relentless improvement. Identifying small tasks or steps and continuously practicing at improving at every level will make your journey to mastery achievable. As I like to say, action beats planning every time. To achieve mastery, it is important to identify and define your specific goals and follow through on executing those goals through thoughtful and deliberate action. Learn to follow your planning with actions, make execution a discipline, and mastery will almost always follow.
Often, we perceive mastery as effortless expertise. However, this common misconception discounts the calculated and intentional effort of masters. Many of you may be familiar with the famous image of Jeff Bezos on 60-minutes with a spray-painted Amazon sign on the wall and just the beginnings of an empire. When we think of him today, we see a multi-billionaire that has completely changed how consumers shop. This illustrates the iceberg theory of success which reminds us that we often only see the outcomes (top of the iceberg), rather than the sacrifice, dedication, and hard work (bottom of the iceberg). It may be hard to envision your success when you are going after a goal that feels out of reach. However, that does not mean that the goal is unachievable. Instead, it may be an indicator that the goals need to be more refined and targeted. This is where persistence comes in. Persistence is more than just staying the course when the going gets tough. Persistence is choosing to show up every day, through fatigue, disappointment, hardship, or other obstacles on your road to mastery.
Mastery is hardly ever a straight line. The greatest masters, past and present, relied on their passion as motivation, and applied persistence to an intentional pursuit to reach their goals. In conclusion, I will leave you with a few questions to ponder regarding mastery as we continue on our leadership journey in our series:
- What is your mission statement? Take a moment to craft a personal mission statement that captures your passion, mission, vision, and goals.
- What is the over-arching goal you are looking to achieve? What are the smaller goals that you need to achieve to reach your larger end goal?
- How will you show up on tough days? What will that look like?
Want more? Check out my free 7-Step Success Formula booklet at
If you missed the first 4 parts of this series, you can read them here.
Part 1 – Women Have a Limited Pool of Mentors and Even More Dearth of Sponsors
Part 2 – Emotional Intelligence – What Is it? Do You have it? How to develop it?
Part 3 – Leadership vs. Management – Distinct, But Not Mutually Exclusive
Part 4 – People vs. Process: How to Successfully Handle the Conflict When Both Collide