The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Developing mastery instead of sticking to talent

In the past, I was taught that I can’t sing nor keep the rhythm and I believed it.

Transforming this belief isn’t easy, but looking back I can see how the “I can’t” part of this belief is wrong. It probably never is as strict as that.

As humans we’ve developed a series of talents all of us have, but to a different extent and ability. We can also say, that we’ve been able to deconstruct these talents sufficiently to be able to explain how they are developed. Once we know the “how” of something it is possible to teach and learn it. How well and how fast it can be learned is a different question and in a way, the answer to “I can’t”.

I can learn to sing, but I can’t say how long it would take me and how much effort I would have to put into it to learn it to my satisfaction. “I can’t” thus was the shortcut my parents made in their estimation of the time and effort I would need to learn it, how well I could learn it and if it was worth it. Thus “I can’t” was an unconscious decision they made related to either my abilities, my motivation or my values. Not understanding the complexity of their decision, my conclusion was that I lacked the ability and that I would encounter in life other things I would not be able to master.

I’ve not learned to sing or keep the rhythm yet, but I’ve seen that there are ways I could. Nowadays, it is motivation and values that keeps me from trying to develop that mastery. What I can’t include in my decision is the impact that competence would have on my life. My decision can only use what seems to be possible results: “showing that I can” and feeling more satisfied and self-confident while singing in the car. Interestingly they remain linked to the impact my parents decision had on me: a reduced self-confidence.

The difference between mastery and talent lies in the understanding of the process necessary to achieve the expected result and the ability to use this understanding to change the process towards an execution leading to a result which resembles the expected result even more.

This understanding of the process is also essential to develop the ability to teach the craft being mastered. Which might explain, why teaching is one of the best ways to learn a craft. My definition of craft is quite large here, as I would include anything that is based on a process into it and contrast it with static information and knowledge.

Both craft and talent need to be developed. A talent left to develop itself is like a diamond that has never been polished, it hides its beauty and elegance. Knowing that mastery is a process we can use under any circumstances opens up a well of opportunities and creates the confidence to apply the existing ability=mastery. Applying one’s ability creates experience which in turn develops the mastery itself. More importantly, linking that process of mastery with curiosity establishes the wish to see how the next step towards mastery can be achieved, while the experience of ones ability reinforces the motivation to make the next step.

This system is at risk once there is an attachment to the outcome in contrast to a willingness to test reaching the next step based on the learning made in the process.

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