Thursday, 3 March 2016

Master your art

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. Vince Lombardi

The book  Eleven Rings and NBA coach Phil Jackson talks about using Zen Buddhism and mindfulness and applying it to basketball,It mentions a story about Prince Wen Hui's cook.  

Prince Wen Hui's cook was carving up an ox. Every touch of his hand, every heave of

his shoulder, every step of his foot, every thrust of his knee, with the slicing and parting of the flesh, and the zinging of the knife - all was in perfect rhythm, just like the Dance of the Mulberry Grove or a part of the Ching Shou symphony. 
Prince Wen Hui remarked, "How wonderfully you have mastered your art."
The cook laid down his knife and said, "What your servant really cares for is Tao, which goes beyond mere art. When I first began to cut up oxen, I saw nothing but oxen. After three years of practicing, I no longer saw the ox as a whole. I now work with my spirit, not with my eyes. My senses stop functioning and my spirit takes over. I follow the natural grain, letting the knife find its way through the many hidden openings, taking advantage of what is there, never touching a ligament or tendon, much less a main joint.”

The story shows the value of practice and flow.  When you practice a process, you become a master and you feel the process. 

I have seen and felt this level of expert-ease when I have sparred black belt Taekwondo martial artists.  A black belts level of practice and knowledge was remarkable, they could see nuances in kicks, punches and moves I couldn't see.  It was beyond knowledge and visual, they could feel the moves flowing.

The story continues

“A good cook changes his knife once a year because he cuts, while a mediocre cook has to change his every month because he hacks. I've had this knife of mine for nineteen years and have cut up thousands of oxen with it, and yet the edge is as if it were fresh from the grinding stone. There are spaces between the joints. The blade of the knife has no thickness. That which has no thickness has plenty of room to pass through these spaces. Therefore, after nineteen years, my blade is as sharp as ever. 

It takes years of practice and dedication master your art. Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers: The Story of Success suggest 10000 hours of practice to become an expert.

So how long is 10000 hours?

It's 417 days and if you did 3 hours practice a day it would take about 9 years before you become a world class expert

The more knowledgeable you become, the more there is to learn.

natural talent

When a new pop star appear with a song, people view them as over night success.  Britney Spears had the hit single Hit me baby one more time, it seemed she just appeared, a fully formed pop star.  People didn't realise Britney Spears had been practicing for years.

If you look at Britney's Wikipedia page

At 3 she started dance class
at 5 she was singing in class shows
at 8 she auditioned for the Mickey mouse show.  Britney Spears and her mum moved away from the rest of her family to move to New York for her career.

What where you doing at 8?

She was understudy in a Broadway musical in 1990 and joining the Mickey mouse club with fellow celebs  Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake, Ryan Gosling in 1992.

Hit me baby one more time was released in 1998,  imagine how polished Britney was by the time the public became aware of her and her overnight success

Skills are learnt through practice, making mistakes, analyse, reading, learning and advice.  Natural talent doesn't exist because you will find no expert on a subject who hasn't devoted thousands of hours mastering the skill.

Become an expert

Keep practicing and become an expert in your chosen art or skill.  The more your practice, learn and improve the better you become.  If you find something you enjoy you can stick at it for 10 years to get to expert status.

Experts are esteemed is because you can't become one easily, it takes dedication, perseverance and lots of practice.

The good news is you have lots of room for improvement.


The more you practice more intricacies you see and understand.  An example is the learning to drive a car.   Before learning to drive you believe it's pressing the gas and turning the wheel.

When you start to learn to drive everything is difficult, trying to put the separate parts together adds to the complexity.  

The separate aspects such as

looking in the mirrors
using the accelerator and brake
checking the different mirrors
checking the blind spot
monitoring speed
understanding all the signs
predicting other drivers
Changing gears
Braking distances

The more your practice you become proficient in individual aspects of driving, this gives you more time to focus on your weaker skills.  You master changing gear, braking, understanding signs and monitoring speed.   It gives you chance to focus on improving your gear changes and mirror checking.

When you pass your test you can do the basics of driving a car but you lack predicting other drives.  This gain this skill you need experience and to drive on the road with lots of different drivers.

The driving example shows the steps you need to learn to become a basic driver, to become an expert driver and race driver.

Most skills have many small parts to master, when you become proficient in particular skills you can focus on others skill.  

Masters have great depth of knowledge in their art, they can see and feel intricacies others are not aware of, this comes from perseverance and practice.

The opinions and views on this blog are my own and not my employer

No comments:

Post a comment