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Skill Mastery 101

Skill Mastery
“Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.” – George Herbert

According to the Harvard Business Review, it takes around six months for someone to master a skill. This doesn’t mean that we suddenly become The Master, but it does mean that there should be a level of confidence and accountability when executing said skill.

 But in such a fast-moving, digitally distracting world that we find ourselves a part of today, is it any wonder that the biggest hurdle when learning something new is patience? Or there, lack of, in many cases. 

“Too often, we approach a new skill with the attitude that we should nail it right out of the gate,” says Halvorson, author of Nine Things Successful People Do Differently and motivational psychologist. The reality is, it’s not going to happen overnight and so time and energy needs to be put aside to mastering that skill. 

This somewhat goes against societal practices today, where the focus is more on quick deliverables and instant gratification. But mastering a skill is not instant, in fact other sources argue that it takes up to 10 years to master something. Like really master.

To break down what it means to master a skill, we need to look at the difference between talent and skill. Unlike a skill, talent is something that you are born with. Something you find easy to do, to accomplish – without much effort. A skill is something that you work at. It is a learnt trait that needs time put aside to nurture and grow. 

Take tennis for example, a person may have no experience playing the game, but if they have talent – they will have no issue keeping the ball in the court. The skill of playing the game well however, comes from practice.

Tennis sensation Serena Williams once said, “Luck has nothing to do with it, I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.” 

When discussing mastering a skill, mindset plays into it massively. You need to believe in yourself to be able to achieve. To quote our favourite tennis duo again (but V this time), “you have to believe in yourself when no one else does, that’s what makes you a winner”. It’s easier said than done, but once we overcome the voices in our head telling us we can’t, and shut out any imposter syndrome that may try to rear its ugly head – we can start to believe that yes,

can do it

That confidence and self assurance will help grow the want to develop that skill. It will determine the drive you decide to put in and how far you want to go. 

Matthew Syed, Author of Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice makes an interesting point, stating that “child prodigies amaze us because we compare them not with other performers who have practiced for the same length of time, but with children of the same age who have not dedicated their lives in the same way.” This statement highlights that many are born with a talent, but to nurture a skill takes time, dedication and practice. 

“We delude ourselves into thinking they possess miraculous talents because we assess their skills in a context that misses the essential point. We see their little bodies and cute faces and forget that, hidden within their skulls, their brains have been sculpted—and their knowledge deepened—by practice that few people accumulate until well into adulthood”. 

Syed goes on to discuss Mozart as a case study for how rigorous practice can strengthen any skill linked to talent, and vice versa.

By coaching a six year old through 3,500 hours of piano practice, in comparison to any other six year old, obviously Mozart would be considered a genius – because of the time spent to master that skill. It’s an interesting take but the takeaway we can focus on is the importance of time spent mastering that skill.  “The mind is just like a muscle – the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets and the more it can expand.”

The first step when mastering a skill is knowing what it is. This can be a tricky thing to discover, but that’s okay! Remembering it isn’t a quick fix should loosen any anxiety or annoyance felt. Your skill could be linked to your talent already, but identifying it can be hard. Remember, the whole practice is about the journey, not the destination – from identifying to mastering. By mastering your skill, you stand apart from the rest. That skill is yours, it’s unique to you and can be the deciding factor over a potential business partnership or losing out to someone with similar offerings. 

Take coaching for example. There are many coaches out there, but what makes someone stand out from the rest? Their approach? Their offerings? Their skillset? This can all lead back to their skillset. Sure, someone could hold the same offering or talent as you – but does that person have the capability to dedicate time to a skill, nurture it and encourage it to grow?

 If a client identifies with what skills you are offering, then they are more likely to go with you over the rest. Allowing oneself to master a skill will encourage a growth mindset and open up more doors for them, their business and so much more. 

 In a time where things are moving so fast, isn’t there something quite romantic and humbling about having to try? 

“Losses have propelled me to even bigger places, so I understand the importance of losing. You can never get complacent because a loss is always around the corner. It’s in any game that you’re in – a business game or whatever – you can’t get complacent.” – Venus Williams

Ask yourself; what are some skills you possess and which of these would you like to master? How do you plan to do that and what’s at the end of that road for you?

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