The Paradox of Mastery

512 words // 7 min. read

paradox of mastery peak

I often think about the idea of mastery, and what it actually is, and how it fits in to goals that most people have in some area of their life. You know – like how some people want to master chess, some people want to master fishing, I want to master my ego…. This is the quintessential journey of life, the long trip between “who knows what the f*ck I’m even doing here” & “what is even going on??!” all the way to “oh wow, I actually have a handle on this shizz!”

I see it like a mountain peak. You spend your whole life meandering up the mountain, finding your way through challenges and tragedies, through triumphs and amazing new views. Some people go straight up the mountain and stick to the trail, i.e. practicing every single day, disciplined and steady, a linear path to the top… And others take a more scenic route, stopping at various lookout points, maybe retracing some steps or taking a lateral route for a bit to see another great view. The right-brain path. Going where their intuition and creativity decide to take them.

And most people are a mix in between, of course. There is no wrong or right in this great trip we call life… Everything is just expression and discovery. And that is a beautiful thing because you can’t mess it up, since even “mess ups” are still just expression and discovery. (And while we’re on the topic of mistakes, I will say, that for me, the biggest mistakes of my life turned into the greatest of wins…)

Well on the topic of mastery – I see it as a paradox, because everyone who has ever stuck with something long enough to actually master it knows, that immediately upon reaching the so-called “peak,” you look out from that high perspective which you spent all that time climbing to, and you think, wow, there are sooooo many other peaks! I am hardly 5% of the way done!

In other words, any true master knows that there is no such thing as “mastery”! You get to the point where you have a good enough handle on things, but then you realize with humility– there are sooooo many other things to learn, and really, you will never actually “ARRIVE”! That is the great joke, thinking you’ll “get there” at some future point in time.

And thus the paradox of mastery, as I call it, is the unexpected truth that there are no masters, only students, and being the eternal student is actually what is meant by “mastery.” Because even young children, homeless people, “crazy” people, old people, hurting people, ignorant people – they all can be your teacher if you remain the ever humble eternal student.

So really. We’re all just learning how to do things even if we’ve been doing this a long time. And nobody is actually very clear on what the heck is going on at any given time and we’re all just figuring it out. Doesn’t that comfort you a little to think about?

Wild world!

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