Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why Mastery Begins With Finding The Master

The journey to being black belt at GTD or anything else begins with identifying who the elite teacher is in what it is that you want to master. While you can muddle your way through and master many things on your own, there is great benefit in learning from those who have blazed the trail ahead of us. The compounding of knowledge that each successive generation accumulates shortens the learning curve for the next aspiring master.

Going back to my football example yesterday, the top tier coaches in the NFL spend all week preparing for Sunday's game. They study their opponent. They study their team's strengths and weaknesses. They also study coaches that came before them. Many coaches work as assistants under other coaches before they become head coaches. This gives them the opportunity to learn the philosophy of some of the best coaches first hand.

What this means is that what happens is that there becomes an accepted "best practice" for what to do in any game situation they may face. Should they go for it on fourth down in this situation? Do they go for two points instead of an extra point?

The beauty of this learning from the masters and implementing an already proven best way to do something is that it helps coaches keep their job when a team doesn't execute. There is tremendous scrutiny by the media and by fans who also have years of experience watching and analyzing games. If a coach follows the tried and tested formula of what every coach, sportswriter and fan already expects in a game situation, then at the news conference after the game, the coach can say that everybody knows that's what you do in that situation.

Imagine if you will a coach who didn't prepare every week who managed the game by the seat of his pants. The time pressure of the game forces immediate decisions. Under this time crunch, the coach might not make the right decision because he hasn't been prepared to think about it until that specific moment. Chances are that coach would be second guessed quite a bit and probably wouldn't be able to keep their job because this approach lends itself to making mistakes and bad decisions. Coaches have the benefit of 1000's of games  that other coaches have played and also learned from the mistakes of the previous generations.

While our jobs probably aren't scrutinized to the degree an NFL football coach's is, our careers and lives are no less important. It stands to reason that we too can benefit from the experience of those before us and not have to recreate the wheel every time we set out to master a new set of skills.

The great thing is that in nearly every subject, you can find a master to follow. Masters, or teachers, or coaches, or mentors as they are sometimes called should be identified whenever possible to look at emulating their success. With the benefit of books, videos and self help material available in bookstores and on the internet, you as a beginning student have an unprecedented advantage over those who first had to master the things we do today.

Finding the right master can be a problem because there are so many so called "experts". For now, I won't go into selecting the right teachers, it's just worth noting that you will find many choices.

For the red belt here at the black belt project, the endorsed master is, of course, David Allen's Getting Things Done system. As we go along, I'll identify other masters for the other belts.

Once you have identified the master of the skill you want to conquer, it's a matter of following their instructions exactly as they describe. This is something I will delve into as we move along.

In the meantime, keep a look out for the masters in your field as well as in the topic areas you want to master.
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