Five Steps to Mastery

I recently attended the IDEA World Fitness conference in Los Angeles as a delegate and not as a speaker. Typically when I speak at conferences the focus is on speaking and I don’t often get a chance to attend sessions. This time, I wanted to put myself back in learning mode and attend as a delegate and go to workshops that were new to me. I signed up for kettle bell training, worked with the heavy ropes and attended my first Zumba class.

I learned quickly how to use the kettle bell drawing on my previous experience in Olympic lifting. Ropes were pretty easy to pick up, not much to them but Zumba, that was a different story. I did find some familiar patters from my group fitness days such as grapevine, mambo and pivot turn but the rest was completely foreign to my body. Although I was having fun it was a challenge keeping up to the fast beat of the music and the pace. The instructors did not verbally cue so you had to rely strictly on the visuals and watch their feet closely.

Within the first five minutes it was obvious that to get good at Zumba I would have to take more classes. One class was not going to make me a Zumba expert. If I wanted to learn how to shake my booty and shimmy my shoulders it was clearly going to take a lot of practice to master.

That’s when I began thinking about mastery and how long it takes to really get good at something. As a teacher, I am always telling my personal training students that learning how to become a personal trainer takes time. We can teach the theory and science behind exercise and provide practical experience through the course but the real mastery comes with practice and lots of it.

You may have heard that it takes ten thousand hours or ten years to become a master at anything. Think about how much practice takes place during that time. A basketball player doesn’t get good by throwing ten free throws. They throw thousands. Tiger Woods didn’t get good at golf overnight. He started young and practiced every day. Lance Armstrong didn’t just win the Tour de France he dominated the tour because he was out training in the worst weather when most other guys were sipping lattes.

To master anything takes time, patience and persistence. You do something every day to move yourself forward in your pursuit of mastery. You practice daily and become fanatic about it and before you know it you actually start to get good.

There is one thing about the pursuit of mastery you should probably know. You will never actually attain it. Like the pursuit of happiness, you will have moments of happiness but you will never truly be in a permanent state of happiness your whole life. It will always be something you will strive for but not something you will ever truly finish.

Mastery is the same. You will get better and better with time but will always continue to learn and thus mastery is a lifelong pursuit with a distinctive start but no end. As the old adage goes, “the more you know the more you don’t know” and this is the case with mastery.

I’ve been in the fitness industry for over twenty years and as the IDEA conference taught me, I will continue to learn new things. My learning over this twenty year period has never stopped. I seek opportunities daily to continue to grow my knowledge just one step further in the pursuit of mastery. I am patient with myself in that I am not attempting to be perfect or know it all. I don’t get upset with myself when I can’t remember things or have difficulty learning a new subject. I am patient with myself and I understand that daily learning is a gift I give to myself and one I share with others. I forgive myself for mistakes I make and find the lesson in everything.

Right now I’m reading a book called, Drive – The Surprising Trust About What Motivates Us written by Daniel H. Pink. I am fascinated by human behaviour and this book is about motivation which is a perfect topic for fitness. In his book Daniel shares his five steps to mastery and it’s those I wish to share with you as well.

Step one: 
Remember that deliberate practice has one objective: to improve performance.

Step two:
Repeat, Repeat, Repeat. Repetition matters.

Step three:
Seek constant, critical feedback. If you don’t know how you’re doing, you won’t know what to improve.

Step four:
Focus ruthlessly on where you need help. While many of us work on what we’re already good at, those who get better work on their weaknesses.

Step five:
Prepare for the process to be mentally and physically exhausting. That’s why so few people commit to it, but that’s why it works.

Put these five steps somewhere you can see them every day. The steps will remind you what it takes to become a master and serve as a guide. Share the steps with your clients because many of them are on their own road to mastery and will find comfort in understanding that it is a life long journey with many ups and downs along the way.

I leave you with one final thought and a question to ponder. The answer may help you uncover your true passion in life and perhaps lead you down the road to a new level of mastery.

“If you didn’t have to work what would you do with your time?”

Feel free to share the answer to this question with me and I would be happy to respond with mine.