Current AffairsFamily/CommunicationLeadershipPeopleReflectionJanuary 15, 20141Sharpening My Ax: the Joy of Mastery


Mastery doesn't have an endpoint - the most joy comes when you keep going.

Just got back from an excit­ing, inspir­ing, exhaust­ing, fun and thor­ough­ly worth­while event: the first annu­al Soundview/Nour Author Sum­mit in Atlanta.  For a num­ber of year, I had attend­ed a sim­i­lar event put on by my friends and col­leagues at 800CEOREAD, and when they laid down the torch after last year’s event, and weren’t talk-out-of-it-able, Rebec­ca Clement and David Nour decid­ed to pick it up and car­ry it forward.

I learned use­ful stuff, met great peo­ple and laughed a lot. (I also ate an extreme­ly tasty lob­ster din­ner, which added to the over­all impres­sion of wonderfulness.)

More than any­thing, I under­stood even more deeply about the joy of mas­tery.  I learned yet again that mas­tery does­n’t mean get­ting to the point where you’re the expert and you get to tell every­body else how to do stuff.

with David Nour and Jennifer BridgesTrue mas­tery means want­i­ng to keep learn­ing, even when you’re good. That is, get­ting good enough at things to feel proud and hap­py of what you’ve learned and accom­plished — and at the same time feel­ing hun­gry to keep going. I’ve become a good writer, a good teacher, a good(ish) mar­keter of my books and ideas, and I can build con­nec­tions with lots dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple — and I have so much more to learn in all these areas; so much I want to do better.

True mas­tery means being able to learn from almost any­body: those who are far­ther along the path than you, those who are jour­ney­ing beside you, and those who are just start­ing out. Some of the things that most inspired me and made me think over the past two days were said by folks who are just writ­ing their first book or just con­tem­plat­ing how to build a prac­tice around their ideas.

True mas­tery means increas­ing — rather than dimin­ish­ing — curios­i­ty. I find myself more and more fas­ci­nat­ed by the process of clar­i­fy­ing ideas and shar­ing them in a way that’s com­pelling and use­ful. I found myself lis­ten­ing to many dif­fer­ent peo­ple, to hear how they do it, and whether that works for them.

True mas­tery means being will­ing to start over and over again. I dis­cov­ered, for instance, how lit­tle I under­stand about using Twit­ter as a means of com­mu­ni­ty-build­ing, busi­ness-build­ing and idea-shar­ing.  I thought I was pret­ty good with — but no: just scratch­ing the sur­face.  Damn.  OK — time to go back to “I don’t know that…how does that work?”

And there is joy in all these things.  I have a sus­pi­cion that joy aris­es from free­dom. When I let go of think­ing I have to be an expert, a grown-up, a teacher, the one-who-knows, and sim­ply share my insight and knowl­edge as a gift, and then learn more, take in more, from every­thing and every­one around me — that’s tru­ly joyful. 

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