Once upon a time, a tired musician was walking along the streets of New York City on his way home from a difficult rehearsal. A tourist, seeing the violin case under his arm asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Without looking up, the violinist responded, “Practice kid, practice.” An old joke, I know, but one that holds a great deal of truth.
In his excellent book, Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, George Leonard describes the path that one must take to master any non-trivial subject. Mr. Leonard, an aikido master, explains that the road of mastery is never linear. That is, a given amount of effort does not result in consistent progress. Instead, if we practice diligently, we spend much of our time on a plateau that, after time, is followed by a brief spurt of progress. Each episode of rapid progress is followed by a slight decline to a plateau slightly higher than the one before. Most of our time along this road is spent on the plateaus. Thus, Leonard explains, mastery “is not a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey.”
The Tao Te Ching states, “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arriving. A good artist lets his intuition lead him wherever it wants.” (Stephen Mitchel translation.) Therefore, travel the path without regard to a goal. Perhaps less profound – but just as insightful – photographer Elliot Porter once said, “You learn to see by practice. . . . The more you look around at things, the more you see.”
Works for me!