In our quest for excellence and success, we look to the master of our chosen craft. With a mixture of envy and interest, we want to know how they do what they do.
We read their books, watch their tutorials, pour over their advice looking for the nuggets that will lead us to their greatness.
The unspoken truth about mastery is that when you reach a level of expertise, the task becomes effortless. Experts don’t know how to do what they do because it is no longer conscious action but subconscious. It is why asking for their advice is problematic.
Ask an expert, and they will offer some ideas out of politeness, but in truth, they don’t know. It’s like asking ourselves how do we sign our name or walk down the road without bumping into things.
The same goes for how they arrived at success.
They might think they can trace the essential steps that lead them down this path. But that type of digging is fraught with biases. Success can’t be cut down to formula because there are too many unknowns.
It’s often more about being the right person in the right place at the right time. Rarely is it some ‘silver bullet’ or ‘secret ingredient‘ of perfection action that propels people to success? We keep searching for explanations because we don’t like the idea that success is a matter of serendipity and out of our control.
Master of a task or job largely subconscious; trained instincts hone over years of practice become habits of behaviour and thought. Mastery is Unconscious competence; practice consciously to create good subconscious patterns.
It’s not easy to accept a worldview that expects even needs to explain everything through science, logic, or reason. Expert advice can seem empty because it’s either to simple or trite to seem enough, or too complex to understand. Our thinking minds grasp for answers in the belief they need them.
We like knowing things, to have answers. Yet expertise or skill at a craft is partly beyond our minds ability to grasp, (Buddhism calls this Other power or Tariki). That’s a good thing. It means we don’t have to think about it all the time. We can let our instinct and intuition take over, the Other power.
To be a master craftsman is to have practised diligently and trusted the process; the subconscious mind will do what it does best. As skills develop, expertise will arise not from book knowledge but direct experience.
To be a master is to progress from knowing how like a theory to ‘know-how’, practical knowledge. It’s not knowledge in the analytical sense, but it’s in our bones, blood, nerves and muscles, our viscera.