What is mastery? And why it matters in business

The mastery story for most of us sounds like this: “Be good. Get good grades. Get a good job. Work hard. Stick with it and you’ll be successful.” In the story, ‘successful‘ means you’ll have what you dream for and desire.

In business it looks like this:


We begin as learners and at some point we transition into practitioners of something (service, product or skill; I like to call it craft) and over time we become expert. This then leads to the higher qualification of master or mastery.

In this construction, we experience the pinnacle of success or achievement for ourselves as the product of time and attention to our craft – the thing we are practicing and have become expert at. This concept has been most recently popularized in the book Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell and the concept of 10,000 hours of practice leading to mastery and being the top of your field.

This is our aspiration in business and life. “Let’s get better and better at something because that’s the path to success/happiness/fulfillment.”

This is also our cultural story in the U.S. Most of us want our children to have expanded opportunities, more money and, as a result, a better, happier life. And the way we believe it will happen is through the learner-practitioner-expert-master path, where the master ‘has it all.’

But this model is flawed. There are plenty of experts who do not lead happier, more fulfilled lives. Getting really good at something and investing years of ourselves to it do not necessarily lead to mastery.

So then what is mastery?

Mastery is connection and a journey.

It looks like this:

what is mastery 2

Here we are walking a path as learner, practitioner and expert. On this path we are walking it as a dual being composed of our big Self, our Soul, and the little self, our ego. The journey is the path we take (or the life we live) as we learn – as student and teacher – to juggle the little self and big Self.

The little self is us in our individuality. The logical, rational, reasoning and often fearful self.

The big Self is our Soul Self. Divinity, unity, creation, emotion-feeling-intuition and expansion.

The more we are able to consciously stay connected to our Soul’s role on this journey, the greater our mastery.

This is the story we are here to live. We are learners, practitioners and experts on a journey of mastery.

The journey of mastery is the story that our businesses must learn to integrate and support.

Because as long as we continue to believe that successful business is about the ‘doing’ of our craft to the point of excellence and only that, then we are leaving our entire humanity and divinity out of the story. To do so is to live into only a fraction of our potential as human beings and business beings.

What does living or working in mastery look like?

You live in mastery when you listen for ‘the still quiet voice’ inside of you. And act on it.

You live in mastery when you recognize and acknowledge the little self lives life through fear. And you step through it.

You run your business in mastery when you create through, and with, your big Self. Regardless of the fear.

You run your business in mastery when the heart (emotions-feelings-intuition) holds equal, if not higher, importance to logic. You learn to trust in something greater than your “self” – you trust your Self.

It has been enough for us to build our lives based on a model where mastery is a function of expertise. And it has been enough for businesses to live into their incomplete model of mastery, but no longer.

So much of our life is about what we contribute into the world ‘through’ our work. It’s important now for entrepreneurs to integrate this newer view of mastery into the fabric of what makes business successful.

It is time for business to be an active co-creator on every Self’s journey of mastery. When we begin, we really will have the capacity to change the world for the better.

How will you join in living your journey of mastery?

Originally published:  2014-02-05 22:33:14

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