MASTERY Above all

Last night, for some reasons or other the word “Mastery” kept popping up in my mind. Was it the vibrations from the book Modeling on Jesus our Master of Fr. Luis Gonzalez which I keep on my bedside from which I read a couple of pages daily to let his thoughts seep in me or was it, the reminisences of the last article titled “The mystery of Mastery unveiled” I read from Geoorge Torok or was it,  from the older lessons learnt from the Kevin Cashman ‘s writing on “Mastery from the inside out.”

All told, this has become the subject of my blog today.Some of you may know the wonderful story which I have often use to illustrate how our mind and thoughtful purpose bring “mastery” to our action.Someone came near a stone quarry and found three craftsmen working with their chisels and hammer cutting the hard breaking basalt stones under the harsh and hot sun.The person asked the same questions to each hard working craftsman in turn.

What are you doing now and why?

In turn each one replied. The first one said: “Don’t you see what I am doing? With the chisel I am cutting the stone and chipping off the unwanted part”.

The second fellow replied: “In this hot sun, I am sweating, working hard to earn a living to raise my family thus providing for the needs of my children”.

The third guy replied: “I am carving in the stone with the greatest care to erect a Cathedral”.

According to you, which one of the three has a “Mastery” mind set?

Kevin Cashman attempts to answer the question:”What does mastery means to you?” In an under quoted article I would like to share with you  Kevin Cashman’s 7 pathways to Mastery which  applications have been most helpful to me

Mastery from the Inside Out


Our ideas about mastery tend to be externalized. Our educational heritage is focused on learning about things. We learn what to think, not how to think. We learn what to do, not how to be. We learn what to achieve, not how to achieve. We tend to fill the container of knowledge but rarely expand it.

In organizations, the external pattern continues. As leaders, we are recognized for our external mastery. Our success tends to be measured by the degree to which we have mastered our external environment. Revenue, profit, new product breakthroughs, cost savings, and market share are just some measures of our external competencies. Few question the value of achieving and measuring external results. That isn’t the issue. The core questions are: Where do the external results come from? Is focusing on external achievement the source of greater accomplishment? Could it be our single-minded focus on external results is missing the underlying dynamics supporting peak performance?

I’ve often met with a CEO, business owner, or corporate executive who has lost touch with the inner dynamics supporting his or her achievements.

Many leaders today are like naturally gifted “athletes” who have mastered their external performance capabilities, but the inner dynamics supporting their success and fulfillment are a mystery to them. What happens to natural athletes who become coaches? They usually have a very difficult time because they have not comprehended from the inside out how they became great. And so it’s difficult to mentor others to greatness.

When our lives are defined only in terms of the fruits of action, the circumstances of our lives define us. In this externally-driven state of identity, life is fragile, vulnerable, and at-risk. Our core identity and passionate purpose are overshadowed by the events of our lives. Success may even be present, but mastery has escaped us. Unintentionally we have chosen to “major” in the minor things in life.

Many of us are in a slumber. We go about our business and relationships much the same way day after day. Most of us rarely question where we are going and why. Unfortunately, it often takes a traumatic external event–a death, a termination, a divorce, a disease or a crisis–to bring us out of our slumber. But why wait to get shocked awake? Why not choose to wake up now?

Effective leadership begins with self-leadership, mastery of oneself.

Seven Pathways

Over the years we have identified seven pathways to awaken mastery from the inside out.

• Personal Mastery. If knowledge is power, then self-knowledge must be the source of real power. To do more, we first need to be more; to be more, we need to comprehend our being, our personhood. Understanding who we are and what we have to offer is the prerequisite for leveraging our capabilities. Sadly, many people are barreling down the freeway of life without comprehending the owner’s manual. Can we really achieve optimal performance if we’re not sure of our performance potential and performance limitations? Take time to study your owner’s manual: Where’s your horsepower? What areas need some fine-tuning? What areas need an overhaul? Solicit the input of others to more objectively evaluate yourself. It may not be easy at first, but beginning the process of reconciling and integrating your strengths, weaknesses and development needs is a great start toward personal mastery.

• Purpose Mastery. If we lack purpose, our immediate circumstances dominate our awareness and overshadow our reason for being. And, our life tends to lose connection to its true nature. As Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” Purpose is spirit seeking expression; it transforms everything it touches. It converts average organizations into exceptional ones; it transforms employees into co-partners; it creates leaders out of managers. Purpose is our inner home within where our spirit and principles reside. It’s always there waiting for us, but we are often too busy “living outside” to notice. To get in touch with purpose, identify the three most fulfilling experiences of your life. Then ask: What unique, meaningful contributions was I making during these experiences?

• Change Mastery. Our personal evolution can be directly measured by our ability to adapt and to change. As Lao Tzu wrote, “Whatever is flexible and flowing will tend to grow; whatever is rigid and blocked will wither and die.” While it’s not possible to master change, we can master ourselves through change. Since all significant change begins with self-change, we may need to shift some personal paradigms. Our focus may need to move to opportunity; our perspectives may need to shift to the longer term; our tendency to be absorbed in immediate circumstances may need to move to a more purpose-filled context; our need to be in control may need to become more flexible and adaptable; our doubt may need to be transformed to a more trusting, more open attitude.

Begin your mastery of change by thinking about the times when you faced major crises or challenges. What qualities arose during those times? What qualities would you like to develop during those times? What did you learn during these times? Change Mastery begins by embracing the purposeful learning in the creative flow of life.

• Career Mastery. As Studs Terkel put it, “Most of us have jobs too small for our spirits.” Are our current jobs big enough for our spirits? If they are, each task, responsibility, and challenge can be a new opportunity to engage our purpose. If not, we may be successfully earning a living but losing a life. Unfortunately many people sacrifice their career fulfillment on the altar of security and practicality. To get on the path to Career Mastery, explore the most enjoyable, fulfilling “peaks” in your career. What were you doing? What skills were you using? Who were you working with? Why were these experiences so fulfilling? How can you connect with these career experiences consistently? Career Mastery is not merely about achieving things, it is about how to be fulfilled in everything we do.

• Balance Mastery. Regardless of our external success, our life is precarious in the absence of balance. Without balance, every new opportunity or change could upset our gyroscope. When high-performance people are combined with high-performance organizations, the chance for imbalance is particularly great. Exceptional people want to achieve more; exceptional organizations have an insatiable desire to accomplish more. But what are the human limits to ensure consistent, long-term achievement? There’s no pre-set, mechanistic formula. It’s always an individual inside-out equation. Each of us must find our own way to the dynamic balance supporting enhanced effectiveness and fulfillment.

What are some ways to sort out our own unique balancing act? Ask yourself: Are your personal and professional lives congruent with your principles and values? There’s no greater imbalance than to be disconnected from what is really important to you. Be purposeful but be careful; purpose and passion are great balancers, but too much of them and you’ll fall off the high wire. Take a real vacation; go to a health spa or a retreat to recharge. Listen to the wisdom of the mind-body connection; your body will give you immediate feedback to “Do more of this” or “Do less of that.” Find physical activities you enjoy; if your current form of exercise requires discipline, you are probably mastering rigidity versus balance. Since all of nature achieves balance through cycles of rest and activity, consider adding more rest and reflection to your lifestyle.

• Interpersonal Mastery. Our relationships always begin with our self-relationship. It’s an inside-out process. We can only give what we have. If we have a lot, we can give a lot. Interpersonal Mastery begins by building our internal balance sheet. Once we have increased our inner value through self-mastery, we can further build our emotional equity with others by focusing on the needs of others, becoming more adept at questioning and listening to sort out people’s real needs and motivations. We can then ask: What can I draw from within myself to meet these needs? Help people to uncover purpose: Instead of giving people advice focused on your needs or opinions, assist people to discover what is meaningful and important to them. Instead of judging others, appreciate the unique differences in people. Could it be that your discomfort in accepting something unusual about someone is really an expression of your own lack of self-mastery? Solicit feedback from others. Understanding the gap between your intentions and the perceptions of others is at the core of Interpersonal Mastery. Other people may hold some keys to your self-knowledge. Build trust in relationships by genuinely revealing your hopes, dreams, fears and limitations — you may be surprised to discover how much Interpersonal Mastery is really about personal authenticity.

• Being Mastery. Descartes wrote, “I think, therefore, I am.” Being Mastery has a different view: I am, therefore, I think. To be more effective, to be more successful, to be more fulfilled, to be more alive, all require first a state of Being. Sadly,our fast-moving, never-catch-your-breath, externally-focused culture is “perfectly” designed to avoid the silence of Inner Being. The background and foreground “noise” of our lives is so dominant, we rarely get a chance to connect with the silence deep within us. We have become human doers who have lost connection to our heritage as human beings. Connection with Inner Being provides us with the inner restfulness and peace to more effectively live in the eye of the hurricane of life. As Blaise Pascal wrote, “All man’s miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone.” How well have you mastered the art of turning within to connect with the silence of Being? Culturing our ability to do so is the foundation for more effective performance and living. Consider learning how to meditate; connecting with the vastness of nature; relaxing to beautiful music–there are as many ways to reconnect with Being as there are human beings.

By beginning the masterful journey, we can advance from a single-dimensional focus on external achievement to the multi-dimensional effectiveness and fulfillment of Mastery from the Inside Out.

Kevin Cashman is president and CEO of Market Share Inc. and the Executive to Leader Institute, a leadership coaching consultancy based in Minneapolis, MN (612) 375-9277.

On the other hand, if you can afford the time I would encourage you to go to George Torok website to capture some of his insights on the subject.

An extract from one of his numerous articles:

What is mastery?

The first thing that comes to mind is technical skill in the job. And taking that skill to the next level where it becomes intuitive and natural as opposed to preconceived.
Jeff Mowatt, CSP

Mastery is reaching the top of one’s craft. Masters really know how to do what they are doing, having truly integrated all the components. Others look to the master for counsel, help or guidance.
Linda Tarrant, CSP, HoF

We get to a stage of mastery when all of the basics and most of the refinements are second nature, at the level of unconscious competence. Only the minute refinements require conscious effort.
Warren Evans, CSP, HoF

Mastery in life and business is reasonably simple to understand but difficult to apply. People resist following the simple principles of mastery because they look too simple.
Peter Legge, CSP, HoF, CPAE

How does one become a master?

No one becomes a master, although we might strive toward that. In a Zen way, we never arrive at the goal. The feeling that we have arrived leads to complacency. If we are consistently working toward the goals that line up with our values despite any frustrations, then we are definitely working toward mastery. But we don’t become masters. Rather, we are trying to improve in mastery, striving for the next level.
Jeff Mowatt

Build on your passion or strength; understand your own innate strengths. That is a good start. Study books or watch others in the field. Practise. Include good feedback loops in the forms of mentors, coaches, self-observation, audiences and/or customers.
Jim Clemmer

Be in the presence of masters. Watch others. Practise, practise, practise.
Linda Tarrant

You have to recognize what mastery is for you. Next, research those that you believe have reached mastery and then use them as your mentors. Have a real passion for continuous improvement. Attitude is the fuel and the motor. If there is light in your eyes and a bit of coal in the furnace, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.
Larry Pearson

Every time we speak, we need to believe, mentally and emotionally, that we will change the world with that speech. Maybe we won’t, but if we believe we can, imagine the energy we will bring to the platform.
Peter Legge

Work hard, take risks and be open to people. Masters want to learn more. The game is to really connect with people. Search your soul. Be congruent with what you were born to do. When your true purpose lines up with what you are doing, the universe will acknowledge that you are doing what you were destined for and reward you. However, I worry that some might think there is a formula. There are pieces, but you can’t scheme to do it. It has to be part of who you are.
Ian Percy

What was common among these masters?

They wanted their answers to benefit others. They were all committed to continuous self-improvement. They were working toward their next challenge to elevate their level of mastery. They fully understood the relationship between mastery of the craft and that of the business, although they approached that in different ways. Each conveyed the simple conviction that they are doing what they were meant to do.

Enjoy reading the blog and Have a nice weekend….

1 comment so far ↓

#1 joseph on 11.02.06 at 1:11 pm

Reading your latest writing on MASTERY reminded me of a teaching in 1992 from the Manager of Cable & Wireless in Rodrigues.

FREEDOM..He talked on the SEVEN freedom every human being must master.
SEVEN is a magic figure.
May this will trigger something in your mind and we will have the pleasure to read your reflections.


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