Mastery and Diligent Practice

Mastery and Diligent Practice

Mastery and Diligent Practice

From Trung Phan’s excellent blog post on mastery, “There’s a paradox here: One who renounces immediate goals for the sake of diligent practice generally ends up reaching higher goals than the one who shoots for quick results. One who takes the path of mastery is likely to end up a winner more often than one who thinks about nothing but scoring points. But winning for a true master isn’t something to use as fuel for a depleted ego or to gloat about with cries of ‘number one.’ It’s simply part of a process that began long ago and will continue as long as life goes on.”

When we homeschooled our kids, we “taught to mastery.” This means we didn’t move on to multiplication until addition and subtraction were mastered. So much of what I see and hear about in schools these days is the reaching for quick results, merely checking boxes, or as the quote says, “scoring points.”

We never tested let alone taught to the test. We simply worked on coming to complete understanding before moving on.

I just want to say that I see now how well this approach has served our kids as adults, and that I yearn for this next generation to have this blessing, instead of being jockeyed around with shortcuts, too much screen time, and meaningless busywork to analyze them for what they know when they should be actually gaining skills.

In order to have the kids care and be engaged, they need to get wholeheartedly involved, with their interest piqued, in a way that they can experience their understanding growing. This is essential to a sense of integrity, ownership, and eventually expertise.

Also, think about seeking mastery in your art, your spirituality, or whatever interests you. This should be ongoing and never stop. And it is never too late to start. Go deep. Keep learning. Put what you are learning into practice over and over again until it is completely understood. Then go deeper, reach further, then making that part of you as well.

To me, this process is one hallmark of a life well lived. What you have mastered will remain with you as a foundation for building in the future. You get ahead by consistently taking it slow and steady.

Please do this for yourself, but also model it for others. Take the time to be thorough, conscientious, and devoted to what you are practicing. Your progress will be your joy.

I work to amplify good wherever I find it. I love color, texture, beauty, great ideas, nature, metaphor, deliciousness, genuine spirituality, and exploring new territory. I encourage authenticity, nurture creativity, champion sustainability, promote peace, and hope to foster a new renaissance where we all are free to be our most fulfilled, multifaceted, and terrific selves. Read more here.


  1. Elizabeth Underhill 4 weeks ago

    Good idea here. One typo: next to last paragraph. Take it slow, not show. Thanks for this advice.

    • Author
      Polly Castor 4 weeks ago

      Thanks. Fixed it.

  2. Brian G 4 weeks ago

    Beautiful. It is as if the first abstraction was painted on a pane of glass indoors, and through some unpainted openings I see the tree foliage of the backyard in the distance, becoming part of the painting itself.

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