EPISODE #150 : ON MASTERY

I got inspired to write this by arriving at the milestone episode #150 of my podcast “Personal Development Mastery”. 

Interestingly enough, just a few days before the episode launch I was still unsure of what topic to discuss, unsure what could bear the “gravity” that episode #150 deserved. It took some female inspiration, expressed through my life partner Thoko, that gave me the answer!

As a result, here I’ll share with you some of my thoughts on mastery, one the podcast title’s words. I will explore my sense of mastery in personal development, and in particular how it expresses itself through the podcast.

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MASTERY OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT


 

Mastery, as a definition, means a comprehensive knowledge or skill in something particular – and it is also the action of mastering that subject or skill. That’s according to the dictionary.

My observation here (and the obvious difference that comes to mind), is that it’s one thing to master a skill or subject, like playing the guitar or a foreign language, and it’s another thing to focus on the mastery of your personal development.

Because with a skill or the subject, like the guitar or the language, when you get really good, when you keep on the cycle of learning-practicing-failing-more learning enough times… then there comes a point when you become unconsciously competent, when performing the skill becomes an automatic habit, and it appears to be effortless.

And that is the condition in which we say that someone has achieved mastery or is a master of the subject or topic. But with personal development mastery, it’s not as simple; somehow I can’t comprehend how becoming unconsciously competent in personal development would be possible. I think there is so much more than that.

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WITHOUT KNOWING, I HAD RAISED THE BAR FOR MYSELF 


Here’s a little story about why I chose the title “Personal Development Mastery” in the first place. Obviously for me using the words “personal development” was a clear choice, because it was my topic and my passion the previous five years of my life. And besides that, my first podcast was called “Personal Development Essentials.” So it made sense to stick with the term personal development.

But mastery? In the beginning, when I was contemplating the name of the podcast, “mastery” sounded like a cool thing, a great name. Only after I had started, I realised something very important: that without even knowing, by naming the podcast Personal Development Mastery, I had raised the bar for myself.

Mastery implies being comprehensive, being proficient, and showing expertise. And I remember some of the conversations I had with my early podcast guests: We were discussing how this is a podcast on mastery of personal development, and I used to wonder whether by choosing this title I had set myself up for disappointment. The reason was that in my mind, at that time, “achieving personal development mastery” seemed so daunting.

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A MINDSET SHIFT


And this is actually a point of view that I have completely changed my mind about, during these 150 episodes. In the beginning, I believed that mastery is something to be achieved. I realise now that it’s not; rather, it is a journey.

Like our life is a journey, mastery itself is a journey. Mastery is not about perfection, it’s not about reaching a specific point in terms of our abilities or knowledge. Mastery is, for me, the art of perfecting towards the vision we set. Mastery is not an end result, it’s not a destination.

It’s always important having clarity on the vision – in this case, the vision about mastery. And also in the understanding that not many people seek out to do something so demanding. It is a road that the majority of people prefer to avoid; after all, it is difficult.

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SELF ACCOUNTABILITY AND DISCIPLINE


One of the most important elements of mastery is having self accountability and discipline. Self mastery requires some degree of being able to overcome your unconscious habits, maybe some of your unconscious biases, or some of your impulses that are more based on instant gratification, rather than who you are aspiring to become. 

It is one of the core questions to ask: Can I do the difficult thing, the right thing, even though it’s uncomfortable in the moment?

Related to this is emotional mastery. And for me, emotional mastery is being able to sit with your emotions, and being able to take action in spite of your emotions.

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HIERARCHY OF NEEDS


I feel it’s relevant here to make a quick mention of Maslow’s classic hierarchy of needs. In the hierarchy there are the basic needs at the bottom, like food and safety, and then the psychological needs, and then the top of the pyramid. The top psychological needs are, broadly speaking, feeling good about oneself and feeling valued by others; what he calls esteem.

The next level of the pyramid is self-actualisation. This refers to feeling fulfilled, or feeling that we are living up to our potential. It is unique, and it looks different for everyone. Essentially, it is that feeling that we are doing what we believe we are meant to do. Another way to describe self-actualisation is to become everything that one is capable of becoming.

In my opinion, personal development mastery encopassess both esteem and self-actualisation, and I would dare to say it goes even further to self-transcendence, if one chooses to continue the journey of mastery and is blessed to experience this.

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MY MORAL OBLIGATION


 

There’s another thing that comes to mind when I think about mastering personal development – and because of my Greek origin, I think of the ancient philosophers who spoke about self mastery.

Plato said “the first and best victory is to conquer self”, Aristotle said “the hardest victory is over self”, and Socrates observed that “the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his/her own self-mastery.” And if you think about it, this is the limit of our freedom; what our self will allow us to do.

I chose “Personal Development Mastery” not only as my podcast title, but as a path to walk on. And if you’re wondering why, in a way… I feel it is my duty. My duty as a human being and as a divine being. 

And this podcast in a way, documents the journey – in a way, it even is the journey.

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CONCLUSIONS


I will conclude with something I read recently in Mark Gober’s outstanding book “An end to upside down living”. I had the pleasure and privilege to speak with Mark on my podcast (episodes #132-133). In the book, he talks about lines of development, and the 3 primary ways in which we develop: 1. Waking up 2. Cleaning up 3. Growing up.

I am going to make an assumption here, if you’ve read so far, that you’ve already gone past the first stage of waking up; you are awake. And I believe that personal development mastery is the ongoing process of the other two lines: cleaning up and growing up.

So keep up working on yourself – for the sake of all of us! People like you, people growing up and cleaning up, people interested in self mastery, people living authentically, create ripple effects of magnified impact!


Photo by Motoki Tonn on Unsplash

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