|Cutting Edge Ideas from 2500 Years Ago|
You'll Never Get to Heaven
Most of us in business are striving for our "Rocky moment". Once in awhile, we actually get to experience one in all its glory. The trouble is, it comes and goes faster than you can say "So how's July looking?" In real life, those big moments arrive, we briefly enjoy them, and then the moment passes: in an instant, a day, a week. Maybe you might stretch little bits of it out for a year.
Even Rocky had to come off of those steps and deal with his relationship, his aches and pains, his bills, and you can bet his trainer was on the phone with him early the next morning exhorting him to get his butt back to the gym to hit the bag for the next one.
We know this, intuitively, but Hollywood endings are so ingrained in our consciousness we keep looking for the moment when we will have "made it" forever, even though we know the very concept is a myth. Nothing — and we know in our heart of hearts that means NOTHING — is permanent. So how do we achieve success when, ten minutes later, we are asked to achieve more, and then MORE?
The answer is to get off the treadmill and onto the path of mastery. George Leonard, Aikido instructor and former Esquire writer, offers this definition of mastery in his wise book of the same name:
"the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice."
Leonard observed that in martial arts and sports, the people who desperately tried to reach the next level of excellence in a hurry more often than not injured themselves. The key to reaching the next level of mastery, he found, was to embrace the plateau. Show up daily and practice. Slowly and methodically work on your tasks and make sure each of the small pieces that make up the whole is learned. And not just learned, but explored, savored and enjoyed. One day, we find, after working on the plateau for an undetermined length of time, we rise inexplicably to the next level of accomplishment. Seemingly "just like that."
And then there's another plateau.
"If there is any sure route to success and fulfillment in life," says Leonard, " it is to be found in the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery. "
A career path follows the same laws of nature, only there is a built-in quandary that puts us at cross- purposes with our own efforts. Even if WE want to adopt a posture of mastery, our goals and objectives usually demand that we do more each month, or each quarter. How can we create a solid path of achievement, one that nourishes us and helps us grow, in the face of the "more" mentality of Corporate America?
The answer lies in walking that line between what is demanded of you and what you know in your heart is the deeper, more lasting approach to success. Here are some tips which can help you on your own path of mastery:
Rocky's peak moment of triumph was just that, a moment. Far more significant was his time on the path: showing up, practicing, training. For most of us, this will be true as well. We may experience a half-dozen or so "Rocky" moments in the course of a career, but most of our time will be spent on the plateau, coming to work on many days when nothing astounding happens, honing our craft, cranking it out.
In real life, true achievement and fulfillment rarely hit you smack in the face. Rather, they kind of sneak up on you, a notion beautifully phrased by those Boddhisatvas of Broadway, John Kander & Fred Ebb, in their song "A Quiet Thing:"
And I don't hear the band
The sounds I'm told such moments bring
Happiness comes in on tiptoe
Well, what do you know?
It's a quiet thing
A very, quiet thing."
See you on the path!