Mastery and Commitment

Golf Ball Sitting on Edge of Hole

Last Sunday English golfer Justin Rose lifted the US Open golf trophy after an enthralling show of skill under pressure.

His story is worth spending a little time to get to know.

He came to prominence in 1998 when as an amateur, 18yr old he came 4th in the British Open. Because of this high finish he was able to turn professional the next day but struggled badly in his early career. He didn’t manage to qualify to play the final rounds in his first 21 consecutive events which resulted in him losing his right to play on the pro tour. He had to go back to the qualifying school to earn his first European Tour card (the key to playing professional golf). The following season he again failed to retain his card, and had to revisit the qualifying school to re-win the right to play the following season.

Rose’s story is not unusual in the sporting arena with many stories of ultimate triumph after early failure. The story translates to a business environment quite comfortably with the biographies of many successful entrepreneurs talking about the lessons they learnt from their early failures.

I love this quote from James Dyson

“Enjoy failure and learn from it. You can never learn from success.”

Of course learning from failure is painful but we go through it in everything we do: from our early days when learning to walk meant falling down time and again till we learned how to balance and in learning to talk and communicate we struggled through the days of being misunderstood.

It takes time to gain mastery in a particular area of skill. The writer Malcolm Gladwell has postulated that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master. At 8 hours per day, 5 days a week (without a holiday) it works out at 4.8 years. For the workaholics; 12 hours per day, 7 days per week (without a holiday) it works out at 2.3 years.

When you run a business it takes time to get going and get to the point when you have sustainability. Getting a business up and running is akin to achieving mastery. It takes time and commitment to practice. In business terms practice is about getting your proposition out into the market, pitching effectively, listening effectively to the feedback and modifying effectively to ensure that your products and services deliver what the market wants.

It is about getting mastery over the market in which you operate and that takes time. Whether it’s 2.3 years or 4.8 years depends on how much effort you put in, how quickly you learn, how many risks you are prepared to take to get the learning you need to become successful.

We love overnight success stories they fill us with the hope that we can do it as well but there is a reality out there in the real world. There is no such thing as an overnight success story; it’s just that we have only just heard about it, because it’s not interesting until it’s a success story we don’t hear about the time it took to get there.

It takes mastery of your chosen area, commitment to understand it and the ability to invest the time to get the reward of mastery. There are no short cuts.

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