I like stuff made out of wood or leather. Why? Both wood and leather show wear and age. If they are made from good material they become richer with more character as they are handled and used. And that makes them unique. I suppose some of this goes back to the cowboy days of my youth. My saddle wasn’t fancy but it was worn and shaped to my bottom. There are stories to each of the scratches and marks in the leather. What might have diminished its value for a potential buyer increased it for me. It had character and it contained history and memories. It has been close to a half millennium since I last laid eyes on it but I can still see and smell it when I close my eyes.
I had a walking stick that was invested with memories of hikes in both Europe and around America. It was just beginning to get that “used” feel when someone stole it from me. I miss that walking stick. I bought another one that has potential but there aren’t as many memories soaked into the wood yet from my sweaty palm. I plan on getting it there, but it will take some time. That kind of wear and those kinds of memories can’t be rushed. In some ways they can’t be planned either. Planning will get one in the vicinity but serendipity creates the best memories.
Ask anyone in my family and they will tell you that sometimes my thinking is a bit odd. Our daughter is visiting from California and wanted to go to the Louisville Slugger Museum. So we took her earlier this week. As you leave the tour area they have bins full of the nubs they cut off the end of the bats after they finish working them. You are welcome to take a few if you like and I grabbed one just for a memento to remember the visit and the time with Barb and Susannah. My thought is to hold it, roll it around in my hands, and generally handle it until it develops character and holds some memories of the time along the way. I wonder how long it will take to get smooth and for the color to change from the oils in my skin. I expect it to take years. All the initial splinters are gone and I haven’t even had it a week yet. Pretty good don’t you think?
You’re probably wondering where I am going with this. Playing with my Louisville Slugger bat nub got me thinking about mastery. I watch so many programs, seminars and trainings come and go in my professional life. From my perspective we seldom stay with something long enough to get past the initial ideas or concepts to mine the treasure that can only come from time, use and getting through our sweaty palms and minds the character that comes from handling something over and over again. It is easier to “get” a concept than it is for the concept to “get” you. All too often we “get” the idea or thought being presented to us and because we “understand” the idea we think we have it. I “understand” how to play golf but I am no where near being able to play it with consistency and skill. Even if I have the ability, which is doubtful, I haven’t invested the time and focus to mastering the fundamentals that would allow for something approaching skill and consistency in the game.
Mastery can either be the foundation for innovation or for being stuck. Think of the technically great musician who just doesn’t “move” you with their performance. Then think of a musician like Ed Sheeran who has mastered his craft and uses his mastery to create incredible new sounds and musical concepts. This is why the professional process world talks about continuous improvement. The goal of mastery is freedom to innovate.
Mastery requires intentionality and focus over an extended period of time. I am choosing two or three areas of mastery focus for 2020, looking for innovation and creativity to be released and enjoyed. How about you?