"The free play of art is the result of mastery. " --Ernst Fischer, The Necessity of Art

"Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." --Ladybird Johnson

"...a well-trained ear, a well-trained intelligence, a well-trained heart, and a well-trained hand...." --Zoltan Kodaly


Thinking about mastery

I recently finished reading Daniel Pink's newest book, "Drive", about what motivates us.

(He also has a great TED talk on this subject: http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_pink_on_motivation.html

His insights into extrinsic vs. intrinsic motivation, and his extended discussion about our inborn need for 'autonomy, mastery and purpose' in our work (and our daily lives) are rich food for thought.

One of the fascinating things for me, about Pink's findings, was the entire section on mindsets for learning, in the section about laws for mastery. The idea that our own deep convictions about ourselves and our inherent abilities shapes how we interpret experiences, and how we go about accomplishing things--that's obvious to anyone who's worked with children.

It's harder to spot in ourselves.

If there's a strong inner focus on mastery, sometimes it's hard to sustain open-minded learning and the willingness to fail along the way, or to struggle along the way after a certain point.

I loved Pink's whole idea about how we respond to difficulty--the "helplessness" vs "mastery" view. Seeing our abilities as being full of endless possibility to hone towards mastery, rather than a finite set of skills or of skill potential.

Pink says, in reference to an educational study about types of learners: "setbacks (are) inevitable on the road to mastery"; that, in fact, setbacks could even be "guideposts for the journey".....'begin with one mindset, and mastery is impossible. Begin with the other, and it can be inevitable." (Pink, "Drive", p . 123)

The quote from Robert Reich, about knowing that we'll never really satisfy ourselves that we'll be a 'master'--and that that's OK--was something to think about, as well. (p.121)

I think it's vital to remind ourselves that mastery matters, that it takes steady applied determination and actual work, and that we can do it. And that the journey is what it's all about.

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