Habit is the underlying foundation of mastery. Everyone who has ever mastered a technique or skill has also mastered the art of creating and maintaining positive habits. We live in a world that craves quick results, and operates under the illusion that things worth having, or worth developing, are possible in a short time. Everything that advances our world, and creates the ability for us to experience good things quickly, also creates an unfair illusion – that good things can come quickly. In some cases this is true. We see fly by night artists becoming famous. We see the reality of businesses growing and ideas spreading exponentially, like viruses, through the Internet. However, in many cases good things can’t come quickly. Many good things can only come slowly. This cannot be altered.
This idea, that some good things can only come slowly, goes against everything that technology has done for us, and it is why I believe many people today aren’t as resilient as those generations ago, and get discouraged quickly, and often have a difficult time finding their “path” in life. I can openly admit that I once got caught by this thinking.
It is because we think that life operates like our technology, so we get discouraged when we find out that this isn’t always the case. On the Internet we can instantly find the information we need through simple searches. We can buy, or learn, just about anything very quickly. We can watch exactly what we want on TV, and even skip the commercials. We can go to a grocery store and buy everything completely prepared, negating the necessity of effort. We can bank without having to go to the bank, or talk to anyone. Everything that we do is easier than it was to do 100 years ago because of technology.
However, because of technology many of us get unrealistic in our expectations of how long it takes for things to happen. That business we hope to have – if it isn’t up and running, and profitable, very quickly, then we think that we are failures, or the product is no good, or we aren’t meant to be entrepreneurs. No, maybe the reality is that the business doesn’t operate like the Internet. Maybe time is the crucial factor that we are underestimating. That skill we want to learn, maybe it isn’t coming quickly. What does that mean? That we aren’t good at it, and should quit? No maybe it just means that the skill takes time, and it doesn’t operate like the Internet.
Mastery cannot come quickly. It has to be refined over a long period of time. Technology in many ways is an obstacle to mastery, in a sense that it can distort our expectations of what is needed to become a master.
Routines and habits, sustained over time, give rise to mastery. One of today’s best Jiu-Jitsu teachers is John Danaher. He teaches out of the renowned Renzo Gracie school in Manhattan. He has trained mixed martial arts champions like Georges St. Pierre and Chris Weidman. He once shared his philosophy, which I believe, is the essence of mastery, and perfectly illustrates this principle: that some good things can’t come quickly, they require time.
I have a belief that all human greatness is founded upon routine, that truly great human behavior is impossible without this central part of your life being set up and governed by routine. All greatness comes out of an investment in time and the perfection of skills that render you great. And so, show me almost any truly great person in the world who exhibits some kind of extraordinary skills, and I’ll show you a person whose life is governed largely by routine.
So it is ok if things take a while. It is ok if progress isn’t fast. Some things cannot work like the Internet, and that’s ok.