During his Q&A, Malcolm Gladwell noted that he has yet to find an excellent example of a social phenomenon that does not follow an inverted U shaped curve. This prompted me to ask what I thought to be the most obvious question. What about mastery? If it takes 10,000 hours to master something, is there some point past that where you’re getting a negative effect?
I had a callous on the ball of my foot that I had been building for months, and I loved it. It protected me, and with it I felt I could play on and conquer any surface. Recently a blister formed underneath that callous. The callous was still there, tough and strong, but it was now on a shaky foundation. I remained grateful for the callous, it continued to shield me from the external pain of a rough surface, but it could not protect me from the pain that developed underneath it. All the while I began to wonder if I might be better off removing the callous and rebuilding.
That callous is now gone, ripped off after playing on its unstable foundation. The skin underneath is still raw and sensitive to touch, but that’s okay. Now I have an opportunity to build a new foundation.
Sometimes it’s important in capoeira to remember that you need to go back to the basics. What you’ve got might be serving you well in the moment, and you may even see visible progress in the roda if you pile on training in new techniques, but it’s not sustainable. It’s always important to reinvest in your foundation, even if it means taking a few steps back to pave the way forward.
“The person who can vacuum an entire house without once losing his or her composure, staying balanced, centered and focused on the process rather than pressing impatiently for completion, is a person who knows something about mastery.” -George Leonard
Mastering the Commonplace, chapter 13 of Leonard’s ‘Mastery’, finally sunk in today. When he wrote about taking the time to be balanced and centered for each movement of washing the dishes, drying them, and putting them away, I scoffed: I am a busy man. The last thing I want to do is spend more time doing the dishes. I understand and completely agree with his position that we are a goal oriented society; in an attempt to see quick results, people often rush through tasks, and it costs them more time, energy, and money than doing it right in the first place. This is easily exemplified by my computer programming, where taking the time to code correctly in the first place saves time in the long run even if it postpones the initial results.