Mastery: You May Get Close, But You Will Never Touch It

Drive by Daniel H. Pink is a book about motivation. More importantly, it is a wake up call to a working world that is trying to find its footing after a few years of economic hell. It is also a great book for helping you to secure your footing as you work through a rapidly-evolving global economy.

Pink’s three core values of motivation—autonomy, mastery and purpose—are simple enough to remember, yet difficult to embrace without ripping apart your preconceived notions about why you do what you do and how you work to improve your skills over time.

Autonomy has to do with how you are allowed to do your job. Do you have to follow specific rules and regulations? Are you micro-managed to ensure that you do the job correctly? Perhaps you are free to work through your own processes to discover unique solutions? As managers, do you trust your employees to do their job or do you need to constantly remind them to do their job? As employees, do you breed trust by not taking advantage of autonomous situations?

Mastery has to do with how well you do your job and whether you are growing in your skills and abilities, or as Pink defines it: “the desire to get better and better at something that matters.”

There are three laws of Mastery according to Pink:

  1. Mastery is a mindset
  2. Mastery is a pain
  3. Mastery is an asymptote

Finally, purpose is all about why you do what you do. Going beyond just economic factors and diving into the realm of philanthropy and volunteerism, purpose is a defining characteristic in today’s working world. Pink describes the changing corporate tax structures in order to accommodate the organizations that are seeking to combine profits and purpose. Very intriguing indeed.

Of the three core values of motivation, the section on mastery spoke to me the most. First, that mastery is a mindset is crucial. If I believe that I can grow, change and learn new things, I then have to accept the responsibility to pursue mastery of a something that matters. The mind is powerful and scientists continue to unlock the mysteries of the brain every year. The more that is understood, the more that we learn that what we believe to be true has a powerful effect on the outcome of our lives.

Second, I just about laughed out loud when I read the section on mastery being a pain. Too often I hear that if I am doing what I love, I’ll never work a day in my life. Truth be told, mastering anything is hard work and is painful. It is hard work because in order to set myself apart from everyone else that is doing exactly what I do, I have to be constantly growing, learning, and at the same time, delivering work that is the best that I can do at that moment.

I need to be pushing through the amateur aesthetic, continuing to define and redefine a professional attitude for the work that I do. As technology advances the equipment and the mindset of the world, there seems to be a larger acceptance of amateur abilities and freebie mentalities. Could this be because the idea of pursuing mastery has lost favor in a world addicted to quick fixes and guaranteed outcomes? Is it risky to have an attitude of mastery?

Finally, that mastery is an asymptote simply means that you may get closer and closer to mastering something, but you’ll never fully master it. There will always be something new to learn, a new technique to master, and the fact that you will never fully master a subject takes us back to the first law that mastery is a mindset.

All of these thoughts, statements, and questions drives me to ask myself a very simple question: What do I need to be more motivated?