Have you ever wondered why some people will put loads of effort into something but still not get any better?
Why is it that true experts in anything seem to be able to do what they do… with almost no effort?
Kaizen is a Japanese word that means ‘Continuous Improvement’. I think of it as the “self-actualisation”1 drive we all have – when we’re getting enough healthy food, sleep, recognition, friendships, etc. we experience an ‘emergent property’ of wanting to learn or do something just for the sheer joy of doing it!
We feel this naturally in our hobbies; wanting to improve our skills, get faster, more efficient, and cleverer. We feel those moments of ‘flow’ (effortlessness and joy) …and then want more! We might see a beautiful painting and want to see more or learn about it or the artist; hear a great tune and learn more about the band/singer; see someone do something awesome and want to do it ourselves. And it usually comes from a sense of adventure, curiosity and fun that we get from challenging ourselves, of actually wanting to learn more.
Here’s the thing; mastering something doesn’t come from doing extra stuff, it comes from doing less and doing it really well
Mastery comes from continuously improving ourselves. Mastery happens when we engage deeply and intensely in something over a long period of time. It’s not about knowing lots; it’s about knowing something (and especially the basics) really well.
- A master martial artist may practice a single punch over and over; in slow motion, at speed; feeling the best footwork for the punch; studying the angles in his/her arms, legs, torso; the best breathing; etc. until he/she knows intimately every tiny aspect of their entire body during the punch.
- A master chess player may study one opening move and how it can lead to thousands of combinations of further moves, how to counter, how to set traps from that move. And when she/he knows that, move onto the next opening move.
And don’t think for a minute that it doesn’t mean variety. Heaps of things can give us that sense of continuously improving.
- The martial artist may learn about anatomy as it relates to that perfect punch; or yoga to improve balance and reach of that punch.
- The chess master may study psychology to help predict an opponent’s move; or memory techniques or ‘brain gym’ to improve retention.
The secret is to refine what you do. To perfect what you do. The old saying “practice makes perfect” is a bit general and can lead to failure. It’s better said as “perfect practice makes perfect performance”. The secret is to engage in what’s called ‘deliberate practice’; to practice a skill (either physical or mental) in such a way as you really get involved and mindful of what you are doing… to analyse, be curious and totally engaged. This means being in the state of ‘Flow’ – which is the sole outcome of the ‘Yo, Get the Flow’ training (the Neuro-semantic Accessing Personal Genius course)
So here’s the trick, when you want to truly master something – anything – start with the big skill and nail that (basically just learn it in the normal way). And then start refining. Pick one little aspect of the skill and really perfect it before you move on to the next. But look out for boredom; it’s the biggest killer of mastery and expertise! The bigger the passion, engagement and curiosity, the more intense is the joy of achievement. The bigger the challenge, the better the reward!
So where do you experience Kaizen, where do you want Mastery? Is it through reading about something you love, stretching yourself in sports or other competitions, doing puzzles and solving problems, marketing, self improvement?
What area of life really ignites your passions? Leave a comment below and share what expertise you have or how you master something.
To find out more about coaching and training for continuous improvement towards mastery, contact me firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Abraham Maslow