Friday, August 26, 2011

The Price Paid for Mastery.

So all this talk about mastery didn’t necessarily start this year; I still remember stepping into Susan’s class sophomore year and her telling us that at least 10,000 hours are required to be a “master” at something. I did a bunch of different calculations just for mere curiosity (Intrinsic motivation at its best!). But, all this talk of “mastery” resurfaces in Pink’s book. He says “mastery” is a very tough thing to achieve with lots of hard work and dedication required for it to happen. What I want to do is to emphasize just how hard that road can sometimes be, with nothing else than examples from musicians (Oh yay! Otilio’s talking about guitars again). The first musician I wanted to mention was Tom Morello (a celebrated guitarist), who started practicing the guitar avidly when he was studying at Harvard. He practiced for 8 hours a day everyday (coincidentally, according to Susan’s 10,000 hour idea 8 hours a day means “mastery” in 3.5 years). Well Tom Morello graduated from Harvard with a bachelor in Political Science; however he soon became a male stripper shortly after moving to Los Angeles in order to support himself. Since then however he has done numerous thing including working with Rage Against the Machine, Audioslave, pursuing a solo career as the “Night watchman”, and his new band Street Sweeper Social Club (he was also included as a character in Guitar Hero 3).

The next person I’d like to mention worked with either Marilyn Manson or White Zombie, maybe even both (frankly I can’t remember). But I do remember the words he said, he spoke to Guitar World magazine about his experience as a struggling guitarist trying to “make it”. He spoke of his living conditions, he lived in a cramped small New York apartment filled with cock roaches and working dead end jobs on the side; he also said that anyone should expect to live like this for at least five years before the band they play in gets truly recognized. Anyways, the point is that “mastery” really is a tough thing to accomplish, and the road leading to it is definitely not something that should be taken lightly.


  1. This was a very entertaining read. I don't really know who those artist are but I do know that their struggle is almost universal in the music industry. However, do you think that they should be considered "masters" because they were once dirt poor and after much practice they are now recongnized and prosperous? Daniel Pink says that mastery can never truly be achieved so do you think artist of any kind should be talked about as "masters of their skill"?

  2. There's mastery, and then there's supporting yourself and just living while you pursue mastery.

    This brings you back to the intrinsic motivation part? You can achieve mastery over a lifetime too.

    My niece's husband was a lousy student in school. Basically he neglected his "education" so he could stay home and play the guitar all day. Now he is a darned good guitar player, but he works in construction to make a living (and plays in bands when he can). But he has achieved a kind of mastery, something that he is proud of (and should be).

    The point is...what are you trying to master, and how are you going to get there...

  3. Mastery is a very hard concept to understand and often times seems unattainable. You showed us examples of struggles acquired in attempt to achieve master. However, is it worth it to live dirt poor in attempt to master something you love. I think not, especially knowing that you will never really master it. Pursuing dreams is a risk; and often times, it may not pay off. I personally find it hard to risk a for sure thing for a maybe. Therefore, pursuing a dream (that is in my opinion abstract) is out of the question. The only dreams I have can be accomplished through education, which is attainable.