I wonder how many of you have had this experience, whatever your vocation might be. When you were younger that you are now (it doesn’t matter how old you are) you thought that you pretty much had locked down the knowledge necessary for your calling. Then every few years after that you would look back and realize how little you knew. In some people, this causes horrible feelings of shame, but it really shouldn’t because this process is completely normal. It’s been said that mastery occurs somewhere around ten thousand hours of practice of anything. If we stop to consider that our vocations are composed of multiple skills, and that ten thousand hours is equal to five years of doing one skill full time, it’s no wonder that progress takes time!
Consider meditation. If you sit twenty minutes a day, mastery may occur after thirty thousand sessions. That’s eighty-two years. Sitting twice a day can reduce the time to forty-one years, but if you increase your sitting with the goal of doing anything it is likely to become ineffective. If that won’t drive you over the edge, you are a much better person than I am! However, if we consider more general categories the truth is that mastery is possible – but not overnight. Those who are motivated to get better at whatever their vocation is frequently search for more information, improved techniques, and new perspectives. What happens when you struggle to find that new information? It can be extremely frustrating. What does it mean?
What it could mean is that you are approaching mastery. That’s not to say that you don’t have anything left to learn. We all learn as long as we are drawing breath. It does mean that a good number of the latest books in your field are going to contain a lot of things you already know. This can be very frustrating. At first you may ask yourself why these authors don’t go deeper. Then it will occur to you that perhaps they can’t go deeper, or if they can they don’t because the books would then be so specialized that although they would appeal to you they wouldn’t have the broad appeal necessary to sell a lot of books. At this point you will likely be better served looking in journals for more insight into your area of expertise. You might start reading fiction, or looking into another area that interests you when looking for a book to read. What have you always wanted to learn about? Now is your opportunity! You should still check in on your field from time you time, but you have spent a lot of time going deep. Now go wide!