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The Art of Mastery – have we lost it?

In our fast-paced world with our crazy schedules, information overload, and rapid-pace advancements are we spending enough time mastering the skills that will take us into the future?

Recently on a trip to London I had the opportunity to visit the Leonardo da Vinci: a life in drawing exhibition at the Queens gallery. This exhibition was held to mark the 500th anniversary since his death and brought together more than 200 of this quintessential renaissance man’s greatest drawings. Truly a genius mind, not limited to a single field of study but rather spanning many disciplines including engineering, science, architecture and of course the arts. His genius lay not only in his ability to master so many disciplines, each in their own right, but rather in his ability to master their interconnectedness, using each one to inform or extend the other. It was by means of this interconnected lens that he viewed the world and through which he chose to depict it in his masterpieces and even in this collection of his drawings.

This is what made him a Master, his ability to look at the objective world with curiosity always asking why things were as they appeared and what universal laws were at play in the phenomena that he saw. It was his unquenchable thirst for knowledge that drove his mastery, a willingness to look beyond, a refusal to just accept. His quest for deep knowing is embodied in the drawing below, depicting his study of how rays of light from a single point would fall upon this side profile of a mans face.

Walking through this exhibition, essentially his private collection of practice notes, the extent of his effort to attain mastery became clear. It was never just a single attempt at perfection instead it was a continuous process of refinement. No single attempt was cast aside as a failure instead it seemed as though each prior attempt formed the basis for the development and refinement of the next…and this got me thinking, if the 4th Industrial revolution is to us what the renaissance was, essentially a rebirth or the next evolution of mankind, can we honestly say that we are meeting it head on with the passion and dedication needed to master this change?

Core to us being able to embrace the future is our ability to increase our cognitive and emotive skills, so let me ask, how much time have you dedicated to this in the past week, month or even the past year?

Looking at the results from the Bersin study wherein it is shown that the average employee is only able to spend 1% of their work week on learning, how will we keep pace with technology? How will we be able to reskill ourselves in order to master our futures?

With the rapid pace of development and the move from the age of industry to age of intellect we need to start taking our time for mastery, our time for learning and development more seriously. We need to start practicing the art of mastery once more.

In my view this means a shift away from micro-learning and just in time training, to deep learning aimed at increasing our proficiency and stretching us beyond our comfort zone. However, this deep learning needs to be delivered in such a way that it allows the learner the freedom to self- direct. Self-directed learning is effective because it gives learners control over what they learn, how they learn, when and where they learn. It encourages autonomy, and curiosity, the cornerstones of mastery.

(It was a fascinating exhibition and an exceptional experience to walk through this treasure trove of his work. I have included a link below please take this opportunity to glimpse into the mind of pure genius:

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