The Master Beginner

There’s the beginning master and then there’s the master beginner. It’s very easy to confuse the two, especially for the inexperienced.

Learning a skill to proficiency can sometimes be a really rapid activity. Josh Kaufman even argues that a skill can be acquired in as little as 20 hours and not 10,000 hours as popular science would have you believe.

While it’s true that you can acquire a skill to proficiency using deliberate practice and focused training, this is just the start of the journey to mastery.

It’s like climbing a hill; you think that the peak you’re aiming to reach is the end of the climb whereas it actually only provides you with a better vantage point to see the rest of the mountain range.

The danger with being a master beginner is that one becomes a “skill collector”: the jack of all trades (and master of none) we’ve heard as a figure of speech. The Dunning-Kruger effect often plays a hand here; master beginners would think they have learned everything there is to learn, and so they’d go and drop what they’re doing to begin something else.

The master beginner climbs the hill and says “I’m just a few more meters to the top” and proclaims they have reached the peak.

The beginning master has climbed hills before, and knows there’s another peak hiding behind this one.

It takes true mastery to realize that there really is still a long way to go before reaching the end.