Path to Mastery

My son opens the new box of Legos. He is excited and can’t wait to complete finished product as shown on the box. Multiple bags of bricks come out of the box and then the instructions. The instructions. A book that can shoot upwards of a hundred pages depending on the difficulty of the project.

Maybe someday Alec will become a “master builder,” but right now he is still learning. When he was four, he put a few together but mostly watched us put it together for him. At five, a little better. Now at six, his build quality has improved and the instructions are not as overwhelming as before.

In those early days of building, the instructions were daunting. He knew he was supposed to follow them, but that was much easier said than done. The concept was there, but he lacked the execution.

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. –Benjamin Franklin

The techniques I use for training associates in manufacturing were the same techniques I used in the Army and in retail. As a trainee, here is what you can expect:

  • You can read the instructions. In almost every organization, there is a manual. It will give you the basics (tools, conditions, etc.) of the procedure you wish to perform. It may not make sense, but at least it is something.
  • You can watch someone and try to emulate them. Watching an expert perform a task brings the instruction manual to life. You can get a sense of the rhythm, witness the skill, and pick up on any tips that the manual doesn’t cover.
  • You can read the instructions, watch a trainer, and then perform the procedure yourself under the trainer’s watchful eye. The trainers can guide and correct you. They can show you how to minimize wasteful movements and boost your productivity. Under their tutelage, you can in time become an expert yourself.

This method for training goes beyond the workplace. Imagine using these concepts in grooming our children for adulthood.

  • You can tell a child what to do and hope they get it. This is like giving them the instruction manual. If your child can listen well, there might be a chance.
  • The child can watch you. In fact, whether you know it or not, the child is already watching you. You are the example. They will follow your example. If you sit around and complain all the time, guess what your children will do? The same thing. For good or for bad, you are the one they will emulate.
  • The best parenting advice I know: You tell them, you show them, and then you let them go through the experience while you watch them. It is active parenting. Your words match your actions. Their actions in turn are molded by their leader.

You can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips. –Oliver Goldsmith

The next time you open up a self-development book, keep this training method in mind. It is good that you are reading it, but there is only so much you can get out of it. Depending on your retention level, the words will only take you so far. It would be better is to find someone, an expert, to emulate. Even better, find someone who can guide you as you go through the process yourself.

As you develop, remember it is through action that improvement is possible. In time, you are going to want to share that knowledge with others. Telling someone what you know will only be so effective. Living what you know and then guiding others in that knowledge is where the real mastery is achieved.

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