The Pursuit of Mastery

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journeyThe pursuit of mastery bears gifts.
– Gary Keller, The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results

I love this quote. Of course, a person with the website “Harp Mastery” would naturally be drawn to it. The genius in this statement is the phrase “pursuit of mastery.” We often assume that achieving mastery brings rewards, but I find Keller’s assertion about the pursuit of mastery more interesting.

In writing about “The ONE Thing,” Keller’s co-author Jay Papasan writes,”When we practice mastery, we become experts at what we know and apprentices at what lies ahead. Mastery is a continuous journey and education that allows us to acquire the knowledge and skills we need and remain on the lookout for the next thing to learn.”

Mastery is a journey, not a destination. There is clear evidence for this in the elder statesmen (and women) of music who continue to practice in their eighties and nineties, when they could well be assumed to already be “masters.”

When I was a young harp student, I used to listen to my teacher play, and hope that one day I would be good. I think I had the idea that if I worked hard enough, one day it would all be easy. I had no idea that performing at a high level wasn’t the end of music study, but that music study (and this applies to pursuit of excellence in any field) is a lifelong challenge. Each day you work to be better than the day before.

Lately, I have identified three components of my own personal mastery journey. Each one requires effort and discipline, but I find great personal rewards in each.

1. Playing. This area requires the hardest work. Looking to continually improve every aspect of your music making means a lot of concentrated practice.

2. Teaching. This is not only teaching my own students, but teaching through the blog, through workshops and courses, teaching as I present music to audiences. For me teaching is a great pleasure and a special privilege.

3. Learning. I find the more I play and teach, the more I learn. Of course, I love researching and analyzing as well, learning more about music and musicians, about how we do what we do and our role in the universe. (That last one will probably continue to be a puzzle.)

And I try to carry these through into the Harp Mastery blog and website. This space is a combination library and attic. Like a library, it is a place where harpists and all musicians can find information and ideas that will help move them forward on their own journeys. Like an attic, it is full of potential, and I hope you will find some treasures along with all the dust.

As for the gifts that the pursuit of mastery bears, you have probably discovered those on your own journey already. I know I find them. Every day.

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