A martial arts student went to his teacher and said earnestly,

“I am devoted to studying your martial system. How long will it take me to master it.”

The teacher’s reply was casual, “Ten years.”

Impatiently, the student answered, “But I want to master it faster than that. I will work very hard. I will practice everyday, ten or more hours a day if I have to. How long will it take then?”

The teacher thought for a moment, “20 years.”

-Zen story

I found that in my own practice of martial arts, I experienced many moments when I wished I could learn new moves automatically. I would have an issue of being impatient with myself…wanting to be able to perform perfectly without practice. This is not realistic nor is it the process of true learning. We often neglect to give ourselves time to learn or progress naturally. When we try to rush things, we become rigid and set ourselves back instead of allowing things to move forward naturally. In effect, we double the necessary time to reach mastery.

I am also reminded of Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Outliersin which he makes a study of a number of successful people. What Gladwell finds is that the success these individuals found (from Steve Jobs to the Beatles) was a combination of timing and practice. More specifically, these successful people obtained 10,000 hours of practice in their chosen area before achieving mastery. What transpired after that time was a result in having the right opportunity present itself (as the saying goes, luck is when preparation meets opportunity!).

Therefore, be patient with yourself and understand that mastery takes time, discipline, and practice. If you are willing to remain diligent and patient, the universe will afford you with the right opportunity to match your level of preparation!

Photo source: Kung Fu (China)