The last few days I have been spending some time playing a new game on my smartphone. The game is called Real Racing 3 and is a lot of fun, but this is not meant to be a game review, it is meant to help you become a better leader and person, to help you on the path to mastery.
I just started playing the game and quickly got better at driving my different cars through various races on well known tracks that the game enters you into. You could say my level of skill was steadily improving. The game has several assists turned on intially to help new drivers stay on track (so to speak), like break assist that helps with breking, stearing assist that helps with the steering etc.
However, after progressing through different series my improvement started to slow, and then came to pretty much a halt as I seemed to get stuck on some races where I was not able to place well enough to keep progressing. I struggled for some time, before resorting to a Google search.
There I found several articles from more experienced players who shared their advice on how to play the game and how to do it well. One common theme that several of them mentioned was to that the most important thing you could do was to turn down breaking assistant, either turn it down to low (from standard setting of high) or turn it off completely.
They said it would improve lap time immensly, because the game's built in break assist slows the car down way more than really needed to keep you safe. Somebody who recommended turning it off also said that it was tricky in beginning and that they had not quite mastered it fully yet, but that it was well worth the effort.
So I turned the break assist down to low. And guess what, I started crashing like crazy. And guess what, I started winning races like crazy, not at first but after some initial crashing I learned the new skill quickly and well enough to win some races I had previously struggled to even get on the podium in.
So enough, game talk, what does this have to do with anything and especially with leadership master or mastery of anything? Well, it did not realize it at first, but after a day or so I realized that my experience with the game reminded my of the choices we make when we reach a plateau and about the path of mastery.
To start with, when we try something new, a new skill, we usually improve very quickly. Like I did in the racing game.
Then comes a time when we hit a plateau. We stop improving and it is easy to get frustrated. Like I did in the racing game.
Here we have three choices, maybe more but I am going to pick three right here. The first one is a common one and that is to simply say, "bummer, this not fun anymore, I will find another game to play". One of my teachers, Tony Robbins, calls this the path of the dabbler.
The dabble tries something in life, but when he or she hits that plateau she swithces to something else.
Then we have the second choice that Tony labels the stresser. The stresser when hitting the plateau starts trying really, really hard. Pushing and sweating, working extemely hard to try to move the level of skill further upwards by applying more energy and effort.
This can sometimes work, but more often it leads to tension, long hours and a possible burn out. Like I was feeling after getting my hands sweaty with my car game and getting nowhere, which totally included loosing the joy in playing which was ever present in the beginning.
The third and final option that we shall at here is the path of mastery. When a master reaches a plateau he or she soon realizes, "oh, a plateau". Then they seek out the assistance of those who have already improved past that plateau and learn from them how to get past it.
And, here is a key part, that usually requires learning something anew, something that you may have done differently when you were a beginner, but now need to relearn to improve past the plateau. Like changing you golf swing, like changing they way you communicate with your colleagues, like re-doing how you plan your days and years.
The major key part here though, is that once you do that, you start using that new skill, your performance will most like get worse. Worse than it previously was. Like my constant crashing in the racing game. Like hitting golf balls into the woods with your new swing, like colleagues thinking you are nuts while stumbling through new ways to express yourself, like taking forever to plan your days and feeling more stressed than you did before because planning takes the major part of your day.
Here many quit, they think that it is no use. They do not like that it got worse so they do not stick with it.
But for those who know what masters know, that "every master was once a disaster", they will stick with it and soon be rewarded by the new skill becoming second nature. Then they zoom past that plateau with very little effort and renewed joy, just like I did in the racing game when I started winning races again.
They also know that sooner or later there will be a new plateau in their progress and then they just have to rinse and repeat.
So, which path do you usually choose? How do you usually react and choose when you arrive at a plateau? In your leadership, in your relationships, in your life in general?