When you’re a little kid, getting better at something is easy.
You race home from school, drop your backpack, and can’t wait to dive into your passion – riding your bike, mastering that new video game, or kicking the ball out back.
You intuitively know that if you want to improve at something, you spend more time on it. So you keep focusing. You keep playing.
That doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating – and you get plenty of bumps and bruises along the way.
But if you really want the outcome and (this is important) **you believe it is possible** then you keep at it.
So what happens to us as adults?
How do we lose that easy understanding of mastery?
Some will claim it’s because you don’t have time as an adult for your passion. But true passion overrides everything and makes even food and sleep seem extraneous (remember falling in love?), so that can’t be it.
Others blame it on a lack of passion altogether. You might say you can’t find your passion – you don’t remember how to feel that way or never learned to begin with.
I hear this worry a lot from clients. So much so that I wonder if it’s an endemic of the modern era both to expect unbridled devotion to one topic and to lament it’s absence, which feels like a reflection of our own failure as a human.
But this numbed ability to feel the excitement and curiosity that lead to action (that’s basically what passion is: excitement + curiosity = devoted attention), is not an indictment of passion itself.
Rather it’s a symptom of forgetting how to put your joy first.
It’s a byproduct of feeling uncomfortable being vulnerable, which you inherently are when you care deeply about the outcome but are not yet assured of success.
This is the true block to mastery: your unwillingness to be a beginner.
As young beginners, you see your peers succeeding and believe you can too. You think, if Billy and Jane can ride a bike, surely so can I…
So you keep practicing until you master it.
But as adults, when you see others excel, you assume they are somehow different from you – luckier, smarter, richer, more capable, or better connected.
You’d rather believe you’re inherently flawed than risk caring, trying, and potentially failing. Because that hurts. It’s embarrassing. It’s vulnerable.
Not because you don’t have the courage to try and fail.
But because you no longer believe that success and mastery are the inevitable outcomes of devoted effort.
So you stop trying.
Today, turn your inward gaze to what you want to master.
Not because whatever you choose will bring you fame and fortune, but because that little kid inside you wants to play for a long time on that one thing, just for the sheer joy of discovering you can.
Then give yourself permission to start.
Be free. Be brave. Be YOU!