Tag: learning

No Masters, Just Mastery

Last month I travelled to Crosby for a bi-annual five day retreat with my local Zen group. Three times a day, along with hours of sitting, we would chant sutras while I struck a wooden percussion instrument called a mokugyo to maintain rhythm. Back in Liverpool I would play the instrument almost every week for service in our usual place so I think by that point I was in a stage of unconscious competence. Then, on the fourth day, the Ino, our lead chanter, praised my mokugyo skills and proclaimed, in part jest, that I was a mokugyo master. While I was pleased to be complimented I also noticed a small thought afterwards that said, now because people saw me as a master, I better not mess up.

In her book Mindset Carol Dweck proposes a two part model for success and achievement which has caught on in education and sport: fixed mindset and growth mindset. Growth mindset allows you to make the inevitable mistakes that will help you grow and eventually succeed. When a teacher compliments a student for being clever, that praise can induce a fixed mindset and hamper learning because now this student, like me, feels that they have something to lose: their standing with the teacher. If the teacher were to praise the effort instead, what’s there to lose?

Perhaps it’s not so important to be recognised as a master as it is to stay on the path of mastery? Fortunately the path goes on forever.

Clear Thinking

“Control language and you control thought; control thought and you control action; control action and you control the world.”

Peter Kreeft

William Zinsser wrote in On Writing Well that clear writing reflects clear thinking. Not everybody considers themselves writers (and not everybody needs to) but I notice bad writing is rife in workplaces where there either isn’t time for clear thinking (because the work is fast-paced) or thinking is more or less discouraged because the workplace has its own language with jargon and many abbreviations and the efficiency of the workplace depends on that established language, however unclear it may be.

Sometimes it’s an act of rebellion to simplify language.