The Secret to Expertise - Lesson from Zen Master Hakuin
How do you get good at coding?
How do you get good at art?
How do you get good at anything?
We all wish there were shortcuts to expertise,
but sadly, the magic pill to instant expertise doesn't exist.
We must start as beginners in every new subject like everyone else and consistently practice.
If you dig deep enough, you will discover that all the "geniuses" we admire are human.
They, like everyone, started with no knowledge and became experts in their fields through obsession and practice.
This week I read this story from Zen Master Hakuin, which reminds us to stop looking for shortcuts and practice like we need to.
It's like chopping down a huge tree of immense girth. You won't accomplish it with one swing of your axe. If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, whether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down. When that time comes, you could round up everyone you could find and pay them to hold the tree up, but they wouldn't be able to do it. It would still come crashing to the ground.... But if the woodcutter stopped after one or two strokes of his axe to ask the third son of Mr. Chang, "Why doesn't this tree fall?" And after three or four more strokes stopped again to ask the fourth son of Mr. Li, "Why doesn't this tree fall?" he would never succeed in felling the tree. It is no different for someone who is practicing the Way.
I read this in Robert Greene's book, "Mastery."
Another great nugget from it:
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