A new book explores the challenges of mastering new skills and what it takes to understand the concept of mastery.
As the old saying goes, “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one.” Historically, being a generalist has been a strength. Being multifaceted and well-learned in multiple fields gives people alot of usefulness. However, in the modern, specificity is often more called for. Modern life demands specificity and highly trained individuals. And mastering one skill is hard enough.
Whether we are generalists or specialists, mastery is still a necessary component for anyone working in specialized jobs that require skill and knowledge, and building that core of knowledge is a requirement for success.
In his new book The Real Work: On the Mystery Of Mastery, New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik explores the nature of how we learn and master new skills. By studying under master painters, boxers, dancers, and driving instructors, he discovers what traits bring people to the top of their skill sets and distinguishes them as masters in their fields.
And he discovers that mastery takes several important things—including the ability to break yourself down and build up, and the ability to accept intentional imperfection.
What The Critics Are Saying
“What does it mean to master a skill—drawing, dancing, or driving—and how do you actually do it? That is the question New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik asks in The Real Work, and it becomes the springboard for a discussion of art, family, empathy, mortality. Via memoir, analysis, and criticism, he assembles a celebration of the flaws that make us human,” says The Guardian.
A Short Excerpt
“Everyone is good at something, yes, but what I perceived in apprenticing myself to masters in various fields is that we are surrounded by masters. I don’t mean the world-class saxophone players one might fail to recognize on the subway. I mean something more mundane. I mean the mastery all around us, all the time,” says Gopnik.
The Real Work: On the Mystery Of Mastery was released on March 14, 2023, by Liveright.