When you strive for mastery, sometimes the desire to be a master all at once stops you before you ever begin. For some reason, we don’t know why, chess masters are often used as examples of people who achieve mastery. There are scores of books written about how they became chess masters, how they can play dozens of games at once, how they can see many moves into the future, and how they outthink their opponents and therefore win the game. I do agree that chess masters and grand masters have an amazing ability; however, it is not in what they show outwardly, it is what they do consistently that is amazing.
When you really observe a master of chess, when you actually see who they are, what you see is a person that has mastered consistency in the mundane. Everyday they practice their end game with three or four pieces on the board and work through all the possible combinations. Every day they work their pawns, literally the most boring piece in the whole game, to figure out variations and variables that will put them in a winning positing ten moves in the future. Every day the work through the monotony of the psychological warfare their opponents wage to develop mental toughness in tournaments. They are masters of the mundane.
How do they do it? No matter what, everyone has a place in their brain that is the bored section. A place where the brain says, “I have done this a million times and I don’t want to do it again.” The brain, after all, is an engine of efficiency, if it doesn’t have to work then it will find a way to not work. It will find a way to think you out of deliberatly doing the same thing over and over. The brain is a lazy organ, it likes to be in charge, it likes to rest, it likes to automate things.
Chess champions do not allow their brain to go into auto pilot. People who play chess on auto pilot are never champions. Great masters of chess find a way to be deliberate about the game, every game, even when they have seen thier opponent’s opening move a thousand times, they don’t allow themselves to automatically respond with a counter move, they think it through, they force themsleves to see the next ten moves, they compel themselves to see the small and simple and act on it.
Here then is the key, masters, and grand masters of chess, keep themselves in the game through challenging themselves on how many times in a row they can practice the mundane. They don’t see the activity per se, they see how consistent they can be in the activity. At some point in their life, be it young or old, they decided they wanted to be a grand master of chess and therefore started doing what a grand master of chess does, practice the mundane consistently.
When you decide who you want to be or what you want to be, then you will need to do the activities necessary to be that person. The trick is not focusing on the big, bold, beautiful activities, the secret is finding the small, simple, mundane activities and doing them consistently, every day, every week, every month. The secret to becoming a master in anything is the secret of consistency in simplicity.