The Goal of Mastery

Written by Lifebook Member Damion Lupo

Over the last few months I started noticing a consistent response when I’d ask people how they were doing with their goals.  I heard one thing more than anything else:

“I’m working hard, making progress and moving forward.”

Everyone seemed to be using a check-box goal system comprised of visualization + action to drive their lives towards success.  But then I started to think.

What if this process is wrong?  What if this process completely masks the key to happiness?


When you boil down everything any of us does we’re all seeking the exact same thing – happiness.

We create goals to get some happiness, just like we create money, not to collect little bits of green paper, but as a tool that we can use to get something that makes us happy.

So, does the art of goal setting and goal getting make us happy?  That question puzzled me…

In my book Reinvented Life I briefly explored this in the Success vs. Fulfillment chapter.

If you’re anything like me, type A and goal driven, you often dream of a better future, set a goal for it and then use the default structure for that goal.  You build to-do lists that stem from the mental picture of the specific future life vision goals.

You take the list, put checkboxes next to each thing and work on accomplishing things so you can move forward to the next thing.


The interesting thing about this strategy is that it never ends, there’s always a next thing.

In and of itself, this isn’t a bad thing because we grow and expand as we achieve.  Some of these checkboxes provide feelings of fulfillment in the course of living the activities on the list.

But, if your life vision is driven exclusively from a task list and you find yourself constantly focused on moving forward, you’ll end up with a lot of checked boxes, but you may be missing the most powerful “goal”… a little something called MASTERY.


Two of my favorite experts on Mastery are the late George Leonard (author of Mastery) and Malcolm Gladwell (Author of Outliers).

Gladwell’s focus on mastery is the 10,000-hour rule.  He contends that the key to mastery and being ultra successful is doing a specific thing for 10,000 hours.  That’s a lot of freaking check boxes if your life is only about tasks and to-do lists!

George Leonard is one of my heroes in the Aikido world and contends that in order to find deep fulfillment, the recipe to happiness, you must be in pursuit of mastery.

Mastery isn’t just a class you take, a book you read or a hard days work.  It’s a way of life and a focus on becoming the best.  The only struggle for most people is this requires years, decades and potentially, if not probably, the rest of your life.


The other problem for goal achievers is that mastery can involve months or years on a plateau of what appears to be stagnation until one moment, when something clicks, clarity arrives and you feel yourself pop into a higher state of understanding and being.

The upside (even in a plateau) is you’ll find yourself fulfilled beyond any task accomplishment high you’ve ever experienced.

Checking those boxes can definitely trigger happiness…at least for a minute, but then just as quickly it fades, creating a void requiring a new success event, new fitness achievement, new sale, new car, etc.  This process can easily lead to one hell of an emotional roller coaster.


On the other hand, if you focus more on Mastery and commit yourself to a practice and study of that special thing, you’ll suddenly and almost magically find yourself deeply fulfilled on your Heroes Journey (as Joseph Campbell calls it).

You won’t need a check box to drive your happiness.  You’ll find yourself living in a state of joy and happiness because of who you become.

This process has become more evident in my own life as I go deeper into the study and practice of Aikido. This journey into Mastery will no doubt last the rest of my life.


There is no event that will ever happen where I master Aikido.  After 13 years and 1000’s of hours of training I’ve just scratched the surface.  I couldn’t be happier or more fulfilled.

I’ve found my Bliss.

The next time you hear yourself telling someone you’re doing great, working hard and moving FORWARD, ask yourself, are you just moving forward or are you also going deep… deep into Mastery?

Your friend on the Journey,


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