Dear Dalitso

Everyday lessons for tomorrow

The Journey to Mastery

February 26, 2024
Letter #35

Dear Dali

I am yet to come across stories of instant success.  They are probably there but I bet you they are just a handful. Life has been designed in such a way that we all go through trials, tribulations, and even failures before we make it. I think it has more to do with the fickleness that we carry. Imagine the egos if we succeeded instantly and all the time, we tried something new. God in his infinite wisdom has made sure to first build resilience and humility in you before He gives you success. There are many factors that determine individual success but today I will focus on the process that one must go through. My observation is that there are usually four stages to success.

Basic Learning:

The learning period is probably the longest. At times I think the formal education system was designed first to allow one to grow into a young adult. The learning during this period is mostly basic and is designed for a very broad audience. You will learn the basics- of how the world works. If you are diligent, you will leave this stage with clarity on what you are good at and what you would like to do with your life. Some of my lost friendships were developed in these formative years.

Apprenticeship-Learning the Craft:

There will come a time when you must separate yourself from most of your friends and enter a new community. This is the period when you are making important life decisions. For some, it starts at the Undergraduate level- when one chooses a discipline that is already tied to the job you will do in the future. For instance, when one studies Medicine there is a 99.9% chance that they will become a doctor. This is not always the case in other disciplines especially Social Sciences-where there is a range of career options. This is perhaps the most difficult part of your life. Choosing and remaining focused on that one specialty. It usually pays off later. Remember the post I made earlier about Range- the tension between the 10000-hour rule and developing a broad scope of knowledge around several fields. Whatever you do at this stage-make sure to go beyond surface-level information. Move from being average to the top 10 percent. Feed the desire for more.

Journeymen (women)-Artisan:

Everything gets tested. Everyone gets tested. Even ideas are tested. In an ideal world, you should land at a place of post-school training. The current situation where every job requires one to have job experience before being hired is abnormal. It’s necessary to find a place where you can test and refine your skills. Many assume that this is the place where they will make tons of money. That is rarely the case. It is a place for testing your capability to apply what you learnt in the lecture room, gain new and valuable work experience, and demonstrate diligence. The rest is up to your appetite to be better at this stage. You can show up, tick all the boxes, join those who will complain about everything at work, and miss out on the reason why you are where you are. Yet there is a lot to gain. You are on your way to the sweet spot. All you need to do is put on extra effort, be a 2-mile person (see my next post) and the results will show my Dear Dali. You will not have to fight for promotion, it will find you.


This is usually the final and most rewarding stage in a professional career. Unfortunately, only a few ever get to be Masters in their field. I observed one Professor when I was a student back at the University of Zimbabwe. Oh, he was such a Master of his craft. All he would ask the students was where he ended up in the previous lecture. He would speak for more than an hour without ever referring to notes. He had become a Master of his craft. I have observed similar traits even in football- where a coach takes over a team that has no history and within two seasons- they will be contending for hours and at times even winning. That is Mastery- and yet only a few of us ever get to this stage.

There are many trials on the way to being a Master of a field/craft. The trick is to keep focused and chiselling yourself into perfection. Nothing comes easy in this world. You may have to read more than others. Don’t be distracted by your peers who will look as if they have arrived too early. Who knows maybe they have a secret you don’t have. Focus on your journey. Manage yourself.  

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