The Goal of Mastery
02Mar 2015

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,


3 comments “The Goal of Mastery”

  • Rick
    March 3, 2015
    12:10 pm

    In today’s society, “Mastery” has largely been replaced by trivia. We seem to believe that having a surface knowledge of what is new and trending is far more important than the total commitment needed to work toward the life long goal of Mastery in any aspect of our lives.
    So, kudos to you. You have started in your quest for “Mastery”. This quest will teach much more about yourself than it does Aikido and that in itself is the ultimate goal.

  • Jon
    March 3, 2015
    12:10 pm

    Damion – Great article. But what would you suggest for mastering a career? For example, I was a government employee for nearly 12 years and I lost my job due to new management making changes in the office where I worked. I was very good at my job and have great work samples of major accomplishments. However, I have been unsuccessful at securing another job and it’s been almost four years that I’ve been unemployed. How should I view this? I keep asking myself what more or what else I could do. I spent eight years in college and graduate school and I paid back all of my student loans in 10 years, which I consider a great accomplishment. But what do I do now? Will I ever work again? Should I go back to school? If so, in what subject? It’s great if you have the financial assets to study Aikido, but I’ve had to take money out of my retirement funds twice now and I won’t be able to live on that for much longer. Do you think I’m on a plateau? Is there something else I need to master? What would you suggest that I do?

  • Damion Lupo
    July 27, 2015
    12:10 pm

    Jon – Thanks for the questions! I’d like to ask you a few questions and see if that will help pull the answers out of you.

    First, when you said it’s been almost 4 years unemployed, are you holding out for a similar paying job? Is your window of expectations too narrow thus disallowing many opportunities that might be just outside your purview of focus? In my book “Reinvented Life” you’ll find a lot of tools to dig into what really resonates with you and what you should consider pursuing.

    I bring this up because if you feel stuck it might be because you’f plateaued in what you’re doing or it might be because your belief system and the stories you’re telling yourself are creating walls you can’t see over thus keeping you frozen in the dark.

    One of the questions I asked myself long ago and ask anyone I’m coaching is what would you do if money was off the table, you had a severance package by your company or the government or whatever and you had $10,000,000 in the bank. You can spend $150k a year without having to ever learn how to invest for the next 70 years. Now my question is what would you spend your time doing? After you spend a week or a month on the beach or whatever, you’ll need a purpose, a burning need to show up somehow and matter otherwise you’ll spend the rest of your life wandering. Simply CONSUMING and living is not enough for a fulfilled human experience, we ALL need more and if you will trust this and start to pursue a way to incorporate that thing into your daily doing and evolve into becoming that THING, mastery will sort itself out and unfold before you.

    All the things you ask are great questions- should you go back to school, what subject, will you work again, etc, but you need to ask two questions: My Western / Eastern Medicine approach –

    The Western Trauma question – are you on financial life support and if so, how do you stabilize your situation, do you need to downsize, get a job at Starbucks to keep food on the table, sell all your stuff, whatever it takes, what do you need to do to get OXYGEN to breathe and think and survive this month and get your feet under you.

    The Eastern Well Being question – start asking yourself what you love, that you are or could be excellent at that also serves others. I truly believe that if you do what you love in the service of others you will never work a day in your life or worry about the things you’ve brought up. The more you pursue that love the more you’ll find the universe conspiring with you, you’ll experience Providence. The key to this is having the BELIEF in your ABILITY to CREATE. Many people are scared or simply don’t have the experience of actually creating without a security blanket from an organization so they doubt their ability and thus have no or limited belief. This is where you would benefit from a mentor or coach to leverage their belief in you that you can trust on and act on despite the lack of your own past personal experiences.

    My suggestion would be to seek out a world class coach or mentor. I’m happy to provide some references if that would help.

    It seems you are truly on the road to Reinvention. Pick up a copy of my book or email me – Damion at reinvented and I’ll send you a copy. I think you’ll benefit from reading my story and utilizing the tools Chris and I embedded into the book.

    Good luck my friend and thanks again for the question!

    PS – If you’re so inclined you might find something you’re looking for with Aikido… I know the first time I went to an Aikido class 15 years ago it resonated with me at such a high level I knew I was home. :-)

    Best Wishes,


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