Podcast 085: Mastery

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This is podcast 85 and it’s about mastery. A new client dubbed me the Clutter Master. It made me smile because I just watched a kung fu movie the other night where two men vie for the title of wing chun master. Imagine me holding my hands board straight and moving my arms gracefully into position to attack my enemy: clutter!

I do know how to master clutter. I do it for myself and I teach others. What’s important to remember is that I continue to defend my title every day. Clutter challenges me every day, just as it does you. Hai ya!

I know people tend to think that a clutter coach’s, or clutter master’s, home is absolutely pristine. Not a thing out of place. Like a page out of Martha Stewart Living. Well, it looks that way sometimes, but a lot of times it doesn’t. Sometimes I’m very busy for days on end. Sometimes I’m sick. And, I confess, sometimes I just don’t feel like it.

So there you have it. I’ve burst your bubble. I am not perfect. But truly, you should take heart from this news. I don’t succeed at staying organized because I have some special gene or an uncanny ability to spontaneously and instantly create order. Sure, I know more about organizing theory and techniques than the average person and I have more ability to effectively manage my time. But those are things that I’ve learned, and you can too.

My podcast is totally about teaching you that stuff. I strive to come up with different approaches and new ways of looking at old problems so you can have an “aha!” moment and get past whatever obstacle is in your way. I talk about resistance and motivation and how to get out of your own way.

But no matter how many episodes I post, there’s still the matter of putting all these ideas into action and making them part of your life. That’s the tough part, right? That’s true for pretty much everyone.

I’m planning to offer a group coaching program this year to address this issue. When you’re at the point that you’ve learned a lot about HOW to declutter and manage time better and get yourself organized, but it still hasn’t happened the way you need it to, the answer is to get regular support. That’s the secret sauce that coaching offers.

I have coaches myself. I don’t do this all alone. Coaching is invaluable to me in getting things done that I want to do but am not, for some reason. And for when I’m doing something and I’m running into problems that have me stumped. And for when I feel discouraged and want to give up!

A former coach of mine once drew me a diagram. She put a line across the center of the page. Under the line were my hopes, dreams, plans and wishes. Above the line were completed projects, written books, delivered programs and happy clients. Punching through that line is the big task. You are creating a reality from a dream. All reality starts from dreams, but getting from point A to point B is not so simple. It involves mastery and mastery involves practice.

You are already on that journey because you’ve identified places where change is needed and you’re pursuing knowledge and skill to do that.

Here’s a quotation from George Leonard. He wrote a book called Mastery, although this quotation is from another book: “At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.” That’s what I’m talking about. Organizing is a journey, it’s not a destination you get to once and just stay there. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a practice.

The master is also a student, always. I learn from my clients all the time, and I’m constantly reading and observing and thinking about how I can help my clients better and how I put that knowledge to work in my own life.

I play Japanese taiko drum. I started about 12 years ago. I remember that about a year or so into my practice I felt like quitting. I’d learned all the basics. I could play some songs. But I noticed that my arm wouldn’t always move the right way when I willed it to and to this day, my bachi twirling is pretty sub par. I got discouraged by that and decided to quit several times.

For some reason I didn’t. I had a feeling I had plateaued. I was bored and frustrated but I convinced myself to continue. Then I started getting better again. I gained mastery over some techniques. Note that when I say mastery I mean that I became competent and could do this new thing reliably.

Then I started to get bored again! It took me awhile, but I realized that this was going to continue to happen. Once I relaxed into that, I started to appreciate more the small amounts of progress I made. And more importantly, I felt glad that there was so much more to learn, because I really love playing taiko!

That was a big mind shift. Being happy that I didn’t already know everything! The fun of learning and the excitement of increasing my mastery even a little bit. I don’t expect you to fall in love with getting better at organizing and pursue it with the zeal of a zen monk.

What I do suggest is giving yourself a break about not being there yet. If you are on the journey, you’re doing it. Every time you get back on the horse, you’re doing it. Your mastery is increasing and you can see the results. That’s what I want for you.

What can you do right now? If there’s a particular organizing skill you’ve been trying to master, or a habit you’re trying to form, look back and see how much progress you’ve made, and appreciate that. Even if it’s tiny, you can count it and let it pull you forward.