Learning something new is a big deal. On one hand, it expands your repertoire and improves your cognitive function. On the other, especially if it’s a major undertaking — like learning to play an instrument or becoming a gourmet chef — it can be overwhelming.
I’m feeling this as I’m training to become a meditation teacher. Among other tasks, I’m going to have to chant a five-minute ceremony in Sanskrit.
I would be panicking if I hadn’t come across micromastery, a term co-coined and popularized by life-long learning devotee Robert Twigger:
A micromastery, well, I’ve defined it as a self-contained unit of doing. So it’s something that’s complete in itself, but it’s connected to the greater field.
In other words, even a small success can provide you with a big boost.
How to micromaster a new skill
When Twigger decided he wanted to be a good cook, for example, he started by learning how to make the perfect omelet. Within that bite-sized goal were all the techniques he needed to become a competent chef.
To micromaster a new skill, you start with an “entry trick” that quickly takes you to the next level. For example, my meditation teacher, who is also an actor and routinely memorizes scripts, taught me to write each Sanskrit sentence phonetically before repeating it out loud to lock it in. The act of writing by hand is a science-backed retention booster.
Insider tips are also a surefire way to move beyond what Twigger calls the “rub-pat barrier.” That’s the challenge of coordinating two things that seem hard to do at once, which can derail you if you don’t pre-plan pushing past it.
The final step of micromastery is the payoff: an endpoint where the task is complete and you get recognition for acquiring a new skill. This encourages you to continue to the next micromastery.
Be the micromaster of your domain
Micromastery is an easy, accessible way to get on the path to life-long learning. It may be that like me, you’ve set a bigger goal for yourself (for example, become a meditation teacher), and the micromastery of a specific skill makes it more manageable (memorize a five-minute ceremony to start).
The trick is to find what’s fun in a given subject, and get excited about it. To do this, you can think about something you loved as a kid, or delve into a subject you’re curious about.
And if you’re not sure where to start, ask an expert for a starter project that involves all the skills necessary to get good at something you’re interested in. Just stay focused on the bigger picture of micromastery: improved optimism, confidence, memory, and cognitive ability.
Become a More Competent Human Through Micromastery (Art of Manliness Podcast)
Micromastery: Learn Small, Learn Fast, and Unlock Your Potential to Achieve Anything by Robert Twigger (Amazon Affiliates)