The two types of mastering a task

There are two types of mastery – there is rote mastery, and there is understanding mastery.

Rote mastery is when one can emulate the forms of a thing. That is, you can push the buttons in the right sequence, format a document correctly, play the notes on an instrument, and so on. This sort of rote or technical mastery is important, but must be remembered that it is only a beginning. A practical example is someone who can play the right notes in a high school band.

Understanding mastery is when you understand why the buttons are pushed, why the notes go together in the right way, understand the aesthetics of the page. It is reflective and thoughtful, but not mechanical rules. A practical example – to continue with music – is a jazz musician who no longer needs sheet music.

These different types of mastering tasks happens in all areas of your life. I’ve seen parents mechanically apply good parenting advice – but because they don’t understand *why* it’s good advice, it is often applied incorrectly. I see co-workers do things more slowly or inefficiently, making things harder on themselves because they don’t understand the “how” of the systems they use.

What kind of mastery do you have in the important areas of your life?