Wang Hsin Tse was the son of famous calligrapher Wang Hsi Tse during the Chinese Song Dynasty almost a thousand years ago. Wang had the talent of his father, and because he had early good training from the dad, he learned to write and draw very well at an early age. Having received much accolade from people who normally did not know better, he in fact believed that he was now as good as his dad.
One day, he wrote a full piece of paper of his best calligraphy work, and thinking that it was as good as his dad, he went about to show it to him proudly. His dad looked over his work, but did not say anything. All he did was took up his brush, and in one of the words added a small point, and told the son to show it to his mom.
The son carried the full piece of paper to his mom, and asked, " Mom, how is it? don’t you think I can write as well as my dad now?"
The mom looked at the piece of paper, went through his words, and then after a while, pointed to the small addition his dad had added, and said, " Yes son, I think you are improving very well. In fact, this particular point here - it is starting to look like your dads!"
The son knew then that while for the untrained eye he was as good as his dad, for the trained eye, he was still unskilled, as his mom innocently was able to immediately discern the difference of what he wrote, and that of his dad. He swore to improve, put in thousands of more hours into diligent practice, and indeed grew up to be as good his dad.
But before that he learned the difference of what is merely good, and what is really great.
We are now in the information society, and of course, we have an overload of data, and whatever buzzwords is there you probably have heard about it. So we all heard about ISO, CMM, Object Oriented Programming, Six Sigma, Service Oriented Architecture, Data Warehousing, 7 Habits, ERP, and what nots. Of course, everybody knows, everybody have heard about it.
But when you are looking for people to do something, especially if that is the primary skill set you are looking for, you expect more than just mere acquaintance of it. YOu expect MASTERY of it.
If you are looking for basketball players, would you be impressed if somebody says, " Yeah, I know basketball. Played it when I was back in college." No , you would not. YOu would hire somebody who not only knows how to dribble, knows how to shot the ball, but actually know how to play, as in he has played thousands of hours, and been through hundreds of games.
The reason I am taking cognizance of this, is that people pooh pooh a lot of what is called, ’soft skills’ or management skills. . These are normally skills that are associated with marketing, selling, understanding situations, handling people or managing situations. When you talk about for instance, whether the person really really knows what viral marketing is, or what a blue ocean marketing strategy is, they expect not only a person who have merely scan or read the book, but understand it inside out. It is as if some people, after reading a best selling management book feels they know as much about management as a manager who has been at it for twenty years, and have devoured over a hundred books on the subject.
Many management skills or technical skills are now on that level – easy to learn, difficult to master. Just like basketball or golf, you can learn the rules of the games and playing it in an hour, but it will take a lifetime to master. Just like taking good pictures, and really great pictures. Just like learning merely how to manage or cope, or learning the mastery of it such that companies pay you millions of dollars to handle a company.
It will take you a few minutes to learn how to shoot the ball. It will take you years to master how to shoot the ball so that it will go into the ring most of the time. And the rewards are vastly different as well. You can shoot half as well as Michael jordan, but Michael Jordan will earn thousands of times your salary, and gain thousands of times more prominence simply because he is slightly better than you.
Not only knowing, but the mastery counts. And I all too often remember one of the most memorable quotes which is ascribed to Chinese Gold Medalist HO Chya, who is the 2004 Chinese 10 Meter Platform Dive Olympic Gold Medalist who said,
"“I started to learn diving at five and a half. For the last 16 years i have been training on how to perfect a dive that lasts one second. ”
Such is the price, and the rewards of mastery.
I probably have not hired hundreds of people who clearly did not only have the skill, but did not have the appreciation to realize that merely knowing it, and really mastering it is a huge difference that they have to recognize.
Now, great technology allows a person to easily look good without them knowing the nuts and bolts or mastering the art. But know that great rewards still come to he who knows the craft better than most.