5. Build Capability—Mastery (Courage to act)

This is the tricky one for CEOs. In corporate change projects the challenge that sabotages more projects than any other is the failure to build capability. Businesses define the desired future state, but then come up woefully short in helping people build the capability to be successful in that future state. Consequently, most corporate change is disappointing.

You need to avoid that trap by focusing on developing the capabilities that will make you successful as a young adult. That means taking responsibility for developing those capabilities and not just relying on school or family. Schools and families will address some of the capabilities, but not all. You will need to fill in the gaps.

There will be key capabilities to develop regarding forming an identity and in building relationships. There will also be a set of competencies required for success in general as a young adult.


General Competencies Beyond School

There are a surprising number of general competencies required to be a successful adult. To put together your list to pursue you can talk to adults about the competencies they have discovered to be necessary. You can also just think about the competencies required to be an independent person vs. relying on parents or others. For example here is a range of competencies:

  • Personal finance
  • Personal health
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Fixing things
  • Being a citizen
  • Building a team
  • Being a good employee
  • Being an entrepreneur

It takes time to build capabilities, so don’t rush it. Just pay attention and make choices about what capabilities you want to develop. There are lots of resources available, such as:

  • The internet—more good stuff than bad stuff—and it can usually provide a good overview of what’s out there
  • Community organizations
  • Faith communities
  • Businesses (banks often have training in personal finance for example)
  • People in your support network—if they don’t know of a resource they probably know someone who does)

Warning!  The Sneaky Challenge of Mastery & “Learning to Love the Plateau”

Some competencies are relatively easy to master, but most are not.  Most of the important ones are not easy to master.  The key is understanding the steps in the process of mastering something, particularly the unavoidable “plateaus”, when you just seem stuck. 

  • As we begin the process of mastery we often experience a spurt of increased ability that feels good and encourages more effort.
  • At some point following that initial spurt we hit a plateau where our ability doesn’t seem to improve despite continued, or even increased, effort.
  • As that competence plateau extends despite efforts, it becomes very easy to get discouraged and lose heart.
  • Losing heart leaves us vulnerable to giving up or investing less effort – we can get stuck or drop out.
  • If we persevere and focus on “right practice” vs. immediate outcomes, we eventually experience the next spurt in increased competence
  • It is usually impossible to see the spurt coming, which is one reason the mastery process is so tough and why perseverance and “right practice” is so important.
  • The pattern repeats.  Hopefully, we learn from early plateaus and aren’t discouraged, so that persevering becomes a way of life and we get better and better at mastering the competencies we need.

The challenge of mastery will be present whether you are learning a new dance, learning new skills in a sport or learning calculus.  The value of practice in the first two examples is obvious as “right practice.”  In learning calculus “right practice” would certainly include homework, but could also include paying attention in class, asking the teacher for clarification or help, being part of a study group, etc.  

The next section on “Holding the Course” reinforces the importance of persevering and “learning to love the plateau.”

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