Reading this blog post by Mr. Brogan, something bubbled up from years of martial arts training.

Chris argues that the goal is the focus, not the method. Kenpo karate is the method, kicking the other guy’s ass is the goal. If you threw out all your methods, the goals would still be there.

Well, sometimes.

There are goals which are intimately tied into methods. How you get there is part of getting there. Abandon the method every so often for what seems to be a faster, easier, cleaner, newer, better method results in you becoming a dabbler. You’re reasonably okay at a lot of things. You’re not excellent at one thing. You never actually get to your destination, because you keep changing roads, cars, outfits, maps, GPSes, traveling companions, and take every detour imaginable because it seems faster.

Ever done this? You see a traffic jam ahead, get off at the next exit, and spend 30 extra minutes on side and back roads to go around the jam… which in reality is only a 10 minute traffic jam? I have. My hand is up. Guilty. This is the dabbler. This is the person who fails too fast.

The problem with the perspective of goal, goal, goal only (which isn’t what Chris is arguing, but which a lot of people will take away) and books like Seth Godin’s The Dip is that it’s too easy to quit early. It’s too easy to give up soon, to fail fast, when in fact you may not be failing at all, but working through your own limitations.

The other day I tweeted about the Dunning-Kruger effect, in which incompetent people are so limited by their abilities and lack of competence that they don’t realize they’re incompetent. The converse, that the competent are the last to get the memo, is also true. When it comes to goal-only perspectives, here’s the thing – your lack of meta-cognitive awareness about your limitations means that if you give up all the time, if you abandon ship too fast, you will NEVER reach excellence. Ever.

This is the danger of the dabbler. Before you give up, consider whether you’re not actually generating results because the method isn’t working, or because you haven’t amassed sufficient skill yet to make the method work for you. Admitting that is hard. Admitting that means forfeiting some ego and being willing to accept that you still have work to do, you still have more time to put in to achieve excellence…

… and as the Dunning-Kruger effect proves, you may be the last to get the memo about your excellence. Keep going!

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The danger of the dabbler 1 The danger of the dabbler 2 The danger of the dabbler 3

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