Why kids should “master something, anything”

On Technium founder Kevin Kelly’s 68th birthday, he published a fascinating article called 68 bits of unsolicited advice. One bit of advice concerned mastery, and was far more practical advice than “follow your dreams” or similar.

Here’s what he said:

“Following your bliss is a recipe for paralysis if you don’t know what you are passionate about. A better motto for most youth is “master something, anything”. Through mastery of one thing, you can drift towards extensions of that mastery that bring you more joy, and eventually discover where your bliss is.”

Or to put another way, instead of following a dream and trying to master whatever that dream requires, focus first on excelling in an area. Mastering something will develop interests and passions that will become your bliss.


Why kids should learn to master something

Mastery is not easy. Learning anything to a master level requires time and commitment. The process of becoming expert has many benefits for kids.


It builds confidence: becoming good at something builds self-confidence, not only in that area, but across life. They know they’re capable of getting better at something, giving them a powerful growth mindset. If they’ve done it once, they can apply that same attitude and do it again!


It requires perseverance: learning something challenging requires a lot of persistence. That’s because there will be setbacks and periods of frustration. Learning to persevere and ultimately achieving their goals is both rewarding and a valuable life lesson. They’ll understand that failure is a stepping stone to success, and build resilience to face future challenges with determination.


It can become part of their identity: having a skill and area of interest can help them explore who they are. They’ll always have something to talk about and they can make friends with similar interests. Many children struggle to find something they enjoy doing outside of school and we don’t always game that to be gaming or scrolling social media.


They’ll gain transferable skills: kids will always gain transferable from something they master. This includes useful character traits such as patience, resilience and commitment, but likely transferable practical skills like enhanced problem-solving ability and cognitive development.


Enhanced focus and concentration: Achieving mastery in a particular area demands focused attention and sustained effort. Regular practice develops a child’s ability to concentrate for extended periods, ignore distractions, and improve their overall focus. Anything that can help extend someone’s attention span is truly valuable in today’s fast-paced tech-driven world.


Encourage mastery in kids

Children learn incredibly quickly and they’re eager to pick up new skills. This is how we see chess masters in their early teens and musical maestros at elementary school. Not all of these kids are “gifted” or have “pushy parents”; they’re obsessed with mastery in the best possible way.


Do you believe that once someone masters one thing, they can apply the mastery process to anything? It’s a powerful concept that would surely help someone find their true bliss or purpose.