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Matt Versus the Cardio Machine: Beating the Mastery Plateau

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Vanity. It’s possible that one of the reasons you got on the path of mastery was to look good. But to learn something new of any significance, you have to be willing to look foolish. Even after years of practice, you still take pratfalls. When a Most Valuable Player candidate misjudges a ball and falls on his duff, he does it in the sight of millions. You should be willing to do it before your teacher and a few friends or fellow students. If you’re always thinking about appearances, you can never attain the state of concentration that’s necessary for effective learning and top performance.

Despite the title, this episode is not really about cardio equipment or the many benefits of cardio training, that you already know. Instead, this is a short episode discussing a thought I had while exhausting myself on my rowing machine a couple of weeks ago. The seeming slog of cardio is a lot like the path to mastery.

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Episode Summary

This is a short one. The bottom line is that I really dislike cardio training. I find that it’s often boring and I don’t like how drenched in sweat that I get from it. It’s hard for me to stick to a routine because the results seem so far away. It’s not until after months or years of consistency that you really see any benefit to a routine. Sleeping in seems like the more comfortable option right now.

This is a great analogy for life, or really any worthwhile pursuit.

We live in a society obsessed with the quick fix. We ride a neverending series of rushes as we jump from new thing to new thing to learn. But mastery doesn’t work that way. It’s not a get rich quick scheme.

Like the cardio machine, mastery takes time. The payoff isn’t going to be immediately after a single training session. It’s not even going to be there after ten, twenty, or maybe even more than a hundred sessions.

In fact, the gains that you’ll see are so small from session to session that you’ll probably never see them unless you can take a good look backward.

This kind of commitment to riding the plateau is difficult. It’s boring, and it feels a lot more like work than any actual progress. But that’s the game of mastery.

Perhaps even worse is what happens when we “arrive.” We stand triumphant only to realize that there’s only more work in front of us. Mastery is not a destination, its only a journey. 



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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.

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