Mastery Curve – how we learn new things

The ‘Mastery Curve’ is a model I picked from game designers. It’s a model to understand the learning curve of players. It’s incredibly important to understand this learning curve in the game industry, or else you might lose an immersed player halfway through the game.

A beginning player requires different stimuli than a player who has spent over 100 hours playing the game. That’s why it’s important for the game industry to have a strong grip on this type of motivation.

We can use this model to understand how our own mastery motivation works. The Mastery Curve teaches us two things:

  1. We don’t grow constantly. Occasionally we get an epiphany and everything falls into place. Most of the time we barely grow, sometimes we don’t improve for a period of months. This can be frustrating, but it’s just a part of the process. Time is an essential part of learning.
  2. Our learning process is an exponential curve. The better we get, the slower we grow. Eventually, it is impossible to master any skill for 100%.

As you can see in the bottom graph, you can get stuck at a certain skill level for a long period (months), but that’s just a part of growing! As long as you don’t give up, you will eventually pick up the pace and continue growing.

Start learning

Whenever you start something new, expect a lot of frustrating moments in which you won’t learn anything. Epiphanies don’t happen on a weekly basis. And remember: if you endure, you might experience your next epiphany and take a huge leap forward. Especially when you start something new, there is so much more to learn.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also true.

Nobody can truly master anything

I started surfing several years ago. It was fun at the time, I kept learning new techniques and I slowly got to the point that I could surf a wave while standing up. But after a few years, I got bored. It took too much time before I got another epiphany. Especially since I live in Holland and I barely have the time to go to the ocean. And that’s the main thing, mastering any skill takes a lot of time. I slowly realized that I didn’t like surfing in itself, I just liked the growing aspect of it. And I barely grew anymore. Continuing to surf and getting better at it was getting harder and harder over time. I haven’t even surfed in 2017.

There’s a flipside to this. Everyone has these problems and nobody can fully master a skill for 100% (because it’s an exponential curve). As long as you manage to endure and keep training your skills, you could, in fact, get better than anyone else.

Do you have someone that inspires you? Someone who is so incredible that it intimates you? Let me tell you: you could beat him/her!

After all, even if your role model has mastered a skill for 99%, given enough time you could master the same skill for 99,5%.

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