The Learning Process Part 3

Autonomous- The Master

Now we are at the highest stage of learning which is the autonomous stage. This is where the master’s live. It can be described as mindless. Because what is right just happens without forethought. Things are well, automatic. If you have reached this stage you are an expression of what happens after years and countless hours of dedication to something. You can make the absolutely amazing look routine. The concept of 10,000 hours may be true here. That 10,000 gets thrown around a lot, but I don’t think most people actually break it down and consider what it takes to reach that. People who say the 10,000 rule is bullshit are often only viewing through the lens of competitive success which is an oversight. We tend to respect master’s but not to the degree we should because we only see them once they reach this level. We would surely give a master more respect if we could see all the work that preceded.

If you commit two full hours to something every Monday to Friday in a year, while only taking off two weeks, you’ll gain 1000 hours of experience. That means at this blistering rate it will take you 10 years to go to reach 10,000. You see now why most people are not master’s. In Brazillian Jiu Jitsu the average length of time it takes to reach a black-belt is over 10 years, and Black Belts are not done learning. It is estimated that out of every 1000 people who start Brazillian Jiu Jitsu that only 5 will become a black belt. Very few people in the world dedicate that amount of time to anything.

The idea of mastery gets cloudy because mastery does not necessarily result in championships or professional contracts. Likewise, becoming a champion and being a pro is not always precluded by mastery. So when discussing mastery, it is important to not confuse whoever is the best, with who is a master. It is completely possible for the person who is the best at something to be years away from mastery. They are where they are because of immense talent, not mastery.


Now a master of weightlifting is someone who isn’t spending much time, if any, thinking about their technique. Their body is supremely adapted to lifting, and they aren’t figuring out their squat, their OH position, or their first pull. Snatching is as easy for them as brushing your teeth is for you. Mastery of the olympic lifts is something better seen than described. And unless you’ve tried these lifts its hard to appreciate what you are seeing.

Below is a video of the Strongest Man in the world, Lasha Talakhadze. In this video he snatches 217kg which is likely more than what the strongest person you know can deadlift. He is amazingly only 25 years old, but has been competing at the international level since he was 17.

The second video is of Pyrros Dimas who weighs 175-180# power snatching 150kg, power-cleaning 170kg and performing fast front squats @ 200kg. Dimas is one of the most decorated Olympians of all time, and you can see why. He was also training weightlifting at the age of 7. This video gives me chills. (Turn volume on to hear the weights...)

Now it is important to mention again that not every Master is a world-champion or even the strongest person at the gym. Given the unavoidable influence of genetics, it is possible for someone genetic freak to outfit a master after only a couple years in the sport. However, to be the very best of the best at the highest levels possible, you are generally looking at a genetic freak who is also a master. Some master’s #'s might not be overly impressive, however that does not take away from their ability or understanding of the lifts. Some of the greatest master’s choose coaching over competing as well.

I believe there is great value in trying to master any sort of physical skill because a lot will be learned along the way and often times other aspects of ones life will become more masterful to supper the primary goal. But, not everyone has the time it takes to dedicate themselves to mastering something outside of their career and families. But, there is one area where I believe everyone should be working at becoming a master, and that is taking care of themselves.......

Health and Fitness

This will be a bit more interesting than the preceding paragraph for most folks because not everyone nerds out on weightlifting. Mastery of health and fitness is cool because it involves multiple areas. Nutrition, exercise, stress management, and sleep. And I believe this is a quest that every adult should be on, and it is more accessible, because seriously anyone can do it.

The master of health and fitness loves exercising, eating healthy, getting a good nights sleep, and importantly also has healthy social relationships.

The area of nutrition is the best place to give an example of mastery. Someone who has mastered their relationship with food maintains a healthy body-fat percentage and health profile year in and year out. They are not pumped to finally reach a certain body-fat in time for summer, but rather with little effort they maintain that desirable body-fat for 5 or 10 years without blinking an eye. If they want to get super lean, or pack on some extra muscle, they know how to do so by making one or two small changes to their intake. The master isn't scouring the internet for the newest diet with a name, and doesn't need to measure their food. They know what amount is right just by feel.

This person is also not starving themselves, hangry, and secretly wishing they were eating Fettuccine Alfredo. They rarely have intense cravings, and consciously chose when they want to treat themselves. They are so used to the amazing feeling that comes along with eating healthy, that the feeling of going back to processed/high sugar is so uncomfortable it is a deterrent in and of itself. They have eaten so well for so long that when they chose to eat crappy food, it gives them a feeling similar to a hangover the next morning. In general this person does not view a lot of what is in the grocery store as food at all. You don't crave Cheetos when you truly don't view that as something humans should ingest.

Granted this may sound extreme to a lot of people. Some people who are particularly addicted to sugar might even say this sounds unhealthy, and claim that you need to enjoy yourself in life, and this is too much work, or too hard. Bull shit. The master of health is going to know that the absence of skittles, pepsi, and Cheetos does not take away from ones' quality of life, and that the presence of optimal health certainly does. I have said it before, but despite what commercials will tell you, brightly colour sugar is not one of the great pleasures of human existence. Aim higher. I am ok taking the stand here and saying what may be uncomfortable, because if you get bored of my blog and turn on the tv, it is likely you will see a commercial selling you something you don't need to be put in your body.

The longer you commit to a healthy lifestyle, the easier it gets, until it eventually becomes automatic. We have universal healthcare in Canada, but that doesn't mean it is someone else's responsibility to take care of yourself. If it worked that way Canada wouldn't have a 25% rate of clinical obesity (which is unhealthy, it is not an image thing). It is ultimately each individuals responsibility to become master's of their own health.

As the writer I understand that for the reader, health might not be as high on their hierarchy of values as mine, but I want to provide a slight push that it should be. Obesity which is largely avoided by good nutritional habits is strongly correlated with depression, low self-esteem, coronary heart disease (CHD), hypertension, stroke, high cholesterol, gout, osteoarthritis, sleep problems, asthma, skin conditions and some types of cancer. What would you rather not have? Skittles, beer, and Cheetos or any of the above mentioned conditions? Exercise which is a main component of a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of illnesses like heart and lung disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cancer, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson's disease. And also it can reduce your stress and symptoms of mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, and help with recovery from mental health issues. There is enough scientific data out there to make the issue of looking after your health a black and white decision. There are no studies linking sugar consumption to lowered obesity, and happier lives. So, if you are looking for something to conquer or master, why not your health?

*Unless you are already a master, something that can help you save a lot of time in the process is having a coach who is further along the mastery continuum than yourself. I have been lucky to grow the number of people I am helping along their journey in the past months and now only have two more spots available on my roster. If you are on the fence, now is the time to step up.

Grit Human Performance


Contact: Coach @