Time, Choices, and Our Pursuit of Mastery as an Adult

I was talking to a friend the other day about mastery and how different it is trying to master something as an adult compared to when we were kids.
So much of it has to do with our concept of time.
As kids, our sense of time is so strange. Months feel like years, and a year might as well be a decade. As such, we don’t value time in the same manner. If it takes a kid five or ten years to become proficient at something, that’s fine, because that amount of time seems like an eternity to them, anyway.
Somewhere along the way, though, our sense of time shifts. For me, this happened in my early twenties. Suddenly, the years seemed to go by more quickly. As I watched my parents and siblings get older, I realized I needed to be more intentional about how I spent my time; otherwise, it would just slip away from me, and I would wake up decades later, full of regrets.
Interestingly, it is this heightened awareness of time that often deters adults from pursuing mastery. When they grasp that it could take years or even a decade to excel at a sport, skill, craft, or passion, they abandon the pursuit before truly beginning, blaming the passage of time.
Acknowledging our limited time also means we must make choices somewhere along the way.
For example, my choice to pursue jiu-jitsu means I had to let go of many other aspirations, at least for now. I’ve closed off other possible paths I once dreamed of—professional boxing, life in the circus, taking up track and field, learning to surf, and even traveling the world as a digital nomad, all because I’ve chosen to dedicate my time to pursue mastery in one sport: jiu-jitsu.
It can be scary to make choices because it reminds us that life is finite and that we won’t in fact have time to pursue every dream we’ve ever dreamed of. But the clock will keep ticking regardless of our choices.
As Earl Nightingale wisely said, “never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”
Ultimately, you must do something with your time. You can spend that time dreaming of different lives you want to live, never fully committing to anything. Or, you can choose to pursue a path of mastery — no matter how daunting it may feel to begin.
It’s your choice.

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