Art historian and critic Sarah Lewis delivers a thought-provoking TED talk on “The Near Win,” a concept that espouses the immeasurable gain resulting from just-missing one’s ultimate goal. She highlights examples of artists, musicians, and Olympians in explaining that developing Mastery in a craft is all about “staying at our own leading edge.”
There is parallel connection to the military in that we, like an Olympian archer, must hone our craft through repetition after repetition. Sarah Lewis comments that:
Success is hitting the 10 Ring, but Mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can’t do it again, and again, and again.
But success in battle requires not only individual Soldier Mastery, but also organizational Mastery. Do we work military organizations with enough repetitions to reach Mastery?
The Positive Side of Barely Failing
She also says that falling short of perfect is acceptable because it gives us the motivation to strive even harder. How do military leaders react in the face of the Near Win? Do we reinforce the positive aspects of training even though they don’t quite meet the standard? Do we have the stamina (or the time, for that matter) to add more repetitions in order to meet the standard?
Motivation for Mastery
And as a final point about military leadership, Sara Lewis wisely asserts, “Mastery is about sacrificing for your craft, and not for the sake of crafting your career.”
She explains that creative professionals produce their best work when they do it out of a love for their craft, not for the secondary material gain that would result from perfection.
I believe that the military’s “love for our craft” is our immutable dedication to protect our most valuable asset, the Soldier. A leader’s motivation is to achieve Mastery, not so that he may rise through the ranks, but so that he may execute any mission with rapidity and violence of action, while putting the Soldier at minimal risk.