Historian, Sarah Lewis asks the question – what is success? Lewis, through her close work with world acclaimed artists, came to the profound realisation that success is just a moment of recognition, something that goes just as quickly as it comes. What we are really seeking is creativity and mastery. Therefore, the question is not what is success but what gets us to convert success into mastery? The answer, Lewis argues, only becomes clear when we start to value the gift of the near win.
The gift of the near win can be more valuable than success
To understand the gift of the near win, Lewis observed a group of varsity archers. She wanted to witness something called archer’s paradox. The idea that in order to actually hit your target, you aim at something slightly skew from it. She watched as the archers, tenaciously trained for three hours. Perfectly aligning their bodies in order to pursue an excellence in the face of obscurity. Success is hitting the target, but mastery is knowing that it means nothing if you can’t do it again and again.
We thrive through a series of near lineage wins, explains Lewis. Mastery is not a commitment to a goal, but to a constant pursuit and our near wins gives us the strength to keep on chasing. In Navajo culture, some craftsmen and women would place a “spirit line” in their textiles. This is a deliberate flaw in the pattern to give the maker a way out, but also a reason to continue making work. “Masters are not experts because they take a subject at its conceptual end. They’re masters because they realise there isn’t one”.
The near win is inbuilt to mastery
Michelangelo famously stated “Lord, grant that I desire more that I can accomplish”. The near win is inbuilt to mastery, Lewis goes on, because the one thing that increases with our knowledge is how little we really know. Coming close to what you thought you wanted can help you attain more than you ever dreamed you could. Read more about Sarah Lewis here
Written by Leila Mezoughi on behalf of PCA Law