Mastery learning is for all of us.  It is not "learning to be a master", as that is a choice that not all of us need make...except, perhaps, we should choose to be a master at living life, so that we can attain the results we want in life.

However, there is no point in just striving to be a master, with ultimate knowledge and/or perfection.  We need only achieve "sufficient" mastery that will enable us to get what we want out of life.  The point of mastery is to achieve that which is most valuable in life, not to be smart with no purpose or payoff. 


In Salman Khan's book The One World School House, Education Reimagined, he talks of what happens when we move on in school having passed tests with scores of 70% or 90%.  The 10-30% we don't know will come back to haunt us when we try to learn the next level - for we will have difficulty.  And, as we accumulate misunderstandings, misknowings, and just plain missings of knowledge, the effect becomes more and more damaging. 

In his book, he writes: "At its most fundamental, mastery learning simply suggests that students should adequately comprehend a given concept before being expected to understand a more advanced one."  As such, it is similar to "building blocks" upon which to build more blocks of learning.  If you are missing one, you are likely to get stuck on the next.  Plus, in some teaching philosophies, it is purported that the mind gets stuck when we go on without defining and understanding an early concept or even a word.

He was referring to school, but the concept totally applies to the "school of life". 

We learn huge amounts of information as children.  Unfortunately, much of it is erroneous.  And we fail to learn some key information.   Then we try to function in life, with all this massive misinformation or missing information.   As a result, each level of learning is not accomplished at a level that is fully functional, as we have a faulty foundation to try to build from. 

And our self confidence suffers.  Most people feel flawed and inadequate and attribute this to some permanent problem/flaw they have.  But when they use "mastery learning", they jump a number of grade levels often in six months or less.  The fault wasn't in them, but in the faulty learning process and the gaps in understanding that undermine future learning.


In basic logic courses, it is said that if a previous premise (advocated idea) is incorrect, then the premises and conclusions that are based on it must be incorrect.  Certainly, it seems that if we do not correct an earlier false belief in life, we will formulate false beliefs based on the earlier belief - further aggravating the potential problems.

Thus, the reason a coach or a counselor cannot get a client to understand a concept is that a prior belief and understanding is correct.  Therefore, as in school learning, we must go back to the basics and then rebuild from that point. 


Yes, we do learn "something" as a part of life, as we go, and it improves our knowledge, but if we had a test we had to take on our understanding and knowledge at that level, I think we would be shocked at our "low score".  Of course, most of us don't take a test on "life knowledge" or "the accuracy of our beliefs".  However, we do receive a "score" of sorts:  the results we have in life.  If the results are not as we want them, then that is a sure indication that we have "learning gaps" to fill and/or revise.  And those problems are not "faults" in ourselves, they are simply gaps in our learning. 

And, of course, it is useless to berate ourselves for having missed some knowledge and understandings nor to consider it a permanent inherent trait or shortcoming.   What is needed is simply to respond to reality and do what in reality is needed: fill the learning gap.

Let me make sure to make my point.  A gap in learning is not a "fault" in oneself.  It is simply something to fill with the knowledge necessary to get the results one wants in life.  I discuss the difference between "knowing about" and "knowing enough" in Sufficient Knowing.


Part of mastery learning relies on getting feedback in such a way that you see that what you know is not quite enough on that subject.  We don't get sufficient feedback and/or don't recognize the feedback (lack of desired results on something we can affect).  Because of this, in life, we need to create mechanisms that have us see that we need to learn something.  Coaches in a specialty area and/or in life will give us knowledgeable feedback and help explain what is missing.  That is invaluable, priceless.  We can do some "self-coaching", in a sense, through using the notice-address-install process involved in The Improvement Journal.  

Indeed, those who are successful in life or in any one area use some form of feedback and quick adjustment to make dramatically more rapid progress in life, as discussed in Living Life As A Life Champion.

Not getting feedback and/or not learning what is needed is not acceptable.  This is not some moral imperative or matter of character.  It is about this being absolutely necessary in order to live a good life.


We're always looking for shortcuts, but most of what we're looking for is skipping ahead somehow magically without going through what is necessary in the real world.  (As such, we are living in an illusion of wishful thinking.)

We fail to correct our beliefs as we go, suffering from the results and/or not getting what we want.  Somehow we take this shortcut, cutting out the feedback-learn-adjust process, and somehow we think we will be ok!  Incredible!  No es posible!

We may notice the feedback, but then we shortcut the learning process.  Since we are mechanical beings we can only learn by taking in information and relating it so that proteins are built with which to construct neuronal pathways, which do not stay in existence unless they are used and reinforced.  And repetition of use is a key necessary component, whether it is through memorization or by using the to-be-installed-knowledge in exercises, such as projects, testing, deriving conclusions, thinking, etc.

For instance, I notice that unsuccessful people who want to be better will shortcut the full affirmations process - and then wonder why they didn't get the results.  They don't do sufficient repetition to create enough protein to wire things together to stick.  They also shortcut the part of the process where one is to create meaning and understand why a new belief is valid - and they simply repeat by rote, without the full understanding being attached to it.  They're "doing affirmations" but failing to do the firming (making it firm and solid) of the new belief. 

We sporadically return to affirmations whenever we "need" them due to a situation or feeling bad about ourselves.  Then we abandon the process before it is completed, leaving the problem largely intact, leaving a gap in understanding and knowing that leaves us with undesired results.  And when those undesired results happen again, we return to "doing affirmations", in a dilettantish manner, but never really doing all of what is needed.  Then we doubt whether affirmations work, not realizing it was all about us not doing the work necessary.  (See Using Affirmations Effectively - Rewiring Your Brain, your Philosophy, And Your Outlook.)


Salman Kahn:  "At its most fundamental, mastery learning simply suggests that students should adequately comprehend a given concept before being expected to understand a more advanced one." 

Quite simply, if something is important enough, we need to fill all the gaps so that we have a solid foundation for going to the next level and for getting the results we want in that area - and in life.   This is a "just do it" reality - and there is no fault involved, just insufficient knowing.

We cannot leave gaps in the learning sequence, of which the results are illustrated in The Learning Curve concept.  We simply need to engage in Effective, Real Learning, rather than faking it or shortcutting it - this is also known as "authentic learning".

In the real world, surely it is impossible to get from California to New York City, without going through each of the states that are on the way.  Surely we would not stop in Kansas and say we did well enough and think that we should be in New York City.  But people do this in life, not thinking it through or looking at the facts - and this is a "fault" of not having learned about the process necessary to do those:  Critical Thinking (AKA "Effective Thinking").  Incredible!  I hope that you no longer allow "vague, non-thinking" to rule your life!


It's all sequential and cumulative.

If you don't know how to read, it is difficult to learn as much.

If you don't know the basics of mathematics, you are missing essential understanding to do much in life.

If you don't follow good effective learning processes, you learn poorly. 

If you don't learn how to learn (or don't even engage in it), you fail to learn much.

If you don't learn how to think effectively (beyond what we were born with), we make poor decisions.

And if we don't learn effective problem solving, then we have lots of unsolved problems.

And, as a result, we do not have the life we could have.  In fact, our lives could be massively better.

Now, which of these steps do you think you should skip doing well???????


The "flip side of the coin" is that anyone can follow a clear learning path and learn enough to develop virtually any skill and wisdom that anyone else has (short of rocket science, perhaps).

On this:  Am I Capable Of Making My Life Excellent?  Can I Have Confidence In Reaching That Higher Level? - Essential understanding!  It's amazing how many people make up "reasons why not", such as "it's because of my childhood" or "it's because of my unique combination of problems that I won't succeed."  Bullbleep!
(See the answer to the other objection, about time, linked from this piece.)

Anyone Can Learn!

The Learning Gap - Like a hole in the bridge of learning, we can fall through - but we must plug the gap!

Learning Contents/Links  .

A core concept:

Sufficient Knowing 

The secret to being sure to have a great life

Doing "The Build"