Micromastery by Robert Twigger and micromastering handstand


I rarely read self-improvement book but I’ve signed on a Masterclass for CNF by this writer and I thought I should perhaps find out more about this author by reading his book.

This 241 page book is easy to read, and quick too (I finished in a record of 3 days) if you skip some chapters in the section of Micromastery Central, where he tries to illustrate some examples of Micromastery (MM) you can try your hands on, like sketching; doing an Eskimo roll (on a canoe) -not for me; Talk for 15 minutes about any subject (yes); write dialogue (yes); sing solo (done that); make sushi that looks and tastes like sushi (done that)… from these examples, you get an idea what MM is. But let’s be clear.

He defines MM as a self-contained unit of doing, complete in itself but connected to a greater field. It should be repeatable and has a successful payoff. Basically, MM is how we learned as kids.

To be a master, one needs at least 10,000 hours of learning and practise, according to some experts, but MM is bite-sized. He gives the example of a (master) chef, versus perfecting a great yummy omelette (MM).  In the book, he extols the many benefits of MM, including how MM, being a polymathic (meaning: expertise in a number of different subject areas) skill, brings happiness.

By identifying small, enjoyable and self-contained instances of improvement, we move towards a more real form of happiness. He gives many examples of famous people in their field of experts who also dabble in areas outside their fields. Hans von Euler-chelpin focused on fine arts at college before an interest in colour led him to the sciences, and he would eventually win 1929 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. I cite this because I studied Chemistry in college but is now doing creative writing. As a child, Alexis Carrel, Nobel prize winner in Medicine in 1912, was taught lace making by his mother (a MM skill) which he later used in surgery.

What is Micromastery? Every MM has a precise structure, which I will try to connect to my handstand learning journey.

1.The entry trick – I’m currently learning handstand, and I deem it a micromastery connected to the larger field of yoga. Twigger says ‘some entry tricks have to do with confidence and familiarity, and some have to do with giving the right amount of emphasis to each part of the process.’ I feel I have the entry trick to a handstand -confidence and arm balancing skills in yoga.

2.The rub-pat, countervailing skill, barrier – The countervailing skill barrier is the point where you will find two skills needed for the task to work against each other (eg, in driving, changing gears interferes with steering.) ‘Performing countervailing skills means using two parts of your brain at once.’ In my handstand journey at the moment, my countervailing barrier is tucking my tailbone and balancing while being inverted. But with my limited range of tailbone movement, this is proving to be a barrier in my journey. The author says ‘just knowing that this barrier exists will make it easier to conquer the micromastery. It will focus your effort.’ My teacher, emphasizes that I need to work on my tailbone tucks, so that’s where I shall put my effort in.

3. Background support – ‘Before making any attempts at learning a micromaster you need to give yourself the best chance to succeed. You need good equipment or tools, time, and an open mind. You should not be in a hurry… This background support includes the environment and people around you.’ I read this just as I was contemplating giving up my handstand lessons and now shall pursue my journey because I have the right background support to ensure my success.

4. The payoff – ‘All MM are structured with some kind of success payoff – it’s what makes you want to repeat them. The fact that the MM looks hard gives you an incentive and whether your motivation is to look good (Handstand. ahem!!) or meet the inner challenge (or both), there needs to be a clear and unequivocal state of achievable success in a micromastery. A MM leaves you feeling that you’ve achieved something – however tiny. (My record-breaking 4 secs handstand says it all.)

5. Repeatability – ‘You have to be able to repeat a MM endlessly, and you have to be able to get better at doing it. You repeat and repeat and watch yourself improve. It’s really quite astonishing.’

6. Experimental possibilities – Through experimentation you can give added zest to repeatability. I’ll revisit this when I MM my handstand.

The author ends the book by saying: ‘An important reason for learning different micromasteries and becoming more polymathic, happier and more successful, is the growth of the individual. To do this you need to be a better person – more integrated, less trivial, more perceptive, more empathetic, more resilient, more energetic. A single-self obsessed by stock prices, beauty products can’t run your real life. You know you are a whole gamut of selves and these need integrating to reach the next level of connection to the deeper realities of life.’

I know I’m a gamut of selves – a mother, a writer, a yogi, who had over the years dabbled in folk art painting, baking, restoring old furniture, and sewing. I now know these hobbies are considered MM now because of the MM structure these projects entail.

I can’t wait to meet the author and learn some tips from him.



About vickychong

Just an ordinary woman.
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