When I focus on something intensively, I often find
that there are three stages that repeat themselves:

  1. Building capacity
  2. Repetition and refinement
  3. Breakthrough

I have been rediscovering this through my recent pursuits in weight lifting.

First I had no capacity. I just could not do some of the exercises that I wanted to do.  So, I toned them down and simply imitated the right moves. In the process I slowly built my capacity, getting closer and closer to the form I was seeking.

Second, finally able to experience the form, it became all about repeating the same movement and refining it.  It was an iterative process, creating successively closer approximations to achieving my

Third, there was a breakthrough. Beyond simply adding more weight or doing more repetitions, I was able to do something altogether new: push through pain, for example. Where before I had stopped because the pain was too much, I found that pain transformed into a limitation. This was not the pain I had associated with damaging my body, but pain that told me I was pushing into new territory. And now I was in that territory. Breakthrough!

Mastery follows these three round and round, with breakthroughs making it possible to begin building new capacity.


Genius is eternal

– Michelangelo Buonarroti