performance-curveI see it with my coaching clients as they develop new skills, I see it with my eldest son as he avoids practicing the piano, and I see it with myself as I struggle to stick to a reasonable exercise regime.

It’s the disappointment that comes from false expectations of success.

We expect to develop a new skill or capability in the same way that a car accelerates from the traffic lights, gliding away effortlessly and quickly picking up speed.

But personal and organisational development is not like this. In his excellent small book, Mastery, George Leonard explains that the mastery curve is a series of plateaus interjected with small bursts of progress, not a smooth upward-facing slope.

Developing new capabilities is as arduous as it is exciting, and, as Leonard explains, the key to success is to learn to love the plateaus – those long periods of limited performance improvement that pave the way to eventual success.

Persistence and discipline are the real keys to great results, as much as, if not more than, natural talent. As Woody Allen once famously said, 80% of success is showing up.

Are you enjoying the plateaus of capability development or are you being let down by your expectations of instant success?

© Stuart Cross 2009. All rights reserved.