Mastery may be a result of us making our best contribution, but is it a necessary aim? Isn't making our best contribution broader and more achievable? Best contribution speaks to our best, which is an internal measure. Mastery speaks to an external measure. I think our best, is a better term than mastery. We may not be the master tennis player or the master economist, but we can certainly be the best tennis player we can be and the best economist we can be, and this can be very good without ever being equivalent to mastery. That deals with the 'best' part, but what about the 'contribution' part?
I like 'contribution', it speaks to giving, not serving and not mastering. Making our contribution doesn't mean it will be appreciated by others, but we can still gain our fulfilment from making it. Contribution also says something more about producing, about making a product or delivering a service, than mastery does. And I think the contribution we make is vital to the growth we all get; mastery doesn't have this connotation, therefore it's more difficult to see how mastery ties in with productivity and economic growth.
So our purpose of 'fulfilment without harm' is pursued by making our 'best contribution'. Fulfilment via our best contribution is our intrinsic motivation. It must be without harm so that our and others ability to contribute is not harmed. In other words we must be able to make our best contribution, we must be free to make our best contribution: inequalities and/or control damage our ability to contribute as we best can, so they must be removed.
Why do we make our best contribution? Because it realises our potential and gives us fulfilment.
Actually, on further reflection, mastery is primary to best contribution. Mastery is autonomous, self-measured – I was mistaken to interpret mastery as an external measure, it is not, not the kind of mastery we seek, because mastery is not a point with an end where we become a master, but a line we travel with mastery always the motivation and always accumulating: we have mastery now, but we always seek more, that is our motivation. Why do we seek mastery? Because it is fulfilling.
Mastery results in contribution and our best contribution, because mastery drives us to achieve our best and through it we naturally make contributions that reflect it. If we use contribution as a measure there is a danger we devalue it, as others may not even notice it, even in this interconnected world. Our own measure, if we do not wish to despair, must be our own mastery.
So we seek fulfilment without harm, and a great deal of that fulfilment is found through our quest for mastery, with our best contribution a result of that quest, whether anyone else appreciates it or not.
This is a false dichotomy. It is both mastery and sharing, besting and contributing, competing and collaborating. All at the same time, each strengthening the other. What is critical is that it is in pursuit of fulfilment and done without harm.
Author of The Common Purpose Manifesto
('Mastery' is a term used in Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. 'Fulfilment Without Harm' and 'Best Contribution' are phrases used in The Common Purpose Manifesto.)