Friday, April 22, 2011

The Joy of the Pursuit of Mastery: Remarks at the Virginia Odyssey of the Mind Awards Ceremony

To sum up this day in one word, WOW!  Today we have seen mouse-trap powered vehicles, complex machines, classical characters as tour guides, weight-bearing balsa wood structures, interesting series of changes, and money-making characters. WOW!
Odyssey of the Mind participants, I know that your performance today, and the preparation for today, has been very rewarding. However, I hesitate to use the word fun.  The word fun might suggest that it was fun like going to an amusement park, a movie theater, or a party.  Odyssey of the Mind is rewarding, even fun at times, but it also involves hard work. 

Participants, you should be proud of your pursuit of mastery.  Recognize that you never truly master Odyssey of the Mind, or any pursuit, for that matter.  As Daniel Pink observes, you can approach mastery, you can come close, but you never fully master a pursuit.  But, as I think you have discovered, the joy comes in the pursuit-in trying to get to mastery. 
One Odyssey of the Mind Coach posted an entry on my blog in which he described how his team of 5th grade students reacted when a vehicle they created broke during the competition.  He explained
how the students wisely set the car aside, completed the other required tasks, and then calmly working together to repair the vehicle and perform the task with 23 seconds remaining in the competition.  Overcoming challenges like this brings joy.  And participants, what brings you together-what unites you- is that you actually do find this to be fun, in a crazy sort of way.  It is fun working with others who share your crazy zeal-your passion for Odyssey of the Mind, your desire to overcome the challenges that Odyssey of the Mind throws your way.
So, during this ceremony, we recognize the winners in each of the categories.  Perhaps these teams have come the closest to mastery.  But all of you should be proud of your pursuit of mastery.  So savor these moments.  Cherish what you have accomplished during this pursuit.
I want to close with a challenge.  Commit yourselves to the quest for mastery, not just in Odyssey of the Mind, but in your other endeavors.  You will continue to see that the quest for mastery is incredibly rewarding.  Congratulations!
*Why is the work of Odyssey of the Mind so engaging?  Check out

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