In any serious activity in your life, sooner or later you might want to think about what your goals involving it are. You might have a vague idea when you get into it; it might not get sharper or clearer for a long time, but eventually, I think it helps to consider it in the light of short- or long-term goals, or both. Least that has been my experience.
This most often comes up for me in those activities in which I have invested the most time -- writing, music, martial arts. I have, in all of those, set short-term goals and achieved many of them. I have a pretty good idea of where I want to go with them long-term and work toward those. My ambitions are measured, based on what time I have to spend on them, and what joy they bring, and on reality. Time narrows one's choices in some arenas.
For instance, my most recent art of silat began with a much different desire than the first karate class I took. Then, I was strictly looking for self-confidence and self-defense. Now, I am much more interested in mastering -- or however close I can come to that -- a system. I started late and don't have the time I'd like, but it is what it is. Candles. Cursing, Darkness, etc.
This does not speak to simply being able to beat people up or slice and dice them like rump roast, though those abilities are useful skills. It's that, over the years, I tried wide and shallow and while that has its uses and I'm not denigrating the path eclectic, I never learned deep and narrow, and I want to give that a shot. The goals of the eighteen-year-old Steve are different than those of the sixty-two-year-old Steve. (And how sad would my life be if my goals hadn't shifted at least a little along the way?)
Yes, basics are are what you are most likely to use, come the need, but still, I short-stopped myself plenty of times over the years when I thought I knew enough, and that doesn't call to me any more. And I didn't know as much as I thought I did, which was somewhat sobering later.
As I expect it will be sobering again. Been around long enough, you start to see patterns in how things work. Mark Twain's story about how, when he was sixteen, he thought his father was the stupidest man alive. And how, when we was twenty, he was amazed at how much his old man had learned in just four short years ...
Basics are necessary -- but for me, basics are no longer enough.
Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you have a sudden burning desire to learn how to play the cello. Never touched one before, but it washes over you like a firestorm, and you gotta do it. And also for the sake of argument, let's say that Yo Yo Ma has an opening in his schedule and is willing to take you on as a student. He's a world-class player, and from what I've heard, also a world-class masterclass teacher, so you are set.
After a relatively short time, I imagine Yo Yo would have given you the basics of the instrument. Tuning, how to finger the strings, music theory, bowing, like that. There aren't that many notes, are there? This isn't a chordal instrument, so you are mostly playing single notes, and if you are willing to put in a couple-three hours of hard practice a day, in a year or so, I'd expect you'd have some decent skills. Drop round the local pub and if there happened to be a cello propped against a wall, you might be able to play some tunes well enough to get somebody to buy you a beer. Maybe do the bass line in a small band well enough to do paying gigs at local venues.
After a year or so, you figure you could stand up on the stage at Carnegie Hall with Yo Yo and play a two-hour dueling Bach concert?
Not even in your dreams, Bubba. That situation, the basics just ain't gonna cut it. No way you are going to look like anything but a dweeb playing cello next to Yo Yo Ma.
Some things are better fresh: Potato chips. Coffee. Some things are better aged: Cheese. Wine. Some skills take time to ingrain enough to use well. You can probably learn everything you are apt need in a bar fight in a few days, but you won't have the ability to use it. No real value without an investment of sweat-equity.
You can learn the rules and moves for chess in a few minutes, too, but you won't be able to play with anybody who has any skill at it without feeling the fool. The game requires training and practice. Basics aren't enough.
There's a man I greatly respect who teaches fighting, but he sometimes says things that make me scratch my head in wonder. Recently, he allowed as how once you got the basics from a teacher you were better off moving along, because part of your brain didn't light up unless you started working on something without a teacher's voice in your ear.
I could hear that.
But then he said, if he were teaching a student how to fight and that student couldn't hurt him after a year, he'd be disappointed.
Straight up? With him paying attention, seeing the guy coming?
As a teacher, I can understand the desire -- your goal is to produce students who are better than you are. But as a player? Sheeit. I'd be passing unhappy if a newbie could come back a year later and kick my ass using what I showed him. This is not simply ego, though certainly that's in there, but what that would say about my own practical ability? That would be depressing. Either I stood still and he leapt ahead in seven league boots, or I regressed. Nothing about that speaks well of me as a player, though it might make me at the top of the charts as a teacher.
Mastery is an inexact term, insofar as most skill sets. You can be the best there is and considered a master, but you will probably believe that there is so much more you don't know. Stop, and the moss will start to grow on you.
Unless you are talking about some kind of musical genius, a cellist with a year's experience isn't going to be able to hold a candle to Yo Yo Ma's sun-mastery of his instrument, no way, no how, un uh, don't believe it. Like getting into a marathon race and the guy you are running against has a twenty-two-mile head start. Good luck catching him. A guy that far ahead is likely to always have something he can teach you, if you know how to listen and how to absorb it ...