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What It Looks Like To Become The Absolute Best At What You Do

It feels good to be a winner

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Ron Gibori
Ron Gibori, Creative Director at Idea Booth

It feels good to be a winner

A lot of us go through life being good at things. But what does it look like to become a master at your craft?

Being a Chicago sports fan, it is easiest for me to put it like this:

It’s the difference between starting on your Varsity High School basketball team and winning 6 NBA Championships like Michael Jordan.

Mastery is not a function of genius or natural talent…

But it is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge.

“Mastery” of one particular subject or craft is not the way we’re taught in school. If anything we focus on fixing our weaknesses instead of dedicating our time to the things we show early signs of talent at.

We’re taught to be an average jack of all trades as opposed to a master of one. We all have the ability (well almost) to be an Einstein or a Da Vinci — but it takes years of dedication, hard work and a good apprenticeship says Robert Greene, Author of Mastery.

Mastery analyzes and documents traits of brilliant historical figures who were considered masters of their craft, ranging from Mozart to Henry Ford, as well as more contemporary people, such as Temple Grandin.

This led Greene to recognize many similarities of the traits one must have to be a master, including many that may not be readily expected. Robert’s book, Mastery, has influenced how I have learned to gain ultimate power over myself and my craft of creativity.

The book is a heavy read. But it will change how you think in every way possible.

In the short, here are 9 practices I learned from Mastery to make myself better at what I do every single day

1.) Value learning over earning

Choose places of work and positions that will offer the greatest possibilities for learning with mentors to inspire and teach you. The goal of apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title or a diploma, but rather the transformation of your mind and character.

2.) Find the right mentors

Life is short. You have only so much time and energy. You can learn what you need through books, your own practice, and occasional advice from others. Mentors do not give you a short cut; they streamline the process. Their knowledge and experience become yours; they can direct you away from unnecessary side paths or errors.

3.) Observe

Many assume that the naturally gifted have bypassed the apprenticeship phase because of their inherent brilliance. I guess what we don’t always know is that their talents didn’t emerge from thin air. It is essential that you watch and listen to everything that is going on around you in a workplace before you leap to impress.

4.) Embrace failure

Mistakes are your education — they tell you about your inadequacies and permit you to see the flaws in your ideas.

There are two kinds of failure.

The first comes from never trying out your ideas, either because you are afraid of failing or because you are waiting for the perfect time.

5.) Build on your skills

No matter what your field, you must think of yourself as a builder using actual materials and ideas. You are producing something tangible in your work, something that affects people in some direct way.

To build anything well — a house, a business, even a film — you must understand the building process. You are a craftsman learning to adhere to the highest standards. For all of this you must go through a careful apprenticeship. You cannot make anything worthwhile in this world unless you have first developed and transformed yourself.

6.) Diversify your inputs (Influences/Experiences)

Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future. If all you are putting in your head is the news and garbage television, imagine what it does to your outlook.

On the flip side, you don’t want to read the same book 200 times. There was a great example that Robert Greene shared comparing life to an ecosystem…

“An ecosystem that has the maximum amount of diversity is the richest” 

Robert Greene

7.) Make it your own

Steal like an artist. Learn from masters and mentors. But treat their advice as guidance, not gospel. Say what’s never been said. Do what’s never been done. Try what’s never been tried. Make it all your own.

8.) Slow things down

I’ve never had a brilliant insight or idea when I spend all day in front of the computer. This is a big part of the reason why I think the 8 hour work day makes no sense.
With the amount of information we’re being bombarded with every single day, the ability to disconnect and slow down is going to be necessary for our mental health. One of the most interesting things Robert Greene mentioned about all the masters he had interviewed was their ability to work independent of technology. I recommend a complete disconnect at least once a week. If you can’t do that try an hour or two everyday.

9.) Never stop learning

In order to maintain your status as a master, you must never stop learning. Look for every opportunity to expand on what you already know.

Not a single person has produced incredible work without putting in a decade of practice first. Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor, the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others — we are merely born with the capability to do it.

The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated. How long will it take you to become elite at your craft?

As you can imagine, I think highly of Robert’s Greene work. He read over 200 books and spent 4 years writing Mastery (not an affiliate link). I think it should be a required read for anybody who wants to reach their true potential.

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