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12 Keys to Becoming A Master of Your Craft

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Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Riccardo Cuppini via Compfight

I recently interviewed the New York TImes best selling author Robert Greene all about his new book Mastery. Even if you’re not a blogger, I think you’ll find this interview to be really insightful. Throughout history the people who have become masters of their craft have had certain things in common.  The good news is that all those things are available to you. It’s just a matter of how far you’re willing to go and the price you’re willing to pay.

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. Imagine how easy it would be to become one of Gladwell’s Outliers if we could start the path to mastery as early as Kindergarten.  Getting to 10,000 hours would be much more feasible since time is on your side so early in life.

 

1.Pay Attention to Incredible Opportunities

The biggest mistake I made early in my career was getting caught up in the ego driven pursuit of a life that looked good on paper. I judged every single opportunity by the paycheck.  I should have made learning my top priority. Fortunately when I got to business school and had the opportunity to choose between two internships that paid quite well, I chose the one where I would be exposed to things knew nothing about. It turned out to be the catalyst for everything I do online.

2. Nothing Is Wasted

Many of us are hell bent on escaping our past.  Unless we invent a technology that allows you to erase memories your past will always be with you. One of the most valuable things Robert told me in our chat is that nothing is wasted. Even our worst experiences in life are blessings in disguise. I didn’t get a job offer after my summer internship at Intuit, something I considered a major failure. But I took everything I learned from it, started this blog, started BlogcastFM, and did a bunch of other things  I might have never done if  I had received an offer. Search for how your past can add value to your present and you might just surprise yourself.

3. Attitude/Frame of Mind

I was really pissed off for most of my 20′s.  Traffic was a pain in the ass, the lines at the grocery store were too long and I was in a real damn hurry to go nowhere.  My outer world reflected everything that was going on in my inner world.  To become a master of your craft , a great attitude is essential.

4. Everyone is Born Unique

There is not another person on this planet just like you, even if you are an identical twin. This is why one of the first things you learn from me when you sign up for my newsletter is that you’re amazing just the way you are. Fitting in is overrated.  Figure out what’s truly unique about you and embrace it.  Even if you’re convinced there’s nothing there remember this quote

You develop millionaires the way you mine gold.  You expect to move tons of dirt to find an ounce of gold, but you don’t go into the mine looking for the dirt—you go in looking for the gold ~Andrew Carnegie

5. Be Engaged with Your Work

If your work makes you want to gouge your eyes out, it’s unlikely you’ll become a master of your craft. This is easier said than done. You might have to let go of the need for visible progress and make a short term sacrifice for a long term gain. When you’re truly engaged with your work, it won’t even feel like work.

6. Diversify Your Inputs/Influences/Experiences

Zig Ziglar said “Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.” If all your putting in your head is the news and garbage television, imagine what that does to your outlook. On the flip side you don’t want to just read the same book 200 times.  There was a great example that Robert shared with me in our chat comparing life to an ecosystem

An ecosystem that has the maximum amount of diversity is the richest  - Robert Greene

What does that mean for your path to mastery? Read books from every genre. Listen to all sorts of music. Try all sorts of things. Veer off the beaten path and take the scenic route through life.

7. Make It Your Own

Steal like an artist. Learn from masters and mentors. But treat their advice as guidance not gospel. I took one simple lesson to interview people in a blogging course I was enrolled in, and turned that into BlogcastFM.  Say what’s never been said. Do what’s never been done. Try what’s never been tried. Make it all your own.

8. Realize It’s Never Too Late

After watching a 65 year old guy learn to surf, I’m convinced it’s never too late and you’re not too old.  It seems like many of us get lost along the way. We let the sound of everybody else’s wisdom drown out our own instinct. This is where trouble seems to start. We turn in the wrong direction because other tell us what they think is right for us. To become a master you have to listen to that voice and return to your calling.

9. Give yourself a Killer Education

We live in an age where it’s possible to teach yourself damn near anything. You can give yourself an education that kicks the crap out of the one you got in school. Obviously I’d recommend you don’t attempt  this with neurosurgery (even though the first 2 years of medical school are available on iTunes).

10. 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 mentioned about all the masters he had interviewed was their ability to work independent of technology. Paul Graham (the founder of one the world’s most successful technology incubators) doesn’t have a smartphone. I recommend a complete disconnect at least once a week. If you can’t do that try an hour or two everyday.

11. Social Intelligence

I can’t think of any more eloquent way to say this other than don’t be a jackass. If you can’t get along with people good luck making a dent in the universe. No matter how skilled you are at something, you’re going to need  help to see your vision come to life.

12. Never Stop Learning

A few months back I realized after over 1000 days of surfing,  I’m never going to stop learning how to surf. 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.

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

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