“The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.” -Robert Greene, Mastery
If you practice something five times a day (and actually learn from it, of course), while other people only do it once a month, that means you’ll gain 5 months of experience in a single day.
Within one month, you’ll have the experience that takes most people a decade to learn.
For every day you keep going, thousands of others quit. Think of all the ground you’re gaining on the competition, every single day.
But most people simply won’t bother to put in the practice and effort to become better. “Bloggers” post a few random times a month. Would-be coaches might have a client every once in a while. Coders, programmers, and designers fool around with their software, but only when they need to.
Most people don’t consistently and fully apply themselves, which is why it takes them so long to reach mastery (if they ever do). As author John Assaraf once pointed out, most people are only “interested,” but not actually committed.
It’s an important distinction; when you’re interested, you’ll do what’s convenient. But if you’re committed, you’ll do whatever it takes.
The truth is:
Mastery only takes as long as you want it to take.
“If you want lasting change, you have to give up this idea of just trying something, and you have to commit yourself to mastery. That means not just “dabbling,” but fully immersing yourself. Because your life is not controlled by what you do some of the time, but by what you do consistently.” -Tony Robbins
Make Your Biggest Flaws Your Exclusive Strengths
“That by which we fall is that by which we rise.” -Tantric saying
One of my favorite movies is The King’s Speech. I tear up every time I watch it.
Colin Firth plays England’s Prince Albert, a man stricken with a terrible speech impediment. “Do you know any jokes?” his speech therapist asks him. “E…e…t-timing isn’t my strong s-suit,” he responds sarcastically.
The reason I love this movie is because I relate to his profound embarrassment and frustration — I had a terrible stammering problem of my own.
I remember going to speech therapy classes in third grade where I was the worst stutterer of the group. I was not someone you wanted to attempt a full conversation with. I still remember when bullies would mimic my stammer. I developed an intense hatred whenever someone responded, “What?” to something I stuttered out.
The stutter eventually went away — mostly. After college, I needed a job, and I decided to conduct as many informational interviews with prominent professionals as possible. I wanted a referral from them — that meant creating a great connection through high-quality conversation in a very short time.
I shudder remembering my first few meetings. I still remember exactly how they would ask me to slow down when I spoke (I talked fast to spit my words out before I could stutter). Or how they’d lean forward as I awkwardly mumbled a joke they couldn’t hear.
But I conducted nearly 30 interviews over the course of eight months. I got better. I would scribble the phrase “TALK SLOWER” in my journal 50 times before each meeting. I would force myself not to mumble.
The result? I became a very good conversationalist.
I got lots of job offers. I even got my friends job offers. I gained mentors, referrals, key insights, and guidance on my career journey from professionals making six- and seven-figure incomes per year, advice most people would pay thousands for.
I developed a level of mastery over my speech impediment over those eight months that most people don’t get in five years.
Now, I’m constantly told I have a great “radio” voice. I’ve made money as a voice-over actor (as Lego Batman. Can’t make that up.) One time, I was standing in line for a comedy show, and a stranger tapped my shoulder to tell me she loved how my voice sounded!
One of my greatest weaknesses and embarrassments became one of my greatest strengths.
I learned one main thing from this:
Mastering a skill only takes as long as you want it to take.
If You Can Do It Every Day, You’ll Be Enormously Successful
“At the moment when we accept our weaknesses and stop deciding to grow, we’re the BEST we’re ever going to be. It’s all downhill from there.” -Ramit Sethi
Daily engagement is the only way to become truly successful with a new skill.
The day you stop practicing daily is the day you start to lose.
This principle has helped me develop mastery and enabled intense growth in several other areas as well.
Here’s a personal example. I wanted to be a better basketball player. I’m right handed; I was terribly clumsy with my left hand. So I began jogging to the park four to five times a week and dribbled the ball with my left hand 500 times a night (it took a long time — I had to keep running after the ball after I’d bounce it on my shoe or cramp and lose control).
But after a month, I became incredibly skilled with my left hand. Only a month! Most nights when I got home, I would recount incredible plays I made with my left hand to my wife. Two years on the high school basketball team and I was never this good.
Here’s another story. I had blogged inconsistently for four years. I would write sporadically in bursts of inspiration, then completely stop for months in discouragement of low views.
After 54 months, I finally decided to become consistent. I started posting once every day for a month. I had no followers, I had nothing to lose. Three weeks in, a big blog asked me to be a regular writer for them. A few weeks later, I wrote an article which gained tens of thousands of views (my previous record was 748 views). A month later, I made $700 from a single article. What!
That momentum would get me on bigger and better sites. Six months later, I had gained over 16,000 new subscribers (in addition to the whoppin’ 200 subscribers I had amassed in the past 4 years). I was republished in popular magazines. A book publisher asked me to write a book with them!
If you can do it every day, you’ll be enormously successful.
Most people will wait far too long to develop a skill that could be mastered in months, or even weeks.
How long will you wait?
What’s stopping you?
Why do you keep making excuses?
Remember: those who wait until they “feel” like it don’t ever really do that much.
“Those who only do what they feel like… don’t do much. To be successful at anything you must take action even when you don’t feel like it, knowing that the action itself will produce the motivation you need to follow through.” -Hal Elrod
Anything Worth Learning Is Going to Suck
“Everything worthwhile in life is won through surmounting the associated negative experience.” -Mark Manson
Achieving mastery isn’t fun.
One of my favorite basketball players growing up was Ray Allen, one of the greatest shooters in basketball history.
In a farewell letter to fans, he said how people used to describe his jump shot as “God-given.” This annoyed him; he said that claiming it was “God-given” took away from the thousands of hours of hard work and practice he spent perfecting and mastering it.
“Anything worth learning, you’re going to suck. You’re going to suck badly.” -James Altucher
Achieving anything worthwhile is going to suck.
Whatever skill you want to master comes at a price. It takes time, perhaps thousands of hours. It takes full concentration. It might mean waking up early and studying late when you could have been out drinking with friends.
The reason most people never pass the “apprentice” phrase (see: wanna-be) is because they’re not willing to put in the work.
In fact, most people don’t even believe they could become a master of anything. “It’s lonely at the top,” uber-successful entrepreneur Tim Ferriss once wrote. “99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most competitive.”
Most people will not press through the difficult initial phases of mastery. Mastery has a price, and most people aren’t willing to pay.
But for those who do? Anything is possible.
“95% of our society fail, time and time again, to start exercise routines, quit smoking, improve their diets, stick to a budget, or any other life habit that would improve their quality of life. Why? Most people don’t realize the seemingly unbearable first 10 days of a new habit is only temporary.” –Hal Elrod
The Quality of Your Time is More Important Than the Quantity
“We think, mistakenly, that success is the result of the amount of time we put in at work, instead the quality of time we put in.” -Arianna Huffington
The fastest way to mastery isn’t simply just doing it every day without actually learning. After all, a bad accountant can still be a bad accountant after ten years. In fact, many are.
It’s true, quantity is the fastest way to quality, and you should try, experiment, fail, and learn. There’s a reason Seth Godin once said, “If I fail more than you, I win.”
But you’re wasting your time if you’re not actually learning. Many people are hundreds of hours into their “10,000” hours (a myth now debunked) without anything to show for it. A dozen hours of their practice equals one hour of a true learner’s.
The quality of your practice and training is far more important than the quantity of hours.
One of the fathers of the principle of “deliberate practice” was Anders Ericsson. In his book Peak, he writes: “It is better to train at 100% effort for less time than 70% effort for a longer period.”
This is why so many people languish in mediocrity, despite intense efforts to get out. Their environment sets them up for failure. If you waste all your time and energy all week, you’re very unlikely to have much left to spare over the weekend, or after work.
Most people will take far too long to become a master of their trade, if they ever do at all.
Repetition and hard work is tedious. Failure, frustration, and very few immediate results turn most people off.
But this is exactly when they need to continue. The individual who is able to press through those initial few days builds powerful momentum. Once they get going, there’s no telling how much they’ll achieve.
Mastery only takes as long as you want it to. Time is relative; what takes most people a year can usually be done in a few months.
How much you improve and how fast you progress is totally up to you.
“Never play by the agreed-upon norms within which others operate.” -Grant Cardone
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