While Excellence is Beckoning to You

25 rules to mastery in your calling

Boy with camera

As a reader, you’ve certainly heard of the wit, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” While in middle school, I couldn’t bring myself to read some books avidly relished by some of my friends. Why? Unacceptable book covers. Call me anachronistic, till today, there are books I still can’t peruse for the same reason. This prejudiced mindset almost prevented me from reading 48 Laws of Power, the first of author Robert Green’s four books I eventually bought. I have a similarly initially prejudiced friend who finally came about reading and sharing insights from 48 Laws of Power.

Mastery, the second of Robert Greene’s books in my library, reinforces the point that no one instantly becomes an expert when trying his hands on any yet to be mastered new skill. Neither does one become a competent master of any skill by becoming a rolling stone that dabbles into all forms of beckoning the latest or older interests.

Irrespective of your goals, you will find the lessons from Mastery practical and handy in our world of ever-increasing complexity.

Here are some of my highlights from the book:

  1. In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it.
  2. Occupy the perfect niche. Don’t get seduced into a field just because you see others doing and profiting from it. There are always challenges you are not aware of or prepared for.
  3. Stick to the few things you know and do well. This will enable you to focus, gain expertise, establish confidence and mastery.
  4. Choose places and job roles that offer the greatest possibilities for learning. Practical knowledge is the ultimate commodity and is what will pay you dividends for decades to come — far more than the paltry increase in pay you might receive at some seemingly lucrative position that offers fewer learning opportunities.
  5. Shun the temptation to want to master several skills at once.
  6. Practice early and practice frequently. Concentrated practice over time will produce better and longer-lasting results than haphazard long hours of diffused, distracted, or irregular concentration.
  7. The future belongs to those who learn and combine new skills in creative ways. Learn today, so you will become future certified.
  8. One of the lessons from the past is that the future will always arrive at our doorsteps impromptu and with greater complexities. Train yourself to handle these complexities instead of being irrevocably distracted and overwhelmed by all the ever-exploding mass distractions around you. Stay focused enough to learn and profit from them.
  9. Value learning over money. Going through life, it is easier to get addicted to money (especially the easy –money). The danger is that the time that was not spent on learning new skills will catch up with you, and the fall will be painful.
  10. Do not settle or nestle. Against all odds, keep on expanding your horizon; the world quickly closes on those who stay stagnant. Click To Tweet
  11. Trust the learning and practice process. With constant practice, you will overcome all resistances and pain and come out on top at the end.
  12. Be bold and venturesome. Timidity will destroy you. Don’t be afraid of failure. Being too afraid to try guarantees failure. Always waiting for the perfect time before you try equally guarantees failure. Failure toughens you while getting everything right at the first try may be a curse as you will fail to question the element of luck.
  13. Combine the “how” and the “what” by constantly asking the questions — how do things work, how do decisions get made, how does the group interact? Rounding your knowledge in this way gives you a deeper feel for reality and the heightened power to alter your circumstances.
  14. Advance through trial and error. The desire to find shortcuts makes mastery impossible. Be humble enough to learn from those who know more than you. Choose mentors according to your needs.
  15. To be effective in your quest for mastery, learn to understand people. You can only understand people by getting out of yourself and immersing your mind in the world.
  16. Avoid the common mistake of judging people based on initial impressions. The passage of time reveals more and more about people and helps you get better at reading them. Click To Tweet
  17. The personality you project to the world plays a substantial role in your success and in your ascension to mastery
  18. Suffer fools gladly. Don’t get worked up by things that are not really important while ignoring problems that will spell doom in the long run.
  19. You must have patience and faith that what you are doing will yield something important. You could have the most brilliant mind, teeming with knowledge and ideas, but if you choose the wrong subject or problem to attack, you can run out of energy and interest. In such a case, all of your intellectual brilliance will lead to nothing.
  20. Man passes away while time remains. Realize that time is not on your side. The feeling that we have endless time to complete our work has an insidious and debilitating effect on our minds. Our attention and thoughts become diffused. Lack of intensity makes it hard for the brain to jolt into a higher gear. The connections do not occur. For this purpose, you must always try to work with deadlines, whether real or manufactured. Faced with the slenderest amount of time to reach the end, the mind rises to the level you require.
  21. You are unique, and there is a purpose to your uniqueness. You must see every setback, failure, or hardship as a trial along the way, as seeds that are being planted for further cultivation, if you know how to grow them. No moment is wasted if you pay attention and learn the lessons in every experience.
  22. “Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge”
  23. Learn how to quiet the anxiety you feel whenever you are confronted with anything seemingly complex or chaotic.
  24. Most people do not see beyond the end of their nostrils because they are perpetually locked in the present. And that is the reason you must develop your capacity to think beyond the present. This is because “In any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail. The reason is simple: such a person will always think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing.
  25. If your work is not having the desired effect, you must look at it from all angles until you find the source of the problem. You must not merely observe the rivals in your field, but dissect and uncover their weaknesses. “Look wider and think further ahead” must be your motto.

Understand: it is the choice of where to direct his or her creative energy that makes the Master.

In dealing with any problem, you must train yourself to look at how it inevitably connects to a larger picture.

Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.
~ Marcus Aurelius

Understand it is the choice of where to direct his or her creative energy that makes the Master.

In dealing with any problem, you must train yourself to look at how it inevitably connects to a larger picture.

One of the lessons from the past is that the future will always arrive at our doorsteps impromptu and with greater complexities. Train yourself to handle these complexities instead of being irrevocably distracted and overwhelmed by all… Click To Tweet

Practical takeaways:

“The Seven Deadly Realities”

  1. Envy: Envious people often won’t even admit their envy to themselves. This makes it a quality very hard to recognize in people. There are, however, a few indications you can look for. People who praise you too much or who become overly friendly in the first stages of knowing you are often envious and are getting closer in order to hurt you. You should be wary of such behavior. Also, if you detect unusual levels of insecurity in a person, he or she will certainly be more prone to envy.”  “Intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy. In general, it is by standing out too much that you will spark this ugly emotion, and so it is best to maintain a nonthreatening exterior and to blend in well with the group, at least until you are so successful it no longer matters.”
  2. Conformism: When people form groups of any type, a kind of organizational mindset inevitably sets in. Although members of the group might trumpet their tolerance and celebration of people’s differences, the reality is that those who are markedly different make them feel uncomfortable and insecure, calling the values of the dominant culture into question. This culture will have unwritten standards of correctness that shift with the times we live in.
  3. Rigidity
  4. Self-obsessiveness
  5. Laziness
  6. Flightiness: Always rely upon yourself to get things done and you will not be disappointed.
  7. Passive Aggression

Copyright by ©Robert Greene, Mastery, Penguin Books, 2012

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