The ultimate power of a human is to realize the potential of mastery.
History remembers masters. Empires are ruled by masters. The greats of the past and the fames of the future are all masters.
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 activities 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. – Johann Wolfgan von Goethe
The thing about mastery is that every person possesses the opportunity and the right to achieve its pinnacle. It is not reserved for the talented, the gifted, or the born rich. Robert Greene refers to mastery as a feeling of “it,” when we achieve a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves.
It is the result of a process. Nothing special or extraordinary, but quite plain and dull. Through repetition, we gain access to insights and we begin to make connections that enable greater learning and effort.
The level of master starts at the beginning. It is achieved through raw effort and through the accumulation of time.
The philosopher king Marcus Aurelius noted: “Do not think what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.”
♦ Mastery by Robert Greene. Many people refer to Gladwell’s Outliers as the premier book on Mastery, but it is not. Greene crafts a brilliant piece in remaking the path to mastery. He peels back the layers of genius and talent and reveals its true core: effort, persistence, inclination and a bit of luck. Anyone can become a master but Greene reveals the iceberg below the surface and it is not pretty. Some of the history’s most revered masters endured grueling and haunted lives.
Yet, Greene reworks these timeless lessons into actionable strategies suited for the CEO, student, and everyday workman. A must-read for anyone looking to access what Greene calls a higher form of intelligence or merely a kind of intuition and sense for one’s surroundings. Gaining access to this power is transformative. Check out A Glimpse into Mastery for a deep look into this masterwork.
♦ Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The infamous 10,000 hour rule was popularized by this book. Although the research comes from Anders Ericsson, Outliers propelled the idea into the mainstream. The best part of Outliers and what makes it different from other books on mastery is the storytelling approach that Gladwell uses to make his point. He also further emphasizes other ideas that encapsulate the process of mastery such as environment, community, and cultural legacy. Gladwell is very clear that mastery requires effort and consistency, but he notes the external circumstances that exert more influence than we may think: the birth month of a hockey player in Canada, the birth year of history’s richest men, the cultural influence of the rice paddy on the Asian work ethic and the impact of an overbearing parent (Mozart, Tiger, etc.).
He also criticizes the importance of IQ in relation to success, making note that above a score of 115, IQ is no longer relevant. Traits of personality and character matter more and more. The total picture of what it takes to be an outlier is never the same, yet almost always constitutes many of the same ingredients. The potential to control and manipulate many of these aspects exist, but many times they do not. Still, hard work always matters- “no one who can rise before dawn three hundred sixty days a year fails to make his family rich.“
♦ Mastery by George Leonard. Published in 1992, Leonard was among the first to look into a life of mastery as a cure for the ails of modern life. Drawing on his experiences as an Aikido expert, Leonard frames the life of a master against the backdrop of a martial artist. One that is goalless and neverending: a life of persistent effort, with ebbs & flows, ins and outs, and of course an emphasis on the daily physical and mental grind. Besides Leonard’s experience as a martial artist, Mastery is different because it takes the time to define the life and journey of a master. It is a lifetime spent in the plateau, where our hero is engaged in the struggle. Days and weeks pass, as Leonard notes, without no apparent progress. It is counter-culture to spend so much time going nowhere.
Modern-day, consumerist mindsets demands speed; everything faster and faster without anytime spent in the struggle; a place that hurts and stings. Furthermore, Leonard’s work mirrors many of the others in the genre: it takes time to rewire biological and neurological systems. Avoid the dabbler, the obsessive, the hacker, and become the master using the five keys to mastery: instruction, practice, surrender, intentionality (visualization), and the edge.
♦ Me, Inc. by Gene Simmons. Simmons is the mastermind behind the enormous success of the KISS brand. Growing up as an immigrant and literally coming from nothing in Israel, he rose to rockstar status by taking action. He discovered the value of learning at a young age and immersed himself in the halls of a public library: expanding his knowledge of everything, leveling the playing field with lazy Americans who took for granted everything that espouses the idea of free will.
He cultivated a mindset and an idea of entrepreneurship that drove him to more every day: not only can you do anything- you can do everything. At his pinnacle, Simmons was a producer, owner of a record company, manager, TV actor, marketer, and of course CEO of the KISS corporation. His experience prior to doing any of these things: none. This book is about taking control of your destiny, adapting to whatever challenges you may encounter and ultimately championing business and life. Be a Darwinian apex predator: adapt and conquer.
♦ Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness. This book is chocked full of some of the most important concepts for success and performance. However, I do not like the way the book was organized. It has too many things to consider in way sequence that did not flow well. Similar to a manual with pieces of narrative layered between each concept. I almost did not list it as a book recommendation but decided that it is indeed a good jumping off point for someone looking to get a little bit of everything: mindset, grit, purpose, habits, willpower, stress, and rest. Peak Performance was just enough of each concept that it is a good bridge to idea/expert.
Growth Mindset → Carol Dweck
Grit → Angela Duckworth
Flow → Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Willpower → Roy Baumeister and Kelly McGonigal
Expertise → K. Anders Ericsson
Drive → Daniel Pink
Meaning → Victor Frankl
♦ Maximus Body by Bobby Maximus. This is a very practical training resource that comes from a guy that trains a lot. It covers the very critical idea of preparing your mind to endure physical challenges. Through the effort of overcoming physical challenges, your mind becomes stronger. This is why The Mind is Primary. Talk minus action equals zero. Check out this post for an in-depth look into Gym Jones and The Maximus Method.
Read More: The Mind is Primary
In Pursuit of Excellence
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