125: From Here To There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery
From Here to There conveys mental models or frameworks to help you travel down the path to mastery more efficiently and effectively. In this episode, personal development guru Thane Marcus Ringler gives you a taste of his book by revealing his experiences as a professional golfer and some practical applications for turning the information into action. Discover nuggets of wisdom about simplicity, purpose, and why success is not equal to mastery.
Listen to the podcast here:
From Here To There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery
In this episode, I wanted to share something special with you. The first is to say that if you are ever in need of help either in a transition you’re making or in getting unstuck in life, in stopping, spinning your wheels and getting to the place where you want to go and not thinking about it. I do have a development and performance coaching practice and I have some openings in the roster for potential clients. You can find more about that work at ThaneMarcus.com. I’d be happy to have a conversation and see if it would be a good fit for you. The second that is even more near and dear to my heart is what this episode is all about. This episode is me sharing two chapters from my book, From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery. I finally got my audiobook recorded and launched. It took way longer than I had wanted it to, but that is the nature of most things in life. Things are usually harder and longer than we want them to be. That was the case, but it happened to come out about a year after the book had officially been released, which was a cool celebration of the one-year anniversary to get the audiobook out.
I wanted to share both the preface and the first chapter of my book, From Here to There, as a teaser to the audiobook to give you a good taste of it. If it’s something that you enjoy, you can find the full audiobook on any audiobook platform, including Amazon, Audible, iTunes, Google and there are probably about 30 different audiobook platforms. It will be on any of those if you search From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery or just From Here to There. I hope you’ll enjoy the preface. It is giving a snapshot of what the book is about. The first chapter is all about the topic or general idea of mastery. They both can be useful and helpful for you. I do hope you enjoy this shorter episode with the first two chapters of my book, From Here to There.
Preface: What the book is about. The initial goal for this book was to write about how golf teaches you about life and how it makes you a better person in life. Throughout the process of writing, it became clear that this wasn’t what was needed to be told. It wasn’t the content found deep in my soul. What unfolded over the six months of writing the initial draft was both incredible personal growth and a major shift in life. There are two resounding themes this book represents. One, the path of mastery and two, transitions in life. Both of these themes were represented in my own life journey from the lifelong pursuit of golf, and then in the ensuing transition from golf into new career endeavors. While these themes have distinct differences, they both revolve around the underlying theme of development and more specifically personal development.
Personal development is what’s at the heart of the phrase, “From here to there.” Figuring out how to move from here and how to get to there is something that can only be done in two ways. One is having someone else tell or show us how to do it or two, figuring it out on our own. The best route is to use both options in order to get there fastest. It’s a constant lifelong process because once you get to there, there will always be a further there to reach what the path looks like. There’s more to come on the concept of mastery itself, but it will be helpful to gain an understanding of the flow of the development process. One of the most powerful equations for the pursuit of personal development, the path of mastery, is a simple three-fold process: simplicity, complexity, simplicity.
The structure of this book follows a parallel flow as we move from simplicity into complexity and eventually back into simplicity in the path of mastery. Also, we are going to move through the same pattern with the concepts presented in this book. Chapters 1 to 3, Mastery, Commitment and Learning, make up the first stage of simplicity. They are the core concepts that form the foundation from which the rest of the structure is built. Chapters 4 to 6A, Teachability, Fear and Systems form the ideas within the complexity stage where the layers of information and complexity are added and the sifting and discerning begin to take priority. Chapters 6B to 9, Systems, Momentum, Failure, Perspective, create the second stage of simplicity, the beginnings of simplifying all the information into what’s of utmost importance and the application for the situation or circumstance at hand.
Layout of the book. While the major motifs are seen in the overall flow of mastery and the individual topics covered in that path, within each chapter, I have divided the sections into three parts: my story, concept and application. This structure is meant to provide the reader with a real-life example of what I am sharing, a clear understanding of the concept presented and some practical ideas about how to incorporate it into life. The reason for providing general themes for each chapter is to help you use this book as a future resource, to be able to return to the sections within each category, to revisit the ideas provided for application. This is the dual responsibility for personal development. Using the tools and advice given by others while taking ownership of your own life and the proper use of the information given.
The end goal. The end goal is two-fold. First, I want to provide insight into this process from the personal experiences I’ve had and the lessons I’ve learned along the way. Second, I want to offer practical ideas for implementing these concepts into your life in a meaningful and helpful way. Without application, these ideas will forever remain words on a page. Without insight, they will never be seen with childlike eyes that produce real vision, real learning and real understanding.
My encouragement to you is to use it as a resource, as a reference, as a guide. Each chapter provides its own mental model for thinking through important frameworks within the path to mastery: mastery, commitment, learning, teachability, fear, systems, momentum, failure, perspective. As you move through the words ahead, be sure to take stock of where you are in the path and what the context is within the big picture of the entire journey, not just the path of mastery and the road of self-development, but also the process of life. Use this book as a tool, as a resource, as a guide but application is only as useful as its context. Right application in the wrong context equals the wrong application. Read this book in light of where you are in life and use it accordingly. Let’s begin.
Phase 1: Simplicity. Chapter 1: Mastery. “If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all,” Michelangelo. My story. I began my golf career when I was four. At that time, I saw the fame, glory and dollar signs awaiting those who gained status on the PGA Tour. I knew that I could eventually get there. It was just a matter of persistence and time. Confidence was never a problem for my four-year-old self. The game was simple: see the ball, hit the ball and sometimes miss the ball. For me, this was not a delusional pursuit. There were many adults telling me that I had a natural swing and a real knack for the game. In my mind, the only question that remained was, “When would I finally breakthrough?” Do you believe me? I wouldn’t, and no one should because at four years of age, I was barely conscious of life itself.
What concerns us at four is chiefly learning about the new things daily life throws our away and being fed when we’re hungry. That’s about it. I never picked up a golf club thinking that this was my destiny. It was more akin to the new shiny object that caught my eye sparking interest when the sun rays danced off its steel shaft. If I had to guess, and it is a guess since my memory fails me, I would say I picked up golf solely because my dad played it, which made it an obviously fun thing to do at that age. There comes a point in life when the clichés start to sink in and the rubber meets the road. This is when you decide what life will be, what opportunities you will pursue, what habits you will form and whether you will lead or follow. These crossroad moments are the doorframe that your life hinges on.
The question is, are you going to walk through to see what’s on the other side? The point is this. Four-year-olds don’t set out on the path of greatness, but 24-year-olds may. As I didn’t set out to become a professional golfer when I picked up my first golf club at age four, I also didn’t set out to become a writer when I began my professional golf career at age 22. This highlights the reality that rarely do we make the conscious decision to arrive at where we end up. That’s not to say that goals aren’t important. It’s more to say that the future is uncertain. With uncertainty, there’s one component that has the largest effect on our ability to cope: information. Information is empowering. With it, change is possible. Without it, despair is probable. Full information is rarely available, but having even partial information may be all that’s needed.
Rarely do we recognize the value of information until it is taken away, that is. I traveled through an international airport that will go unnamed when I was met head-on with this reality. Of all the mornings for the TSA to go on strike, it had to be the morning of my flight. Already running behind, I knew I’d be cutting it close to making it through the many check-ins and security points standing between me and my gate. With stress levels already heightened above normal, I speed walked my way toward customs. That was when I saw the line.Living informed is always a better alternative to a life of ignorance. Click To Tweet
Typically, there are duty-free, also known as tax-free stores situated well-before customs in order to allow all the travelers to fill their retail therapy before returning home from their travels. I immediately knew something wasn’t right when a line of people mysteriously appeared in the middle of the duty-free zone. I thought to myself, “Surely this isn’t a line I have to join.” Surely, it’s for some random gate with a large flight attached to it. As I continued walking farther, it became more and more apparent that there was very little chance I would escape this monstrous queue. Thankfully, there were several airport attendants and some workers from the various airlines who were near the front of the line directing traffic and informing all the bewildered travelers why there was such a massive line and why they had to go back and stand in it.
Without these attendants explaining the situation, things would have deteriorated rapidly. Even with their help, there was no shortage of yelling and cursing with dozens of passengers steadily moving closer to hysteria and rage. While the story ended like every great superhero movie, the good guy wins, the bad guy loses with the flights waiting until their passengers made it through the gate before taking off. It left a lasting impression on me about the power of information, especially on a large scale, but its power isn’t reserved for only the group level. It is just as important on an individual level if success is to follow.
The purpose of this chapter and this book as a whole is to share information. Living informed is always a better alternative to a life of ignorance. Making informed decisions always trumps stumbling blindly down life’s path. Smart people learn from their mistakes. Wise people learn from the mistakes of others. While information can’t fully replace the power of personal experience, it will help guide us down our journey for a smoother ride. This relates to how I think about wisdom. Wisdom is defined simplistically as the proper application of knowledge. In my current place in life, the path of growing wisdom involves accumulating both knowledge and experience. Neither part can be replaced or moved. There are no cheat codes to circumvent their necessity. While there is more to defining the full scope of wisdom, discernment, judgment, circumspection, knowledge plus experience is a good place to start.
Mastery is a subtype of wisdom. It’s the application of wisdom acquired in a specific field or skill that enables your highest potential output and exceeds the ability of the majority in that field. Mastery is a quest, a journey that takes patience, persistence and practice. This concept is best summarized by Peter Brown when he said, “Mastery, especially of complex ideas, skills and processes is a quest. It is not a grade on a test, something bestowed by a coach or a quality that simply seeps into your being with old age and gray hair.” The point being, mastery doesn’t happen by chance.
Concept. Knowing what mastery is, what it looks like and what it entails is necessary and important, but information is merely that information. Knowing doesn’t equate to believing. There’s some power in knowing. There’s great power in believing. We must believe that the pursuit of mastery is a worthy endeavor and we must understand why. Why should you pursue mastery? Why push for excellence? Why work towards being the best you can be? Why does it matter? We all fall in different places on the spectrum from idealism to cynicism. I’ve been blessed with a healthier than normal dose of idealism and I wish the same was true for everyone. Idealism helps us understand why the pursuit of mastery is important because the pursuit of mastery is an idealistic endeavor. It’s pushing beyond our current reality to what lies beyond our grasp. It’s believing we can accomplish the impossible or at least the improbable. It’s tackling the daunting tasks despite the odds of failing to be high, but why? Because human and societal progress depends on it.
Progress is up to you. Life is not meaningless. As a Christian, I believe life has eternal value, not just for us but in God’s eyes. Regardless of your faith, life is endowed with meaning from our ability to love and care for each other. Helping those in need fills our hearts with joy and gives our lives meaning that will never be achieved through self-centered goals or pursuits. The world we live in is filled with problems yearning for solutions. It’s not hard to see. In fact, it would be incredibly hard to miss. Every day we are faced with real-life examples of these problems waiting for answers. Solutions are never handed to us. They are always fought for. Mastery matters because people matter, because you matter. Pursuing your highest skill, knowledge, ability, that is what will lead to growth, first on the individual level and then on a collective societal level.
It always starts with you. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world,” said Mahatma Gandhi. Mastery matters. What is mastery? What is true mastery? How does one achieve it? Is it achievable? These questions have been asked and pursued for as long as competitive sports or competitive careers have been around. There is no shortage of books, videos, online forums, conferences and think tanks mining the depths of how you develop superior skills. From the view of a dictionary, mastery is defined as comprehensive knowledge or skill in a subject or accomplishment, possession or display of great skill or technique, skill or knowledge that makes one master of a subject. Beyond simply defining terms, one of the best ways to understand something so lofty is by looking to those who have illustrated its beauty for us.
Frédéric Chopin is considered to be Poland’s greatest composer. Mastery is unquestionably attributed to his skill and works. Here’s what he had to say about mastery, “Simplicity is a final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is the simplicity that emerges as a crowning reward of art.” Before discussing his observation, it is important to mention that human capacity varies. Chopin’s level of natural skill, talent and proficiency does not equal mine, nor does it equal yours. Each individual person has individual strengths and weaknesses. Each person has been given greater or lesser opportunity than someone else. The point isn’t the final level of mastery. It is to reach your level of mastery. While it is possible to find a standard that’s accepted by the majority, it is far more helpful to think about mastery on a different level. Mastery should be and can be an individualized pursuit and that is why beginning with the end in mind is so important. Choosing a path that is aligned with your predisposed strengths and talents is a wise path to take.
Back to Chopin. Within his words, mastery was not present in form but rather in spirit. Chopin states that simplicity is the final achievement. He’s saying that the final achievement from the pursuit of excellence is simplicity. A few years ago, I heard a phrase for the first time, “Simplicity on the far side of complexity.” It was a thought-provoking phrase and it revealed a lot about the process of proficiency. After sitting with the phrase, I began to realize several things. The first thing I realized was the underlying assumption present in the phrase. The point is to look at the far side of complexity and the assumption is that we already know what’s on the near side. It quickly became clear that simplicity is both the treasure found on the far side of complexity and the foundation upon which that complexity is built. The second observation that stemmed from the phrase was that this is an extreme oversimplification of the journey to mastery, which is the point.
An idea, task or skill is one of two options: simple or complex. If simplicity is what creates a foundation for complexity, how can it also be found on the far side of that same complexity? Mastery, like wisdom, is a proper application of the amassed skill or knowledge you have in any given subject or field. It comes from having learned the foundational elements, the simple building blocks in the early stages of new learning than waiting through the depths of complexities, amassing more and more information and accumulating layers upon layers of skills, ideas and concepts. All before becoming a master of said subject or skill, meaning you were able to know which one small detail out of the ocean of possibilities is most important and most applicable to the specific situation or scenario in front of you. The simplest solutions to the most complex problems, that is mastery. That is simplicity on the far side of complexity.
One glaring example is the device held in the hands of a majority of Americans now, the iPhone. Apple is a brand built on simplicity. From product design to branding and advertisement to functionality and user interface, it all screams simplicity. This is not by mistake. The late renowned cofounder of Apple, Steve Jobs stated, “Simple can be harder than complex. You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple, but it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” That he did, creating a legacy that continues to thrive even in his absence. In the midst of a rapidly advancing field of complexities, simplicity still triumphs over all.
Simplicity, complexity, simplicity. An easy way to visualize this process is within the categories of beginner, intermediate and advanced. To help illustrate the path, I’m going to use golf as an example, but any skill or job can work. Simplicity, beginner, this is starting from ground zero. You were coming to a topic, endeavor, occupation, a career or a hobby with very little understanding of the working parts involved. You go to the driving range with a bag of weird-looking sticks and start trying to hit a tiny white ball. Hopefully, there’s a little more context but you get the point. This is a phase when you are learning the fundamentals of the activity itself from laying the foundation for motor memory within the body to experiencing all the different facets of each skill and component to learning about the different tools and the situations when you use them. In golf, this begins with learning how to hold the club, how to stand in relation to the ball, what the swing should look like, what the swing feels like, what to focus on, what each club should do.
In this stage, the best advice is the simplest advice. Keep your head down. Keep your eyes on the ball. Don’t swing out of your shoes. Rotate with your body. As you progress through this stage, you move from being a complete novice to feeling more like a regular member of that broader community. In this example, as a golfer, the focus for this phase is largely repetition-based. The more reps, the better to train the body in what it needs to do and to gain the level of skill needed to be a consistent producer and competitor within the space you reside.
Complexity, intermediate and advanced. As your experience grows, you will start to recognize which areas of your toolkit or skillset are stronger or weaker than others. You’ll begin to engrain both mentally and physically the overarching principles for success that are widely preached and accepted by your field at large. Some common examples of this in golf are, “Par is a good score. Play to your strengths, be patient, drive for show, putt for dough.” Building good habits is a must and as you gain confidence and aptitude, the pressure will start to be applied through competition, deadlines, expectations and responsibilities. This pressure refines your understanding of where your skill level lies, enabling you to further refine your skills, knowledge and habits for further development.
Being taught by a mentor, senior co-worker or coach is also very important in this phase as you continue adding layers of knowledge to your base foundation. This step is by far the largest in terms of scope and the longest in terms of duration. In any field, career or sport and especially in golf, as you dive deeper, there can be an endless depth to its facets and complexities. The more you know, the more you begin to realize how much you don’t know. After I’d finished my first year of college, I honestly couldn’t fathom how I had ever played golf as a junior not knowing what I knew now. The same experience took place after my first year of playing professionally. The layers build and build upon each other until there’s a mountain of experience and knowledge to pull from.In the midst of a rapidly advancing field of complexities, simplicity still triumphs over all. Click To Tweet
Simplicity, expert. This phase of simplicity is greatly desired but rarely acquired. As Steve Jobs stated, it takes a lot of knowledge and skill to cut through the crap and distill the gold of simplicity in the midst of an informational tsunami. When you build a mountain’s worth of information, experience, skill and knowledge, finding that one piece that you need becomes a much more difficult task. The needle in the haystack is only as difficult as the size of the haystack. Characteristics of the stage include the establishment of mental models, a framework to operate off of, a deep familiarity with personal mannerisms and your internal wiring, the ability and discipline to not be confused or overcome by complexities, confidence without ignorance, which is a very difficult thing to accomplish, keen discernment of the core principles underlying various concepts and an awareness of and focus on remedying root causes, not merely their symptoms.
In golf, this looks like becoming a master of your mind, discovering and committing to the best system for your game, being comfortable in every environment, dictating your emotions instead of the other way around and doing the fundamentals extremely well. It’s having enough experience to know what each situation and circumstance leads to, what type of shot to hit as a result and not only knowing, but also believing that intuition and on and on. The point to understand this phase is that it takes a long time to get there. Usually, when you think you finally arrived, you’ve only just begun. “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning,” Louis L’Amour.
I remember the first time I came to LA. Moving from a small town in Kansas to one of the largest metropolitan city centers in the world is undoubtedly daunting. Fortunately, I was blessed with perfect timing. The year I moved, 2010, was the year I got my first smartphone and with it a personal portable GPS. What a savior. Roadmaps are essential to getting where you need to go in the least amount of time possible. Roadmaps lead to efficiency. This is similar to books. Every book shares similar characteristics: a title, a summary on the back or on the cover, a table of contents, maybe even an intro and a preface. In order for us to be motivated to read a book, we need to have a base understanding of what it’s about. Without a roadmap, reading a book would be a complete guessing game. We can always improve our discernment of which books are helpful to read and which are a waste of time, but that takes accumulated experience and involves much more than a simple back cover analysis. The moral of the story is that roadmaps make a difference.
This chapter is about roadmaps. While the rest of the book is more focused on the best practices and mental models to use once a quest has begun. Not only roadmaps, this chapter is also about goal setting. Beginning with the end in mind, starting with why, living a purpose-driven life. It doesn’t matter how you say it, the truth remains. If we are going to be successful, then we have to know what that means not just theoretical but also personally. It doesn’t matter what that means to your mom, your neighbor, your boss, your best friend or your role model. It matters what that means to you and because it matters, it needs to be defined personally. Beyond personal meaning, the path doesn’t have to be paved anew every time it’s traveled on.
Those who came before have traversed this road already, which allows those who follow to have an already established path to take. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel at the turn of every century. At the end of the day, a wheel is a wheel and down the road it rolls. There’s so much to this concept which makes it difficult to distill into a digestible form and that itself is an important indicator of mastery. Can you understand a concept fully enough to hold an intelligent conversation with other experts in the field while also maintaining the ability to explain it so that a six-year-old can understand? “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself,” said Albert Einstein.
This is that six-year-old version of the roadmap: simplicity, complexity, simplicity. While mastery is the implicit focus of this book, it is the explicit purpose of this chapter. Understanding what mastery is, what it entails and why it’s worth pursuing is vital to living life well. It is a non-negotiable in becoming your best for the world’s greatest good. With this, the order is important. There are five reasons why beginning with an understanding of the roadmap is crucial for success in your quest. If you don’t know where you’re going, then you will never get there, purpose. If you don’t know how you will get there, then you’ll never arrive, preparation. If you don’t know the order of steps to get there, then you will waste precious time running circles around yourself, process. If you don’t understand the approximate length of the trip, then you’ll never reach your destination, patience. If you don’t have an awareness of the inherent obstacles, then you won’t have the tenacity to overcome them, persistence. Before getting to the practical application of these five signposts needed for any journey, we need to take a look at one of our greatest weaknesses, the longing for shortcuts.
The Shortcut Mindset
In modern society, get-rich-quick schemes are all the rave. They have been re-branded in many different forms including the infamous fill in the blank hackers: life hackers, biohackers, growth hackers. If anyone is a big fan of these trends, it would be me. I always love a good shortcut to success and if it works, then what’s the harm? At the root of this inner tendency is a war wage between short-term gain and delayed gratification. On one side, shortcuts lead to eating the cookie sooner. Fulfilling the desire that begins welling within our taste buds the moment we smell them coming out of the oven. On the other hand, delaying that impulse allows us to say no to something that is so good at the moment, yet produces unwanted results in the future. Taken to the extreme, diabetes, obesity, etc.
One of the biggest dangers with the shortcut mindset is a way we begin to train ourselves to think. It is forming the habit, the discipline of giving into our impulsive desires, which is not as dependent on whether the desire itself is helpful or hurtful. The other problem that comes from shortcuts is the re-branding of success. Success begins to turn into getting to X, Y or Z faster than anyone else, no matter the cost. Burning bridges is rarely the answer. A quote my grandpa shared helps clarify this, “Success is a road, not a destination.” Shortcuts, success hacks, alternative paths, all can be a good thing. On their face, these mindsets are a good thing, but success does not equal mastery. Arriving at a destination only means that it’s time to either get to work with where you are now at or pick a new destination to push toward.
When we zoom out to a broader perspective, sustained success occurs when simplicity is achieved on the far side of complexity. Steve Jobs could have settled for a company that solely strives to produce a percentage increase of revenues each fiscal quarter but instead, he remained incessantly and unwaveringly committed to the best possible product above and beyond the call of duty, all for the prize of elegant simplicity. While there are no true shortcuts or at least shortcuts that deliver on what they promise, that doesn’t mean the length of your travel will be the same as your co-worker, your competitor or your friend. The point is the path at its core remains the same, but the amount of time it takes to travel down that path is up to you. The purpose of this chapter is to help you travel down that path a little faster by gaining an understanding of the purpose, preparation, process, patience and persistence that are all job requirements for the road we are on, the road to success, the road to mastery.
Application. The purpose of this book is not merely to share information, but also to properly apply the ideas presented. Why apply? Because without application, information is useless. Just as our bodies need to process the food we eat in order to turn it into fuel and then discard the waste, so too our minds need to process the information we consume in order to turn it into action for the service of our world and those around us. By discovering what the quest for mastery looks like, the goal should be to use that information to inform and assist our decisions on a weekly, monthly and yearly basis. Our perspectives are shaped by the ideas we’re taught and the events we experienced throughout our lives. Now that you have a base understanding of mastery as a concept, how does this idea inform your current perspective and your future direction? Hopefully, it provides an awareness for which stage of the journey you were in and patience for the process of development that always takes longer than you want. Just because you had the right information doesn’t mean you will know the right application.
This is why in each chapter, my aim is to provide you with a list of practical ways to apply the concepts given as suggestions for ways to put the information into action. Even still, there are many times we face or experience anxiety from an inward lack of clarity. This is amplified by the image portrayed in others and their seemingly put togetherness. Why do you feel hopelessly lost and forever behind all your peers who seem to have their life’s plan plotted out with bullet points, shiny resumes, vast networks and connections and sparkling teeth to boot? The fact is we are all in that place of anxious unknowns when transitioning from one stage of life to the next or from one stage of mastery to another. Yet that doesn’t mean we have to suffer along the way. Our goal should be to thrive regardless of the situation, circumstance or stage of life we’re in.
The Five Ps
To help us thrive, let’s take a further look at the five Ps in the path to mastery. Number one, Purpose is the foundation of all foundations. This is the concrete that once poured will forever remain as a base upon which you build your house. You may need some remodeling or maybe even a complete demolition and reconstruction. Whatever the case is, that concrete foundation will remain. Even if you happen to move to a new city with a new home, a new life and a new you, the process still must begin by pouring the concrete and solidifying the rock on which you stand. As a Christian, the underlying foundation for all I do is the hope I have in Jesus Christ and the faith I’ve placed in him alone. As a result, my life is built on him as my rock and all I do is for the base purpose of glorifying God.
What that purpose is for you may be drastically different or similar or maybe even the same. It is important that you clarify what your specific purpose is. If you build your house on a foundation of sandy soil, then it’s liable to be compromised the instant any storm comes your way and the storms will come. We need reminders, whether it be for items from the grocery store or the infamous to-do list or for your grandma’s birthday because you should give her a call and sing. With how distracting life is, reminders help us elevate above the noise of everyday life to make sure we accomplish the priorities. The ultimate priority in beginning our journey toward mastery is our foundational why and we must remind ourselves of that foundation. Life will never automatically attach itself to our purpose.
It is often said that success doesn’t happen by chance. As a writer, James Clear stated, “Inspiration only reveals itself after perspiration. Optimal lives are designed, not discovered.” Due to the entropy in life, stagnancy leads to decay. If we aren’t moving forward, then we will be moving backwards. If we aren’t strengthening our identity through reminders of our purpose, then we will be drifting further and further away from the anchor that holds us steady. The waves of life, also known as momentum, is constantly moving and disturbing our ship, bringing us up and down through the peaks and valleys, pulling us away from the path we’ve set to sail. There are a handful of things we do every day that keep us alive. Breathing, drinking, water, eating food and sleeping are the normal requirements within our everyday lives. While there are basic hygiene practices and other rituals important to functioning as a 21st-century human. The daily foundation of our life itself includes those four fundamental pieces: oxygen, hydration, nutrition, rest and rejuvenation.
After reading this chapter, you need to add a fifth, the daily practice of purpose setting. Just as with goals, setting your purpose at the beginning and the end of each day will enable your daily work and activities to always remain anchored to your why. This is as much of a non-negotiable to the path of mastery as water is to life. Water is essential to survive. Purpose setting is essential to thriving. Simply put, we need it. Begin each day by aligning yourself with your ultimate purpose, setting it as the umbrella under which all your work resides.
Number two, Preparation ensures a better trip. From professional athletes to business executives, to store managers, to culinary chefs, to creatives, to college students and beyond. All can understand the benefit and need for proper preparation. When taking a road trip, there’s always a mental checklist to run through: money, gas, snacks, water bottles, clothes, weather reports, miscellaneous items, and directions. If we don’t go through this process, then it’s almost guaranteed we’ll end up forgetting something, ruining or at the very least, drastically altering the entire trip altogether. In the journey of mastery, we need to be prepared for each stage of the process. Having an understanding and awareness of the steps and cycles we’ll face helps us recognize where we currently are and what we specifically need to work towards in the next phase of the process. The esteemed Greek poet, Archilochus, aptly stated, “We don’t rise to the level of our expectations. We fall to the level of our training.” Make sure the journey forward isn’t wasted. Be well prepared and aptly trained so that you can make the road ahead count.Without application, information is useless. Click To Tweet
Number three, the Process is the series of steps needed to reach your goal. An old adage says that two lefts don’t make it right, but three do. If all you know is that you need to take a few left turns, then you could end up driving in circles, never reaching your final destination. Seeing a bird’s eye view of the general process needed to reach our goals can be a game-changer. The thing to remember is that this view is a general image of the process, not a specific snapshot. The actual steps, actions and skills needed to reach your goal are going to look much different from my own as a professional golfer. The general theme is the same, but the specifics will differ. Clarify the direction, understand the steps and trust the process.
Number four, Patience is never easy especially when it comes to chocolate chip cookies. Imagine being a four-year-old child and being given the option of having a cookie now or waiting twenty minutes and receiving two cookies. What would you do? Many years ago, psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University and his colleagues conducted a study called the Stanford Marshmallow Experiment with over 600 four-year-olds on whether they could resist the temptation of a marshmallow for fifteen minutes in order to get two of them instead of one. The results showed that only 1/3 of the children were able to delay gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow. Since we have the benefit of being both older and wiser than four-year-olds, shouldn’t we have better results? Theoretically, yes, but when we examine our social media usage, our sugar intake, how much water we drink versus soda, alcohol or coffee, then the results are often more dismal than we would like to admit. Just because we should know better doesn’t mean that we do.
Patience is never easy, but knowing how you will benefit in the long-term will help you delay gratification in the short-term. How does this relate to the path of mastery? Seeing and understanding the 10,000-foot view of the path ahead helps us understand that patience is needed to reach our final destination. Mastery is a long and arduous journey. Without patience, it’s a journey that will quickly be forfeited or forgotten. Patience is all about perspective. This will be a theme throughout this book. It is needed in every aspect of this journey and in every aspect of life.
Number five, Persistence is always required. No guts, no glory. If anyone understood this truth, it would have been Winston Churchill, who is known for his role in providing a unifying and motivating voice that Britain so desperately needed to withstand the war machine of Nazi Germany during World War II. As one of the world’s most prominent and cherished historical figures, he had this to say about the merit of persistence, “Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence, is the key to unlocking our full potential.”
I love the word tenacity. It carries with it such a feeling of grit from the sound and verbal structure of it. This is precisely what Sir Winston is talking about. It’s that tenacious spirit that never stops pushing the boundaries of what we believe to be personally possible. There is not a human on this planet who wouldn’t want to be described as a tenacious person, doggedly determined and resolute both in their work and in their life. Words are easy to share, but titles must be earned through the institution of hard work. Hard work does not mean one day or one week but multiple weeks, months and years. It’s the kind of hard work that persists. Persistence is not for the faint of heart.
How does the overview of the path to mastery relate to the big picture of life? Think back on your own life. Remember that time when you spent several weeks or months or maybe years away from any type of weekly exercise or physical training. We’ve all had those periods in our life. Laziness is a global malady. In the back of your mind, you know the ship needs to be righted. Slowly but surely you build up the inner resolve and after multiple failed attempts, craft a way to trick yourself into entering the gym and getting your sweat on. How did that end up? Horribly. The feeling can be described as incentivizing an early death. Everything about it was awful, from your diminished athletic capacity to your apparent and inadequate level of endurance to your ghastly whew, revealing how close you came to lights out. That’s just during the workout, but it doesn’t end there. For the rest of your evening, all your energy goes to deciding if the desire to eat food outweighs your desire to raise your limp and lethargic body off the floor where you lie. Then comes the day after. You know exactly what I mean, lactic acid for days.
This can be a traumatizing ordeal for anyone and everyone, but tenacity is the cure. It’s not just any tenacity but an informed tenacity. We all have certain capacities and propensities. Some have a higher natural ability to muster up inner strength, to do what they don’t want to do, but know that they need to do. Others don’t have that drive. Whether you have it or not, knowing the path and the associated battles that will inevitably come provides needed and welcomed assistance. That feeling you experience during or after that first workout never goes away, but our preparation for the impending hardship will improve with experience. The more we encounter the Sufferfest of a Virgin workout, the better we become at aligning our expectations with the reality we will shortly face. This pre-awareness is a game-changer.
Knowing that it will be grueling, draining and seemingly unbearable allows us to prepare the inner troops of resolve, grit and obstinate determination to be prepared for the onslaught ahead. The path of mastery is no walk in the park. Anything worthwhile is hard to get. As the apostle Peter wrote in the Bible, “We must gird up our loins and prepare to fight the good fight.” If we go into this journey with the expectation of achieving it within a calendar year, then we expose the immaturity of both our understanding and our experience. Bill Gates, a living example of mastery, poignantly said, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten.” It’s the lack of purpose, preparation, process, patience and persistence. This is not a mastery hack. This is a roadmap to where you are heading, giving you both the directions of how to get there and an increased awareness of what the path will entail. Both the good, the bad and the ugly, because they will all be there. There are no shortcuts in life. There are just those who run the road faster and smarter. This is that journey. Hope for the best, expect the worst and let’s start running.
- From Here to There: A Quarter-Life Perspective On The Path To Mastery
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