How to develop mastery at any skill – A simple list of inter-connected ideas

If you want to achieve mastery, you need to be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. You need to regularly perform and attempt stuff you’ve never done.

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When you’ve developed mastery of something, you own that thing. You’ve learned the rules inside-out and now you have the ability, as an artist, to create your own rules.

You have the ability to create a new game.

Dan Sullivan, the founder of Strategic Coach, calls people with this level of mastery, “Game Changers,” because they don’t just play a game, they change the game.


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People with this level of mastery don’t compete with others, they make others compete with them. They are light-years ahead of the crowd and are setting the context of the future that others will either consciously or unconsciously follow.

Becoming a game changer is something that very few people aspire to. Most people are relatively comfortable being good at what they do or paying the bills.

For a select few people, though, there is not only a desire to succeed and do well but to create and to fail. To stretch the possibilities of learning so far that they enter what some would call a “no man’s land.”

Going to places where no one else has thought to go.

Stretching their imagination so far that they can only share their ideas with a very tight “inner circle.” As Peter Diamandis said, “The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea.”

Once you reach a certain level of mastery, and if you have the creative spirit to change the game and world entirely — then you play in the realm of crazy ideas.

Here is a brief run-down of key steps in the development of this level of mastery. This list is far from exhaustive but will be useful to you if you intend to leave the world of competition behind and go to places only your imagination can take you.

  • Study only those whose work truly inspires and touches the deepest level of your soul.
  • Ignore almost everyone around you, particularly those who are competing for the bottom of the barrel.
  • Of this fact, Tim Ferriss stated in 4HWW — “It’s lonely at the top. 99% of the world is convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for the mediocre middle-ground. The level of competition is thus fiercest for ‘realistic’ goals, paradoxically making them the most time- and energy-consuming. It is easier to raise $10,000,000 than it is $1,000,000. It is easier to pick up the one perfect 10 in the bar than the five 8s. If you are insecure, guess what? The rest of the world is too. Do not overestimate the competition and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.”
  • Study the craft of those who are truly craftsmen — who are brilliant and nuanced at what they do. Peel back the layers until you begin to see how the sausage is made — why did they make the decisions they made in what they were doing? Why that ordering of decisions?
  • Begin creating or performing at the level you intend to reach — don’t start as a “beginner.”
  • Before you ever reach a goal, already have the next mountain or two in mind.
  • Never “arrive” where you plan to go.
  • The moment you arrive is the moment you’ve lost your edge. As Steph Curry recently admitted, the Warriors have to rediscover their “edge.”
  • You can only have “an edge” or “chip on your shoulder” when you have something to prove — to yourself.
  • You already know you could destroy the competition if you wanted to, but you want to test your own internal limits.
  • The only way to have this level of the edge is to be attempting something so big it somewhat scares but also excites you.
  • You can’t have “the edge” if you’re not pursuing a fundamentally bigger and different future.
  • The moment you attach yourself to the success or failure of your past, then you’ve lost the edge.
  • The moment you stop being emotionally committed and intellectually stimulated by a future possibility, you’ve lost your edge.
  • The moment you stop approaching with courage a new future, and instead, seek to avoid losing your current position — you’ve lost your edge.
  • The moment you become satisfied with what you’ve accomplished, you’ve lost your edge.
  • Interesting, Michael Jordan never lost his edge. In every possession — whether practice or a game — he always imagined the score to be 0 to 0. Even if his team was winning by 50 points. Most players, when they’re either winning or losing by a landslide begin to mentally check-out.
  • Imagination is fundamental to having a creative and competitive edge. When you’re pursuing something that you know has never been done before — at least by yourself, but also probably not by anyone else — you can have a level of humility and excitement that spurs innovation.
  • When you think about where you plan to be in 12 months from now — how imaginative is it?
  • How exciting is the future you’re striving to make?
  • When you’re playing at the razor’s edge, you have a small margin for error and distraction. Are your goals big and exciting enough to keep you from being distracted by stuff that doesn’t really matter?
  • When you have goals that are so exciting that you no longer have time or interest in distractions like social media, then you know you’re onto something.
  • When you have achievements or benchmarks you’re sprinting toward that require you to be at a powerful mental and emotional place — where you’re just throwing out creative output at a level you’ve never done before — then you’re on the right track.
  • Nothing great has ever come out of someone trying to maintain their current position or status.
  • All of the best innovation and evolution comes from a small group of people who are attempting stuff that is only real in their imagination — yet deeply connected in the soul and heart.
  • Napoleon Hill said, “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, the mind can achieve.”
  • In order to experience wild levels of mastery, you need to have “practices” or “performances” that test your ability and focus. For example, at a certain level, most people get caught into a routine where they start going through the motions. When you begin going through the motions at anything, you’ve lost the edge. Once the edge is gone, all creative innovation goes out the door. As a result, you need to push yourself always to expand your current perspectives and abilities. You do this through focused, difficult, and time-bound performances. An example could be an NBA player practicing for a full week with only their left hand. This would push their brain and creative abilities.
  • Have clear-cut goals that are focused on numbers and events. The clearer your benchmarks, the easier it is for your brain and mind to see it. Crystallize what you’re trying to accomplish and make it on the outer edges of possible. Your goals should be beyond anything you’ve ever done, yet still within the realm of believability. No one else has to believe you can do it but yourself. Then you focus on output.
  • Beyond measurable and numeric goals, you need to have an emotional EXPERIENCE you’re striving to create as well. This is where you become emotionally committed to your future. What would it feel like 1 year from now to have what you plan to accomplish?
  • People who are distracted do not know what they really want. They aren’t being pulled forward by a beautiful and exciting future. Instead, they are maintaining their own status quo, and have either lost their edge or have never found it.
  • Pivoting is one of the most beautiful ways to recreate your edge. Sometimes “bigger” isn’t the answer, but rather, different. Often, for example, a company thinks they simply need to grow. This isn’t always the answer. Instead of growing, evolution and change is likely the better solution. Change what you’re doing. Change what you’re pursuing. Change why you’re pursuing it. Play a different and better game, rather than merely a bigger game.

If you want to achieve mastery, you need to be both intrinsically and extrinsically motivated.

You need to regularly perform and attempt stuff you’ve never done.

You can never plateau or begin “going through the motions.”

You’ always need to be sharpening your edge — and playing just beyond that edge where creativity, faith, uncertainty, risk, and excitement exist.

You need to have a future so big, exciting, and different that you simply don’t have time to be distracted.

You need priorities so clear that you’re always laser-focused on what matters most, while most people are caught in the think of thin things.

You need to build a life and environment to facilitate optimal performance, expansion, and creativity in your core priorities and relationships.

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This article first appeared on Medium.


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Benjamin P. Hardy|is a husband & father of 3