Ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to know who the “best” was. The best skier. The best chicken curry. Superman, the best guy who flies.
As I grew up, I found other examples of mastery where the very best tend to cluster. For example, some of my favorite examples of Mental Mastery are high-end restaurants, luxury hotels, and sports teams.
Imagine being a professional athlete who lives and breathes your sport. You hear quotes like this:
There will be two buses leaving for tonight’s game. The 2:00pm bus will be for those who need some extra practice. The empty bus will leave at 5:00pm.
How would that affect the way you see yourself?
How would it make you think about performance, about being the best?
There are layers of mastery, and the more you surround yourself with other people who are pushing themselves to be the best, the more you’ll discover how much potential you really have.
I thought it’d be fun to share 20 micro-lessons I’ve learned along the way, including from my business and personal life. Each of these micro-mastery lessons is a “shortcut” if you look beneath the surface.
- Wage war against complexity. Think about how much we’re pushed to get more and more complicated solutions: $500 baby strollers, incredibly complex diets, and 300 apps on our phone. Yet if we’re honest, how many of those actually changed our lives or made us happier? It’s not enough to say “I like simplicity.” You have to actively fight for it. Make a list of things you won’t worry about. Restructure your spending and calendar to go to things that matter. In the modern world, complexity is the default. Fight for simplicity.
- Timing matters. As famed chef David Chang points out, you have a “perfect window” of about 20 seconds to eat sushi. He doesn’t wait for the chef to explain the food to him — he grabs it and eats it first. Timing matters. When you’re excited about something, do it right then!
- Share the spotlight. Notice the difference between beginners and true masters: Beginners say, “I, I, I” — I did this, I think that, I’m stuck. Masters say “we” and lavish praise on their teams. (If you don’t think you have a team, look around you. We all have a team.)
- The very best are usually great at many things. I remember a Stanford professor joking about how another professor — a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry — was also amazing at literature. This is hard to believe since the media popularizes the concept that if you’re really good at one thing, you’re bad at others. (“Oh, she’s a successful entrepreneur … she must not spend much time with her kids.”) The reality is, the very best are usually great at many things because they translate mastery from one category to another. You will only believe this when you meet someone who’s great at multiple things. It’s life-changing.
- Money and mastery. Mastery doesn’t always mean getting the best grades, or the most money, or the most attention. But those are usually predictable byproducts of mastery.
- Flip time on its head. At IWT, sometimes we say “Go slow to go fast.” Other times we take something that might take 2 weeks, and finish it in 2 hours. (This blog post is an example— it could have taken us 3 days. We did it in 45 minutes.)
- The very best ask lots of questions. 3 questions I almost never hear: (1) “Just a second. If you don’t mind me asking, how did you get to that?” (2) “I’m not sure I understand the conclusion — can you walk me through that?” (3) “How did you see that answer?” Ask these questions and stop worrying about being embarrassed. How else are you going to learn?
- Endings are important. They’re the last taste, sound, impression that people will leave with. I read a great article on being intentional about the last day of your vacation — the day where most people don’t plan anything. Plan something big, memorable, amazing. Flip the last day on its head. Be intentional about endings.
- Action overconsumption. I’d rather act on 1 book than read 10. How much do you consume vs. produce? You don’t learn to dance by sitting at the bar analyzing people’s moves — you actually have to get up and give it a try.
- For advanced readers, part 1. The more advanced you get, the more you have to fight to maintain a beginner’s mind. I watch trainers telling their new clients to “engage their core,” a term the trainer has been using for 15 years. The first-time client has no idea what those words mean. Fight for the beginner’s mind.
- For advanced readers, part 2. At a certain point, you’ll outgrow the people you used to learn from. Finding your next level of teachers will be critical. This uncomfortable step is where lots of people falter.
- Choose your inputs wisely. The food you eat directly affects your energy, your focus, and your performance. What about the information you consume? What do you watch and listen to? If you could wave a magic wand and consume the “best” information, what would you choose?
- When you feel like procrastinating. Sometimes it’s best to just skip it today … or forever.
- It’s OK to be weird. If you’re reading this, you know you’re a little weird. You’re on my blog, reading long articles about mental mastery, personal finance, business, and psychology. Who else does that? You’re in good company.
- Say yes more often. Take building a social life by going to parties. Some people will ask, “Who’s going to be there? What are we doing? I don’t want to go unless it’s going to be fun.” I try to say yes to as much as possible, knowing that some will be lame but others will be amazing.
- But also say no more often. Consider the opposite approach of “default no + intentionality.” By default, say no — but be extremely intentional about the things you say yes to: Go all in, spend time and money, and truly scrape all the meat off the bone.
- Get comfortable with contradiction. A lot of people are irritated that the last 2 principles contradict each other. Get used to it. The most interesting advice is full of contradictions.
- Plan for failure. Some days you’ll be distracted. Some team members will leave. Some days you’ll be sick. That’s life. The best figure out how to win when life throws a curveball — because it will happen.
- Celebrate, even something small. I should have done this more in my early days. We think of celebrations for big things — birthdays, anniversaries, big launches — but sometimes we can just celebrate all being here together. Or showing up 1 minute early. Or everyone wearing the same color shirt.
- Your biggest growth is ahead of you. When you frame your decisions knowing your best success is ahead of you, it keeps you focused on the future — not the past. Invest heavily in your growth.
Real success is not an accident. It’s not luck. The best dedicate themselves to being the best they can be — often in ways that “ordinary” people can’t see and don’t understand.
I find that inspiring.
Let me know what lessons you’ve learned from studying world-class masters in the comments below.