mastery: how to go deep, be wise, and stand out from everyone else

I was listening to Elizabeth Gilbert interview Rob Bell of the robcast. It was the end of the interview. The part where Elizabeth thanks Rob and tells him why she loves him.

the podcast: the robcast

Elizabeth said this:

Information used to be power but now it isn’t any more because there is too much of it. So now it is wisdom that’s power[…] I’m at a point in my life where I don’t want any more information. If I need it, I have literally all the world’s information collected on my phone. If I need it, I can just look it up. I want two things. I want wisdom and I want light[…] And you have more of that Rob than anybody who I have met.

It’s the wisdom and the light Elizabeth is hungry for. That we are hungry for. Because we don’t need more information and we don’t need someone giving us more information. We need wisdom. That’s power.

And wisdom comes from going deep.

A Zen teacher, Pat Leonetti, once told me:

It’s fine to dabble in a lot of different things for awhile. But when you really want to know something you must choose one path and follow that.

That is what wise people do. They hone in, they focus, and they go deep.

Robert Green, author of the book Mastery, says this about the path to mastery:

In this process leading to the ultimate form of power, we can identify three distinct phases or levels. The first is the Apprenticeship; the second is the Creative-Active; the third, Mastery. In the first phase, we stand on the outside of our field, learning as much as we can of the basic elements and rules. We have only a partial picture of the field and so our powers are limited. In the second phase, through much practice and immersion, we see into the inside of the machinery, how things connect with one another, and thus gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject. With this comes a new power — the ability to experiment and creatively play with the elements involved. In the third phase, our degree of knowledge, experience, and focus is so deep that we can now the whole picture with complete clarity.

You master something because it’s the only way to be really good at it.

You master something because it’s how you stand out in a world of information overload.

And you master something because it’s what makes all of this worth anything.

But how? How do you start down this path of mastery? If you really care about something, to know it inside and out, to see the “whole picture with complete clarity,” where do you start?

Here’s how to develop mastery:

  1. Commit. For an insane story on commitment read this by James Clear. It’s about the Marathon Monks in Japan who commit their life, literally, to their running.


Because that’s mastery.

And because, as Clear writes:

If you commit to nothing, then you’ll find that it’s easy to be distracted by everything.

W. H. Murray, Scottish explorer, explained it this way

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.
Concerning all acts of initiative, and creation, there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: That the moment one definitely commits oneself then Providence moves too.

The key, as Donald Miller of Storybrand says, is simply to turn your toes in the direction you want to go.

You don’t have to know the how or the what, you just commit.

And then you prioritize.

2. Prioritize it. Warren Buffet has a 2-list system. It works like this.

  • Make a list of the top 25 things you want to accomplish during your lifetime, or at least over the next several years.
  • Circle the top 5.

The rest?

Buffet says this about the remaining 20:

Everything you didn’t circle just became your ‘avoid at all cost list’. No matter what, these things get no attention from you until you’ve succeeded with your top 5.
  • Once you decide on your top 5 start with one.

3. Choose your one thing. Greg Kellar and Jay Papasan wrote a whole book about this. It’s called The One Thing. Choose one thing because:

write Kellar and Papasan then:

and the whole point is to catch something.

To grab a hold of it and wrestle with it until you know it. Deeply. Until you have wisdom.

4. Then do it. Doing it is the hardest part. Stephen King said:

The scariest moment is just before you start.

and Steven Pressfield wrote in The War of Art:

There’s a secret that real writers know that wannabe writers don’t, and the secret is this: it’s not the writing part that’s hard. What’s hard is sitting down to write. What keeps us from writing is resistance.

That’s it.

If you want wisdom, if you want mastery, try it:




And start.

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