Mastering One Thing Is the First Step to Doing Whatever You Want

The curse of creativity is a lack of direction.

Taylor Foreman
Feb 12 · 4 min read
Photo by Dave Salter

I’ve worn many hats in my life. “Focus” hasn’t been one of them — until now.

The hardest thing in life is mastering the first thing.

The blessing of creativity is the first-hand experiences. I’ve tried and failed enough times to know what works for me and what doesn’t. I’ve been a philosophy student, a traveler, a salesman, a novelist, a handyman, a marketer, a comedian, a screenwriter, and an actor. It’s time to pick something and go.

“Passion” is a lie. Or — spontaneous passion is a lie. Passion is a skill. Passion requires reigning in creativity. It helps if you know it will explode out the other end.

Mastering one thing makes mastering two things easier. Mastering two things makes mastering four things a breeze. Now we’re on a roll.

The hardest thing in life is mastering the first thing.

Stumble Toward Your Thing

A lot of 30-somethings have a lot of advice for you 20-somethings. While I’m in my last year of 20-something, I’m starting to feel the itch to tell 20-somethings what to do.

Why? Because I wish I knew then what I know now. Thinking realistically, what good would that do? If I told myself, “Trust me, you’re going to fail at everything except writing. Skip the line and just write like your life depends on it, kid,” would I even listen? I doubt it.

Regret about the past is a mistake. The stumbling blindly was a feature, not a bug. It’s better for me to feel grateful that I did all that stumbling enough that I know what I know now.

Still, if you’re a 20-something and you’re looking for my advice, I would say pick a target. It won’t be the right target. You’ll only learn that if you pick it clearly and fail.

The only real mistake you can make is to not pick a target and float aimlessly around.

Force Yourself Through a Keyhole

There is a room called freedom. You are in a room called childhood. To get into the freedom room, you have to squeeze yourself through a keyhole. That means you have to focus, get great at one thing, and sacrifice your childhood whimsies.

Despite the name, most adults remain in the childhood room for life. Those people have “Peter Pan” syndrome. Peter Pan refused to grow up, obviously.

He thought that squeezing himself down was a crime. Fair enough. It’s not pleasant to choose one thing to work toward. When you do that, you can see clearly when you’re failing. But if you don’t know when you’re failing, you can’t tell when you’re succeeding.

You also lose the playfulness of childhood. Not entirely, but enough to make sure you are becoming a master. Is it really worth it?

If you make it to the room of freedom, you can re-discover your childhood. You gain everything you were as a child, plus the skills of mastery. You are a fully-formed adult.

What Counts as Mastery

Like porn, you know it when you see it. Mastery is being better than almost anyone — and then 1000x better than that. It’s beyond the pale. It’s a place almost no one ever arrives. If you have to ask, you’re not a master.

Mastery is the holy grail of living. It’s the process of making yourself endlessly valuable to other people. It offers both security, status, and fulfillment. Money is a lame aim compared to mastery.

When you’re a master, people kick down your door to be near you. Your years of focus made you a tool everyone would like to use.

There is no mistaking mastery. You want it. You have to sacrifice everything to get it.

It is beyond worth it.

Invest in Yourself

The stock market can wait. Your relationships can wait. Your “happiness” can wait.

The real compound interest is in you. Make yourself 1% better every day. That’s 3,800% yearly. Things ramp up quickly. But they do almost nothing for a long time before the sudden jump.

If you take anything away from this, it’s this: mastery is the ultimate investment. Pick the thing to master. If you don’t know it, pick anything and stumble forward. If you know it, sacrifice everything to master it. Quit when it becomes clear it’s not your thing. Trust your thing will come along.

Once that one thing is mastered, other things come more and more easily.

Life is made of mountains to climb. Unfairly, the first mountain is by far the tallest. Don’t get discouraged.

On the other side is pure freedom.

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