How do you view your career and what you do for a living? Is it a job? Is it a stepping stone to where you really want to get to in life? A way to pay the bills? Perhaps one way to look at it would be to think about how much of a master do you want to become at what you are doing. Think about great scientists, physicians, artists or musicians and then imagine how immersed they are in their art. How much time have they spent preparing for what they do and how do they stay current with the latest trends? How much do they practice, experiment and try to improve their skills? The question is do you go about your job with the same intensity as these people?
Take a look at this interesting piece written by Catherine Clifford. She is reviewing some of the concepts in Robert Greene’s book Mastery where he looks at what separates the ordinary performers from the true stars. It is interesting that he starts by pointing out that experts are not born but they become masters through hard work and hours and hours of training. Note that he points out the same concept as in Outliers where over 10,000 hours of practice and work were needed by those who really dominated their fields.
Greene starts with five basic concepts. First, it is important to really choose an area that intrigues you and is something you love. Skip all the extra schooling and learn by doing. Do not concentrate on making money early in your career but rather on gaining experience. Find a mentor who is older and more experienced than you to help guide your thinking and development. Finally, be creative and flexible. Try new ways of doing things and constantly look for improvement. These are all pretty basic concepts but I am not sure how often people follow them.
The last point is especially interesting. Greene talks about the concept of viewing your job with an open-minded attitude and having a childlike interest and curiosity in what you are doing. There is a degree of love for the work and constant search for the right paths to pursue even as barriers are placed in your way. Persistence is key and that is when most learning takes place.
As summer goes on it might be a good time to examine what you are doing and if you are really striving to master what you do for a living. Too often people are frustrated with their jobs because they are not fully committed to the art of their work. They are only doing product management work because they want to be a sales director. They are working as a rep because the hours are good. They run companies because what they really want to do doesn’t pay enough to support their lifestyle.
The interesting thing about the different points Greene makes is that everything is so interconnected. The more you work at something and practice it, the better you get. The better you get the more you begin to love what you do. The more you dig into what you do and understand how things all fit together, the easier it is to be creative and look for better ways to do things. As you are constantly searching, you naturally seek out a mentor who can take you to even higher levels. The key is to first understand that getting good at something takes time, experience and hard work. If you are willing to dedicate the effort and constantly seek ways to improve then you will begin to master your work. If mastery in your field doesn’t excite you then find a field that might because nobody benefits when you are merely dabbling in something and not striving for mastery, especially you!