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27 Tips For Mastering Anything


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Many people have an intense feeling about what they're best at. Too often, they're driven
away from it by other people. The first step is to trust yourself and aim your career
path at what's unique about you.
Leonardo Da Vinci didn't come into his own as an artist alone, but when he followed his
childhood curiosity about everything, he became an advisor and expert in subjects from
architecture to anatomy for his patrons.

Rather than compete in a crowded field, find a niche where you

can dominate.

Daniel Goodman / Business Insider

Legendary neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran was at once a restless and dissatisfied
professor of Psychology. What was supposed to be a calling felt like a job. When he began
the study of phantom limbs and anomalous brain disorders, he found questions about the
brain and consciousness that fascinate him to this day.
Find your perfect niche, and stand out.

Rebel against the wrong path, and use that anger as motivation.
Mozart was a child prodigy on the piano. At a very young age, his domineering father
toured Europe with him. When he discovered a talent for unique composition, his father
suppressed it. It wasn't until he rejected his father entirely that he became a master.
We are often attracted to the wrong things, whether it be money, fame, or approval.

Love your subject at a very basic level.

The things that transfixed you as a child, that you found most exciting was not a
passing fancy, but a message about what you're supposed to do. For Marie Curie, it was
wandering into her father's laboratory and being fascinated by his instruments.

Charles Darwin was a mediocre student. He scraped by in school, more interested in
specimens than classes. When the chance to join an expedition to the Americas came, he
almost didn't go. What he saw on that boat lead to his life's work, and one of the most
influential theories of all time.
We are often raised as dependents then given over to teachers. It's experience and
exploration that can transform us and lead to mastery.

Engage in deep observation, practice incessantly, and

Deep observation
You don't need to impress people. You need to watch them. By learning the rules, you can
Practice, practice, practice
Our brains are set up to master skills. By repeating one thing over and over again, neurons
are recruited, hardwired, and mirrored. That's one of the reasons you never forget how to
ride a bike.
You don't know if you're a master until you test it. Do it before you're ready so you actually

Value learning over money so you're not a slave to everyone's


Instead of a more lucrative, time consuming commercial job, Martha Graham took a poorly
paying teaching job that allowed her time to train and develop the innovations in dance that
made her as revolutionary as Picasso was for painting.
Training, learning, and mentorship don't come from the highest paying, highest
pressure jobs. Those lead you down a conservative path of pleasing others.

Strategy More: Features Psychology Science Research

27 Tips For Mastering Anything



Revert to a feeling of inferiority in order to truly learn.

David Woo on Flickr

Daniel Everett, a gifted linguist, was failing to learn the language of the Paraha tribe in the
Amazon, which stumped researchers for years. He failed because he approached it as a
linguist and Christian missionary, from a position of superiority.
He didn't master the language until he learned it like one of the Paraha's children,
dependent on the tribe, and subject to the same restraints, inferiority, and need for
support that they were.

Entering a new place or path you need to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible.
Lingering prejudices and feelings of superiority hamper that.

Engage in intense practice and lean toward resistance and pain.

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Hall of Famer Bill Bradley was suited for basketball only in height. He was slow, couldn't
jump, and had no feel for the game. He practiced three or more hours after school, on
weekends, put weights in his shoes, and taped cardboard to the bottom of his glasses so he
could dribble without seeing the ball. That was just the beginning of his regimen.
Intense practice with resistance can be twice as effective as what's easy.

Rely on trial and error more than anything.

Paul Graham was always fascinated by computers. He eventually found that he learned by
tackling problems, failing, and trying again, not by being taught. That experience
eventually lead to the creation of YCombinator, which gives entrepreneurs the support to do
what he did.
Now, apprenticeships are less likely to be formal. You have to make your own based
on your unique style of learning.


Flickr / ahisgett
The right mentor-protege relationship is the most efficient and fastest way to learn, you
focus on one excellent source of knowledge instead of casting about for many. You can
learn a masterful way of thinking that takes a lifetime to develop in a fraction of the
But the goal must always be to surpass them.

Choose a mentor who will intensely challenge you.
Carl Jung worshiped Freud as a pioneer in his field, but was ambivalent about certain parts
of his theory. By using him as a mentor, even though they eventually split, he better
understood where he disagreed with Freud, learned a great deal, and sharpened his own
core ideas and identity.
The more your mentor challenges others, the more they'll challenge you.

Absorb your master's knowledge completely and then transform


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Glenn Gould was his legendary teacher Alberto Guerrero's most promising piano student.
Gould would take what Guerrero taught him and quickly move it in an entirely different
direction. At 19 he went out on his own, but years later, Guerrero could still see the
things he taught Gould, totally absorbed, but utterly transformed by his genius.
It is almost a curse to learn form somebody brilliant; it can be very intimidating. But
overcome this by absorbing everything, and then going beyond.

Create a back-and-forth dynamic with all of your relationships.

Freddie Roach, one of boxing's most legendary trainers, found his greatest student in future
8 division world champion Manny Pacquiao. He was Roach's most intense, teachable
student, and over time, he learned to take Roach's strategies and instructions a step beyond
what he ever could have alone.
The best relationships are interactive.
Learning someone else's dogma is never as effective as adapting and improving it.


One of the biggest barriers to becoming a master is dealing with others. It's far too easy to
live life as a series of battles and skirmishes over power that turn out to be minor.
The idea that people can be so brilliant they don't need to deal with society is a misleading
one. Masters use social intelligence to amplify their skills, rather than turning others
into an obstacle.

Accept criticism and adapt to power structures and society.

Jeffrey Lowy via flickr

Ignaz Semmelweis was one of the earliest pioneers of using antiseptic techniques,
something that could have and since has saved millions of lives. It was never fully adopted
in his time because of the high handed, arrogant way he dealt with his superiors, and his
refusal to actually prove his ideas. He died penniless and abandoned at 47.
Use those in power, don't alienate them. Otherwise, genius goes to waste.

Meticulously craft your persona.

Teresita Fernandez, a sculptor and winner of a MacArthur "Genius Fellowship" could have
let others define her. Sculpture, and working in metal in particular was a largely male
medium, and she could have easily been perceived as as a fleeting novelty. By spending
time on her persona, as well as on her art, she added to her success.
We all wear masks in society. Being aware of that rather than self conscious about it
allows you to be more effective in any situation.

Suffer fools, and learn to exploit them.

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The German poet and novelist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe spent a period of his youth in
the court of a prominent Duke. Upon accepting it, he found himself in a claustrophobic and
petty court culture. Rather than engaging, he used their behavior as the basis for later plays
and novels.
There are simply too many fools to avoid. Don't engage or sink to their level.

After emerging from an apprenticeship, the inclination is to be conservative, to work firmly
within a field and established, familiar rules.
The key to mastery is rejecting conservatism and becoming increasingly bold.

Absorb everything and then let your brain make connections for
The brain is designed to make connections. When we focus too intently on a given task, we
can grow tense, and our brain closes off. Masters read and absorb everything that could
be related to stimulate the brain into making a leap.
That's how Louis Pasteur made the leap that lead to vaccines. He spent years developing
germ theory, which enabled him to see the importance of a group of chickens that survived
injection with an old culture of disease. As he said, "Chance favors only the prepared

Avoid putting things into familiar categories.

Owen Thomas, Business Insider

The most creative minds resist one of the brain's signature tendencies, to put things in
easy categories, to use a mental shorthand to simplify everything. With an effort to alter
perspective, that can change.
Larry Page and Sergei Brin came up with the insight that made Google by seeing what
seemed to be a trivial flaw, bad results in search engines that ranked pages by how often
something was mentioned. One anomaly led them to a vastly more effective path.

Strategy More: Features Psychology Science Research

27 Tips For Mastering Anything



Don't let impatience derail your plans.

Wikimedia Commons
John Coltrane's greatest strength, improvisation, was once a weakness. He would resort to
imitation rather than innovation. After years of absorbing other's styles and learning a vast
technical vocabulary, he learned how to bend it into something intensely personal and
different from everybody else.
One of the greatest impediments to creativity is impatience. Stay the course and
develop your authentic voice.

Value mechanical and abstract intelligence equally.

The most brilliant engineers in the world failed to create a working flying machine. Orville
and Wilbur Wright were bicycle mechanics. A simple insight, that a flying machine needed
to be able to bank like a bicycle rather than moving in straight horizontal lines like a ship,
helped them beat men who had attacked the problem for years.
Mechanical intelligence, the focus on functionality, can be equally as vital and creative
as the abstract.

Avoid 'technical lock,' or getting wrapped up in technical artistry

instead of the real problem.

"Neurobotics" pioneer Yoky Matsuoka had an impossible goal, to build a robotic hand that
was lifelike. To her, it wasn't a series of mechanical puzzles, but a learning process to
understand the human hand. Seemingly irrelevant anatomical details turned out to be
extremely important for function.
Technical lock makes people lose sight of larger questions. By looking at the human
hand, already weirdly perfect, Matsuoka surpassed people who had been absorbed in
technical issues for years.

This is the final step. Deep immersion in a particular field, experience in an apprenticeship,
time under a mentor, and unlocking creative potential create an extraordinary depth of
knowledge and an ability to quickly and instinctively respond to any situation.
Combining that instinct with rational processes allows people to achieve their greatest
potential, to become masters.

Shape your world around your strengths.

Wikimedia Commons
Albert Einstein was a bad scientist. He hated the way physics was taught and didn't like
experiments. His greatest insights came from elsewhere. His theory of simple relativity,
came partially from thinking about an image in his head of trains, beams of light, men and
By deciding at 20 to stray away from conventional, experimental science, and to use his
distaste for authority to remove conventions that held him back, Einstein did something
that felt intuitive, looked illogical, but was intensely rational.

Strategy More: Features Psychology Science Research

27 Tips For Mastering Anything



Know that practice is just as important as innate skill.

Tony Manfred/Business Insider

Cesar Rodriguez, nicknamed "America's Last Ace" wasn't a naturally gifted pilot. He fell
behind at first. He caught up, then passed everyone through endless practice. He knew
every control in his bones, and reacted better than those who relied on talent. That helped
him make three aerial kills and earn his nickname.

Achievement through thousands of hours of practice seems so ordinary somehow. But

it's how most people become masters.