This book illustrates the steps towards mastery with strategies for creativity, social intelligence, deliberate practice and finding your calling. The steps begin from apprenticeship phase to creative-active phase and finally to mastery.
1.Creativity is not based on luck. It can be learned and trained.
We have the misconception that creativity is based on a good mood, luck or genetics. We label the successful people we hear as geniuses and think it’s impossible for us to achieve creativity.
The problem is that people want things cheaply and instantly so they work passively. They do not want to put in years of work for mastery. A large part of this is due to technology which has made life comfortable and easy. We need to see mastery as positive and necessary. We need to also recognize that people get the quality of their mind through their actions in life.
2. Find your calling.
A calling is something that makes you say “This is what I got to do.” Developing a calling can allow us to overcome the doubt and obstacles in life. Our calling needs to come from our intrinsic and emotional self, not from externals. As children, we used to have certain unique inclinations such as being attracted to math, art, music, physics etc…This is an activity that aligns with our inclinations and gives us inspiration. So our life’s task should be to express our uniqueness through our work.
5 Strategies to Finding Life’s Task:
- 1) Return to your origins or inclinations. You can look back at your childhood inclinations.
- 2) Occupy the perfect niche. Master in one niche and then move onto another one. You can make connections between the two or combine it. Or, pick a broad field and narrow down from there. You may come across a field that is only yours.
- 3) Avoid the false path. Money, fame, attention and public approval are not bring us fulfillment. Don’t let that become a motivator.
- 4) Let go of the past. Change is inevitable. Don’t hold onto past things if it’s not working. You don’t have to abandon your skills and experience. Simply, figure out how you can make use of it in a new way.
- 5) Find your way back. Don’t deviate because of externals especially for money. Recognize that mastery will take years and sacrifice.
As a child, I have always loved video editing, filming and writing. I remember making just random YouTube videos on comedy and singing and writing stories as a 12 year old kid. But just like most people, society and life got in the way. Parents told me to focus on school, get a high paying job and forget about any fun projects. My friends also gave up their childhood dreams and followed those exact instructions. As I grew older, I became convinced that this direction in life was not making me happy at all. So I rediscovered my passion by renewing my childhood dreams with YouTube and blogging. Now I look forward to every single day when I can do things that I truly love.
3. Choose work that promotes growth and learning.
We need to go through an apprenticeship phase. This includes:
- 1) Deep observation (passive mode). Give yourself space to just observe and learn in your new environment. See things as they are and don’t try to change it.
- 2) Skill acquisition (practice mode). Our brain is most suited for repetition. We need to keep repeating until we reach a level that makes practice more interesting and easier. Eventually, the flow state will come which leads to mastery.
- 3) Experimentation (active mode). Gage your progress and observe yourself in action. Combine skills learned and find a way to get more hands on in your work.
Strategies for the ideal apprenticeship phase:
- 1) Value learning over money. It is important to keep your youthful energy, not value the paycheck.
- 2) Keep your horizons open. Don’t accept and be satisfied with the status society puts on you. Don’t stagnate or stay narrow-minded. Mingle with different types of people and seek new challenges.
- 3) Revert to a feeling of inferiority. Lose the sense of superiority. We need to return to our childlike curiosity to learn faster.
- 4) Trust the process. Fear will always be present. We need to have trust and faith to keep going through rigorous training.
- 5) Move towards resistance and pain. Assign schedules and deadlines. Get some resistance practice by training with double intensity.
- 6) Recognize failure. The two kinds of failure are: 1) never trying 2) taking bold action. Strive to take action regardless and learn from mistakes.
- 7) Combine the “how” and “what.” We need to know how things function. How do things work? How do decisions get made?
- 8) Advance through trial and error. Learn as many skills as possible only if it is related to your interest. Don’t follow a singular path.
4. Find mentors.
We cannot always think of ourselves as being only self-taught. Books can serve as temporary mentors. But with in-person mentors, we can acquire practice knowledge, absorb their experience and skills, learn from their mistakes and learn from their actions. So choose a mentor that is not too specialized. We can also choose more than one mentor. But we must keep our mentor’s self interest involved always. Our goal should be to surpass our mentors and move on when we feel comfortable enough.
Strategies for deepening the mentor dynamic:
- 1) Choose a mentor according to your needs and inclinations. Don’t just choose the first mentor you come across. Be selective.
- 2) Gaze deep into the mentor’s mirror. Choose a mentor that can give tough love and challenges. He or she can reveal your weaknesses and give feedback.
- 3) Transfigure their ideas. We still must have our own voice, not just take theirs. We can focus on their faults and become better. Get competitive.
- 4) Create a back and forth dynamic. Some of their ideas can be older so we can put our own experiences as contribution. But don’t be rebellious.
I encountered my first mentor at a clinic I worked at last year. He was a highly enthusiastic, sociable, and knowledgeable person who seemed to possess vast knowledge on almost every field you could think of. I always learned so much in every single conversation we had going from politics, health, finance, marketing, and etc. Before I knew it, I found myself absorbing his knowledge and mannerisms. I realized this when I was speaking to other people and they pointed out that I had changed in a good way. It got me reflecting back to my past and present self. I realized I had experienced growth and transformation during my work with my mentor. So now I believe mentors can truly make a powerful impact on you and often in a positive way.
5. Understand people first. Beware the 7 deadly realities.
We tend to view people through a distorted lenses. In order to have social intelligence, we must see and accept people as they are. We must seek to understand people first. So we should observe before we react. We need to ask ourselves: what are they feeling and thinking?
We need to have specific knowledge of human nature by looking at nonverbal actions rather than words. Try to imagine you are seeing and feeling the world as it is without any first impressions.
Beware the 7 deadly realities:
- Envy. Admiring success of others. Beware of those who praise you a lot. Don’t boast your success.
- Conformism. Those who are different are often shunned. Don’t conform your morals and values to public standards. Reserve your greatest values to those closest to you.
- Rigidity. People stick to the same ideas and routines because of familiarity. Don’t resist new ideas.
- Laziness. People can steal ideas and take shortcuts due to this. Beware of idea stealers and cautious of those who want to collaborate.
- Self-Obsessiveness. Always think of the other person’s needs and values first. Don’t always only look out for yourself.
- Flightiness. Focus on actions, not on words. People experience fleeting moods and emotions all the time. People can change all the time so mainly rely on yourself.
- Passive Aggressiveness. People want to avoid confrontation so they use this method. Address this with a direct statement back or just avoid these type of people.
Strategies for social intelligence:
- 1) Speak through your work. Don’t be consumed by pettiness from others. Just let your work do the talking.
- 2) Craft the appropriate persona. The personality we show to others is important. The public arena will define you if you don’t define yourself. We need to create a mask to blend to all types of environments.
- 3) See yourself as others see you. Look at your past mistakes as though you are an outsider. Start with events that are months old in order to reduce the emotions.
- 4) Suffer fools gladly. Rationality doesn’t work on fools. Don’t rise to their pettiness. Fools are simply a part of life. Exploit them by using them in your work.
6. Awaken your dimensional mind (creativity).
Instead of conforming to society, we should get more creative by being bolder and experiment more. As children, we were much more creative and receptive to everything. This is known as the original mind. But now most of us are close-minded and influenced by society which is known as the conventional mind. True masters retain their childlike spirit and have discipline as well which is known as the dimensional mind. We need to bring out that mind more.
Steps of the Creative-Active Phase:
- 1) Choose a creative task. Spend years experimenting and connect it deep with you. But don’t go after something for money. It must be a dream deep within you and slightly above you.
- 2) Creative strategies.
- A) Cultivate negative capability. Confirmation bias and the need for certainty are obstacles to creativity. Seek out different schools of thoughts without judgment.
- B) Allow for serendipity. Widen your search as much as possible. Sometimes ideas come when we least expect it. Allow for random stimulation and do something outside of your work. Keep a notebook at all times to note down any observations or ideas.
- C) Alternate the mind through current. Try to devise many different options for something.
- D) Alter your perspective. Look at the “how” instead of the “what.” Place emphasis on the smaller picture.
- E) Refer to primal forms. Language and words can be restricting but images are powerful. Use diagrams and models.
- 3) Emotional pitfalls that can threaten mastery.
Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase:
- 1. The Authentic Voice. Spend years absorbing techniques in your field. Be patient and fall in love with the process.
- 2. The Fact of Great Yield. Seize upon any opportunities. You don’t have to specialize. A lot of young people explores this. This beats conventional wisdom.
- 3. Mechanical Intelligence. The key is repetition. Whatever you are creating or designing, you must test it for yourself. Adopt a craftsmanship approach, not marketing.
- 4. Natural Powers. Give yourself time to dream. Don’t feel pressure especially with financials. Never settle into complacency. A sense of uncertainty always is good for improvement. Take pleasure in the slow process.
- 5. Open Field. Create space to create something new and original for your audience. You need to keep going against conventional wisdom. People are dying for something new and original.
- 6. The High End. Don’t lose sight of your overall purpose and big picture of the work in the first place. Look at the bigger idea. Don’t get wrapped up in the technicalities.
- 7. The Evolutionary Hijack. We can come upon something by accident. Look at everything things from several different angles.
- 8. Dimensional Thinking. You look at the object of study from as many angles as possible, giving your thoughts added dimensions. In your mind, you get as close to the complicated truth and reality of your object of study as possible.
- 9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious. Your task as a creative thinker is to actively explore the unconscious and contradictory parts of your personality, and to examine similar contradictions and tensions in the world at large.
7. Keep training your mind.
We must learn to quiet our anxiety when we come across something complex. We should not just rely on technology but try to cultivate a greater memory capacity. Otherwise, our brain can grow flabby. We need to be more active by engaging in hobbies, games, language, instruments in order to train our brain. In return, we will receive greater intuitive powers.
Strategies for Attaining Mastery:
- 1) Connect to your environment. Observe everything in your environment. Don’t take anything at face value.
- 2) Play to your strengths for supreme focus. Determine and identify your mental and psychological strengths and weaknesses.
- 3) Transform yourself through practice. Master a series of skills and then move onto a complex skill. Ignore that society tends to denigrate deliberate practice.
- 4) Internalize the details of the life force. Put a lot of detail into your work for your audience. See your work as something alive.
- 5) Widen your vision. Train to enlarge your perspective by reminding yourself of the bigger picture. Look at all angles before reaching a solution
- 6) Study from within. We tend to study from the outside. We need to participate and overcome feelings of the unknown.
- 7) Synthesize all forms of knowledge. Expand your knowledge to other fields.
- 1. Creativity is not based on luck. It can be learned and trained. We need to let go of the misconceptions about creativity. We need to see mastery as positive and necessary. And that people get the quality of their mind through their actions in life.
- 2. Find your calling. As children, we had certain inclinations towards a field so our life’s task should be to express our uniqueness through our work. We should return to our inclinations, occupy the perfect niche, avoid the false path, let go of the past and find our way back.
- 3. Choose work that promotes growth and learning. The apprenticeship phase includes deep observation, skill acquisition, and experimentation. We should value learning over money, keep our horizons open, revert to a feeling of interiority, trust the process, move towards resistance and pain, recognize failure, combine the “how” and “what” and advance through trial and error.
- 4. Find mentors. Mentors can provide practical knowledge, their experience and skills and their mistakes. We should choose a mentor based on our needs, gaze into their mirror, transfigure their ideas and create a back and forth dynamic.
- 5. Understand people first. Beware the 7 deadly realities. Understand people by asking “what are they feeling and thinking?” Beware of envy, conformism, rigidity, laziness, self-obsessiveness, flightiness, and passive aggressiveness. We should speak through our work, craft the appropriate persona, see ourselves as others see us, and suffer fools gladly.
- 6. Awaken your dimensional mind (creativity). We distanced from our original mind as children and have adopted the conventional mind from society. We need to bring out the dimensional mind. We should choose a creative task, make use of the strategies and beware of emotional pitfalls. Refer back to the creative strategies.
- 7. Keep training your mind. We can’t allow our mind to become stagnant so we should engage in hobbies, games, language, instruments in order to train our brain. We should connect to our environment, play to our strengths, transform ourselves through practice, internalize life’s details, widen our vision, study from within and synthesize all forms of knowledge.
Overall, I believe this book is excellent for anyone looking to promote more creativity and deliberate practice into their lives. I’m personally still in the apprenticeship phase of my pursuits but I’m loving the process so far. Of course, there are still countless of days when I can get impatient and frustrated. But this book serves as a great reminder that mastery is all about consistency, deliberate practice and patience.