Oops, I did it again. Instead of writing. I spent a good part of my day trying to find a quicker way to produce more content in less time. Instead of exercising. I took a deep dive into the endless sea of YouTube videos all promising to sculpt my body in less time if I do this “secret” technique. Or in other words, I was trying to life-hack my way to the top instead of simply doing the boring work of perfecting my craft.
I bet you’ve done this yourself.
You know what you have to do. You have it written down somewhere. But no. Instead of doing the thing. You try to find a quicker way.
“There must be an easier way,” you convince yourself. So you pack. You prepare a smoothie. A large bowl of ice cream. You bring your wallet closer. Put on your headphones. And you dive deep.
I continuously catch myself doing the same stupid mistake.
On some occasions, it makes perfect sense. After all, why take notes by hand while you can learn how to take notes like this productivity expert who has an elaborate system that automatically scans books and filters the best quotes based on AI and then categorizes them by topics and then automatically connects to the Bluetooth of your headphones and plays the self-created content that ultimately upgrades your brain while you sleep.
Writing the words by hand compared to this elaborate process looks like a primate trying to use a screwdriver.
But let’s get realistic.
The tips gurus share online are nothing more than an appetizer that prepares us for the thing they are all secretly trying to do – sell a course or an eBook of some sort.
But even more importantly, we know that even if we learn a new note-taking technique. This will never significantly improve the way we understand information. It will simply add complexity to the process.
The reason these “revolutionary” techniques get millions of sales is because they appeal to our natural tendency to want quick results.
After all, nobody with his right mind will buy a course that will say something like: “A course that will help you take notes in 2 years”
But if we say something like: “A course that will teach you how to create a system that automatically takes notes for you while making you a cup of coffee.”
Give me two!
I have a separate hard drive full of such online gimmicks. A graveyard of “too good to be true” courses and downloadables I’ve purchased when I was young and naive – i.e., stupid.
Now, I am a bit older and slightly smarter.
I’m aware of the incentives of most online creators.
When I stumble upon a site where someone uses the word easy and money (or productivity, or results, or business) in the same sentence, I almost automatically close the page.
Think about it for a moment. You needed a couple of years to learn how to read, and then a couple of more to learn how to make calculations. What makes you think that you will start a business – successful business for that matter – and lose weight at the same time in less than 30 days?
Even if you end up losing 5 pounds after following some classified technique by a random online person. I bet that you will quickly bounce back.
And surely the results were not based on anything else than doing the boring fundamentals.
In this post. I’m going to briefly explore a profoundly important topic that is often overlooked for its corny characteristic – how to become a master in your field and perfect a craft.
I know, it’s a topic that stands somewhere between tips like practice gratitude and eat breakfast on the self-help shelf.
But worry not. I’ve deliberately excluded expressions like “you can do it” and “believe in yourself” to make it readable.
Hopefully, after going through this short guide, you will change the way you approach the hours dedicated to developing your craft.
What Arе Тhe Prerequisites To Become a Master in Your Field?
Our tendency for seeking brilliance or trying to be perfect by purchasing new innovative equipment is simply a form of procrastination.
In the back of your mind, you know that if you want to be a writer, for example. You should simply write. You don’t need to purchase the newest laptop to type words. And yet, this seems too uneventful. Too dry. Too ordinary.
Since you still don’t think you are a writer. Your mind is focused on getting the same tools as the people who make a living writing.
You endlessly browse the online catalogs for tools that – you think – will magically make you a better arranger of words. Purchasing a new desk, a new pen, a new cozy chair, a new keyboard… These are the common first steps for everyone interested in making a career in writing.
“I can’t write unless I have the same tools as my favorite author,” you convince yourself.
But what happens when you do get these things?
You are the same you.
The fancy new laptop that lowered your savings surely feels nice. But does it help you write better words?
I bet not.
Our tendency to want results right now is distracting us from what is crucial to perfect a craft – mastering the boring fundamentals.
And I’m saying these things with confidence because I’ve done all of these things myself.
Like every flawed human being. I was looking for quick results.
Back in the day. I wasn’t especially excited about reading books. Rather, I wanted to get the essential ideas without having to do the hard work of reading all the details related to these ideas. I was mostly involved in reading blog posts or short snippets of text that highlighted the most important components.
Similarly, in the field of sports and training. I was trying to find the ultimate (short) exercising regime that will revolutionize my body and help me become a six-pack bearer – in just seven days.
And in writing. I wasn’t interested so much in crafting a delightful story. I simply wanted to dump out content as fast as possible in order to attract traffic to my sites.
The result from the above three?
A busy mind. A constant loop between fat and skinny. Various blogs that I abandoned because I was embarrassed by the mediocre content produced.
What worked eventually was stupidly simple – showing up every day and doing the basics.
Plainly, if you want to become a master in your field, you need to master the boring fundamentals.
What Prevents You From Perfecting Your Craft?
The idea that we progress by simply doing a set of tasks for an agonizingly long period of time is not something we want to accept – nor something we can bear.
The reason is rather simple.
You don’t see any results for a substantially long period of time when you focus on the basics.
Yep, it’s awfully boring.
Your mind is hungry for appreciation. For results.
That’s why you engage in endless scrolling inside various internet holes to find new and more exciting ways to do the things that you should be actually doing.
If we can portray this, the picture will look like this:
We get familiar with the fundamentals, but we quickly pass along them and move to doing things that are more sensational – online discussions that talk about trends and hypes, browsing catalogs of equipment related to the discipline we want to improve, etc.
While these things don’t get us closer to where we want. We keep doing them for reason we can’t adequately understand.
But after reading a bunch of books in the field of psychology and winning a couple of medals on quitting in the past, I believe I have the answer.
Let me provide a possible reason to explain your reckless behavior – buying things instead of doing things:
We feel better by intaking more information about the topic we are interested instead of doing the boring work because there is some sort of ending. And there is always a delight when the end is reached.
Think about it. Finishing a Twitter thread feels exciting right now because you get pleasant sensations not only from the distilled wisdom by some random guru. But because you reach the end faster. Since the tweet is around 280 words, you can read it right now – unlike reading a book that will take your hours. The joy of finishing something is exhilarating.
All of this is powered by our tendency to want quick results – also known as instant gratification syndrome.
(In relation to the above, I bet that if you are subscribed to newsletters, you are always leaning toward opening the shared tweets in the newsletter rather than links to books – or other long-form types of content. Why? You can consume the tweet right now.)
Besides, each Twitter thread you consume supports your inner desire to become a writer – founder, marketing manic, etc. The same thing happens when you purchase equipment.
There is a defined line between placing your order and getting that item.
Or in other words, there is an ending and joy in that ending.
Internally, the more stuff you consume in relation to the person you want to become, the closer you feel to becoming that person.
But this feeling is present only while you consume materials in relation to this. The moment you end scrolling through online forums, when the final order has arrived that supposedly has to complete your writing room, you are back to reality where you are not a writer. Thus, you can’t wait to return to talk, tweet, and purchase more stuff related to becoming a writer instead of actually being one by writing.
In contrast, when you focus on the boring fundamentals, it’s painful not only because you do – over and over again – the same things – writing and writing. But because you don’t see an end.
You can’t precisely predict when your article will become viral; When someone will purchase your product; When you will publish the book; When this book will become a success… etc.
This uncertainty about “when the hell will I finally get some results” morphs into self-doubt, impostor syndrome, distracted mind, and pushes you to online stores where they sell immediate results packaged in courses, more tweets, videos, etc.
Or if we can briefly label the symptoms preventing you from mastering your craft. We can say that it’s a combination of the following three: lack of positive feedback, lack of discipline, and the absence of milestones to feed the appreciation-hungry mind.
How to Become a Master in Your Field?
There is no easy way to say it. Developing your craft. Becoming the best in your field requires a constant loop of perfecting a couple of usually boring tasks.
If you want to be a writer. This will include:
- Reading and researching.
- Writing crappy words.
- Proper grammar and syntax.
- Narrative hooks and story elements.
- Rewriting and editing your crappy writing and transforming it into good writing.
Do you need a fancy computer to do all of the above?
Yeah. The keyboard on the newest Mac will probably feel nicer, but the extra cash to get this computer won’t mysteriously grand you with the skills of a good storyteller.
You become a good writer by writing. Not by purchasing writing equipment.
The same is true for everything else of course.
If this is not enough to get you started, here’s a quick formula for long-term success:
6 Steps To Become a Master in Your Field:
- Figure out what you want to perfect: We are often unclear about what we want to improve, that’s why we are not making progress. Defining what you want to get better at is a needed first step. It will make you think about what is important for you. As the foul-mouthed Mark Manson says in his bestseller The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, “Whether you realize it or not, you are always choosing what to give a f*ck about. The key is to gradually prune the things you care about, so that you only give a f*ck on the most important of occasions.”
- Figure out what are the fundamentals: Once we know what we want to master, we need to research and find out what are the boring fundamentals. What type of tasks are essentials for becoming a writer, a programmer, a musician. Almost always, these will be tasks that look quite unexciting.
- Dedicate time for practicing – daily: Schedule time for practicing daily. Block time on your calendar for practicing what you want to master. During this time, mute all distractions.
- Do the boring work: Actually do what you intend to do. And, obviously, do it daily – focus on systems, not goals. If you scheduled to work on your craft every morning, get up and do it. Find a support group if needed – some people need outside help. Someone to push them when they can’t push themselves. Someone to keep them accountable. That’s fine too. The point is to commit.(Check The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin to uncover your true personality.)
- Rinse and repeat: That’s probably the hardest step. You do seemingly the same tasks, over and over again for an agonizingly long period of time. Here is where it starts to hurt. To spice things up, occasionally research for new techniques. Try something new. But don’t let the novelty distract you too much. Remind yourself of the main goal and learn to love the process.
- Motivation: If your motivation lapses, you will stop working on your craft. That’s why getting, and seeing, frequent results is crucial to keep going. To keep the fire burning, break big projects into manageable tasks and find an accountability partner.
Some Closing Thoughts
What helps us perfect a craft? How can we improve faster?
According to the famous Charlie Munger, it’s best to focus on the fundamentals. Or in his exact words, “avoiding stupidity is better than seeking brilliance.”
You don’t necessarily need innovation to create exciting stuff. You need to get good at the basics to get recognized.
Nonetheless, we often choose something else. We chose to dive deep into the hazardous ocean of tips and products because it feels better. We get this sensational feeling of making progress by reading about what we want to do instead of doing what we want to do.
Professionals perfect the basics, while amateurs are endlessly seeking for secret techniques.
This is what our age looks like.
If you pause and think about it, you’ll see that the thing that helps you improve is nothing more than just doing the work.
The importance of mastering the boring fundamentals can be observed in everything you do.
- Do you need to purchase all kinds of note-taking tools to take notes or a simple journal will do the work?
- Do you have to change your diet every two months to enjoy your body or simple daily exercises and some basic meals are enough?
- Do you have to invest in everything mentioned online or investing in fewer things is going to get you more money eventually?
Great results are obtained by repeatedly doing the same things.
Nothing fancy. Just doing unfancy things for a really long period of time.
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