All Universal Men gratefully accept the challenge of Mastery. They know its importance for personal growth, confidence, giving back and the ultimate expression of self.
So what is Mastery? And what are the steps and what are the different roles along the journey?
Mastery is the pursuit of excellence. A pursuit of being beyond an expert. It might be sport, music, profession, art, craft.
It’s not easy. And it’s not natural ability either. Daniel Herbert, the World Cup-winning Wallaby, Rugby World Player of the Year said, “Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.” And that is so, so true about Mastery.
It’s about building your skill and committing to growth over time. That’s true Mastery.
Is this just the big-time performer we are talking about? Does this apply to every single one of us? Are we all called to it?
All people are all called to it in one form or another. And it’s at the very heart of being a Universal Man. This is right at the core of what we’re about. The know thyself, the grow thyself and brotherhood.
You don’t have to be the world’s best to be a master of something. Because it’s both a journey and a destination. It teaches you how to understand the world in different ways. It teaches you how to know the process of growth. The process of getting to a new place.
And its impact flows on into all the other areas of your life.
Let’s imagine you’ve learned how to master an instrument, then you go to work. You almost inherently or unconsciously know what needs to happen in order to get better. It’s within your bones and your DNA. You know the process.
And there’s something in me which is wanting more, there’s something in me which wants more of me. Where I want to be the best I can be in that particular area. And when I do that, I grow in confidence, my sense of pride. I’m stretching my own self into a really good kind of space.
The pride is really important here. If you’re really good at something, you might be great at surfing or skiing or maybe you’re just damn good at your job at work. That gives you this foundational element of pride and self-worth because you can do something better than most people.
And you know you’ve been through the hard yakka to get there. And I think that says a lot. It’s almost like it’s a backbone that you can lean against. You’ve got something there that says to you, “You’re worthwhile, you’re good, you can do something, you can strive, you can grow.” And you’ve got that history behind you.
And the more hard work I’ve put in, I’m chasing a goal, I want to grow my own self in the particular area. My sense of trust in myself goes deeper, too.
Mastery doesn’t always have to be something for the global community. It can be an entirely selfish pursuit. You know, someone who’s out surfing every morning at 5:00 in the morning, isn’t doing that for the greater good of the world. They’re doing that because they know they want to go and get in flow, in the zone, ride the perfect wave, become a better surfer. You know, I think that’s really important to know here. Mastery doesn’t have to be for anyone else other than you.
And I think a part of all that, though, you’ve almost got to forget self. You’ve got to forget the ego, forget that doubting kind of voice. So you get to trust your hard work, trust your skills, trust the zone. Then you get into flow, you’ve been the best you can be here. You begin to grow and you begin to say, “I’m actually becoming the master of this particular skill.”
Achieving Mastery is a journey through four levels:
There’s a few things that happen when you achieve some form of Mastery. First of all, you’re just there. You’re in the moment. Now you’re really comfortable in almost any environment. Nothing really tends to scare you. Because the more difficult the challenge in front of you, the more respect you have for it. You drop the need to succeed and you just go back to your skill. And you just exist or you just demonstrate with and express yourself with this skill you have. And if you succeed or fail, it doesn’t matter.
Part of that is just being that there is this little bit of you which knows you’ve got more you can learn. There’s actually a humble man there. Because there’s this little voice that says, “I’m not there yet, I’ve got a little space I can improve, I can actually grow.” And so the master has got a humility. The master is not an arrogant person putting those around them down and is very comfortable that other people might have similar levels of Mastery as well.
When you achieve some level of Mastery in something, you begin to see the beauty in the craft, simply because of the beauty of it. When you get to that place, it’s a wonderful, wonderful place to be. You’re so comfortable in your own skin. You know perfection doesn’t exist. It just doesn’t. You’re not perfect, no-one’s perfect. The idea of someone who is a perfect master doesn’t exist; there’s just someone who is in a new state of mind.
And the people around them sense something really special. So when you’re performing your craft and you’ve worked hard, you’re back to your own self, you’re in that area where you have trusted yourself, you have an aura. And that gives confidence to everyone around you.
There’s a particular role you take on when you become the master of something. You understand the knowledge and the experience, you understand the sequence of how to get there. If you look back, you understand that.
If you take a classical martial arts scenario, when you go through all the different belts, the true master knows what the white belt needs to know and doesn’t teach them anything beyond that. And they sequentially or ascendingly teach them the next step, the next step, and they don’t really reveal that to you until you become a yellow belt or a red belt or a black belt.
But the interesting thing about the master is that they go from being the apprentice to the coach. When you’re starting to coach the thing that you are doing, you truly understand it. And that’s a wonderful thing, when you’ve got to teach someone else how to do something.
And at the same time, you are actually believing in the master within them. And you coach in a way that you bring that out. You bring it to life.
And that might be interesting for a lot of people to find. At some point, maybe they’ve been in their profession or maybe they’re playing an instrument or particular sport, and they reach a certain level. Then all of a sudden some of the younger guys or the younger girls come up to them and say, “Hey listen, can you teach me about this?”
At first, it might be a bit of a shock to them as they’re not used to being asked those things because they were the apprentice for so long. But you take on the mantle of that responsibility and accept it, because you realise you’re probably going from apprentice to master.
And that is a really important kind of space. That moment when you say, “Hey, I’ve been on this journey for some time, I actually know a lot. I’ve worked hard.” And you’ve got to trust that change from apprentice to the master.
If you are the apprentice, the role is different, of course. You are still on the journey. In Star Wars, the Jedi take on a young Padawan, the young apprentice, and teach them throughout their life.
So what is really important when you are the apprentice, is to find your master. Find the one that connects with your soul and your spirit and what you think you need. Take the humility to learn from that individual. If you don’t respect them, you probably won’t ask the questions you should. You probably won’t take their advice as much as you should.
You’re going to require someone that is in that zone where you want to be; something in their skill speaks to your particular skill, but you know they’re going to lead you into a journey. It’s going to be hard, hard work. You’ve got to be a consistent guy. You’ve got to have the humility to actually listen to their particular wisdom, too.
You know, the journey to flow in the zone of a master, and even at any level of performance, has setbacks and plateaus. That’s the nature of growth; you always have plateaus. You always have setbacks.
There is a high-performance lifecycle that I teach. We won’t go into it now, but it’s Prepare, Perform, Recover, Review. And true people who are on the journey of Mastery take each of those steps really seriously. They do take performances. They make sure the performances are on the journey. They have good recovery, they do detailed review with humility. They ask the hard questions of themselves, and then they prepare meticulously. And those four steps are vital. When you skip a step, things go wrong.
And no matter how many times they’ve done the particular concert, no matter how many times they’ve done that particular thing, they still go through those particular steps.
Mastery is a vital thing to really get to know yourself, to challenge yourself, to grow.
And there’s such a thing as group Mastery, as well, where a whole team goes through that journey towards high performance and Mastery of a particular thing. That’s a fun journey and a magic way to unite a group of people; when each has grown to become their own particular master, there’s extra energy in the group.
I’m a biased Queenslander, but when you talk about rugby league players like Cameron Smith, Billy Slater, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston, each of them is a master in their own right. But when they combine, there’s something special, something energetic.
And you know, that’s what happens internally for an individual. When you master one aspect of one pursuit, it seeps into other areas of your life. You just get better at other things. It’s weird, but it happens!
So you grow. And it’s not just the particular skill that grows; you grow as a person. When you’re in Mastery and you’ve achieved this wonderful state of both zone and flow, you are in this place where essentially, you’re extending yourself. A skier or a surfer feels like the skis or the surfboard are an extension of their body. Same goes for the musical instrument, the guitar or the keys on the piano. The object of your craft becomes an extension of yourself as you’re into that zone and flow and the ultimate expression of who you are.
And that is why we do it. In the end, to express ourselves and get to know our own spirit through the art form that we choose to pursue.
And when you work at that day by day, when you are dreaming for that and you’re reaching, reaching, reaching for it, one day you’ll come into a space where you become aware that you are a master. And you haven’t sought it, but you’re there. And it feels good. And you feel free.
Grego and Pricey