Don't get me wrong, I freaking love Game of Thrones. I devoured 5 seasons in 3 months this past summer and I wait with baited breath for the new ones. But I can't kid myself into thinking that kind of escapism is helping me to become a better writer.
The thing is I know what I need to do, and that is to learn as much as I possibly can and immerse myself in my craft.
Sure we all need a break from time to time but it's our habits that form us.
The really good yoga teachers are the ones that practice at home on their free time.
The really amazing teachers are the ones that have never stopped learning and kept an open mind.
The transformational self help coaches are the ones that have done the work themselves and gone deep into their own shadows in order to come into the light.
Mastery is a practice, its not easy. Watching Game of Thrones is easy, it's shallow work and although enjoyable it doesn't meet the deep criteria necessary to enable real change and growth.
Thought Leadership in an ADD World
Society looks up to the people who've found focus and used it to excel in their area of expertise. We really love our thought leaders and experts. It's clear that nobody wants to listen to a podcast or watch an interview with the dude who dabbles in all things or that gal that you know has a zillion and one jobs that she does but none of them exceptionally well.
In a seemingly saturated market full of people who decided to find their focus and use it as fuel to propel them forth without hesitation, how do you become a thought leader and pave the way for others?
Let's stop kidding ourselves thinking we can put our energy into various arenas and come out on top in any of them. Hobbies are one thing- a profitable, sustainable career is another. It needs focus as it's fuel, and a really wicked career thrives on authority.
Thought leaders are the types of people we crave to learn from. So how do we become them? And why do we adore them so much?
I had this conversation with my partner the other night. He told me he's moving the computer from our room. At first I thought it was some conspiracy theory and he was worried global elitists were spying on us through our webcam but he later told me the reason why. The need to make deep work a practice. To read and create instead of zoning out and passively absorbing the creations of others.
We're in this winter groove of hunkering down at night, snuggling under the covers and watching stupid videos or Vikings (if you like GOT, you'll love Vikings). It's nice, we wind down after working hard all day, but the reality is that there are more productive ways to chill out.
There's deep work and there's shallow work. Deep work is the rare stuff- it's a flow state, a stress free zone in which time evaporates. It's a practice because we're surrounded by shallow temptations and drawn into the ease of activities like watching youtube or scrolling through Facebook.
"The ability to perform deep work is becoming increasingly rare at exactly the same time it is becoming increasingly valuable in our economy. As a consequence, the few who cultivate this skill and then make it the core of their working life will thrive," Cal Newport writes in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World.
The Importance of a Solid Niche
Finding a niche that feeds your soul while filling an empty space in the marketplace is no easy task. But when that sweet spot is finally met everything falls into place.
Before even embarking on any sort of mastery we must find a topic that we're passionate about AND that can fuel a sustainable business model.
Niches can go really deep, some people might think they know a lot about nutrition and choose that as their niche, but it's way too broad. Examples of super specific and successful niches that come to mind under the broader scope of nutrition include...
-Biohacking thought leaders would be the likes of Tim Ferris and Dave Asprey
-Rewilding thought leader Daniel Vitalis
-Ketogenic diet thought leader David Perlmutter
"You won't know what to learn and what to develop real competencies and capabilities into until you know what your mission is, until you decide what a real dream is." -Brendan Burchard
A niche has to fulfill a specific need that isn't already being served. I'm a firm believer that we all have something new to bring to the table on our topic of choice. But the more we can narrow down and the less competition, the easier our job will be.
The Art of Mastery
Mastering anything takes commitment. It takes sitting down every day and focusing on a topic that will undoubtedly feel over done.
"Don't think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness." -Lao Tzu
This is a spiritual quote but it applies to business. For a freelancer, maybe the darkness is the temptation to drop everything and binge watch Game of Thrones (guilty of this). Discipline has a negative connotation, but mastery is something sought after. How can we change our attitude about discipline so that's it's more in alignment with the outcome of mastery?
Through my experience the answer is passion. Unless you're truly passionate about something it'll never get off the ground, and more importantly, it will never feed your soul.
I don't claim to be a master at anything. But I know there is a path to getting there, and it's undeniably the path less traveled. Becoming really good at anything is an ongoing practice and process. You can't get there overnight, but you can get there.
5 Tips for Becoming a Master in Your Chosen Niche
This might seem obvious but if you want to know more than most on your chosen topic you need to read all the books. Immerse yourself in the subject matter. Aim for at least one book a month and soon enough you'll build quite the impressive vault of knowledge.
2. Take super specific courses
There's a course out there for just about anything. If there isn't a course for something you want to learn about, then become an expert and create one. Try Udemy, Coursera or check out this compilation of free courses including some from Universities like Berkeley and Harvard.
3. Find a Mentor
As we go along the path of mastery it's important to have someone knowledgable to turn to with questions. There are paid mentorship opportunities and chance occurrences where an expert sees your potential and mentors you for free. Put it out there and set the intention to find a mentor as the right person will become invaluable on your journey.
Join up with as many other folks in your area of expertise as possible. This could look like in person get togethers, joining specific Facebook groups and connecting with other bloggers in your niche. Connections will help you grow stronger in your knowledge base, as well as offering a solid source to bounce ideas off.
5. Be 'Expert Enough'
The blog Expert Enough makes a brilliant case for becoming enough of an expert to achieve your goals.
"Expertise isn't an absolute. Think of it as a scale, from 1 to 10. If you're a 3, there are plenty of 1s and 2s out there who you can teach, and probably better than people with more expertise."
Growing a solid knowledge base is like planting an apple tree. We have these little seeds, and nobody expects them to become fully mature fruit bearing trees over night. The reality of the apple tree is that it takes years for it to bear fruit and in the meantime the tree must be fed the right nutrients to even get to that point.
The books we read, the podcasts,webinars,coaching programs and masterminds are like the nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous. Real experience and action are the environmental factors like rain and sun that are even more necessary for our growth.
Most importantly, the apple tree doesn't second guess its capacity to produce apples. We are all capable of bearing fruit, of our own version of greatness. The path to mastery is the very opposite of instant gratification- slow, consistent and committed action does create real results.
"All great achievements require time." - Maya Angelou