A couple days ago I read a book recommended by Tyler, whose blog is the only blog I read religiously.
Anyway, the book is about mastery, and it really rang true for me. In it the author talks about the different types of people who are NOT masters, and I am pretty clearly one of them. I'm "the hacker".
What that means is that I get some level of proficiency below mastery, get satisfied with it, and don't progress. I'm acutely aware of this - I get to the level where other people respect my skill, but never push myself as far as I could go / would like.
This is terrible for a few reasons. First, I'm not reaching my potential, and second I'm clearly way too into what other people think. I hate to admit that because I want to be the kind of person that doesn't care, but it's obviously no coincidence that I stop around when I'm accepted as "good".
It's obviously not that cut and dry in real life, but as an overarching trend, this fits me pretty well.
I took some notes on the book while I read it (which is always funny to me because I'm not sure I ever actually took notes in any class), and one of the big things I got out of it is that I need to have long term goals. So I whipped out a text editor and came up with some. I tried to really focus on it and be exhaustive.
Here's my text file. I thought about editing it and cleaning it up for putting out in public, but it's probably more interesting to read how I actually wrote it. Italics are added to explain my reasoning:
Goals for before I'm 32
That's five years away, close enough that I can plan it out a bit.
Master Chinese, Japanese, French, Spanish, Russian, Arabic, Italian (maybe)
I've got a decent start in Chinese, Spanish, and Japanese. TONS more to learn in all of those to be fluent, but I have a grasp of them.
Visit 50% of the countries of the world, understand how the bigger / more important ones work
I've learned so many subtle things so far this year, and so far I've only been to countries I've been to before. I wish I could elaborate, but it's hard to .The closest I can come is to say that my brain has made all sorts of little connections that weren't there before. Things that individually don't mean much, but together help me understand the world as a unit, nature, and human nature.
Travel 6 months a year at least
In retrospect, this a stupid one because it's a hard rule that in of itself brings no benefit. I guess I leave it because I think that I'll do it anyway.
Be in a stable but exciting long term three way relationship.
I could probably write a whole post on why I want this. A lot of it is because I like trying new things, and for some reason I have this idea that a three way relationship could be really stable and happy for everyone. Ideally the girls would like each other slightly more than they liked me to minimize jealousy.
Learn to be less stubborn and more affectionate.
I used to think that girls were too sensitive until EVERY girl I've ever dated has made comments along these lines. Stubborn is going to be tough, but I do know that I'm bad at expressing how special my girlfriends are to me.
Learn to appreciate girlfriends more (actually all people).
I'm quick to find faults in people, which is a really bad trait. I need to focus on finding the good in people, and focus on the good traits of my girlfriends. One thing that has helped me is thinking "this person is just trying to find happiness". When I think of that goal it puts things in perspective sometimes.
Be a better listener (to everyone, not specifically girls).
I tend to focus too much on myself and forget things people tell me.
Invest more in other people's lives.
People get invested in my life, what's going on, and what I'm doing. This is partly because I have a really interesting life, but a lot of it is that most people are more giving in this regard than I am. To boil it down, the amount of investment I have in other people's lives doesn't mirror my respect or appreciation of them.
Be a better friend.
I think I'm a pretty good friend, but I'm aware of ways I could be a much better friend. I think a lot of the appeal of being my friend is that I do interesting things, am unusual, and am very trustworthy. However, I don't always go out of my way to do nice things for my friends like they do for me. That's something I really appreciate in them, so I should put in a better effort.
Stick to crossfit religiously, record progress, push myself, learn to love the pain and repetition.
If I find something better, I'll switch, but I will be constantly improving (not just maintaining) my body. More importantly, I will appreciate the pain and the repetition of working out, rather than looking forward to the end of it.
Learn and practice self sufficiency, growing my own food and foraging.
I'm really fascinated with the idea of total self sufficiency. I've gotten more of an appreciation for nature recently, and I want to learn to grow food like people used to do. I would also like to learn and practice eating food from the woods so that I can always eat no matter what. This may include eating bugs since they are plentiful.
Practice cooking vegan.
I used to be really into cooking (my one scar is from a flan accident), but I stopped when I started eating healthy. I have a bit of a knack for it and I really enjoy it, so I'm going to become an excellent vegan chef.
Learn more about balancing foods for macro/micronutrients (or discover that this isn't too important)
I know which foods are good and bad, but I haven't done enough research into the proper proportions of them. I have a hunch that since I eat all whole foods this probably isn't a big concern, but I should make sure.
(these goals are likely to be adjusted as I learn more about food and nutrition, and as more studies are done)
Stop putting my own values on other people / having expectations for anyone.
I could write a whole post (and probably will) about this one too. The gist of it is that I hate it when people put their values on me, so I shouldn't do it to them. This is a bit of an issue because I think I know everything.
I need to learn to focus more and be distracted less. I do okay with this, but I'm not at the mastery level.
Learn to eliminate possibilities and be happy with it.
I try to learn and be able to do everything. This is pretty cool, but doesn't leave me with the time/energy/whatever to really drill down and master things.
Keep every area of my life up to my standards.
For example, stop being content having a crappy sense of directions. There are some things I take a lot of pride in and others that I let slide a bit. Everything is a reflection of everything else, so I should raise everything up.
Constantly raise my standards for myself every year.
Kinda speaks for itself... don't get complacent.
Be more expressive.
I don't express my feelings very well. This comes through with my rap as well as my posts, actually. If you notice, I put very little emotion into it, which is probably my biggest deficiency as a writer right now.
If you think about it, that's probably why I have so few female readers. Women like emotion, and I don't put much out.
Be more empathetic / see other people's point of view.
I've been working on this one, but I have it here to make sure I stay aware of it. I've been letting go of being right. Getting the right answer is important, being the one who provided it isn't. It's an ego thing. It's hard, but I am trying to focus on discovering the truth rather than being the truth.
Part of this is listening to other people's opinions. For example, about 5 people told me about Casa De Luz, but I refused to eat there. Then it became my favorite restaurant. A guy in SF told be about crossfit WAY before I started, but I assumed he didn't know what he's talking about.
I need to put more faith in other people.
I'm very disciplined, but I have this idea that there's a whole class of people that I've never met who are way more disciplined than I am. Or, at least, I can see areas of improvement for myself. I'm very good at black and white things (do a language tape every day, don't eat crap food, etc), but grey areas are hard for me.
Do not be annoyed by anything / appreciate everything
I almost have the first one down. Nothing big will ever bother me. But little things bother me sometimes, like Todd playing music that I don't like. Instead I need to see that as a challenge of either enjoying terrible music, not paying attention to it, or valuing his enjoyment over my dislike for it.
I would also like to appreciate everything. EVERYTHING in this world is amazing, but sometimes I gloss over that in every day life.
Learn to play the piano.
I'm not 100% committed to this one. I didn't like playing as a kid, but I think I would really enjoy it now. I would like something like this that would give me a good opportunity to practice fundamentals and learn to enjoy the practice.
Become a better writer.
Constant improvement. I think I'm a good writer, but then I read some people who are GREAT writers. I want to be great. My initial thoughts on this are to be more transparent, more expressive, and put more of myself on the line.
Become a better rapper.
I don't think my rapping has gotten much better in the last year. I don't have a recording set up anymore, so I'm less motivated.
Learn to dance.
I've always wanted to do this. It will be an excellent chance to work on humility, because I am a terrible dancer. I'd like to learn hip hop.
Learn a sport (maybe basketball).
I think it's important to be involved in sports. I wish I had taken one up a long time ago, like basketball when there were school teams and a hoop in front of our house. Sports are a good way to associate pleasure with the pain of exertion.
Learn the soroban
This is the Japanese abacus. Once you get good at it you can do any calculation super quickly just by PICTURING the abacus.
Follow through every project to full success / don't start projects I'm not willing to do that with ***
Enough said. This goes along with spreading myself too thin. I forget why I put stars next to it.
Write a great book on living an awesome life
I'm not ready to do this yet, but I'm probably ready to start. The one area of life that I really need a better handle on before completing this is making money.
Become a brand
This should come as no surprise to anyone reading. I want to make my living just by living my life and being me. This is what I do already, but I will need to do it on a much larger scale.
Learn to delegate better and trust other's abilities
Every time I hire people I'm thrilled with the quality of their work (in many cases they do my work better than I do), but I still have this nagging resistance because I never think people will care as much as I do and do as good a job.
Be exceptionally valuable to people
There are some people, Tim Ferriss comes to mind, who are universally sought out. This isn't the reward in of itself, but it is a good indication that he's reached a point of mastery.
Increase my readership exponentially
The bigger an audience I have the more motivation I have to spend time writing, and the more feedback I can get that will help me (people on my forums have been particularly valuable to me). Like the girlfriend thing, I probably don't express to you how deeply appreciative I am that you read this.
Complete a full rap CD
If for no other reason than the fact that I like listening to my music more than anyone else's, even legends like Jay-Z
Anyway... that's what I have on my plate. There are a few problems that I'll have to work out... like how am I going to have a relationship or farm if I'm traveling all the time? I plan on writing some articles about some of these goals. If some of them are more interesting than others, let me know and I'll cover them first.
I'm 32 and your list looks a LOT like my own (about 90%) when I was your age, and a lot like my girlfriend's list (80%) who is a bit younger than you.
You're building your life from the ground up: working on specific skills, creating a more pleasant personality, improving specific aspects of your character. That's a standard way of living one's life one year at a time, trying to be better than others without making too many waves - in other words, majoring in minor things.
There is another way: If you find an overarching goal that is much bigger than yourself and challenges you to the core, all the "smaller stuff" either becomes irrelevant or takes care of itself.
Becoming fluent in 5+ languages just for the sake of it (one of my former goals) is a gigantic waste of time. Becoming a better friend (or a better boyfriend) seems like a worthy objective, but if you live a fulfilled and abundant life it really won't be more than an afterthought.
If you find a goal or cause that you can dedicate your life to, you will a) stop worrying about what others think and b) discover the greatness within yourself that is based not on mastery of specific skills but on expressing who you really are.
Tynan, I love how you keep bringing my attention to awesome things. This post (and the book you've recommended) are certainly going to be waypoints on my own path to mastery.
Kristen, are you the Kristen from the rap song?!
Anyway, this is a good list. Obviously everything in here doesn't need to be mastered. Some things are only worth getting good at, or just better than everyone else.
For instance, I don't see much value in being a master of dance, unless I thought I was put on this earth to dance.
Or "mastering" a language. I don't even consider my self a master of the English language. I am highly proficient in it, but certainly not a master!
Of course other things are worth constantly trying to get better at or mastering. Especially ones that are more general such as focus more, become more disciplined, etc.
Sorry, Tynan, but I agree with all of the posters, including your momma; learn how to be an excellent boyfriend to one girl before attempting to take on two! If you don't "master" the art of being a boyfriend, the title of this website is all a lie! =P
Very interesting... I really appreciate your honesty and the thoughtfulness of your reflecting about your goals, strengths, and challenges. Some of what you wish to accomplish requires practice, dedication, and skill building. Other things, like the emotional expression, will come when you allow yourself to be more vulnerable. Posting what you did was the first step - there was much emotion revealed. I've known you for a long time Tynan :) and I know you have a big heart. My only suggestion - because you are working to listen to others' points of view - open your heart to one woman at a time. Triangles make for some of the most difficult relationships.
Gotta agree with the first poster.
I also think - get in touch with your emotions more, and a lot of your list will change. Problem is, that isn't a skill you can master, it comes with time and experience.
Enjoy the journey :-)
Wow, 97 countries in 5 years is not a lot of time (2.5weeks per country)! It's not going to be life nomadic, it's going to be life whirlmatic!
Your goal list is very "hackerish" (as you would say) , dozens of dozens of goals that could take 5 years to master alone (except the passive ones).
This is a great post Ty, and a good insight. I agree your writing does sometimes lack emotion - this is only a bad thing if you think it is however, and you're right about it possibly helping you attract more female readers (that and some slight rewording of your opening blurb for the site I think). Mail me re MHCY, I'm sure we can work around my disdain for paypal and your processor's disdain for us foreign types, what about google checkout?
Honestly, you're missing the point of mastery.
Just pick one of those activities. Any one of them. It doesn't matter which. Then go do that.
Why should you believe me?
Because I am similar you. Over 30 years in the workplace, and no mastery of anything. I learn enough to be better than 90% of anyone I meet (surprisingly easy), then move on.
However, I am probably the most adaptable person I know. Which serves me well as technology and industry destroy the masters of irrelevant technology, and reward those of us able to rapidly shift gears into something we knowing about.
So back in January, I wrote out my 7 goals for the year. It's been two months, so let's see how I'm doing :
1. Become FULLY polyphasic
I'm close on this one. Many days I go perfectly, sometimes if I have nothing to do I oversleep and then skip some naps during the day. I'm actually pretty satisfied with that, as I'm only sleeping 2.5-4.5 hours per night, I'm never tired, and can always count on being awake early and staying up late. I'll keep pressing to be more consistent, but I'm satisfied with where I am.
I'm not sure how I should be approaching college. Am I here to learn all the math and science I can and cram it all into my head for a short period of time until I forget it all? At this point, that's what I'm being pushed towards. That's how people treat college, as purely academic. Maybe there's some truth and goodness to that. It is good to learn things. But people here in calculus and physics and chemistry and all the hard sciences seem miserable. No one retains the information. These classes are just looming over their heads, causing ten weeks of stress and fear.
I don't want college to be like that. I've started taking college as not a place to grow just academically, but just as a person too. I'm taking classes, that while they fulfill GE requirements, aren't necessarily the maths and sciences people think I should be taking. I have one class that I have no choice in taking so that's whatever. But then I'm also taking classes like Buddhism and photography and a biology class that just sound interesting. These professors are supposedly some of the best. And not like the best like they have the highest degree or most awards in their field. But best in a sense that the students notice that they're in love with the chosen field. I think that's important, to be exposed to people that genuinely like what they're doing and actually want to teach you.
For me, college is starting to become a place where I can just gather experiences. I want to take classes that are interesting and will maybe impact my life in some way. I want to have professors who want to teach me and who have the best stories to share. I don't necessarily want to learn calculus or chemistry and I'm not sure if that's bad.
People are always saying you should do what you like and find a career in that. But often times, if you're not a biology or computer science or engineering major or something along those lines, they say that you have no chance of a career. But I just have no desire for any of those.
This not knowing what I'm doing is tough and starting to confuse me even more.