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The book is available Leanpub.com, where you choose how much you’ll pay and see exactly how much the author receives. They offer the book in PDF, MOBI, and EPUB formats for a single price, and you can always return to download updated editions, when available. The edition currently available on Leanpub is the Second Edition, which is in progress and scheduled for a December 2018 release. That means the Leanpub book is a preview, and you’ll receive a new build every so often as I near completion. Go to Leanpub→

You can also purchase the book from Amazon in print or Kindle formats. This is the First Edition, and it’s a complete narrative, not an in-progress work. Go to Amazon→

Audiobook version, based on the First Edition, available at Audible.com, Libro.fm, with other audiobook sellers coming online soon.

“The Grind” workbook, referenced in the Second Edition and later, is available from Lulu.com as a spiral-bound journal. Get it now→

Readers of the Second Edition will find, in the “Stay Connected” section of the book’s front matter, a URL that provides access to a free weekly email. It’s designed to walk you through “The Grind” process and philosophy, help you stay on-track with your journey, and provide you with inspirations and tips for refining your path to Mastery.

Mastery: More than Just Teaching

I recently returned from a vacation in Europe, where I met a wonderful woman named Lucy. Lucy is a sign language interpreter, and works as an independent contractor through an agency that handles her bookings. She’s successful – so much so that she’s able to pick and choose her jobs, which is wonderful.

We talked a bit about her industry, and because it’s been on my mind so much lately, we talked a bit about my apprentice/Master spiel. It occurred to me that her industry in particular is one where Mastery should be a critical, embedded, and expected part of life, although at present, she told me, it isn’t. She pointed out the extensive training and classes that she’s taken over the years to build up her abilities.

But I asked a pointed question: were those classes the only thing she’d needed to get to where she was today?

No, she answered. Of course not. The classes were good for building her sign language vocabulary, but a good interpreter also injects a lot of expression into their work. I’ve seen this myself, in presentations where – for example – an interpreter is signing the national anthem. Their body is conveying more than just words, it’s also conveying the meaning of those words. It’s expressive, exactly like how the tone of my voice conveys more meaning than just the words I’m saying. Signing is speaking, and so it makes sense that it conveys as much emotion and intent as it does words.

So I asked her where she’d learned that expressive side of her work. She kind of shrugged, and said she’d picked it up as she went along. And then – we’d had a drink or two, so this wasn’t as macabre as it’ll seem when you read this – I asked what happens when she dies, or when she’s too old or uninterested to continue in her profession. She kind of blinked. THAT, I said, is what apprenticeships and Mastery is all about.

Mastery is not just teaching a class to some colleagues. Classes, along with books, videos, and other “formal” means of instruction, are fine for conveying the base knowledge of a topic. They’re fine for bringing in a certain amount of the instructor or author’s experiences, and sharing those. But they’re not Mastery. Mastery is where you work alongside someone, helping them pick up all the stuff that’s locked up in your head. The expressiveness of your job, if you will. The emotion of whatever topic you’re helping them learn. The things you can’t teach in a class, or write down in a book, or convey in a video. Sure, Lucy could create a series of videos that focused on the expressive side of her work, but it’s not the same as working with someone.

Every job, every profession, every topic has these “hidden” facets. The things we’re expected to just “pick up” as we go. And because we never formalize teaching those things, because we tend to be so focused on the “technical” side of what we teach, we tend to lose those “personal” pieces over time. Each generation has to re-discover them, and re-invent their wheel. It’s the little flick of a wrist when you’re signing a particular word, or the extra step you take when you’re configuring a computer, or the specific, light touch you use on the car’s brakes when the road is wet. They’re things someone can only learn by experiencing them, and that someone can learn best when they’re doing it alongside an accomplished Master.

So as you’re thinking of your own ability to serve as Master to someone else, don’t think so much about the “formal” stuff you can teach them. Stuff that’s already in books and videos and classes; think instead about all the things you know those books and videos and classes miss. The subtle things that aren’t, and can’t be, written down. The knowledge locked up in your head, that someone else is supposed to just “pick up.” Then work with your apprentice audience to help convey those things to them. Mastery isn’t rote; it’s personal.

Define Yourself

This is an excerpt from Be the Master: 2019 Edition. You can participate in the development of this new edition by purchasing the e-book at Leanpub.

One of the things in Be the Master is a series of steps for moving toward your own success and Mastery. The third of those is to Define Yourself, and this excerpt offers some advice.

This is the step where you decide who you want to be. It’s hugely important that you be thorough. For example, I’d had an opportunity to write a book applicable to my industry. That opening exposed me to a whole group of people — book authors, conference speakers, and the like — that I generally wanted to emulate. After a couple of years, though, I still felt unfocused. It took some serious sitting down and thinking, and I finally came to the conclusion that I wanted my career to closely emulate a specific person in my industry. That decision led me to really lay out who I wanted to be — not just a copy of that other person, but what I wanted to do differently. I also needed to fill in some details that weren’t apparent about that other person’s life.

For example, you might include, in your definition of yourself, things like “I always make it to my kids’ soccer game,” or “I always make it to church, every week,” or “in addition to my career, I play the piano fairly well.” I suppose you could think of these as life goals, but I don’t — a “goal,” for me, is a thing you achieve, and then you’ve done it. My “self-definition” isn’t something I accomplish and then move on from; it’s as complete a list as possible of who I am every day.

And you needn’t start with a person you admire and want to emulate; that’s just what got me thinking in this direction. You might create your self-definition entirely from scratch, or you might pick bits and pieces of things you admire about a variety of people you know.

Take some time to review your self-definition, when you’re done, because there are often compromises and conflicts. For example, if you’re the type of person who puts in a hard 10-hour day, makes it to hockey practice three nights a week, attends the opera once a month, and volunteers at a soup kitchen every weekend — you may have overloaded yourself a bit. Your self-definition needs to be possible, or it won’t come to pass.

Manage Your Time

This is an excerpt from Be the Master: 2019 Edition. You can participate in the development of this new edition by purchasing the e-book at Leanpub.

I both love and hate to-do lists. I love them, because for me they’re a decent way to prioritize what I need to do from moment to moment, and a way to make sure I’m not forgetting things. I use my to-do list in conjunction with my email inbox and my calendar. Any item in my inbox is a to-do, which is why I value “Inbox Zero” so much. And I schedule time to work on to-do items. That way, I know when I’m supposed to be doing things, and I can assign meaningful “due dates” (and times) to each to-do item. It’s a little OCD. I get that.

But that’s not why I hate to-do lists. I hate them because I see so many people with those Dayrunner books, making themselves lists, and then never working the list. Stuff never gets “done.” Frankly, it’d drive me absolutely batshit with anxiety. Which is an important point: I’m so OCD about my to-do list representing actual things I need to do that I’m very careful not to make the list overly granular, and very careful not to make the list overloaded. I plan a couple of weeks in advance at most, usually. Otherwise, the list itself just starts to look huge, and unapproachable, and monstrous, and I stress over it.

I also manage my time very aggressively. If someone’s 5 minutes late for a scheduled meeting, and hasn’t let me know that the meeting will be delayed, I’m out of there. That’s my maximum tolerance for wasted time. I also track wasted time. Not the meeting-started-late wasted time, but the time I waste myself.

Oh, yeah. I waste time. Everyone does. You have to. Human brains demand distraction from time to time, just like our bodies do better if we occasionally stand. I swear, I don’t know why Apple Watch reminds me to breath (have a hypothalamus, I’m good on respiration), and why it can remind me to stand, but it can’t remind me to go fool around on Facebook for a few minutes. Actually, I’ll tell you why: most people start in on Facebook and never stop. Or maybe not Facebook, but something like it. You know what I mean. Maybe your poison is YouTube or Twitter or Chive or whatever, but you’ve got your pet distraction, and you know you spend too much time on it.

Track that time. I use a “cumulative timer” (like https://www.amazon.com/Mark-My-Time-7000149-Digital-Bookmark-Green/dp/1782700234/). When I’m about to start wasting time, I start it. I let myself go for five or ten minutes, and then stop it. At the end of the week (or day, whatever), I make a note in my workbook about how much time I wasted that week. This isn’t, “oh, that meeting was a waste of time,” this is time I have chosen to waste. Over a few weeks, I start to find my baseline for wasted time, and so long as I’m tracking around that, I know I’m doing okay. Too little wasted time and I analyze my week to see if I’m feeling stressed, or if I felt less productive, or whatever. Too much, and I focus more on not wasting as much time next week. Wasted time has a budget for me, and I try to spend about the same amount each week. When I’ve done this with some colleagues, informally, I’ve found that they waste about three times more time than they’d estimated for themselves. That’s a lot of “lost” time, in which you could be doing other things to help achieve your success.

That perception is a big part of why I track my time, too. I don’t want to run around thinking I’m wasting 30 minutes a day when in fact I’m burning three hours! Tracking my wasted time takes me out of the realm of belief, and into the safer (for me) realm of fact. If I don’t like the facts I find, I can make adjustments.

I also have a close-the-loop session toward the end of every day. If I scheduled an hour to work on a white paper, for example, then I just check myself at the end of the day. Did I get through it in an hour? Or did it take two hours? Was I interrupted in the middle, and forced to re-set my mind, or did it just legitimately take two hours? The point of this isn’t to punish myself, or even to try and make myself faster. Some things just take what they take. The point is to educate myself, to better understand how I work, and how long things take. If I know that I can produce 2,000 written words in an hour, then I can start to make better estimates of how much work I can handle. If a new writing project comes in, I can see where on my schedule it will fit, and have a more realistic estimate of when I can have that work done. This helps me set better expectations, and do a better job of not promising something I can’t deliver on. In the beginning, I kept a note on how long various common workloads would take me. For example, I know it takes me about 6 hours total to produce a slide deck for a 1-2 hour conference presentation. I know it takes about an hour to produce 2,000 written words, although I can only do that for about four hours before I need a solid break. These days, I’ve gotten so used to some of these that I don’t need to refer to that note anymore, but it’s still sitting on my computer someplace.

Time sometimes doesn’t always go the way you want. For example, I’ve gotten out of bed some mornings, planning to write 10,000 words or so during the day, and found myself utterly not in the mood. There’s no point forcing it; I’d just write crap and have to start over later anyway. So I rearrange my schedule. I move some stuff into the current day that I’m more in the mood for, and find a place for that writing to happen. But the point is that I actually rearrange things. I don’t just blow off the writing and hope I can squeeze it in someplace. I manage the problem, rather than ignoring it.

For me managing time isn’t the same as micro-managing time. I’m not trying to tell myself what to do, or force myself to be faster. I’m mainly observing the facts on the ground, and then building my planning process around that.

 

Respect the Yellow Line

The following is an excerpt from Be the Master: 2019 Edition. This is an in-progress edition, and you’ve invited to read along as it’s developed. It’s available now.

Disney recognizes something important about the human beings who work in its theme parks (I know, I use a lot of Disney analogies in this book). What they recognize is that _familiarity breeds contempt_.

What Disney sells, in its theme parks, is _escape_ and _entertainment_. It’s not just about rides; it’s also about an environment. In their lingo, it’s a _show_, and shows, like all forms of fiction, require the willing suspension of disbelief. You _know_ that princess is really just some college kid, but you _choose_ to participate in the show and treat her like Cinderella or whatever. A maxim of fiction is that, in order for the audience to maintain their willing suspension of disbelief, you have to avoid chucking anything out-of-story at them, like a pissed-off janitor who just got dumped by her boyfriend the night before and who doesn’t really want to be at work scraping gum of the asphalt this afternoon.

Continue reading “Respect the Yellow Line”

The March to v2

My intent with Be the Master was always to release a new edition annually (if you buy at Leanpub.com, you get these for no extra charge). Each annual edition would include new content to help address things that you, the reader, brought to my attention.

Well, the feedback on v1 was pretty voluminous, so the v2 update, scheduled for release in early 2019, will almost double the book’s size!

There’ll be a new section on “becoming the master at work” – in other words, how do you actually do this inside the company or organization you already work for? This has been a big request, and it’s absolutely a worthy topic to address. There’ll be an expansion in the “Rules of Business” part, and an all-new “Rules of Life” part that will attempt to give you some new perspectives. Another new part, “Becoming a Teacher,” is designed to get you thinking about how to teach, because teaching is definitely a combination of art and science.

Perhaps the most challenging addition, for me, is a new section – and a companion workbook – called The Grind. For years, I’ve had a pretty specific set of weekly exercises I run through to keep myself focused, to try and better acknowledge where I’m letting myself down, and to make sure I’m upholding my personal goal of helping to teach others. Well, a bunch of v1 readers asked if I had any advice for staying focused and on-track, and that’s when I realized I needed to actually write down those exercises I’ve done over the past decade. That’s what The Grind is – my actual methodology, codified and presented in print. It’s very challenging to extract something like that from my brain, think about why I do all those things, and actually discard the cruft that I only do out of habit or superstition, rather than out of actual value.

Right now, a group of around a dozen volunteer readers are going through The Grind’s draft. They’ve agreed to live it, to help identify areas where I need to improve it, reduce it, expand it, and so on. That will deeply inform how v2 ultimately turns out, and I hope it’ll be a useful exercise for everyone when it’s ready.

If you’ve purchased Be the Master on Leanpub, then you’ll get the first draft of all this today, along with additional updates as I work on the book over this year. If you don’t want to see all that in-progress stuff, then the book’s 1st Edition remains available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle forms.