When I first started writing this, I had no clue where I was going or what I would say.
When I first started writing this, I had no clue where I was going or what I would say. I was initially thinking of sharing something inspiring or encouraging. I was going to potentially cite a passage from a book I have been reading. But when I decided to sit down with my 16oz cup of coffee, my intention to inspire went out the window today. In fact, something hit me this morning about my life that I did not expect to show up, something that for the longest time has waded in the waters of my mind.
I have this deep drive to be fucking good at everything. I mean everything. Sports, cooking, writing, you name it. And it’s not to compete with anyone. I do not care about winning or losing. Rather, I wish to be good at whatever I attempt. I even have a deeper desire to be a master. And I’m not just talking about Splinter from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles master. I’m talking about obsessively needing to be a master at something where people would know my name and how great I am. The validation of others saying
“Man, Mike is really good at that shit.”
“He really is a master of his craft.”
What’s mindboggling to me is that there is no one particular thing I wish to master. I want to be known as one. And it’s a weird obsession to have. To be a master of something so that others see how good I am? Where the hell did that all come from?
It’s a fire that is lit incredibly well within me. This deep drive of mastery has become the epicenter of my being. It is the thing that gets me up in the morning at the same time every day. It is the reason that I have said no to developing a social life and yes to working, practicing, and studying. I have chosen this obsession over social events, trips on the weekend, over walks in the early evening with someone I love.
I had hidden it well from those close to me. There were times where I was actually proud of saying no in the pursuit of one day being recognized as a master. I was prideful that instead of hanging out with my friends on the weekends, I was writing. It was a badge of honor I wore to respectfully decline in pursuit of being known by the world as a master of his craft. I figured that these were the sacrifices you had to make to be considered great, cutting yourself off the pleasure train and focusing on your work.
That’s what we’re told, isn’t it? To be great, you have to sacrifice at all costs. The team no sleep, 24/7 hustle culture of American Business. Rise and Grind. Work, work, work, work. You see on social media, on your newsletters, the endless productivity hacks and ways to work around and time collapse to achieve true mastery. Everyone has got to be on a mission to change the world, and it comes at the price of sacrificing ourselves in the process.
In this deep pursuit of mastery that I have loved and loathed simultaneously, I ponder what cost does the pursuit of this mastery of none start to become more of a burden and less of a desire to create a full life. When the Chicago Bulls documentary, the Last Dance came out, there were scenes where the great Michael Jordan, considered by many a master of the game of basketball, sitting comfortably in his beautiful home on a brown couch, sharing his grudges against teammates, against his former general manager, against his coaches. To this day, he still is criticizing them. While he achieved incredible feats and revolutionized not only the game of basketball but what it meant to be a brand, it seems that Jordan was still not satisfied with his accomplishments, with his impact.
He is a master, yet he is not satisfied with being one.
And at the rate I had been going, I would end up like him. No matter what I have accomplished or will accomplish in this lifetime, I still would be attached to something that didn’t work out, something or someone that prevented me from reaching a new level of mastery. While I battle with the desire to be a master, sacrificing everything from personal relationships to memorable events and trips in its pursuit is not worth it.
It has become a race to run with no finish line in sight.
I have never been good at balance. I either have done things with half-ass effort or become borderline obsessed with a laser focus on something that triumphs over taking breaks, spending time with friends, even putting my romantic relationships on the backburner. I do fear that my pursuit is nothing more than an ego-driven charade to make myself feel different or special from everyone else. Yet, today I do not beat myself up for my fear. I remind myself that I am where I am supposed to be, that it is a hard lesson to accept the decisions you have made in your lifetime, knowing what you know now. I practice as best as possible not to slander myself with harsh criticism of the choices I made. I continue as I have learned that it is not about the number of achievements you obtain in life to pursue something great.
Rather, it is what you learned along the way.
And that is the true lesson in mastery; being ok with the outcome of the sacrifices you make. Sometimes you learn this lesson early enough to feel that you have more time on the clock to hit the game-winning shot. Sometimes, you find yourself on a chair like Jordan, wishing that your retirement didn’t stop at six championships rather seven.
And sometimes, you walk away from the game being ok with the joy of being able to play even at all.