I recently started attending a weekly self development mastermind where I live. It’s a group of twelve fairly like minded people who all share an interest in personal development and growth. We’re all interested in improving our lives and so we get together once a week and share tips and ideas on ways to improve our lives by improving ourselves. I really like these meetings and find myself leaving feeling inspired and motivated. There’s something powerful about getting together with like-minded people and sharing ideas with people who have similar goals in life.
A theme that often comes up during these meetings is the idea of “The law of attraction”. It was a concept made famous in the movie The Secret a few years ago. But it’s certainly not a new or novel idea. Authors like Napolean Hill And Wallace Wattles were writing about essentially the same concept decades earlier.
When I first heard of the concept of The Law Of Attraction I really resonated with the idea. It seemed to make such perfect sense. I never really bought into the idea that you could just visualize millions of dollars and it would somehow magically appear. But the idea that to a large extent our thoughts and perspective on life will dictate how and what we experience in life rings true to me. If we go around focusing all our energy on negative things, it’s going to be pretty hard to maintain a good mood and attract the people and situations we want into our lives. Conversely, if we focus our energies on the positive aspects of life, the “sunny side of the street” if you will, then it makes sense that you’ll have an easier time attracting the situations and feelings you desire.
However, I think there’s a tendency in the “self development” community to over emphasize the idea of the law of attraction and place far too much importance on it. It’s awesome to have a really positive attitude about life and think happy thoughts about what you desire, but I think there’s much more to real transformation and success than simply positive thinking. If all it took to achieve our desires was focusing on what we want for extended periods of time, I would have become a rock star and married Natalie Portman years ago. Clearly, just thinking positively about our goals isn’t enough.
I’m really interested in the idea of success and mastery. I’m inspired by people who find something they’re passionate about and figure out a way to become successful in their chosen field. Life is far too short to spend our time doing things we’re not passionate about, or even worse despise, simply to maintain our existence and survival. I don’t claim to have the universal formula for happiness, but I think over the years I’ve discovered something pretty close. In a word, growth.
When I look back over my life and reflect on periods where I’ve been the happiest, those moments are almost always related to experiencing some sort of personal growth. Some of these periods were preceeded by periods of months or even years of frustration, until I was able to finally push myself out of my comfort zone and move forward. Whether it has been experiencing breakthroughs in relationships, business or music, the common denominator that has led to the most fulfillment throughout my life has been the process of growth and development.
Which leads me back to the “law of attraction”. Again, it’s a great idea and there is something to it. But it’s just one part of the equation when it comes to success and happiness. The most important part, or at least equally important part, of the equation is simply time. To become really successful in any field, you need to develop a high degree of skill or mastery in your chosen endeavor. Developing skill takes time. You can’t just visualize yourself becoming a great guitar player, you have to actually practice and put in the work required to become great.
There are two great books on this subject. One is “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell that I read a couple years ago. The other, that I just recently finished, is “Mastery” by Robert Greene. Both books do a great job at explaining the path to mastery and they both allude to the “10,000 Hour Rule”. The 10,000 hour rule is the idea that on average it takes most people a minimum of around 10,000 hours of experience in their chosen field to reach a level of Mastery. I’m not talking about Kim Kardashian level of Mastery, although you could argue she has mastered the art of publicity and promotion. I’m referring to people like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan, Albert Einstein, John Coltrane and so on. Both authors cite numerous case studies of people throughout history who have achieved high levels of success and concluded that one of the biggest factors that contributed to the mastery of their chosen field and subsequent success, was simply the sheer amount of time they devoted to the pursuit of developing their skills. It takes time to attain greatness.
We live in a fast paced world that loves instant gratification. We want a quick fix. We’re attracted to shortcuts. We all want to take the path of least resistance. There are no shortcuts to mastery. This is why I think devoting yourself to something you’re passionate about is so important. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing you’ll probably just give up way before even getting close to mastering your craft. Here’s how Robert Greene, the author of Mastery, explains it:
“To really become an expert or master requires the infamous 10,000 hours, or even 20,000 hours—perhaps the difference between being a chess master and a grandmaster. To apply yourself to a field or to a problem for that long a time means there will inevitably be moments of boredom and tedium. Practice, particularly in the beginning, is never exciting. To persist past these moments you have to feel love for the field, you have to feel passionately excited by the prospect of discovering or inventing something new. Otherwise, you will give up. In my chapter on creativity I discuss what I call the primary law of the creative dynamic: “Your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work.
If you go at it with half a heart, it will show in the lackluster results, in the laggard way in which you reach the end. If you are doing something primarily for money and without a real emotional commitment, it will translate into something that lacks a soul and has no connection to you. You may not see this but you can be sure the public feels it and will receive your work in the same lackluster spirit you created it in. If you are excited and obsessive in the hunt, it shows in the details. If it comes from a place deep within, the authenticity of the task will be communicated.” There is no getting around the law. There is no mastery or power without passion. Through all of my research, that much I am certain about.”
When you devote yourself to a path, whether it’s becoming a great musician, or a great business person or a great anything, you will confront obstacles. If instead of quitting, you learn how to overcome and transcend those obstacles, you will grow. If you keep moving forward and keep growing you will attain a level of mastery. Whether or not you become the next John Coltrane or the next Michael Jordan isn’t really the point. As cliché as it sounds, it’s really about the journey and not the destination.
When you learn to not give up and push yourself to new heights, you grow as a person. This sort of growth and transformation leads to a type of happiness and fulfillment that’s very different than the fleeting type of happiness many people seem to pursue. Unlike the fleeting thrill of a one night stand or a few glasses of wine, the happiness that comes from personal growth is much more stable. Maybe happiness isn’t even the right word, it’s more of a sense of contentment and stability about your place in the world that becomes a permanent part of your character. It’s about being able to look at life square in the eye and say “bring it on bitch, I got this.” When you develop that sort of mindset about your life and your goals, it’s hard to not have a smile on your face when you wake up.
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The blog of musician and thinker of deep thoughts, Aaron Davison.