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Overtaking The Master


In order to progress rapidly in a field, it is advisable to follow in the footsteps of masters who have excelled in that same field either because they have had incredible results or because they have managed to theorize and systematize the steps that led them to reach a certain degree of excellence.

The follower’s complex

One of the main problems with this approach is that we can develop a “follower’s complex”, that is, on the one hand we idealize the example we are following, while on the other hand we believe that we are unable to surpass it.
The follower complex is problematic in that it automatically sets a limit to the progress one could make (corresponding to the level reached by the said master).

Fighting the follower complex

To fight this idealization, you need to humanize your model. You must be able to deconstruct all the myths that may have been elaborated around his person while trying to “get into his mind”. It is necessary that you realize that what separates you from this person is neither more nor less than work, dedication, obstinacy, three things that you yourself can develop in yourself. On the other hand, it is essential to find the flaws in this individual in order not to make this person an icon.
You also need to change the language. Do not use terms such as “genius”, “gift from heaven” etc. since this will contribute to developing a fixed mindset (or “fixed minset”) that will prevent you from believing in your possibilities of progress.

To deconstruct the master, have several masters

To avoid this “gurus” phenomenon, you need to have several examples to draw from. By having multiple role models, you will realize or at least subconsciously know that success is possible since many people have managed to excel.
Then, you have to take what is good in each of these models to concoct your own recipe.

Finally surpass the master

Next, you need to know what is the element that will set you apart from these masters: your secret ingredient, your own sauce. If you constantly imitate those who came before you, you will only remain in their shadow, which is why it is more than necessary to think of one or more ingredients that will distinguish you and allow you to surpass them.
To do this, you need to draw on what you are and be creative, especially through the flow of ideas. Idea flow is about taking inspiration from a totally different field to create new models in your own field. For example, using a minimalist approach from the Japanese Zen tradition to create a phone (see iphone).
When you draw from what you are, no one can outrun you, you have an advantage over others. This work is perhaps the most profound since it implies a very good knowledge of oneself, an exposure that can be uncomfortable, yet it is the one that all the greats of this world have followed before you.

Humility: an ally in your accomplishment

Since the road to mastery is long, it is important to avoid getting lost in narcissistic considerations that actually prevent you from giving your best. This reflection in the mirror that you are looking at distracts you from your work and this presents interruptions, distractions that can have a deleterious effect on your results. This is why you must make humility your ally. Humility allows you to focus your efforts on the work, that is, to “lose yourself” in deliberate practice.


One of the signs that you are getting closer to mastery is the sprezzatura that you can exude. Sprezzatura refers to the impression that you are doing something with calm and ease, or even nonchalance. Its opposite would be to give the impression that one is putting a lot of effort into achieving a result. Sprezzatura is often what characterizes great sportsmen (e.g. Zidane), artists or craftsmen who accomplish with grace tasks that seem harsh and difficult to us. The sprezzatura is a good indicator, but it is not necessary to look for it voluntarily (otherwise it will be only feigned), when the time comes (after a consequent amount of work and a certain talent) it will emerge from ourselves.

The importance of the forbidden

To excel, one must do some things and refrain from doing others. Mastery is more than anything a process of elimination. This is why the forbidden plays an important role here. It keeps us focused and prevents us from considering certain options. The forbidden destroys the grey area that can exist in our mind when we have not defined precise rules. The ban allows for both simplified decision-making and action. It is therefore more than essential to define a set of clear rules to follow that can be updated from time to time. Your code of ethics will be your roadmap to the expression of your excellence.

Working in fractions

Effective work needs to be balanced by effective reflection to correct what is wrong and to value what is working. This is why it is important to wear two hats: the architect (the strategist) and the bricklayer (the executor) in order to work in split mode. You can define yourself the rhythm of these splits according to the practices of your trade and the strategy you have employed. You can have an 80/20 approach, i.e. 80% mason and 20% architect and adjust as you go along to find the ideal proportion. If you are too polarized on one you will not progress (too much architect) or you will see a gap between your efforts and your results (too much mason).
Note: the strategic approach is not a narcissistic approach, what you are looking at are your efforts and the strategies you can employ

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