Anyone who has ever achieved greatness at anything has likely learned that mastery often comes only through intense focus, repetition and obsession about a particular subject for an extended period of time. However, many people by default are so perpetually distracted by all of the opportunities that we’re now fortunate to have that they never become great at anything.
I recommend that you stop focus hopping and become a master at something — but just one thing. During my career as the president of a marketing agency, I resolved to master search engine optimization (SEO). That meant that until I knew all that there is to know and developed a foolproof method, I refused to focus on anything else. True mastery can often only be accomplished with laser-focused effort, so I knew that was my only option. After four years, I can now say that I’ve reached a point of mastery with all things search engine related.
I share this to encourage you. The time to stop trying to be good at multiple things is now. We all have the same number of hours to produce, but how we use that time is what can separate those who are good from those who are great.
Here are two tips to help you become a master of your craft‚ whether that’s leading an agency or another type of business or a providing a service like SEO.
1. Learn To Say No
Excellence or being great at something often requires focus, and that can mean saying no to everything else. You may find that most people in your life will have an opinion about the decision to say no. They might think it’s eccentric or call you a workaholic, or they might even get offended. Regardless of anyone else’s response, this step is crucial. Remember what Steve Jobs once said: “It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
Saying no doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Our society glorifies busyness, large numbers of commitments and being a part of everything. Many of us actually fear missing out, and that can drive us to overindulge with our calendars even if we have no desire to participate in something. How many times have you found yourself at a chamber of commerce event in the name of networking, spending your entire evening making small talk with other business owners, only to discover that none of them can help you or your business? We often say yes because of a fabricated obligation to something or someone and can end up resenting the person who invited us. Instead, we could’ve had an “uncomfortable” five-minute conversation where we said no and avoided wasting hours of time. It’s okay to say no to invitations. I’m giving you permission to tell people that you don’t want to go to a stale dinner party and that you’d rather focus on achieving your goals and mastering your craft. If you want to succeed, get comfortable with having uncomfortable conversations.
2. Obsess About It
Becoming truly great at something often requires a different level of understanding and a deeper focus. Albert Einstein said: “Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.” I believe this is true.
Some might use the term “obsession” to refer to such focus. Dictionary.com defines “obsession” as “the domination of one’s thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea, image, desire, etc.” This word may have a negative connotation to some people, but it’s important that we reframe our mindset. Your obsession with your craft is the very drive that can take you to a level of mastery.
Take a moment and think about some well-known masters of their craft like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant and Bill Gates. They’ve all focused primarily on one thing in their careers — golf, basketball and computer software, respectively. Did they hop from career to career, or did they find one subject and obsess about it? Somehow, they managed to concentrate most of their energy on one skill until they reached mastery.
You can be good at a ton of things, but to be truly great at something, you may have to obsess about it and make it your sole focus. Be intentional with what you say yes to and where you spend your time and focus. Refuse to accept mediocrity, and start chasing greatness.