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Through the Power of Story

Unbundle The Master

The man who shines shoes day in and day out could be a master at shoe shinning. A master is someone who does something so well, that he hardly thinks about what he’s doing as he’s doing it. This process goes beyond the Zen-like quality Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes about in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, but rather in the no-nonsense logical gathering of materials and steps that are done “without giving it a second thought” because it’s common sense — to the shoe shiner. A heart surgeon, being the master he is at open heart surgery is not the master of shinning shoes. Would he know to rub a winter boot down with a mixture of white vinegar and water to dissolve the salt, before applying the polish?

True, a heart surgeon may be more “valuable” than the shoe shinner, but the shoe shinner could be further down the road of mastery than the heart surgeon, because his work may have become second nature already.

What do you do to get your job done? If you had to sit down and write step-by-step what specific tasks you do to reach point A, for someone you have never met, could you do it? Most masters can’t. They would inadvertently leave out the critical steps, just assuming it’s so logical that “everyone knows that.”

To draw attention to your real value at what you do — whether you’re a bagger at the grocery store, or an event planner for Fortune 500 companies — sit down and write down your tasks, step by step. Discover your own mastery.

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