After your formal education, you enter the most critical phase in your life—a second, practical education known as The Apprenticeship. The dangers are many. Before its too late you must learn the lessons and follow the path established by the greatest Masters, past and present—a kind of Ideal Apprenticeship that transcends all fields.
Do not think what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach. — Marcus Aurelius
Masters in all fields have devised for themselves various strategies to help them pursue the Ideal Apprenticeship. The following are eight classic strategies to help you complete your own Ideal Apprenticeship.
1. Value learning over money
You must value learning above everything else. This will lead you to all the right choices. Choose a place that has people and mentors who can inspire and teach you. In fact, it is the height of wisdom to find the perfect mentor and offer your services for free. Such mentors will often divulge more than the usual trade secrets.
2. Keep expanding your horizons
No one is really going to help you or give you direction. In fact, the odds are against you. If you want to set yourself up for mastery, you have to do it yourself, and with great energy. You must struggle against any limitations and continually work to expand your horizons.
3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority
What prevents people from learning is not the subject itself, but rather certain learning disabilities that tend to fester and grow in our minds as we get older. When you enter a new environment, your task is to absorb as much as possible. For that purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling of inferiority.
4. Trust the process
When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient. The only real impediment to this is yourself and your emotions—boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity. You cannot suppress such emotions. What you can do is have faith in the process.
5. Move toward resistance and pain
By nature, we humans shrink from anything that seems possibly painful or overtly difficult. You must become your own worst critic and see your work as if through the eyes of others.
6. Apprentice yourself in failure
When a machine malfunctions you do not take it personally or grow despondent. It is in fact a blessing in disguise. The same should apply to an entrepreneurial venture. Mistakes and failures are precisely the means of your education.
7. Combine the “how and the “what”
Understand: we live in the world of a sad separation that began some five hundred years ago when art and science split apart. We must make ourselves study as deeply as possible the technology we use, the group we work in, the economics of our chosen field, its lifeblood.
8. Advance through trial and error
In this new age, those who follow a rigid, singular path in their youth often find themselves in a career dead end in their forties, or overwhelmed with boredom. You want to learn as many skills as possible. At a certain point, when you are ready to settle on something, ideas and opportunities will inevitably present themselves to you.
There are no shortcuts or ways to bypass the Apprenticeship Phase. It is the nature of the human brain to require lengthy exposure to a field, which allows for complex skills to become deeply embedded and frees the mind up for real creative activity. The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery.
In your apprenticeship, you want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests. You must value the process of self-discovery and making things that are of the highest quality.
In this new age, those who follow a rigid, singular path in their youth often find themselves in a career dead end in their forties, or overwhelmed with boredom. The wide-ranging apprenticeship of your twenties will yield the opposite—expanding possibilities as you get older.