Thoughts on Systems

Emil Sit

Aug 9, 2008 - 2 minute read - Personal lifehacks mastery selfimprovement

Become a master

Masters make things look easy. A master photographer can pick up a disposable camera and take a beautiful picture; a master bodyworker sees patterns that cause pain in your body and efficiently corrects them; a master programmer rapidly produces working systems and debugs existing ones. There’s something appealing about being a master of any skill.

Tim Ferriss argues that we can all approach mastery of many areas, that mastery can be achieved in less time than we think. He writes:

Generalists recognize that the 8020 principle applies to skills: 20% of a languageā€™s vocabulary will enable you to communicate and understand at least 80%, 20% of a dance like tango (lead and footwork) separates the novice from the pro, 20% of the moves in a sport account for 80% of the scoring, etc.

Of course, it takes more than 21 days to master a skill and daily practice is critical. You must constantly challenge yourself to do something difficult and to learn something new.

I find these challenges incredibly rewarding. Since I graduated college, I’ve taken up hobbies and skills outside my professional work—from yoga to photography; I continue to learn about about areas within my field, from tools like the hot version control system of the day to how to write an operating system. Some things I still want to learn include massage, menu planning, haircutting, jazz piano, … not to mention continuing to improve upon what I’ve already learned. But it is hard to find time to learn new things and keep up with old ones. Time management is something I have yet to fully master. I’m working on it.

Are you a master? No? Why not?