I was humbled

Ramit Sethi

The Year of Unapologetic Matery

I want to talk about mythical “unicorns” — people who are so good at what they do, you almost cannot believe it.

These people exist. When I was younger and an arrogant, stupid 20-something guy, I couldn’t believe someone could actually be better than me at something.

Then I grew up and learned the meaning of being humbled.

  • In high school, two real lawyers coached our mock trial team. We’d be stumped on what to say, and they would smile, take a 5-second glance at our paper, then give us a totally improvised, word-perfect 3-minute speech with zero “ums” “uhs” and “ahs.” It was riveting. It was amazing. It made me realize I wasn’t the great orator I thought I was.
  • In college, I spent 40 hours/week on my introductory programming class. One night, I was sitting in the lab, 4 hours into a problem set, when my friend walked in, sat down, read the prompt, put his hands behind his head, TOOK A NAP FOR 15 MINUTES, then woke up and finished the problem set in about 20 minutes. I wanted to die.

These experiences felt bad in the short-term, but were AMAZING in the long term.

It would have been easy to mope around and say, “I’ll never be as good as they are.”
But I looked at it a different way: It was awe-inspiring to see someone performing at a level I didn’t even think was possible.

Fast forward a few years, and as part of my Zero to Launch program, I recorded a video where I took someone’s sales copy…and rewrote it on the spot. The reaction:



commentfb3Here’s the video they’re talking about, where I rewrote someone’s copy on the spot.

I love studying the best of the best. Basketball players, CEOs, movie characters…I don’t care. What I learned is this: The #1 players are 10x-100x better than the #2 people. They know more, they’ve seen more, and they’re masterfully adept at reacting to novel situations that would cripple mere mortals. While everyone else fights over scraps, masters play an entirely different game.

This is true in sports, in business, and even in personal life.

Masters get disproportionate rewards. For example, I don’t charge 2x or 5x my competitors. I often charge 100x — and get it.

I’ve told you that 2014 is The Year of Unapologetic Mastery, and this week, we’re going to look at greatness. Who are the masters that influenced me? What makes someone 100x as good as another person? What can you do to reach that level?

But first, I want to hear from you. Tell me about ONE master you met. It could be in any industry. A master car mechanic…the person at work who always seems to be 3 steps ahead at defusing tension…anything.

Share your story of ONE example of mastery you’ve encountered in the comments below.


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    Spent two weeks mixing a song with top quality pro audio gear. Watch a french dude do a superior job in 30 minutes with just a laptop and plugins.

  2. Carolynn

    When I was in college, I studied Kumdo and Hapkido with a graduate student from Korea. No big deal, right? This guy was very modest and unassuming. I’d seen him around campus, leading lectures on biblical law. He was skinny and bookish and completely underwhelming in a suit and tie.

    With martial arts, it was a totally different ball game – the first day, he nearly succeeded in strangling my friend, a 6’3″ rugby player.

    How that happened: he asks our class of 20 (all boys, except for me) if anyone has any experience in martial arts. My buddy and I say yes, but my buddy has more experience than me. He’s a black belt in Judo.

    So to test my buddy’s strength, the teacher says, “Grab my throat.”

    Dumbfounded, my friend says, “Sir?” Worried there’s a language barrier at play here. Like, “He’s not really telling me this, right?”

    “Yes, yes!” the teacher says impatiently. “Grab my throat.”

    Uncertain, my friend grabs the teacher’s throat.

    Instantly, the teacher grabs HIS throat.

    What followed was 3 minutes of both men slowly strangling each other one-handed. The rest of the class looked on in abject terror. It felt like watching Obi Wan Kenobi spar Darth Vader.

    Finally, the teacher releases my friend and coolly says, “Good.” He has fingernail marks on his neck from my friend, who’s red in the face and about to stroke out.

    What I ultimately learned from this teacher over the following 2 years was how badly I’d misjudged strength. He was much smaller than my friend, yet defeated him because his skill (strategy) surpassed my friend’s. It wasn’t about being the biggest bruiser in the room! My teacher knew how to spot people’s weaknesses and use them against the person, and he was a master at predicting his opponent’s movements.

  3. Justaperson

    Do you remember all those college lectures? Of course not.

    I don’t remember what one professor talked about exactly, but he was able to WOW us weekly with his positive vibes. As a person, he was just an amazing, happy dude. I haven’t met someone so happy – or at least someone so talented at displaying and conveying such life happiness and the ability to make other people feel good about being in his presence.

  4. Corey

    When I was younger I was in a Shotokan Karate Class. Our sensei were very talented, and would often show us a kata (form) that they had practiced. Though their movements were faster, more powerful, and smoother than what any of the students could do, they still they had not mastered their craft. We sometimes would see our sensei’s sensei, and we would be mystified with his unknown capabilities, and stories we had heard before.
    One day we were lucky enough to see him perform for us. He would sometimes come to visit, and teach us. I remember that even when he spoke he was incredibly powerful. There was one time that he did not teach, and performed for us, satisfying every bit of the mysterious wonder that I had built up in my head.

    From the very beginning of his kata, every move he made was at a higher level than anything most of the students had ever seen. He began in a stance that looked delicate, but also looked like an immovable statue. When he began to move it was amazing, each and every movement, whether fast or slow, had incredible power. He lifted his foot off the floor an inch and as it returned to the ground the room would shake. When he struck it was so powerful that I felt like anyone or anything that stood before him would certainly die. And the look on his face was so intense that I don’t think anything could have stopped him until he had finished, even if someone had dared to walk right in front of him. (There was a part where the room was nearly too small for what he needed to do, and without holding back his strike landed inches from one of us watching at the side.) Near the end, from a prone position he sprang into the air higher than I have ever seen anyone jump, and landed in a perfect and immovable stance, where to my surprise he had not broken both of his legs, but simply bowed. That was the most masterful thing I have ever seen.

  5. William Kennedy

    This was probably the most humbled I have been. I worked in Sales alongside this guy who now works in Real Estate. We will call him Steve.

    I was pretty good at sales and used to be just shy of the top 10 in the company. This guy was amazing though. I was ok at sales but Steve was amazing. On average I would get about 25 sales a month. This guy would nearly double that number.

    One month, he was out sick for about 20 days and he only had about two sales from the start of the month. We used to have a game going (friendly work banter) and I was so positive I was going to beat him since I was at thirty. Don’t ask me how he did it but in five days, he managed to hit 40. 10 more than me that month in 5 days. It still amazes me to this day.

    I had never felt so humbled in my life and to top it all off, Steve was the nicest guy you would ever meet which was probably why he was so good at sales.

  6. Brian

    Never met him, but if we’re talking about masters Jaromir Jagr (NHL Player) is a great example. He was in the top-30 in terms of scoring this past season, is in the top-10 all time, and next year he will be the oldest player in the league at 43. The most interesting part for this audience is not his physical mastery of the game (although there are plenty of examples), but his mental frameworks.

    He’s repeatedly expressed his desire to play as long as possible, and although he probably could have signed a new contract for multiple years this off season, he chose to only sign a 1-year deal. Why? Because he knows that if he doesn’t play well, he won’t be able to find a contract for the following year, so having one-year deals *forces* him to perform at his highest if he wants to continue to have a career in the NHL. If he plays bad this year, his contract is up and then no one will sign up next year.

    Instead of taking the security of the multi-year deal and then relying on his own willpower to be the motivating force in his success, he intentionally constructed his environment (in this case his contract) to have barriers in place that push him to take action regardless of his motivation or inspiration. Sounds pretty familiar to stuff we’ve been reading here for a while, right?

  7. Martin

    I recently started pro wrestling. I’ve met all kinds of characters that have been around for years and even decades. Many struggle to even pay the bills. My coach on the other hand, started at 28 and was in the WWE within two years making a killing and becoming a celebrity in no time. His story really impressed me and was the main reason as to why I wanted to train under him.

  8. Marcela

    My former mentor and professor of Public International Law was the most brilliant international lawyer I have met. His mind would draw jaw dropping correlations and conclusions with tremendous ease in extremely difficult areas. His mind was an amazing computer from which he could pull the exact right information at the exact right time. Brilliant, just brilliant.

  9. Stephen

    Retail is an art form. My first great master taught me more in my first ten minute walk around the store than I had learned in my previous four years. I learned and forgot more in two years with him than I have learned in my subsequent four years. Ten total years with my two under his tutelage being far and above the best.

    The laziest, least involved manager ever… He didn’t have to “work” like other managers and he showed me why. He was the best, most knowledgable and passed that confidence on to his staff in a way that empowered them. Everyone was an asset and important. Everyone came to work because they were excited to, their opinions mattered. He was one of the greats!

  10. April

    Every Landmark Forum leader I’ve ever heard speak during a course (over 20) is an absolute master of leading large groups of people (150-300) through complicated emotional exercises and responsibly delivering the promises of the course.

  11. Mike

    I was invited by a co-worker to join his jazz improvisation group. A bunch of musicians, some professional, other like us with “day jobs” would get together at someone’s house/apartment and we’d play charts from The Real Book. I’m an ok guitarist who learned mostly by ear. I could keep up with the charts for chords, and riff a little lead, but I had trouble with changes and getting the feel if I didn’t already know the tune.

    My co-worker, on the other hand, could look at any chart, jump right in without ever having heard the tune before and hit the changes, swing just right and generally seem like he had played that very tune every night for the past ten year. Jaw dropping. The tri-fecta of skill, theory and practice

  12. Matt

    My Taekwon-Do instructor is a master in the truest sense of the word.

    One day he challenged a friend of mine to a sparring match. At the time my buddy was 17, a black belt and very athletic. My instructor was in his 60s and groaned every time he got up out of a chair.

    Despite this, my friend couldn’t land a single punch, kick or anything no matter how hard he tried. What was really incredible was that my instructor never moved from where he was standing and used only one technique. It wasn’t even a common technique, just something we would practice once in a while. Yet that was all my instructor needed to easily defend himself.

  13. Rita

    Seeing several world-class musicians and having had the opportunity to study with them and learn from them has taught me something incredibly important about mindsets. Most people feel discomfort and run away from it. Masters run towards situations that stretch them and push them to be better. You have to embrace those things that will push you to grow, constantly surround yourself with people who are better than you and insist on excellence every single time you perform.

  14. AV

    A CEO of Baltimore’s redevelopment project was talking to investors as I guided them through our property. He said “Parking garages were built here and here [points] to force foot traffic past our designated retail window spaces.”

    So simple, yet as a city planner, effective. Masterful thought processes if you ask me.

  15. Juliana

    The best example of mastery is my current director. I’m amazed by all the things he does in the same 24 hours day I have.

    He has 3 kids and is active on their activities, he runs 2 huge departments, reads books, reports, magazines, news on our business, is the first to get here and the last to leave, knows EVERYTHING about the company’s revenues and business, runs at the beach everyday, plays tennis once in a while, sleeps (I really though this wasn’t possible)… but the thing that inspires me the most about him is that with all this power and knowledge he is a GREAT leader.

    He’s has great mood, I never saw him treating any employee bad, he articulates his discontents and goals clearly and in a friendly way, with arguments and questions. He listens to everyone no matter who and he balances fun and seriousness brilliantly.

    All these years I’ve been working in this company I saw a lot of people that wouldn’t get close to the importance he has and acted as if they were untouchable and masters of the world’s knowledge and he is certainly an inspiration of mastery of leadership for me.

  16. Michael

    My example is my college professor while studying abroad in Spain. I took a class on the European Union from him and he had the most amazing ability to lecture for a full hour and a half each day of the week without hardly a single note. The class covered hundreds of years of European history of the EU and he knew all of it by heart. I have no idea how he had managed to commit it all to memory so well.

  17. Paul

    My jurisprudence lecturer. Never seen such an amazing talent. And recently, Jay Abraham. Such a living marketing wonder

  18. Joseph

    I was working as a recording engineer on a large-scale album project with a number of known artists. I considered myself pretty damn good. Then they brought in another engineer that used to work with Heavy D. My mind was blown when he started working five times faster than me. I didn’t even know it was possible for someone to edit that fast.

    I’m a lot more badass today because of that moment.

  19. Traci

    I met Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn, considered one of the best fantasy writers of our generation. He was incredibly hilarious, wonderfully dorky, and brilliant. 😉

  20. Sean Mysel

    Probably the most amazing instance of mastery I’ve ever seen was meeting Dave Grohl from Nirvana/Foo Fighter fame.

    Crazy story! I was doing a walkthrough inspecting the sports arena I worked at in New Jersey. Foo Fighters were on a tour stop and I walk into the green room. Usually the times I walk in it’s empty but there was Dave strumming a guitar.

    I apologized but he was totally cool he’s just saying what’s up. So I asked him how he got where he was and he told me (which now is a favorite quote of his):

    Well we sucked… but we loved what we did so we kept playing. But we always found ways to improve… we kept sucking but eventually with improvement we became Nirvana.

    I ran out got most of Ramit’s classes and paid $12,000 to get mentoring from a very well known copywriter.

  21. Adamber


    Anthony ‘Tony’ Robbins is the best of the bests in my opinion, Ive learnt sooo much from him in personal development, since I got to know him and his stuff, im an addicted weirdo, changed my life compeletely for the good. One of the takeaways from is that every time I read something from him actually in my mind HE is the one reading with the perfectly same voice quality, and that is What gets me going and adrenalized! That is an other thing that I apply some of the tools he shares

    im sure 110% of you know him and Im hoping you think the same way of him 😉


  22. Lance

    Since I first entered college, my peers in physical education department have looked up to me. Most of the information came easy, some not so much, but I was always able to get it. Most of the time I would walk into a class already possessing the knowledge because I have taken it upon myself to learn it years prior or my boss at one of the top gyms in America has taught it to me.

    Then I met who is now a close friend of mine. He becomes engulfed in rehabilitation and strength & conditioning. He writes research reviews, reads over a hundred books, takes about ten continuing education courses, and in two years time he has flown by me. His rate of knowledge acquisition is amazing. He seems to remember everything he reads and always has an answer.

    Truly a scenario where first place in one league is a DISTANT 2nd in another. Until I had this experience, I thought I knew everything. Boy was I wrong.

  23. Chris B. Behrens

    I was working with a church group that was repairing a house for an older lady. We were putting on a roof, and we were reasonably well prepared for that task, but that place was pretty well trashed, and it became apparent that there were a lot of other problems with the house.

    We simply couldn’t fix everything – that was not on the table. But we knew that this elderly lady was going to be walking out her front door and down the steps to go to work every day, so we decided that we would try to focus on that.

    Among the group was an older man in sunglasses who kept quiet during most of our discussion. After we’d talked about it for a while, one of the others turned to him and asked him, “Jim, what do you think?” He was silent for a moment as he looked at the entryway and finally said, “give me a few minutes.”

    He stood in front of the entryway walking slowly back and forth…taking out his tape measure several times. Finally, he nodded to himself, walked over to a pile of lumber and set to work. He spent some time cutting wood on a table saw, and then assembled a new entryway, porch and front steps with his son-in-law. No plans, no recuts. When he was finished, he just stepped away and said “ready for paint.”

    This guy had IMPROVISED a new front porch and steps for this lady. I have no doubt that it was the most structurally sound part of the entire place. No one else there could have built the porch he pulled out of his brains if we’d had plans.

  24. Rob

    My friends and I once attended a master class by the pianist, Constance Keene. It was sort of a consolation prize, since she had given a concert the night before that we only found out about the next day. Apparently the power had gone out in the middle of the performance and she finished the concert by the light of a candelabra sitting on the piano.

    Anyway, we figured we could see her play a bit at the master class. She was in her 80s and very frail. The first student played a Chopin piece in a way that was technically excellent but somehow uninspiring. When he was finished, she told him exactly why his performance was uninspiring but he had this sort of patronizing attitude, as if he were thinking, “Aww, this little old lady is trying to tell me how to play.”

    Finally, she got annoyed, hobbled over to the piano, and kind of shooed him out of the way. When she sat down at the keyboard, her entire demeanor changed. She seemed like a different person. She started playing and it was just this current of living sound. I couldn’t say exactly how it was different from the student’s performance–it somehow had extra dimensions. We were stunned.

    It was the first time I got a glimpse of the difference between really good and world-class.

  25. Layne

    George Perez lives in my town – he is one of the longtime artists for Marvel Comics. He took a liking to a community theater we have in this town – and it’s how I became exposed to him. He enjoys getting into the acting, but he once designed a set for a particular show. This show used little to no props, but had a back wall, and two sidewalls that George painted with incredible detail for the show – it didn’t look comic book at all – it was appropriate for that particular show, and it was masterfully done… The depth and the amount of detail was incredible. My favorite set design they’ve ever done – even with all the talented artists they’ve had through there. There’s talented artists, and then there’s another level, like George Perez.

  26. Luke

    Similar to your programming story. We had a Java/C++ (Mostly DOS) Class in High School and I remember once a few of us came up with the idea of making a calendar application that would print the gris with months and numbers, etc.

    A buddy of mine was writing a game and he needed a break one day. So he decide to try our Calendar app which we had been working on for a while. He wrote it in one period, then went back to his personal project!!!

  27. Jesse

    I once rolled (sparring) with a 5th degree black belt in brazilian jiu jitsu. Humbling to feel like a child in the hands of a man who could choke the life out of you while he’s laughing and saying in “don’t do that my friend” in portuguese.

    This article is true. The elites of the elites are just on another planet from mere mortals.

  28. Claire

    Ahahaha at your CS problem set story. But that’s how I feel about what you do although I could take naps during my CS finals.

    I just met a master a month ago, seriously the smartest person I think I’ve met in my life. He’s a martial arts teacher, one of the highest skilled in this particular art in the area. He is able to take the most difficult student and teach them such that after only 2 weeks in his class, I noticed the significant improvement in this student’s practice and also guessed who the new teacher was before ever meeting him. He seems to be able to learn and become a master even without his own teacher really teaching him. What I notice is that he is a very honest direct communicator, does not have much of a filter, and says truths that people don’t usually hear from other people. Yet he is kind. He speaks very logically, everything is explained why, and makes a point of cutting out all the crap that most other people distract themselves with. He also happens to be a super successful serial entrepreneur and genius engineer/scientist. But very low-key.

  29. Susan

    Warren, a highly trained American bonsai instructor is a master at what he does in the world of traditional Japanese bonsai. I had the good fortune of hearing him speak on numerous occasions. I had accompanied a friend and was not particular interested in his chosen topic of the day-but we were going right by the event on a trip; there was no excuse or escape for me. We went in and listened and I ended up being blown away by his mastery of speech and content. He never stumbles, says uh, duh or ah, and is fluid, interesting and insightful. I don’t care if he talks about mud, if I’m nearby, I will learn something and be engaged.
    I’ve listened to many other speakers on the same topic on local levels and end up feeling like I wasted my time sitting there. What I learned is people who know what they are talking about leave me inspired and interested as opposed to others who pretend to know what they are talking about and don’t put in the effort to learn or master it.

  30. Jeremy

    I once worked with a 69 year old carpenter who could build anything with wood, hammer, saw, and nails – I mean anything, in no time at all. It was amazing how quickly and easily this humble, salt of the earth guy, could construct with his hands what would take the rest of us young bucks at least 2-3 times as long and much lower quality. It was baffling. A day of working with him was like a year learning all on my own.

  31. Henner

    There’s this Australian guitarist I met three years ago, Tommy Emmanuel. To me, he’s the perfect example for real mastery. He has mastered his instrument to an extend that is beyond what people think is possible with a piece of wood and six strings. I don’t just speak of technical mastery. He puts his heart and soul into every song, every note, and combines it with a natural musicality and seemingly effortless playing that floors me every time I listen to his music.

  32. A.

    I met Bill Clinton with my parents while he was the president. We moved here in mid 90s as refugees after living under Sarajevo’s siege for three years. In any case we were invited with a bunch of other recent immigrants/refugees to help him sign a document that called for a week of peace in the world. So here we are, a crazy fucking bunch people from all over the world, tripping over English words as we tried to tell him our stories… And he was such an enigmatic conversationalist. It was fascinating to watch him relate to everyone on a very human level. He was present, and interested, and warm. Definitely a master of his domain.

  33. Michael

    I was teaching ballet class and having trouble getting kids to point their foot and smile at the same time. Their attention could not fill the volume of their body. That afternoon I watched an Aikido demo where the teacher easily avoided two high school football players trying to tackle him while explaining the days lesson to his class and naming each move he made. His volume of attention filled his own body, his two attackers and the 20 observers he was teaching.

  34. ma

    Just to inform you about the next piece of simple but inspiational material about life.
    Thought you might like it as well.

    By the way found your story on humility great

    Have a nice day .

  35. Bill

    I met bill graham he was a true master

  36. Ben

    I recently did something evil unto a good friend. I had no idea what to do next. I turned to one of my mentors. He gave me a script( … word for word, how to say it, when to pause when to look him straight in the eyes….) to defuse the situation and find out what my friend exactly told the authorities. He even made an analysis of how everything went down in my friend’s head and what he most likely did. It was so amazing. …. What’s even better is that his advice worked like magic and he actually predicted my friend’s actions. I can’t even imagine how he can perform at that level….

  37. Jon

    Don Miguel Ruiz. Definitely a master at the art of detachment while still interacting with society (being in the world, but not of it). I find it very interesting how easy life can become when we [un]learn how to reject ourselves and be ok with whatever it is we want to pursue. Using systems (such as “The Four Agreements”) to accomplish this speeds up the process much faster. We definitely pick our teachers and we get what we want out of life.

  38. Marc Mawhinney

    Although he died almost 500 years ago, I believe the ultimate master was Leonardo da Vinci. The man epitomizes “mastery”, and his life is truly inspirational. Robert Greene’s “Mastery” gives lots of other examples, but da Vinci is the one that stands out for me.

  39. Haylee

    My father, Jerry Lindsey, is an absolute Master at his trade. He makes custom jewelry, often even cutting the stones himself. He can take one look at a stone and create the perfect setting to bring out it’s natural beauty. He doesn’t have to try- it’s like magic flows out of his hands. The pieces he designs for his customers perfectly embody their personality in a way that is utterly amazing. I knew exactly what you meant when you mentioned “unicorns,” as it comes so natural to him but is almost mystical to the rest of us.

  40. tammy

    Small things reflect mastery. A person has more humor not becuz he saw things i didnt, but he beat me when we both told the same story, but he did a better job.
    Two videos simply had mastery
    Crazy sand, won Ukraine got talent, from a sand artist.
    Another video I saw a person drawing a transformer in color using EXCEL. Stunning.
    its said 10,000 hours in one field will make one expert. Well, a master technique goes with their mind and soul. Concentration, is all they need.

  41. Chris

    Years ago when studying martial arts, i happened across a book by a martial artist called Peter Ralston. I kind of smirked at the pictures as it seemed contrived, unrealistic. But since later one of his other books had an endorsement by an author I respected a lot, I contacted him, and went from the UK to a weeklong workshop in Holland.
    It has been years since then. Is hard to describe what I experienced. He was so far above anything I had seen before (or since) that can only say was as if some non-human had come from another world to bring a new paradigm for relating and martial interaction. So much so that most people cannot comprehend what he is doing, it is that advanced. However, I have not experienced this level of mastery in other areas. Most masters are just better, very well trained, yet still operating on the 1-10 scale (so to speak).
    What he had was something different. He trained and contemplated for maybe 10 hours a day for 20 years. And yet still something unusual happened that multiplied that many times, his ability was so unusual.
    Anyway this experience changed my perception of what mastery is. I do not see those who most people call masters as masters, and are not in my experience. Though there have been a few exceptions, they have been in other domains. Perhaps Tom Brown Jrs teacher, just based on what I have read in his books.

  42. Dan Ingraham

    Over thirty years ago I took a Judo class at a local community college. We were taught by an Olympic coach level master black belt. Mr Jay Kim taught us throws, sweeps, arm bars and how to properly defend ourselves. The final exam was to show him what we learned by throwing each other and then Master Kim had us one by one try to throw him. He literally could not be thrown. It felt like I had a bag of wet cement in my arms. After one minute of me trying different maneuvers, he looked in my eyes and asked if I was done trying. I said yes. Instantly I was on my back. I got up quickly and he threw me effortlessly twice again with different throws. I still am amazed of his expertise . He was definitely a master.

  43. Simeon

    when i was in college, i always start my programming projects 2 weeks earlier because i know i work so slow. even with my homework i would do them a week in advance, and when it comes to taking exams, I would take 3 weeks to study for them. but there was this guy and a girl, who can finish a programming project in one hr, study for an exam in 2 hrs and get 100% on the exam. crazy right!, but i always ask myself how did they do it. after graduating, i met the guy and ask him, how did he finish his programming projects so quickly. he said with a smile, ” i have been programming from I was 5 years old” then i realize that practice is something I need to do, and without it I wouldn’t be the best programmer i could be.

  44. Amanda

    I watched a tap master perform alongside jazz musicians in a music festival months ago. It was the first time I’ve ever stared so hard at someone’s feet and had my jaw drop to the floor. The way he varies his sound with volume, and have a conversation with the musicians while adding an element of humour, my god. No wonder he’s an artist in residence at the American Tap Dance Foundation.

  45. Dan

    I knew a mechanical engineer that was a master at everything. He had an advertised specialty that he was unbelievably good at but the thing that always left my jaw on the floor every time I talked to him was that he could expound on any topic and walk out of the room leaving me feeling like a complete ignoramus. The guy got called on anytime there was a problem and it was easy to see why. It inspired me to want to become the go-to guy. I’m getting there though I still feel like I have a LONG way to go.

  46. Nick

    Am a car designer and I still remember trying to place a tape on a clay model covered in dinoc film in my first year on the job. I was lying on my back since it was on the bottom of the car and trying to put a straight line going around the corner of a bumper. I had to be careful not to make a mistake since the tape could peel away the fragile dinoc film. It took me 10 minutes just to do one corner of the car. Then the design chief came by in his suit, smiled, knelt down, and placed a perfectly straight line around the corner in seconds… He’s now the VP of design for a major automotive company and acknowledged as having recaptured the design flair of the brand.

  47. jsy

    Hmm, if you mean master than probably my grandpa is one of the master the art of metaphysics who predicted when he will go to heaven, and it was precisely on that year as he predicted. I still remember clearly it was during year 2000. Before that he fall into a stroke during 1996, and we all panic for him, but he smile at us and told us he would not go yet because he still got 4 more years to live. Fast forward to year 2000 the eve of chinese new year, midnight 1am, we gotten a call from the family and said he was gone. That time I dont really know what trigger his death because the family has been taking care of him and he was pretty stable and healthy since he can talk.

    Fast forward to year 2012. it was one day my stumble upon my grandpa journal and wrote a very detail about his past life event and his death, All the incident was clearly stated and the date was 50 years ago. Imagine if you can predict life itself and make the best of it, isnt it a wonderful thing?

    I was really amazed on what i found and decided to bring back this lost ancient art back. But it was a struggle to understand the ancient context of this art. No wonder my grandpa has no disciple. After 1 and half year i was able to finally grasp the surface of the art and was able to help out other people with it for example i help my friend overcome his financial crisis and another friend about her unfaithful boyfriend. Metaphysics isnt just to predict the future, it helps you understand what is your strength, your weakness and help you improve your health, your relationships and it also help you to brace yourself for in the incoming challenges which lie ahead of you.

  48. Kate Punivai

    I recently had the privilege of befriending a “master” mechanic. This guy is only 25 years old, and a complete whizz. He left school in Form 2, to go and learn mechanics with his father. He now runs the business, he lives and breathes engines, and even reads engine manuals in his spare-time, for goodness sake! He’s second to none in his work, but more than that, the guy is a true humanitarian. He often accepts payment in the form of foods or homegrown produce, when people don’t have the money to pay him. He could be financially wealthy, but chooses to live in an old house in the poorest village, and he’s incredibly happy because he gets to help people who couldn’t otherwise afford to fix their cars, AND do what he loves… I am humbled and inspired by this man, and thank God he crossed my path.

  49. Kate Punivai

    Actually, just reading back through the comments, one thing stands out to me. So many of the comments mention that the “master” they met wasn’t only brilliant at their craft, they were genuinely nice, humble people who always kept their curiosity and desire to learn.

    Perhaps we can all learn from that…

  50. Harmonious1

    I am a master. Believe it or not.. Aikido master to be exact. Award-winning philosopher to boot, without meaning to brag.. Yet, I have five students that just pay the rent on the dojo. My wife has given me an ultimatum.. make some money in six months or get out. Well, Buddhist don’t fret, right.. but you could say, I’m shaving laser-sharp at the moment… Somehow, being cool unders stress doesn’t always mean you can keep the people around you calm.. It’s hard for me to believe that someone like me, with little to no business experience, can be great at business, even though I am outstanding at aikido… Yes, it’s true. On the other hand, it is less difficult for me to imagine Ramit getting a black belt in one month, which is exactly what I intent to propose to everyone that wants to take the challenge. I can teach it, but can you learn it..?

  51. Ravi s

    I am having one good friend.
    when he was student his brother was sent him out of his home, du to imbalance financial position.
    because my friend was lost his parants.
    His brother lost his money in gambling.
    after that my friend came to me with expecting help.
    Then I helped him to get job for 2000 rs saliry.
    after 2 years my friend was got an ability to start a new bakery.
    Now he is earning rs 100000. Per month.
    how he has achieved this?
    this is un solved question for me.

  52. Apoorv

    I got my ass kicked by short & skinny guy in Brazilian Jujitsu class. I am 6 foot tall & 220 lbs big man. I met this 5′ 5″ skinny fellow & I could not beat him. Even with brute force. He had perfected his skills. I had no skill but only strength & weight.

  53. Hanna

    I´ve been lucky to encounter a few really successful people who have turned their passion into a profession and doing really well.
    A person that has really impressed recently is my old neighbour who literally went from zero to becoming one of the top- real estate agents in Finland. Her Facebook-posts are just amazing! She seems to be selling apartments like others are selling vegetables! She has succeeded selling houses that were on sale for a year in just a day! People send her flowers, gift her cakes and simply LOVE her – she is attracting masses of clients! And the optimisim she is radiating is contagious – I´m getting the positive vibe from her all the way in India just by reading her daily updates. Really impressive indeed. This makes me think – I should really get rocking, too. It´s possible with the right mindset and attitude!

  54. Gayle

    I’m intrigued by the number of people who have referenced the martial arts in their posts and it occurred to me that true mastery may hinge on the willingness of the individual to believe that what seems to be impossible can actually be achieved. The master who came to my mind has a unique gift. In his area of specialty (biology) he has an uncanny ability to think beyond a given set of facts; a true innovator. He was the quiet guy in class who, when asked a question, would consistently receive a response from the professor along the lines of “How on earth did you know that? In my 30 years of teaching, no one’s ever gotten that right.” And when he posed the rare question, it would often be met with a stunned and startled look from the professor, like “Why didn’t I ever think of that? Has anyone ever thought of that?” I just learned the other day that a seemingly simple question he posed at a conference several years ago led to an important change in procedure that will likely save lives. There is a sadness in this story however and that is that this individual does not employ his gift. There are a number of reasons for his choice to work in a menial position far below his abilities but the most significant is the fact that he lacked confidence and feared failure. He was a first-generation college student who had failed first grade and, as a result, had always seen himself as stupid. After he completed his Master’s degree, going for the MD and/or PhD his professors were encouraging him to pursue was just so far beyond what he thought he could ever accomplish that he couldn’t bring himself to attempt it. I’ve often wondered what the world has lost as a result and it’s made me wonder if we all have the potential greatness in some way but that the majority of us either haven’t stumbled upon our gifts or, for whatever reason, have held ourselves back from developing true mastery.

  55. Jessica

    Another sports reference–I attended a roller derby boot camp a couple of months ago with Smarty Pants (Texecutioners, Team USA), who is one of the best skaters in the world. It was only an 8-hour camp, but her mastery of the sport is amazing–she taught us all how to think about derby differently, and how start improving–by focusing on the mental game and fundamental form rather than on brute power and athleticism. The best skaters can do all of the physical stuff, but the masters have the mental game down and know how to recognize and correct errors, and improve. This holds true for any sport or profession.

  56. Jane

    I met Julia Child randomly at a restaurant when I was in high school–she was sitting at a nearby table and my family decided to strike up a conversation with her. My parents are incredible cooks, and I grew up learning from them, so this was especially meaningful for us. We only chatted with her for a minute, but I will always remember that moment. She was so friendly!

  57. Ed

    I have played chess since I was 4 years old, including once competing internationally in Poland. Recently I was in my local club, and a player about 5 years younger than me was playing. I found to my amazement I could not even get a foothold against him. His position stayed completely solid throughout whereas my own gained weakness after weakness. Unlike my own style of play he never leapt on a small mistake straight away and rarely played the obvious move but just hung back and let my position get worse until it cracked at the seams. I’ve never seen anything like it.

  58. Clare

    She’s a music therapy colleague and one of my closest friends. She has the amazing ability to proofread an article, give it a few tweaks and suddenly the text makes sense.

  59. Yolanda

    Had the chance to hear top performers who came for a concert in my home town. As I was part of a small jazz formation, we were blabbering about how passing an audition to enter that group would be the best thing ever. And it happened; they were recruiting singers.
    Went to Paris with a fella and ended up been chosen for the choir (They liked the idea of having a girl singing Tenor/Barython). I couldn’t believe it. But it was an amazing 2-years-experience. Had the chance to approach singers I only heard of or dreamed of before, learn tons from them; the way they work, the way they communicate about it and the way they connect to the public. Sponge-yo was my name. But I’ve learned since that day on, you have to take a step and go where you didn’t expect to go if you want to meet someone that could take you to the top, then to the next…

  60. Omar

    Although I do not know him personally, someone who truly impacted my personal development and whom I learned from marketing and time management is EBEN PAGAN.
    His style of teaching and the amazing value he provide in all of his products completely transformed much of my thinking in general, not just on the topics he was teaching.

  61. gary

    10 years ago I took up making golf clubs as a hobby for retirement. I started to feel good about it. even confident. I made a set of woods for a customer I thought was a high handicapper. As It turned out he is a very good week end player. I met him later at a tournament and he was telling a friend that if he wanted a set made I was the best. Now I got scared. what if I can not do for someone else, like I did for him. I was excepting improvement , but not that kind .I do not know if I was lucky or I am pretty good. I am new to the business and I feel inferior to others who have been it the field longer than I. i have been afraid to charge what I know I should, because I do not want to over charge for my services. When I had an ice cream shop I counted my success by the number of tries I knew I would have more failures than success, but that was okay, because one success was greater than 5 or 6 failures. and I was not afraid to try with golf clubs holding back.

  62. Lorraine

    I see work from a makeup artist i follow. And I am in awe sometimes to see these absolutely amazingly creative looks she creates!

  63. Stacey

    A few years ago I had a job at a posh pub in London. The assistant manager had his flaws but was the most gifted manager I’ve ever seen. He had been in hospitality for years and was like a natural. The chef would be freaking out about 50 people ordering at once and the assistant manager could jump in the kitchen and chop veggies or turn the steak. He could make any cocktail anyone asked for. He would get a bottle of tequila and give us shots behind the bar on Saturday nights when the pressure was on to keep the vibe of the staff happy. He was not too proud to collect glasses or sweep rubbish from outside or could do accounts. He chatted to Lady and Lord So and So and the after work labourers with equal finesse. People sometimes came in and requested he be there as they enjoyed his show so much. Also, he taught me a lot about management and how different personalities play a role in a team – all different but important. I had never understood how “people people” could use their gift in that way – he was so good at motivating people, and he would move us around on different tasks – and people would give it ago even if they were rubbish at it and he pushed them to mastery and new confidence.

  64. danjef

    I do not agree, look at: Danna

  65. Emil

    I admire the Rich and Honest Businessman. How he was able to get those deals and strike a balance on risk and reward to get to where they are right now – Earning Millions and even Billions.

  66. Marilyn Stern

    I think of this exchange when I think of total mastery not only in terms of the actual skill set but in terms of the stunningly elegant, non argumentative way to persuade a client or colleague to see your vision.
    I am an architect and I was designing a large house with a sculptural center stair.

    A famous and well respected interior designer was working on the furnishing and finishes for the house. The client allowed that the designer had suggested that I close in the stairway which was designed to be open to the dining room. Architects hate it when interiors people muck about in their arena.

    He brought up the subject by asking me why I designed the stair to be open. I jumped in to defend my design, explaining that you would be able to see the park through the largest thermopane windows in the world from the second floor landing. I said that the stair would be a sculptural addition integrated with the whole of the first floor, not just the entry if it was open.

    He said nothing. He walked over to the center of the entry space and crossed his arms over his chest. At that instant I saw, in my minds eye, what he was seeing; what the stair would look like from that important vantage point if it were enclosed. The stair would be transformed from a leaky spiral to the magically spun interior of a shell if it were enclosed. I said thank you. I said I would immediately draw it up enclosed. Stunning lesson from the master space planner and master persuader!

  67. Kim

    This is an eye opening for me. I came across similar situations and I had tried but without success so I filed it as natural talents and that I’m just not one of them. Especially when it comes to art; when I saw Robin Pickins’ or Suzy Toronto’s art, I just want to be able to do something similar that make me feel like I just want to die because I will never be able to.