Who Are the Masters in Your Field and How Do You Learn from Them?

When contemplating your own field, ask yourself: are you the wannabe screenwriter reading how-to guides on the subway, or are you, like Thomas, throwing yourself among the masters, and proclaiming: I know nothing, but you do, and I’m not going anywhere until I do too?

That's Cal Newport in his latest entry on building a remarkable life. He rightly emphasizes that if you want to get good at something you should immerse yourself in an environment where people are good, deconstruct their keys to success, and learn from them. Modern craftsmanship: "Learning crafts takes not only time, but exposure to master craftsman." Perhaps another question you could then ask of someone is, "Who are the masters in your field and how do you learn from them?"

The other day Slate did a summary of the new theories of success which focus on the importance of hard work.


Excellent Stratfor analysis of the crisis in Europe and European identity.  Self-identified progressives do not understand economics. Mickey Kaus op/ed about the outdated union system.

DaveJ comments on yesterday's post about mood and creativity: "You are talking about mere mood variation, and it makes sense that mood cycles enhance creativity, because they shift context and stimulate novel patterns of activity in your brain. I suspect that it is not the middle of the emotional continuum that produces creativity but the variation itself."

7 comments on “Who Are the Masters in Your Field and How Do You Learn from Them?
  • Do you see long-distance,(e.g. online, phone) apprenticeships as part of creating the “environment”? Or does it have to mean a physical environment where there are many masters available?


  • This makes a lot of sense, and it’s valuable for anyone, but it’s important to have the right expectations. Many of the true masters were masters before they were apprentices. They did it on their own with talent and only when that talent was recognized did they get coaching.

  • I’ve worked for two people I would consider masters. Both of them were young, extremely ambitious, and had reputations for being tough. That turned out to be a benefit – it scared a lot of people away from them, leaving behind the people who were truly interested in pushing themselves to be better. When one of them told me I “hadn’t been a total disaster”, it felt like high praise – but I learned a tremendous amount from that man.

  • I was always told.. that when you’ve found your master to follow, first think broadly about what you can offer them. And serve that up as an proposition before asking for anything..

  • That’s basically one of the value propositions of open source. If you want to become a good programmer, join an open source project and learn from the masters there.

    Even just reading the code would help a lot but being involved in the project allows one to learn a lot about the process as well and not just the end result.

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