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How to Master Marketing and Everything Else

I've been giving some thought lately to what separates true marketing masters (and there are very few) from everyone else. I've come to the conclusion that they always know what to do in every situation--how to meet every challenge with the solution that is most likely to work (although it doesn't always). In short, they never run out of productive ideas. This is especially important for success in marketing tech companies.

In mulling this over, I went back to an article I wrote on Mastery a few years ago for Business Excellence--a publication started by Tom Peters. Following is an excerpt from that article.

Six ingredients form the foundation of mastery:

  1. Focus

  2. Organization

  3. Planning

  4. Self discipline

  5. The ability to interact well with others

  6. Being able to produce something of value

People often confuse genius with mastery, but they are not the same. One of the core differences is that masters produce something that others value. Consider the following.

Gerald Darrow was a genius on anyone’s scale. As a 7-year-old, he was featured on a TV show where audience members tried to stump intellectually gifted children with challenging questions. He was the youngest child on the show (the fact that he was on the show for 4 years without getting bumped off was a spectacular feat in itself).

At the tender age of 9, he was on the cover of Life magazine. But it was pretty much downhill from there. His adult years were an abyss. Except for a brief stint as a disc jockey on a classical music radio station, he lived as a recluse, tending roses for a living. He spent most of his life in poor health, on welfare, and listening to his impressive music collection…alone. At 47 he was dead.

By the way, Gerald Darrow’s peer and another child prodigy on the same TV show was James Watson. As an adult, along with Francis Crick, Watson discovered the structure of DNA and won the 1962 Nobel Prize for Medicine.

So what separates the gifted who achieve mastery from the gifted that don’t?

  • They know their abilities and seek out opportunities to use them.

  • They get satisfaction not just from knowledge itself, but from masterfully applying it.

  • They are action-oriented: they follow insight with activity.

  • They are deliberate: they know the difference between impulse and considered inspiration.

  • They don’t quit: even when they’re multi-tasking, they eventually get everything done (the unaccomplished gifted tend to almost finish everything).

  • They accept blame for their mistakes and move on.

  • They are willing to delay gratification

  • They focus on the big picture

  • They know which thinking skills to apply to a particular situation – analytical, intuitive, etc.

  • They accurately determine risk: they welcome well-calculated risks and account for the possibility of failure.

  • They connect well with their environment: they read everything and talk to everyone they can find. They welcome suggestions and feedback.

  • They know where they work best: which environments foster their abilities and maximize their talents.

  • They allow for their own humanness: They accept that they’ll be depressed, frustrated, hurt, angry, and stressed sometimes, but they don’t give in to self pity or self deprecation.

The classic debate is whether people are driven more strongly by an internal urge or by external incentives such as money and prestige. When it comes to true mastery, it must be the internal urge. It can’t be any other way, because the urge toward mastery is the inborn urge toward growth.

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