personal mastery

I grew up with 80s and 90s hip hop, when we promoted such values as “health, wealth, and knowledge of self.”

I still highly regard those principles, especially the latter.  Knowledge of self is one of the most slept-on superpowers that we each have at our disposal. It seems to determine EVERYTHING. In circular motion: our world view, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions, our habits, our rituals, our patterns, and our circle of influence, which then fortifies our world view and back again another 360 degrees. Just think of how many people give up on their goals before they even get out of the gate – simply because they don’t have the right frame of mind.

Yet, few consider the effects of their own repetitive beliefs on their experience. Or worse, they mock personal mastery as something to be reserved for “those” people. And “those” people usually means flighty touchy-feely types. Nonbelievers, however, might want to reflect on the fact that personal mastery happens to also be practiced by their favorite artists, athletes, and business leaders, not to mention every inventor and every human rights hero in all of history.  These masters may not describe it with the same language but, guaranteed, each can tell you the importance of visualization, focus, meditation, faith, discipline, inspiration, patience, practice, and overall mental stamina. In fact, one of my favorite quotes on this topic is by writer and political prisoner, Antonio Gramsci, who said, “I am a pessimist because of my intelligence, but an optimist because of will.”

Now, take two people with identical circumstances.  Same gender, same race, same upbringing, religion, education, economic background, neighborhood, same everything – same advantages and same disadvantages.  One may excel while the other idles.  We see it all the time.  Affluent kids turned bums and poor folks turned millionaires.  Why?  If the conditions – that which we can blame or complain about –  determined everything, then outcomes for success would be pretty easy to predict, no?  But we see so many exceptions that they can hardly be called anomalies anymore.  So what is it?  What else can be the defining factor if not the outside game? Obviously, the inner game.

One particular trainer whose approach to this field I really like (maybe because of my own background in writing and theater) is Jack Canfield, known for his knack for telling a good story. His book, The Success Principles, lays out a practical blueprint for psychological fitness, new habits and ways of seeing. Throughout the pages, he tells numerous true stories of ordinary folks doing extraordinary things. So ordinary and so extraordinary that one would have to be mentally indolent to not be tempted to try on some of the practices.

I can’t imagine that hip-hoppers from back in the day had “America’s #1 Success Coach” in mind at the start of the movement. But given Hip Hop culture’s original commitment to empowerment, I can see bestowing J.Can (?) the honorary title of ‘teacha’.