“I did stand-up comedy for 18 years. Ten of those years were spent learning, four years were spent refining, and four years were spent in wild success. I was seeking comic originality, and fame fell on me as a byproduct. The course was more plodding than heroic.” —Steve Martin

The first page of Steve Martin’s brilliant memoir is mastery summed up —on what it takes to be great.

There are no tips.
There are no tricks.
There are no hacks.

And there are certainly no shortcuts or as one of my mentors Lisa Nichols says —there are no elevators to the top.

There is showing up, being willing to look like a complete rookie —and embracing the messy process of growth.

I often refer back to this quote and will re-read it countless times —to remind myself:

The path to mastery requires focus, dedication and willingness:

Willingness to show up.

(When no one cares or listens to you.)

Willingness to be a rookie.

(When everyone can see your lack of skill.)

Willingness to fall on your face.

(When you’re vulnerable to being mocked.)

Willingness to play the long game.

(When everyone else plays the short one.)

And the sheer willingness to show up every single day —not because you’re chasing a means to an end:

But because the very act of doing that “thing” —is the end.

One crucial aspect that most people in my space of performance and fulfillment don’t talk about as they wax poetic about purpose is:

No matter how much you love it —it’s going to be hard.

And when I say hard, what I’m really saying is:

  • You will want to quit a thousand times.
  • You will wonder why you’re doing it anyway.
  • You will experience peaks, valleys and plateaus.
  • You will ask why you can’t be like everyone else.
  • You will question your talent, capability and skill.

And even with all of this —there are zero guarantees.

Because there is such a thing as timing —and finding the intersection between your skills and the cultural zeitgeist.

(Brian Koppleman recently had a brilliant conversation with Seth Godin on whether or not Bob Dylan could have been Dylan at any other time.)

But there is one guarantee:

That if you’re able to make the act of doing the thing you wanted to do —as the end goal —then by definition:

You cannot fail.
You cannot lose.
You cannot miss.

So my advice to you out there is to keep exploring, testing and discovering what lights you up.

And when you find that “thing” —then do it every single day as it will infuse your life unlike anything else.

And keep doing it —because the very thought of not doing it —eats away at you.

Then, and only, then —will you have the chance to “make it” or be successful.

(However you define that for yourself.)

When you read Born Standing Up, you recognize the arduous path Steve Martin took towards mastery.

What does this quote mean to you?

I’d love to hear it in the comments.

One response to “Steve Martin On Mastery”

  1. […] you want to be average, or the best? As Steve Martin once said —be so good, they can’t ignore […]

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