The First Key to Mastery: Finding Your Life’s Task

What is your life’s task? What do you do with your time that matters most to you in order to feel fulfilled and happy?
The first step towards achieving mastery (or flow) is figuring out what it takes for a person or a team to reach their potential. It’s important not only because it helps us find our purpose, but also because reaching the top requires hard work and suffering. Finding one’s life-task can be as simple as asking oneself “What would I love doing if money weren’t an issue?” Or “How might my life change by foregoing future income growth for today?” Mastering something new should bring more meaning than acquiring more wealth, no matter how much things improve on paper over time.

The “discover your calling the life’s task” is a book that is about finding your life’s task. The author, Charles Duhigg, breaks down the process for you with great detail and easy to follow steps.

Vintage man guiding star illustration.

Note from the editor: The following is an extract from Robert Greene’s book Mastery. He discussed the value of the Apprenticeship Phase in attaining mastery of a skill or knowledge area the last time we spoke. Equally vital is the necessity for unfettered desire to get you through your Apprenticeship’s grind. To find that passion, the talent you want to perfect must be part of your “Life’s Task,” as Greene puts it. Mr. Greene explains how to find yours in the passage below.

Each guy always discovers his true and authentic self among his many potential selves. “Vocation” refers to the voice that calls him to be his true self. However, the vast majority of men spend their lives to drowning out the voice of their calling and refuse to listen to it. They are able to produce a noise inside themselves in order to divert their attention away from it, and they cheat themselves by substituting a fake path of life for their actual selves.

José Ortega y Gasset (José Ortega y Gasset)

Many of history’s greatest Masters have said that they have been led onward by some type of force, voice, or feeling of destiny. When Napoleon Bonaparte made the proper move, he felt like he was in command of his “star.” Socrates’ daemon was a voice he heard, presumably from the gods, that always talked to him in the negative, advising him what he should avoid. It was also referred to as a demon by Goethe, a spirit that resided inside him and forced him to accomplish his destiny. Albert Einstein, in more recent times, spoke of an inner voice that guided the course of his research. All of them are interpretations of what Leonardo da Vinci felt about his own sense of destiny.

Such sensations might be interpreted as pure spiritual experiences that defy explanation, or as hallucinations and delusions. However, there is another perspective: they are undeniably real, practical, and explicable.

It’s easy to understand if you think about it this way: Each of us is born with a distinct personality. This one-of-a-kindness is encoded in our DNA. We are a once-in-a-lifetime event in the cosmos; our precise genetic composition has never been seen before and will never be seen again. This individuality manifests itself in all of us as children via certain basic impulses. Exploring the natural environment surrounding his hamlet and bringing it to life on paper in his own unique manner was Leonardo’s passion. Others may develop an early interest in visual patterns, which is typically a precursor to a future interest in mathematics. It might also be a draw to certain physical actions or spatial layouts. How may such tendencies be explained? They are energies inside us that originate from a place deeper than words can explain. They entice us to particular experiences while steering us away from others. These factors impact the formation of our thoughts in very specific ways as they propel us here and there.


This basic distinctiveness is driven to establish and manifest itself, although some people are more sensitive to it than others. It’s so powerful with Masters that it seems like it has its own external reality—a force, a voice, and a destiny. We may feel a smidgeon of this when we participate in an activity that matches to our innermost inclinations: We have the impression that the words we write or the bodily gestures we make emanate from somewhere other than ourselves. We are “inspired,” a Latin term that means “something from the outside breathing inside us.” To put it another way, let us say this: A seed is put in your body when you are born. That seed is your individuality. It wants to develop, evolve, and blossom to its full potential. It exudes a confident, natural vitality. Your life’s task is to bring that seed to life, to express yourself via your work in a unique way. You have a mission to complete. The better your likelihood of completing his Life’s Task and gaining mastery is the stronger you feel and retain it—as a force, a voice, or in any other form.

The degree to which you have surrendered to another force in life—social demands to conform—weakens this force, making you not feel it or even doubting its existence. This counterforce has the potential to be quite strong. You want to blend in with the crowd. Unconsciously, you may believe that being different is humiliating or hurtful. Your parents are often a counterforce. They may try to steer you into a wealthy and pleasant job path. You may lose entire touch with your individuality, with who you really are, if these counterforces grow powerful enough. Your wants and inclinations are fashioned after those of others.

This has the potential to lead you down a very perilous road. You wind yourself picking a profession that isn’t a good fit for you. Your enthusiasm and excitement gradually fade, and your job suffers as a result. You start to think of joy and satisfaction as something that comes from somewhere other than your job. Because you are becoming less interested in your job, you are failing to notice changes in the field, and as a result, you are falling behind the times and paying the price. You fumble or follow what others are doing when you need to make significant choices because you have no sense of inner direction or radar to guide you. You’ve lost touch with your destiny as it was fashioned at birth.

You must escape such a destiny at all costs. Following your Life’s Task all the way to mastery may effectively start at any time in your life. You have a secret energy inside you that is constantly ready to be activated. The realization of your Life’s Task is divided into three stages:

To begin, you must connect or reconnect with your natural tendencies and sense of individuality.

As a result, the initial step is always inward. You look back in time for traces of that inner voice or energy. You silence the other voices in your head that could be confusing you—parents and classmates. You’re looking for an underlying pattern, a core to your personality that you need to grasp as thoroughly as possible.


Second, now that you’ve made this link, you should consider your current or upcoming professional path. This path—or its redirection—must be chosen carefully. To assist at this step, you will need to broaden your definition of labor. We frequently draw a distinction in our lives between work and life outside of work, where we find true joy and satisfaction. Work is often seen as a method of earning money so that we may live our second lives. Even if our jobs provide us with some happiness, we still prefer to compartmentalize our lives in this manner. This is a dismal outlook, since we do, after all, spend a significant portion of our waking lives at work. If we think of this time as something we have to go through on our way to true enjoyment, then our hours at work are a dreadful waste of the little time we have. Instead, you want to consider your employment as part of your calling, as something more motivating. The term “vocation” is derived from the Latin word “vocare,” which means “to call” or “to be called.” Its usage in the context of labor dates back to early Christianity, when some individuals were called to a life of service in the church; it was their vocation. They could tell because they could hear a voice from God, who had selected them for this job. The term became secularized throughout time, referring to any activity or study that a person believed was appropriate for his or her interests, especially a manual trade. However, it is past time to revert to the word’s original meaning, which is far closer to the notion of a Life’s Task and mastery.

The voice that is calling you in this circumstance is not always from God, but from deep inside. It’s a result of your uniqueness. It shows you which activities are most suited to your personality. And at some time, it will draw you to a certain kind of employment or vocation. Then, rather of being a distinct compartment in your life, your job is closely related to who you are. Then you get a feeling of your calling.

Finally, rather of seeing your job or occupational route as a straight line, you should think of it as a trip with twists and turns. You begin by selecting a field or position that approximately matches your preferences. This starting role provides you with flexibility and the opportunity to develop crucial skills. You don’t want to start with anything too high or ambitious since you need to earn a livelihood and gain confidence first. Once you’re on this road, you’ll notice that some of the side pathways appeal to you, while other portions of the field leave you cold. You adapt and perhaps shift to a similar area, all the while learning more about yourself and increasing your skill set. You, like Leonardo da Vinci, take what you do for others and transform it into something unique.

You will eventually find an area, specialty, or opportunity that is a great fit for you. When you discover it, you’ll know it because it will fill you with a childish feeling of wonder and enthusiasm; it will feel right. Everything will fall into place after you’ve discovered it. You’ll be able to learn more quickly and thoroughly. Your skill level will advance to the point that you will be able to assert your independence from the organization for which you work and go out on your own. This will give you the ultimate kind of power in a world when there is so much we can’t control. Your circumstances will be determined by you. You will no longer be subject to the whims of despotic employers or scheming colleagues as your own Master.


This focus on your individuality and a Life’s Task may seem to be a literary notion with little practical application, yet it is incredibly pertinent to the times we live in. We are moving towards a world where we can depend less and less on the government, corporations, family, and friends to assist and protect us. It’s a worldwide, fiercely competitive world out there. We must learn to grow as individuals. At the same time, the world is full with crucial issues and possibilities that can only be addressed and grabbed by entrepreneurs—individuals or small groups that think independently, react swiftly, and have distinctive ideas. Individualized, creative abilities will be in high demand.

Consider this: In the current world, what we most need is a feeling of a bigger purpose to our lives. Previously, organized religion was often the source of this. However, we now live in a secularized society for the most part. Human animals are one-of-a-kind creatures that must create our own planet. We don’t only respond to situations because of biological programming. However, without a sense of direction, we tend to become lost. We don’t know how to fill and organize our time. Our lives seem to lack a defined purpose. We may not be aware of this emptiness, yet it affects us in a variety of ways.

The most beneficial approach for us to provide this feeling of purpose and direction is to believe that we are called to do something. For everyone of us, it is a religious journey. This quest should not be seen as egotistical or antisocial. It is, in reality, linked to something far bigger than our own existence. Our species’ evolution has relied on the development of a wide range of abilities and ways of thinking. The collective action of individuals contributing their own abilities allows us to flourish. A culture dies if it lacks variety.

Your one-of-a-kindness at birth is a sign of this required variety. You are playing a critical role to the extent that you nurture and express it. Our times may promote equality, which we misinterpret as the necessity for everyone to be the same, but what we truly mean by this is the equal opportunity for individuals to express their individuality, allowing a thousand flowers to flourish. Your vocation is more than just what you do for a living. It is an expression of the enormous variety in nature and within human society, and it is directly tied to the deepest part of your soul. In this respect, your profession must be seen as profoundly lyrical and inspirational.

“Become who you are by knowing who you are,” said the ancient Greek poet Pindar 2,600 years ago. The following is what he meant: You are born with a certain composition and personality traits that identify you as a piece of destiny. It is the essence of who you are. Some individuals never become who they are; they lose faith in themselves, adapt to the preferences of others, and end up hiding their genuine character behind a mask. You may become what you were destined to become—an individual, a Master—if you allow yourself to realize who you truly are by paying attention to that voice and energy inside you.


“Become who you are by knowing who you are,” said the ancient Greek poet Pindar 2,600 years ago. The following is what he meant: You are born with a certain composition and personality traits that identify you as a piece of destiny. It is the essence of who you are. Some individuals never become who they are; they lose faith in themselves, adapt to the preferences of others, and end up hiding their genuine character behind a mask. You may become what you were destined to become—an individual, a Master—if you allow yourself to realize who you truly are by paying attention to that voice and energy inside you.

Mastery by Robert Greene is a good place to start if you want to learn more. Also, don’t miss Mr. Greene’s podcast interview on Saturday.



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