Mastery Builds Your Identity & Self-Esteem

In order to reach the goals of Ritual Humanism,® you must do something that makes you feel masterful every day. This will help develop your identity and build your self-esteem.

Once you have mastered your survival skills, you must find that special thing that you are to be master of. The first step of course is to decide what you want to dedicate your life to. What is your life’s purpose according to you?

I remembered when Oprah first went off into metaphysics. She started talking about finding our calling, your destiny. She talked about her bliss. I tried and tried to figure out what the hell she was talking about.

I went back to school and became a psychotherapist. I was working with addicts using the government mandated 12 step program. It is a highly unsuccessful program so I didn’t see that I was headed in the right direction.

After a while, I began to hate counseling people because everyone I worked for wanted me to do it their way. But I could see it didn’t work. The things I taught weren’t even helping me. I kept seeing people come back over and over again with the same problems. I kept having the same problems in my personal life – up to and including violence at home. When a client actually did recover, I didn’t believe it. I was used to clients lying about getting better. The other counselors didn’t believe them either. They expected that their clients would be alright for a while and then, sometimes after weeks, sometimes after years, they would return. Yet it never occurred to anyone that the clients couldn’t get better because they were not being taught how to.

Our clients were being told they had to change, that they had social difficulties that needed to be corrected, and that they had to establish their own values, but no one told them how. They were told to make new friends that didn’t use drugs and alcohol. They were told all kinds of things to do but no one told them how because even the therapists didn’t know. Our lives were just as screwed up as the patients were – just not with drugs and alcohol (unless you count the ones who married addicts).

Finally, I began working with SMART recovery and learned a different method of helping people – a way that worked. But by that time, I was so frustrated with the 12 step program and frankly, so bad at the paperwork – my patients were court ordered so there were hours of paperwork - that I finally quit. I kept studying, though, while I went off and did something else.

Still I dove more and more into mindful based therapy, coming across Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) and Mindful Meditation and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). These were methods of treatment that were successful and had the empirical evidence behind them. I began to grow as a person. I soaked it all in for years until one day I was able to help other people with what I had learned.

I studied as a patient until I was the one that the other group members came to. Then there came a day when I couldn’t go to group any longer. But I couldn’t quit studying. I couldn’t quit telling people about what I had discovered. I had found a way to change – a way to figure out what my values really are.

Some people say it’s their calling or their dream. I think of it as what I would find my way back to no matter what else I do. If you were to win the lottery today and never have to work again, what is it you would still be doing?

I would still be working on this website!

Once you figure out what your vocation is, then commit to it fully.

You might think that before becoming masters, before starting their apprenticeships, most current masters would have known what they wanted to do with their lives. But that’s not always to case. Most of us struggle with answering that question. Where do we fit in this world? What should be our life’s work? What will we be remembered for?

It’s okay to struggle with this decision. A lot of people get discouraged by the problem of figuring out what their life is all about. Its okay to take time, even years to discover the answer. Charles Darwin was not immune to the pull of uncertainty. He spent a large chunk of his life wandering from one profession to the next. His parents wanted him to become a doctor but he couldn’t stand the sight of blood in medical school. He tried being a lawyer, then a clergyman, but nothing interested him as much as his musings in nature. It wasn’t until a fateful encounter, when Darwin decided to join the crew of The Beagle as a naturalist that he fully realized what it was that he wanted out of life.

Once you begin down the path of your talent it becomes important to find a way to replicate a form of apprenticeship. For future physicians the path is clear; the road to becoming a doctor is already paved with medical school and residency. But for other aptitudes, such as becoming a writer, the apprenticeship phase can seem a little less clear. For a writer, this could mean committing to a rigorous schedule of writing every day, coupled with reading books about writing and studying other authors and their craft.

The more structure and rigor you can incorporate in your program the better, it doesn’t have to be clearly defined. The purpose of an apprenticeship is to make the transition from amateur to master. You should be spending that time pushing yourself as much as possible. You want to look back on those years and be able to see how far you’ve come.

I remembered learning to write. I remember learning methods that would get my ideas down on paper. I learned to make clear and convincing what I needed to say years before I knew what it was that I needed to say. I kept diaries. Wrote brochures for my business, impressed professors and laymen with my writing – not knowing that one day I would have a hell of a lot to say. Still I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do.

You do have to make a decision. There are paths in life that provide lavish compensation. Paths that lead to luxury, vacations, and short work weeks. But nothing will compensate for the enjoyment that can spring from finding your mastery because it will tell you who you are. It will show you your place – the thing you can contribute to make this world a better place. That is the only way you will ever be able to walk up to the man in the street and offer up your help - is if you are sure of who you are.

Along with defining your pathway to your passion, there were key qualities that have been identified in each of the following case studies, These qualities often had to be developed by these apprentices. Remember, it’s not about what you were born with or where you start off in life. It’s about what you build. If you’re lacking in any of the following qualities then push yourself to improve these skills further. Make it your goal for a month to focus solely on that accomplishment.

I have selected a few masters whose processes are well known and will take a look at the qualities that they used to reach their mastery. Each one of these masters have taken control of their health, their emotional welfare, they had mastered interpersonal relations and emotional IQ in as much as was possible with what was known at the time.

The Qualities of a Master

1.  Mindfulness

It should come as no surprise that the number one quality found among each of the selected masters is an infallible, unyielding work ethic. Continued mindfulness and a diligent meditation practice shows a willingness to spend the amount of time that is required whether it seems entertaining at the moment or not, you must become a fan of diligence and discipline and the principles of mindfulness.   But it makes sense. Without living fully in the moment, none of these future masters would have been conscious enough to have positioned themselves in a place where they could have been chosen for an apprenticeship. If there’s one quality a mentor looks for in accepting and training a student, it’s the ability to be a hard and diligent worker to able concentrate on the task at hand. The mentor is the master. they know the work required to become an expert in their vocation.

The apprentice must be exceptionally disciplined and entirely committed to their work – to learning their craft and demonstrate the focus that breeds accomplishment. Some observer’s might go on and on about intelligence and how it is better to work smarter and not harder. But I believe that intelligence is beside the point for this comparison. If you don’t agree, then ask yourself, what is intelligence? How can you quantify it? Most likely what you are really doing is thinking of some combination of social knowhow and technical expertise combined with an enormous breakthrough

Think of Einstein. Think of the Nobel Prize winning author, William Faulkner. Surely these were intelligent men. But to say that they were simply intelligent is to completely belittle the incredible amount of work that went into either man’s achievements. Einstein spent a decade envisioning the theory of relativity every day after work before he came up with his monumental breakthrough of e = mc2. Faulkner must have picked up a pen and put it to paper for years before he ever even wrote a sentence worth anything.

Yet they both practiced the technique of personal rituals in spending every possible moment in an attempt to make these breakthroughs. And they kept at it until it worked.

These masters practiced the tolerance of temporary failure and the acceptance to work as hard as their abilities allowed for extended periods of time that eventually leads them down the path of their successes.

2.  The Flexibility to Learn and Grow: Tolerance and Acceptance

As I said in the previous section, if there’s one quality a mentor cares about most in a pupil it’s a farmer’s work ethic. But the second quality would be acceptance and tolerance, a flexibility and eagerness for learning. Each master marveled at the idea of being able to grow in their field. Da Vinci stole paper from his father and drew the same flowers he found in the woods over and over again. When his father arranged for him to be apprenticed to an established artist, he followed the master’s instructions without question, often tolerating mundane and repetitive tasks that unknowingly led to him build expertise. It’s a dry pill to swallow, but unfortunately, it’s sometimes the routine and commonplace aspects in life that lead to later success. Is it fun to study chemistry and physics for hours every night? What about preparing for the GRE (graduate record exam)? But these are the tasks necessary for getting further in school.

Each of the masters had a profound wonder for learning just as you do. You wouldn’t be reading this white paper if you didn’t. Couple that with the chance to learn under an established mentor and you have a recipe for success. In college, your mentors are your professors. In the workplace it can be your boss or an employee that is producing phenomenal results. Seek out a mentor for your apprenticeship. It can be several depending on your situation, but usually it’s better to get close to one person so that they can take a specialized interest in your learning. Then be prepared to work hard and learn. Do the tasks that may seem menial with as much proficiency as you can assemble. Embrace every opportunity as a chance to grow. And be grateful, particularly if your mentor is busy, and successful people often are. Use mindfulness of the person as well as the tasks and follow the ritual of treating each situation with the respect that’s being afforded to you.

3.  The Ability to Confront Your Weaknesses: Radical Acceptance

All of us tend to lean into our strengths. We like to do the things we’re good at, because we’re good at them, because they come effortlessly or bring us great pleasure from our feeling of aptitude. But if there’s one quality we should all strive to improve at, it’s confronting our weaknesses. We need to accept that it’s just as important, if not more, to focus on what we struggle with as what we excel at.

Air Force Colonel Cesar Rodriguez, known as the “Last American Ace” in the Gulf War, was once a struggling student in the flight academy trying to score high enough in the Top Gun program (yes, like the movie) to be a fighter pilot. Becoming a fighter pilot in the US Air Force requires you to be the best of the best. Just about everyone admitted to the program is an incredibly talented pilot and would rank in the top 1% around the world. But to become a fighter pilot, you’ve got to be better than that. You’ve got to be the best.

Rodriguez wasn’t a natural at flying. He got into the game somewhat late and complained about the “fly-boys” in his class that seemed inherently gifted at flying. They went through maneuvers effortlessly and thought little of practice. Everyone has had the experience of spending hours studying for a subject that a peer in their class only needed minutes to master. These ‘fly-boys’ were those kind of students.

But Rodriguez had something the naturals didn’t. He was fully ready to personally challenge every one of those ‘fly-boys’ to prove that he could be the best, and he was willing to do that through an incredible commitment to hard work and improving himself.

He teamed up with one of the top flight instructors, who not only pushed him to perform better, but was brutally critical of his shortcomings. Rodriguez decided to completely accept his mentor’s brutal criticism of his short comings since he and his mentor knew the only way he’d be able to beat the fly-boys was by ritualistically practicing the simulations and maneuvers that he was struggling with. Simply playing to his strengths would not be enough to top the class, he had to be good at everything. Rodriguez spent hours in the simulator and logged more flight time than any other pilot. He focused on his shortcomings, he accepted that he had difficulties and tolerated the frustration of failure again and again until he could perform each technique and maneuver flawlessly.

Rodriguez’s story encapsulates all of the other traits we’ve mentioned so far. He had the diligence to work hard and make it into the Top Gun program. From there his work ethic was pushed to the next level, and his willingness to learn was noticed by the flight instructor that eventually came to be his mentor. However, it wasn’t enough to work hard. Rodriguez continued to force himself to overcome his weaknesses, rather than becoming satisfied in his talents as so many of his “fly-boy” classmates surrendered to.

4.  Develop Emotional Intelligence: Mindfulness of the other Person and Personal Rituals

All of the masters we profiled exemplify one skill that becomes crucial to their continual success: each person had an emotional component that drove them forward through hardship and allowed them to endure even when faced with adversity. These are incorporated in mindfulness, tolerance of disturbing emotions, radical acceptance, and personalized rituals to lift the stress .

What we are getting at is that your emotions can make you or they can break everything. Your emotions can create an environment that makes you a hard worker one instant, or lazy and lethargic the next. You must be able to master your emotions by using the techniques in this book to fully succeed in the real world, the world outside of the shelter of a mentor.

Daniel Goleman, author of Multiple Intelligences wrote an entire book about the importance of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), and created a test which proved to be more useful in terms of predicting future success than the typical Stanford IQ test. However, I think Anthony Robbins conveys the idea best in his book Unlimited Power. As Robbins says, one of the key differences between successful people and everyone else is that successful people can handle frustration. They can handle things going wrong, they can experience failure, have unexpected events completely shake up their lives. They can deal with people cheating them, insulting them, trying to prove them wrong. They can handle a mountain of frustration without cracking and still keep plugging away towards their goals. This is because of the regular use of mindfulness, radical acceptance, tolerance of disturbing emotions, and rituals designed to get us over life’s humps.

“You must learn how to handle frustration. Frustration can kill dreams. It happens all the time. Frustration can change a positive attitude into a negative one, an empowering state into a crippling one. The worst thing a negative attitude does is wipe out self-discipline. And when that discipline is gone, the results you desire are gone.

So to ensure long-term success, you must learn how to discipline frustration. Look at almost any great success, and you’ll find there’s been massive frustration along the way. Anybody who tells you otherwise doesn’t know anything about achieving. There are two kinds of people–those who’ve handled frustration and those who wish they had.”  Robert Greene

That’s a powerful concept. We all experience frustration. It’s inescapable. But how we respond and deal with the frustration is entirely under our control.

You can stub your toe and yell at your spouse and now you’ve created a situation. You can get a ticket on the way to work, lose your temper with your co-workers and get fired by your boss. You can be rejected from medical school and never try again. You can have a book go unpublished for a year and give up writing all together.

There’s a million ways we can let frustration beat us. But masters, true masters, know how to work through it. Call it adversity, call it bad luck. But I think frustration summarizes the term perfectly. If you can respond to all the typical ups and downs of life with a level head, live in the moment staying focused on your mission in life, and keep moving towards your goals without sabotaging yourself, using your mindful meditation, then you’re much further ahead than most.

5.  Surpass Your Mentor; LIVING in the moment

The purpose of an apprenticeship isn’t to follow in the footsteps of the mentor, it’s to surpass them. Some struggle with this concept. Some mentors will feel their skills waning and their dominance being challenged and seek to put down their apprentice. But this is the minority. Most mentors want their apprentice to succeed. They want them to go on and be even greater than what they could have achieved, using their teaching and early training as an advantageous start. The history of mankind has been built upon the techniques passed down from the generation before it.

I was already in my late 50’s when I began to understand these things. I am now 63 and have just recently found my bliss. My hope is that by mentoring you, you can get started much earlier and go much further toward goals you currently don’t even imagine.

The important aspect for the apprentice is to know the proper time of when to cut ties from the mentor and begin out on their own. It’s not easy to tell when an apprentice is ready to move on. There’s a thin line between when an apprentice has reached the critical level of what they’ll be able to learn from their mentor versus what they can discover on their own. Starting out too soon is arrogance. But waiting too long is insecurity and fear.

However, the process of moving on is necessary. An apprentice that fails to surpass their master will have done a disservice to all those years of training. This is the place when you know who you are.  Among all vocations there comes a time when the apprentice begins doing things entirely on their own. This can be an exhilarating and terrifying experience. This is the stage of life when you can without inhibition reach out to the man or woman on the street and offer what you have to them. This is because you know now who you are. Your master will not have wasted the wisdom and effort that they imparted upon the apprentice. And you will have a healthy self-esteem for all you’ve accomplished.

Putting it all Together

Mindfulness, Tolerance, Acceptance, Rituals, and Mastery combine to give you healthy self-esteem and teach you how to change what needs to change. You won’t have social difficulties anymore because you won’t have low self-esteem. One day you will discover something that is both imperative and essential to your life. That something will be your core values and it lead you a rich, full, and meaningful life.



Our next page will show you how to determine your Values.