December 2, 2016
Joe Fairless

The Four Archetypes of the Mastery Process

There are numerous different theories on how one can become truly satisfied and fulfilled in life. George Leonard proposed one such theory in his best-selling book “Mastery,” where he explains how the key to long-term fulfillment lay on the path towards mastering a specific skill. To quote George Leonard – “Ultimately, practice is the path of mastery. If you stay on it long enough, you’ll find it to be a vivid place, with its ups and downs, its challenges and comforts, its surprises, disappointments, and unconditional joys.” Thus, he believes that success truly is all about the journey and not the destination. Actually, George Leonard goes as far as saying that the path to mastery requires one understanding that they will never reach a final destination – “after you have reached the top of the mountain, climb another one.”

Unfortunately, this “enjoy the path” mindset does not fit well into our current zeitgeist of instant gratification and “get rich quick” mentality that are many individuals, including real estate investors, default approach to life. As a result, many investors quit, give up early, or never get started at all. The reason? – a gap between expectations and reality, in terms of growth.

Note: Moving forward, I will relate the path of mastery to real estate investing. However, the same logic applies to almost any aspect of life, from relationships to health to careers and beyond.

Growth – Expectations vs Reality


Many newbie investor’s default expectations for their path to growth is a linear progression, where in reality, it is more like a staircase with very wide steps. This gap between expectation and reality causes all sorts of problems. Once you get started in any new enterprise, for the first few years, no one cares about you. Not only that, but you have very little, if any, expertise. Since you expect to come in and see a direct correlation between your efforts and the subsequent results, when that doesn’t come to fruition, you start doubting yourself.

In the absence of the “constant climaxes” that are sold at different seminars, and are riddled in mainstream media in the form of commercials, tv shows, movies, etc., they think something is wrong. They don’t understand how to approach the plateaus, so the periods of stagnation are seen as problems, rather than seen as challenges. Essentially, they are falling into one of three archetypes that George Leonard refers to as the “Obstacles to Mastery.”

The Obstacles to Mastery

Overall, someone can fall into one of four different archetypes or mindsets, with three being obstacles to mastery and one being the mastery mindset. The three mindsets that are obstacles to mastery are (1) The Dabbler (2) The Obsessive and (3) The Hacker. All three approach the “reality” of mastery differently, but all are traps that should be avoided.

The Dabbler is the most common archetype. The Dabbler’s approach to real estate investing, for example, would be the following:

  • They read a book, attend a seminar, or listen to a podcast and they get SUPER excited
  • They pick a niche – let’s say wholesaling – and start taking action
  • Immediately, they realize that it is much harder than they expected. They aren’t seeing results as quickly as expected either.
  • A month later, they decide that wholesaling isn’t the investing avenue for them, and instead, they pick up fix-and-flipping
  • The same process repeats for fix-and-flipping, and then buy-and-hold, etc.

The individual that continuously falls into the Dabbler archetype will have a mediocre life. They continuously and ignorantly crumble under the weight of the “plateaus” and ultimately, are unable to make any progress in a given field.

However, this archetype is a good strategy to find the “one thing” that you want to master, but within reason. Once you have found that “one thing,” the likely next archetype you will fall into is “The Obsessive.”

The Obsessive differs from the Dabbler mainly in terms of the initial magnitude of effort that is put into a given subject. The Obsessive’s approach to real estate investing, for example, would be the following:

  • After dabbling in wholesaling and fix-and-flipping, when they come across buy-and-hold investing, they tell themselves, “this is the one. YIPEE!”
  • Immediately, they realize that, just like the previous two endeavors, buy-and-hold investing is much harder than expected and results aren’t coming in as quickly as expected either. But instead of giving up like before, they decide to double down.
  • As a result, they become aggressively, and often recklessly obsessed with buy-and-hold investing.
  • Therefore, instead of working 8-hour days, they work 10-hour days. When the results don’t change, they work 12-hour days, then 14-hour days.
  • After a few months, or even years of this epic pace, it ends in a catastrophic failure. Maybe, in the need for quick results, they purchased bad deals and are now realizing this truth. Or maybe they cut some corners on construction and a property has seemingly insurmountable maintenance issues.
  • At this point, they are demoralized and quit.

For the obsessive archetype, it is less about the magnitude of effort put forth, and more to do with the attachment to results. They continue to work harder and harder not because they love the process, but rather, because they think that by turning up the heat, they can force their way through the “plateaus.”

Once they realize that these increased efforts are futile, instead of accepting and enjoying the plateaus, they quit. Maybe they return to investing in the future, or maybe they never give it another shot. If they do return, they will likely fall into the Mastery or the Hacker archetype.

The Hacker differs substantially from both the Dabbler and the Obsessive. However, they are not Masters. The Hacker’s approach to real estate investing, continuing off of the previous examples, would be the following:

  • After dabbling in wholesaling and fix-and-flipping and obsessing over buy-and-hold and quitting, they come back to buy-and-hold 2 years later. They are refreshed and have learned from their mistakes.
  • They decide to take it at a slow, plotting pace, especially when approaching the plateaus. Maybe they decide to instill a few habits and routines (like sending out weekly mailers, networking, etc.) and set a goal of purchasing 10-units in two years.
  • As a result, they start to actually see results and are able to advance up a couple of plateaus (i.e. find great deals and close). Things are looking great for the first time ever!
  • After reaching the two years goal of 10 properties, instead of setting out to climb another mountain, they get comfortable. They figure that 10 properties are good enough, so they stop having the thirst to advance.
  • As a result, they lose attention to details. At this point, they may fall back a few plateaus or stay on the current plateau indefinitely. Overall, they have given up on the path of Mastery.

I believe this archetype is called “the Hacker” because the individual has hacked the mastery process. They have hacked their way to the point where they reach the edge of their comfort zone. Then, they stop, look out to the unknown, and decide to stay put or retreat.

The Master differs from the three-obstacle archetypes because they love the practice, enjoy the process, and appreciate the journey, rather than desperately clinging to the idea of the end result. They perform tons and tons and TONS of deliberate, intentional practice.

However, this is a bittersweet love. They still have their doubts, but when they feel them, they take it as a sign to push forward and continue to hold their feet to the fire. Essentially, while the Dabbler, Obsessive, and Hacker recoil at the sign of perceived negative emotions (like doubt, fear, etc.), the Master uses them as their guiding light.

The Master understands the illusion of the “constant climax” myth and instead, they have accepted that the “constant plateaus” – periods of no results or improvement in skills – are reality and a certainty.

Most importantly, they have ceased to think in terms of days, weeks, months, or even years. Rather, they think in terms of DECADES. In doing so, if they begin an endeavor and don’t see results for a year, they are content and even excited. Instead of focusing on the lack of results from that year, they focus on how they have 9 more years to make up for it. In other words, as Billionaire Bill Gates says, “Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

What is the “one thing” in real estate investing that you are willing to commit to mastering over the next 10 years? Comment below with your commitment!

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as an offer to buy or sell any securities or to make or consider any investment or course of action.

Facebook twitter pinterest linkedin 
Share this: