All posts tagged Mastery

Finding Clarity in Simplicity. How to stop reacting and focus on what’s in your control.

By Brad Beckstrom

Have you noticed a big drop off in any part of your life?

I’ve been noticing a real drop off in the number of (non political) blog posts I’ve been seeing since November of 2016. At first I thought it was the election, the holidays etc. People have been distracted. I figured at some point we would stop discussing politics and get back to talking about anything but that. Well, the drop off has continued. You see, I don’t follow any political blogs or news publications in my feed reader. So, a lot of the blogs I do follow have dropped off, from maybe a post a week to less than one post per month. This is across a wide variety of blogs I follow, personal finance, photography, financial independence, minimalism, small business, creative writing etc. What’s going on? I feel like I already know the answer because my own writing has dropped off at about the same level, from once a week to once a month. It has a lot to do with many people, including myself, being totally distracted by all of the stuff outside of their circle of control.

The Circle of Concern vs. Circle of Control

A circle of concern is simply a big circle with all of the things you’re concerned about scribbled inside of it. Inside of that circle is a circle of control. The circle of control is things that you have direct control over, what you read, where you live, what you eat, essentially your actions and thoughts.

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Focusing inside versus outside the circle of control

Stephen Covey, author of the 7 Habits series, said that people with a large circle of concern become reactive. Read more…

11 Big Life Things I’m Sharing With My Son Before He Leaves For College.

Followed by a 11 things I really wish I knew my freshman year. 


By Brad Beckstrom

I came of age and entered the working world in the 80s and 90s when self-help books, CDs, and personal improvement seminars were all the rage. Classics like The 7 Habits, What Color is your Parachute? And many others from authors like Napoleon Hill, Tony Robbins that are still popular today. They were full of exercises and to do lists, charts and graphs, but what I really remember where the quotes, many of them decades or even centuries old. The ones that lasted. The knowledge these writers returned to again and again.

Self-help books are full of knowledge from a diverse group. Here  I’ve quoted Maya Angelou, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Bruce Lee, Frank Zappa, Calvin Coolidge, Joe Strummer, St. Augustine, and Marcus Aurelius.

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It was the quotes, the short sentences with powerful meaning  that connect, that I would highlight or write down. When things got difficult, I could go back and look at some of these words that writers, artists or leaders I admire have said. I’ve tried to incorporate them into core principles and a life philosophy. Some of them are pieces and parts of other quotes that spoke to me, so I decided to share them with my sons. My oldest is leaving for college and the youngest is beginning high school. I believe I’ve tried to live these, but just in case. After all we live 3 miles from Washington, DC, a city full of self-serving politicians, spin doctors and general corporate obfuscation. Today, standing for basic set principles can help one rise above the fray.

11 Big Life Things Read more…

8 things I’ve learned after 1 year on a 10,000 hour creative quest.

By Brad Beckstrom


Just over a year ago I embarked on a creative project I called my Big Audacious Quest. My plan for this ambitious creative project is to master something I’d walked away from years ago, photography. The idea was to have this quest be about more than just photography. I felt that I had gotten into a creative slump over the years and wanted to create a body of work that would not only help me breakout creatively, but also write about it, and share what I learn. I also wanted to see what kind of impact things like photo sharing sites, digital cameras, social media, and photo management tools would have on my efforts. These are all things that were not around when I was first passionate about photography in the early 80s. So, after a year at this, here are a few of the things I’ve learned.

  1. How to define mastery on my terms.

To start I needed to define what becoming a master photographer would look like and put some clear goals and milestones in place along the way. In many ways, my quest is an actual journey so I also wanted to add some geographic elements to my goals as well. First, I had to address this whole mastery thing. In his book Mastery, Robert Greene talks about the origins of master craftsman guilds as far back as the early Middle Ages. Green gives examples of journeyman apprentices and masters on their own 7 to 10 year journeys. Green, Malcolm Gladwell (Outliers) and others talk about the 10,000 hour rule as the time investment required to truly master something. There are plenty of people who poke holes in this theory, especially as it relates to creative fields, but I feel these authors at least defined mastery and gave readers an idea of the type of time investment required.  For me, it was a great place to start. There’s no guarantee that investing 10,000 hours in something will make you a master but it allowed me to put some goals in place and begin the journey. So, I took the core elements of my quest: photography, geography, creativity, and time and put the goals down on paper. At the end of some crazy back of a napkin calculations on what 10,000 hours would get me, this is what the quest looks like.

100,000 photographs

10,000 photographs published

1,000 places explored

100 cities

10 years in the making

1 amazing journey

  1. How to hit walls

Sometimes going gangbusters at the beginning of a project can be the kiss of death, especially when you hit a wall. I knew if I was going in to stay on track, I would need to publish about 1,000 photographs a year from 100 places in at least 10 cities per year. Publishing can include, blogs, websites, photo sharing sites, and photo books.  After my first year, I’m ahead of my goal on certain items and behind on others. Over 2600 photos published, from 90 places, in 27 cities. Starting out I purposely kept the number of photos to publish goal relatively low as I knew i’d likely get ahead of the goal and later hit some obstacles that would slow me down, like a big work related project or the 3 months of crappy weather that we’ve had recently. Dealing with some of these obstacles has helped me put a daily practice in place so I can keep a few balls in the air and pivot between projects as needed.

  1. Don’t compare your beginnings to someone else’s middle or end

Read more…

Don’t believe everything you think.


Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.

By Brad Beckstrom

What if we could just reach into our minds and replace fear with curiosity? The good news is we can. I’m curious about other cultures and religions. I’m curious about starting a business. I’m curious about Wall Street and investing. When you replace fear with curiosity, you’re moving your thoughts from the future, which is unknown, to the now. By acting on your curiosity, you replace that unknown future with something real in the now.

When we learn something new, that’s really worth learning, it becomes part of us. Unfortunately, if you’re relying on news from your favorite media outlet to learn and understand more about what you fear, you may find yourself going in circles. The reason is that “fear” sells. Major media outlets are often full of bad news and celebrity scandal click-bait. If we spend too much time scanning the news and listening to biased talk radio, that fear they love to sell is reinforced and strengthened in our thoughts. When it comes to traditional news and talk radio, you should put yourself on a low information diet and skip the fear.

Here are some ways to replace fear with curiosity. Read more…

Testing big ideas, finding your muse, and doing the work you were born to do.


By Brad Beckstrom

Do you have it? Have you found it? We all have one. Some long dormant or untested skill just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes we find it at a young age, then the real world, school, work, family become the priorities. As we get older, the skill lies dormant, often gets rusty like an old toy long forgotten.

Schools and family, meaning well, often steer us in a certain direction toward something that fits in a curriculum or is a “viable” skill in the working world. My parents did it, and I find myself doing it with my sons. I guess you can count yourself lucky if you have someone who cares, but all that advice is just a small piece of the puzzle.

It’s on us

It’s still on us, finding “it.”” Things you pick up on in school, your hobbies, books, or websites you find yourself going back to, these are all clues, part of your personal archeology. Ok, so I collected beer cans and read car magazines in middle school. What does that say about me? Well, looking back now, I had an early interest in design. I loved all the different labels, the uniqueness of certain can designs. I was also fascinated with cars, but not for the horsepower or mechanicals. I was interested in the design of early Mustangs, Camaros, and Chargers. Could I combine the best features of each and design my own muscle car? I certainly thought so. I was told “you’ll need a lot of math for that.” I didn’t have a lot of math. How about architecture? “Yep, need a lot of math for that too.”


I kept searching. Over the years, I learned that my passions are visual. I picked up photography in my early teens, and again, felt I had found my calling. I was told “that’s a wonderful hobby but you’ll need to study business in college.” My parents called a business degree a “safety net.” That turned out to be good advice as back then a business degree actually was a safety net. It allowed me to apply my creative talents in a 30 year career in marketing and advertising. Little did I know that my search was far from over. Read more…