Eight Trends Usher in the Age of Mastery

We have entered a new era—the Age of Mastery. Eight trends have converged to redefine the nature of work, and the workforce—creating an imperative for the individual to become extraordinary at what they do. This article focuses on those trends and, hopefully, provides useful prompts to think about your life.

Before I jump in, you should know, I am an unabashed optimist—I believe people everywhere have the opportunity to become extraordinary at what they love to do. Everyone can design their lives to live like a Master and experience real success and fulfillment. In the Age of Mastery, we have access to everything we need to make that happen. Exactly how this happens is covered in my book, Hack Mastery, and is the focus of the Way to Mastery workshops I do for companies and individuals.

As you read about each trend, I encourage you to ask yourself: What does this trend mean for me? How will it impact my job or my industry? What steps can I take now? What am I willing to devote myself to? What is my heart telling me? What is stopping me from doing what I need to do?

#1 We are more connected than ever.

Today, we are hyper-connected. We can reach almost anyone regardless of location, education, or status. Connectivity is one of the major gifts of the digital age. We have unrestricted access to ecosystems specific to our interests and passions.

Caveat: What you bring to the conversation matters.

#2 Technology gives and technology takes.

Technology is giving skilled workers more tools with which to express their creativity, enabling them to collaborate quickly with other like-minded hyper-specialists. Technology is liberating the genius of new-age artisans, empowering people from all walks of life to re-imagine their future.

Caveat: Technology is replacing low-skilled, low-value jobs.

#3 The nature of work is changing.

Work is being broken down into smaller and smaller increments and performed by individuals with honed skills and abilities.  Two new roles are emerging:

  • Hyper-specialists: These are Masters of a Niche—experts with specific competencies, extreme skill, and deep knowledge. [Harvard Business Review]
  • Versatilists: These are Masters of a Domain--experts with broad insight and in-depth process- and industry-oriented competencies. They work in unison with specialists, often building alliances, integrating ideas, and facilitating outcomes. [Gartner]

Caveat: Opportunities for generalists—those who have a broad scope and relatively shallow skills—is diminishing. 

#4 A temporary job is permanent work.

Today, temporary labor makes up over thirty percent of the workforce, according to many sources. Businesses and organizations of all types are seeking workers with the right mix of skill, knowledge, and emotional intelligence, when and where they need the talent and expertise. Similarly, people are seeking opportunities to use their best skills and knowledge, when and where they want.

According to Staffing Industry Analysts, $3.5 trillion was spent globally in 2015 on workers employed by staffing agencies, independent contractors, temporary workers sourced directly by client companies, statement-of-work consultants, and human “cloud workers.” These categories are collectively known as the Gig Economy.

Caveat: To thrive in the Gig Economy requires entrepreneurial prowess resilience and personal accountability.

#5 A permanent job is temporary.

Even “permanent employment” is increasingly short-term. Millennials make up thirty percent of the workforce and change jobs on average every 2.6 years. Baby boomers long ago abandoned the idea of lifetime employment and change jobs about every five years.

Caveat: Employment security is a thing of the past.

#6 Freelance entrepreneurs are emerging.

Online marketplaces and corporate platforms for freelance workers are furthering the march towards worker self-sufficiency. These platforms are designed specifically to match buyers and sellers of services via the Internet. Now, when we are extraordinary at what we love to do, regardless of how obscure or narrow our niche, we can find people and companies that want our services. For many, freelancing is part-time work, however, for a growing number of individuals, freelancing is their sole source of income. One study estimates that one in three US workers were freelancing. [Freelancer Union and Upwork, 2016]

Caveat: The freelance marketplace favors people that are highly skilled, work fast, extremely flexible, effective transactional communicators, and inexpensive.

#7 Globalization is changing the rules and raising the bar.

Initially, globalization and outsourcing only affected blue-collar workers when manufacturing moved to countries with low-cost labor, such as China and Mexico. Now, few segments of the workforce are immune to the consequences of outsourcing. Technology has enabled knowledge work to be done remotely, creating more competition for the best jobs. Employers are seeking the best talent—regardless of where that genius lives.

Caveat: This means that whatever you do, you have to create real value. You have to be extraordinary.

#8 People with new skills are needed now.

The United States does not have enough people with the right skills to fill all of its job openings, even though the jobless rate is somewhere between 4.7% and 9.7%.  Still, organizational leaders rank talent acquisition and retention as top priorities, and state that lack of skilled labor is the greatest obstacle to growth.

Learning options are abundant, but it is up to each of us to build a curriculum that works. Established universities and colleges are evolving, but struggle to bring value to the workforce—more than twenty percent of new college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. Corporations spent $356 billion on workforce training in 2015—but studies show that such training is frequently ineffective. Skills-focused schools and boot camps, like General Assembly and Code Academy, are making a small dent but with limited scope. Online education is exploding around us; it’s cheap or free, but unproven.

Caveat: It’s fun to dream about advanced and continuing education, but it’s not easy. Ultimately, it is up to you to develop the skills and knowledge you need to thrive. Learning is your real job in the Age of Mastery.


what does it all mean?

Even as the challenges mount, opportunities are growing for all of us. Never before have individuals been better able to pursue their dreams. Almost everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive—education, people, money, opportunity, tools, and support. All we have to do is to get on the virtuous cycle of learning and growth, and nurture ourselves to stay on the path as we pass through the stages—Beginner to Novice to Competent to Expert to Master. As we grow, we will come to know true success and fulfillment.

As Pulitzer-prize winning author Thomas Friedman says, “Average is officially over.”  I say, “Hurray to that!”


Stay current on all things Mastery and join the Mastery Revolution!

"Hack Mastery" is Here!


What if you devoted yourself to doing what you love? What if you could become extraordinary at it? What if your work could light you up with energy and give you deep satisfaction? What if you could live a life of continual learning, filled every day with exciting discoveries, gratification, and guaranteed success?

Workforce expert and creator of Way to Mastery Stephen Graziani’s new book, Hack Mastery, provides clear guidance on how you can have just such a life! An expert in human capital management, Steve has managed recruiting and sales teams that filled more than ten thousand jobs over 20 years. After overseeing the interviews of more than 100,000 candidates, he recognized a pattern—all those people experiencing career fulfillment and success had incorporated the same Seven Elements into their lives—as a result, they loved their jobs and they loved their lives!

Hack Mastery outlines the details of Steve’s breakthrough and clarifies what his discovery means to you. In today’s hyper-connected, technology-driven environment, how can you achieve Mastery in your profession or any area of your life? In Hack Mastery, Steve shows you how to weave the “Seven Elements” into your own life.

Once you see the world through the eyes of a Master, everything changes. You cultivate your interests, invest in yourself purposefully, and connect with people in new and significant ways. You tap into a powerful source of energy. Mastery feeds a virtuous cycle of learning and doing; it empowers you to produce extraordinary outcomes; meaning and fulfillment enrich your life. On the road of Mastery, time doesn’t fly. Time stands still!

Hack Mastery is available in print and ebook formats from HERE or directly from us (just send us an email and we will be in touch.) 

Are you "HERE" or "THERE" or "Neither HERE nor THERE"?

Are you living in the HERE and now – fully immersed in the world around you? Do you sometimes travel THERE – a place deep in the cyberspace? Do you rapidly toggle between these two dimensions, being Neither HERE Nor THERE?

If you do, then you are experiencing the three “states of being” that are common in the digital age:  “HERE”, “THERE” and “Neither HERE Nor THERE”. 

My first few days in Paris revealed how access to the Internet, anytime/anywhere, changed my experience of the world. In this post, I distinguish the three states and begin the discussion about how our ability to navigate these dimensions might be the difference between a life of fulfillment or emptiness.  

Let’s go “HERE"

The State of “HERE”

My wife and I arrived in Paris with no mobile Internet (our AT&T international data plan was virtually useless). “No problem”.  We could manage without connectivity for a day. So I peeked outside to do a weather check (cloudy and cold) before we bundled up and set out for a café and then the Louvre. 

 Lost in the West Bank - 20 rue de L'Hirondelle

Lost in the West Bank - 20 rue de L'Hirondelle

Without Google Maps, we were soon lost in the higgledy-piggledy streets of the Left Bank. I was having my own “Midnight in Paris” moment - jabbering on about Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Ford Madox Ford carousing in these very streets, when they called Paris home in the 1920’s.  This kind of “lost” was awesome.

The sky slowly darkened and then suddenly erupted into a downpour; the downpour became freezing sleet. The sleet then transformed into a slicing horizontal attack – propelled by the wind that swept down the river Seine. The attack worsened on the long stretch between the Cathedral Notre Dame and the Louvre, decimating our umbrella - shredding the canopy, turning the ribs inside out and bending the shaft.

No taxis. I found myself twitching for my phone. UBER? If only I could check the Weather.com! No connectivity, no solution! 

So we forged onward. Our feeble shield was no match for the onslaught – we were soaked from the waist down. Laughing, grimacing, prodding each other – all to the apparent amusement of Parisians driving by.

 Stranded at the SW Corner of the Louvre

Stranded at the SW Corner of the Louvre

Eventually we found refuge under an archway a hundred meters from the entrance to the Louvre and waited. The wind subsided as the sleet turned to snow.  We shared a moment of amazed delight with 20 other wet soon-to-be museum-goers.  

Lost. Cold. Wet. I was present. I was alive. I was HERE.

Finally inside the Louvre, we opted not to rent the audio tour. Without Internet, there was No Wikipedia, no data fix, and no posting; just centuries of art and my thoughts, feelings, memories and frame of reference.

Soon my monkey mind grew eerily quiet. A universe opened up as I surrendered, again and again, to the beauty and brilliance we happened upon.  


  Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory), 2nd Century BC

Nike of Samothrace (Winged Victory), 2nd Century BC

Such was the case when our path converged with "Nike of Samothrace". The invincible angel stood atop the helm of a ship and, from across the long hall, she seemed to come to me as much as I was going to her. In her presence I was humbled, uplifted and inspired - with honor and courage anything is possible. 

We spent 30 minutes with her; viewing her from different perspectives; standing or sitting near and far.

Sometimes we watched how others discovered her. So many with bowed heads, absorbed for a moment in their own digital world. 

And so we spent a magical afternoon untethered from the Internet, "alone" with the magnificence of Venus de Milo, the Borghese Gladiator, the Portrait of Francois I, The Astronomer, the Nymph and Satyr, La Jeune Martyre, and the Mona Lisa.

I was moved and inspired. I was present. I was alive. This is the “HERE” state.  I was HERE.


The State of “THERE”

Being “HERE” is an amazing place to be.  Equally amazing is being “not HERE”, but “THERE”.

The next day we were connected - our mobile devices had Internet and we had fast WiFi. This was a “work day” and I was deep in cyberspace, working on a new segment of the Way to Mastery workshop I am giving when we return from Europe in May.  

 My cyber travel tools at use in Paris

My cyber travel tools at use in Paris

My fingers hummed on the keyboard of my MacBook Pro. The iPad ran a slideshow of Matisse paintings. Debussy’s Reverie channeled through my noise cancelling headphones on a continuous loop (part of my routine that enables me scale the levels of cyberspace).

I explored the works and lives of Picasso and Matisse, the heroic, artistic Paris in the first decades of the 20th century, and the literary paragons – Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Immersed in a universe of facts, interpretations, sounds and images, I fleshed out thoughts, explored possibilities, challenged assumptions and created rich mental landscapes.

 Our 18th Century Airbnb Apartment on the Left Bank

Our 18th Century Airbnb Apartment on the Left Bank

I was barely aware of the utterly charming 18th century apartment (thank you airbnb) or my wife who drifted in and out of a nap that insisted on interrupting her reading time.

I was romping in the digital universe - cyberspace. I was alive and it was good. This is the “THERE” state.  I was THERE.

"The State of “Neither HERE Nor THERE”
Being “THERE” is an amazing place to be; so is being “HERE”.  What about the other state we increasingly find ourselves in?  I call it the “Neither HERE Nor THERE” state. 

Now mobile and online, the D’Orsay Museum was our next destination. I checked Weather.com and confirmed that UBER was up and running in case we needed it. Google Maps guided us efficiently through Left Bank to a recommended patisserie. I checked emails, used Google Translate to interpret the menu and refresh my French, double checked the route to the museum, hit Wikipedia for more info on Van Gogh and Matisse, checked one of my client’s website for updates, pinged the kids with Whatsapp, and scanned CNN, FOX and the NY Times to get a sense of the chaotic 2016 primaries back home.

 Eric Kayser Patisserie / Cafe au Lait, Croissant, Brioche (Orange) :-)

Eric Kayser Patisserie / Cafe au Lait, Croissant, Brioche (Orange) :-)

I must have eaten the almond croissant and drank the café au lait. All the while, Tina and I chatted intermittently (she was posting and texting). All my piddling was of no consequence but seemed important at the moment - just part of everyday life. I was “Neither HERE Nor THERE”.

On the way to the museum, I continually glanced at Google MAPS, intent on staying on course. I watched the traffic lights; peaked at the architecture; responded to a text. I held my iPhone tightly and when possible we held hands. 

At the museum, my attention toggled between the paintings, the audio tour, and web searches looking for still more factoids about Van Gogh, his works and other artists of his time.

 Close up of a Van Gogh self portrait (one of many)

Close up of a Van Gogh self portrait (one of many)

Now my monkey brain was hopping with ideas, insights and curiosity - so many new data points, more dots to connect, ideas to noodle through, and more data putty to fill my knowledge gaps. I jostled, and was jostled by, other “participants” who toggled between the physical world (HERE) and cyberspace (THERE).

Mapping Matisse' Life to the "Way to Mastery"

By dinner, our conversation swirled around Matisse, spilling over with new facts, insights, and observations. We dipped into our iPhones to confirm, disprove, remind and knowledge gap fill. The tablecloth became map of Matisse’ life as he traveled the “Way to Mastery”. 

We had spent the day toggling between cyberspace and the physical world; barely touching neither as the moments flew by. We were overloaded but something had sprouted from all the input. I was in the "Neither HERE Nor THERE" stated.

So what does all this mean?

In the digital age, we necessarily split our time and attention between two vastly different universes. This has us oscillating between three states of being:HERE”, “THERE” and “Neither HERE Nor THERE”.

By distinguishing these states you are taking the first step to effectively navigate this new paradigm. Done well, you expand your creativity, become more productive, and relate better to your co-workers, life partners, and children, as well as strangers. 

 What’s next?

Observe yourself. Observe others. See what happens.