In the last week, we ventured to the North East side of the island and spent our time hiking in the tropical rainforest, exploring the breathtaking Onomea Bay, and taking in one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen in between the Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea volcanoes.

The highlight, for me, was the time I got to spend with ukulele master Rick Jitchaku. Mr. Jitchaku generously shared his time, stories, and ukulele mastery with me. He is truly a master at his craft having played with Jesse Kalima, Jake Shimabukuro, Aunty Geri, and Mehana. I found a kindred spirit in Rick and enjoyed our time together immensely.

This week I wanted to share four practices I’ve found useful when I’m in the presence of a master.

1. Find The Nuances

Masters are masters because they make the complex look, feel, and sound simple. This simplicity isn’t rooted in the broad strokes of their craft but in the subtle, small nuances they’ve learned to master. The small shift in an angle. The slightest positioning of a finger. The order of the words. This nuance is what separates the masters from the rest of us – the nuance has become “the way it’s done”. The problem with nuance is it’s easy to miss if you aren’t actively, intently looking for it. When in the presence of a master, you must look beyond the outcome of the craft to find the nuance from which the outcome comes.

2. Diagnose The Approach

Masters have a rigid, decisive approach to every problem they may encounter in their craft. Rick Dalio, the founder of Bridgewater, referred to these as principles. Understanding a master’s principles is a vital step in understanding why they do what they do. Often the way someone approaches a problem is more important than the solution itself. In preparing to sit with a master, try to think of a few challenging scenarios or problems you’ve encountered and diagnose your approach to finding a resolution. Then present these scenarios to the master and shut up and listen. It’s fascinating to learn how a master approaches a problem you’ve encountered. Often their approach is much simpler and clarifying than anything we would have thought of ourselves.

3. Aspire To Look Stupid

Masters can make you feel really, really dumb (I know this one first hand). We should chase this feeling of being really, really dumb more often. Most of us spend the majority of our lives doing everything within our power to avoid looking stupid in front of other people. We give half-baked answers, cheat on tests, belittle others, and on, and on just to avoid being judged as stupid. Life is a series of rooms (metaphorically and literally). Who ends up in those rooms with us is what our lives essentially amount to. We should continually try to aspire to be the dumbest one in the room. That’s where we can learn. That’s where we can grow. That’s where we’re in the presence of the masters. The more we can prepare our egos to be comfortable not knowing the answer, the more we can gain and grow.

4. Take One Gift Away

Masters have many gifts to give but we’re often only prepared to receive one at a time. In leaving the presence of a master it’s important to narrow in on the “one thing” you’ll take away from your time together. What is the one thing you want to learn to incorporate into your life? What is the one thing you want to dive deeper into? What is the one thing that shifted your perspective? Learning how to be narrow in the gifts we take away from a master is key to nurturing that gift into maturity in your own life.

This article is a part of a series called The Friday Four. Every Friday I publish four top of mind thoughts from the experiences of the previous week. Themes include growth, coaching, startups, innovation, family, fatherhood, travel, food, or any other top of mind topic.

The rules are simple:

  1. Publish every Friday.

  2. Four thoughts (as long or as short as necessary).

  3. No content calendar. No SEO hacks. No marketing bullshit.