Mis-Mastery

Last night I started dipping into a book I got from Google Books, Hidden treasures, or, Why some succeed while others fail (here is a link at the Internet Archive, which is best for those outside of the U.S.).

The book’s value is questionable. It presents biographies of people who gained prominence — mostly by amassing fortunes — at its time.

After reading one brief bio, I looked up the person at Wikipedia and discovered what was not mentioned in the book: The guy came to his fortune through a history of swindling!

I don’t think that’s the lesson the writer intended to present.

Disappointed, I decided, for now, to skip the sketchy bios and jump to the concluding chapters that present the overarching lessons. And I found an interesting quote from Goethe.

Interestingly, when I looked up the quote on the Net, it also appeared here: Autobiography of Frank G. Allen, Minister of the Gospel (An Address Delivered Before Columbia Christian College, June 7, 1878).

Goethe justly says: “We should guard against a talent which we can not hope to practice in perfection. Improve it as we may, we shall always, in the end, when the merit of the master has become apparent to us, painfully lament the loss of time and strength devoted to such botching.”

I wanted to publish that quote because it’s something Bob Lefsetz mentions again and again: Don’t waste your damn time unless you intend to be the best at what you do. He means it for music, but it applies generally too.

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