What Makes Your Heart Thump—the Pursuit of Mastery

Break free from the trap of mediocrity.

Do you ever think about excellence? It may not command your daily thought but you most certainly have dreamt of what it would be like to be truly great at something. I think about achieving and producing mastery all the time.

What Makes Your Heart Thump, Tim Ferris, Michael Gervais, Peak Performance, Mastery, Excellence

No one (absolutely no one) works at anything thinking, “I sure hope I can achieve mediocrity!” But breaking through mediocrity and producing excellence presents a tough challenge. I hear people say all the time, “I love a challenge.” We’ve all said it, but our love for challenges has its limits.

Deconstructing mastery provides significant clues and insights into what separates mediocre from excellent. Over 35 years ago, Dr. Charles Garfield wrote Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business. Dr. Garfield was a high-performance coach who had spent decades studying mastery. Following his work on the Apollo 11 lunar mission he spent 18 months researching and interviewing peak performers in business, athletics and the arts.

Missions that Motivate

Dr. Garfield’s research revealed six attributes peak performers shared. He labeled the first attribute, “Missions that motivate.” This was the personal call to action. He described it as a “click” that starts things moving.

The “click” is a compelling personal vision that pushes us to truly test ourselves. This “click” ignites an inner drive that enables you to push beyond the boundaries of self-limiting thoughts and misplaced fear.

Recently, I was watching fear{less} with Tim Ferris. Tim was interviewing Dr. Michael Gervais. Dr. Gervais is a high-performance coach. He has worked with an MVP from every major sport, acclaimed artist and musicians and Fortune 25 CEO’s. “Ultimately, Dr. Gervais’ goal is to unpack, then decode, how the greatest performers in the world use their minds to create amazing journeys while they pursue the boundaries of human potential.”

Tim asked Dr. Gervais if he could simplify the path to mastery. He was quick to say, “There are no shortcuts to mastery.” But then, like Dr. Garfield before him, he pointed to the power of personal vision and mission. He too was talking about the “click” that opens the door for you to do something truly great.

The Path to Mastery

The first brick to paving the path to mastery is figuring out who you are. In one to twenty words, you must be able to describe who you are. This is not easy! Dr. Gervais summed it up brilliantly, “We will do the intellectual work to say, ‘This is my philosophy.’ But under duress we can’t articulate what we stand for.”

What would you say if you were asked to articulate what you stand for?

I love Dr. Gervais stated philosophy, “Every day we have an opportunity to create a living masterpiece.” It drives who he is, what he does and how he makes decisions about how he spends his time, talent and resources.

When do you know you have the right core philosophy? “It’s right when it makes your heart ‘thump.’” Without something that makes our heart “thump,” we easily get swept into the crowd. We don’t realize that mediocre is a powerful magnet that attracts throngs of people who no longer can feel the exhilaration of their heart beating faster in anxious anticipation of something wonderful and bold.

Fueling Change

Mediocre lulls us to sleep and builds a bed of false comfort between the pain of failure and the sweet smell of mastery.

Real failure hurts—it creates loss that manifests itself in pain that causes our soul to ache. I am not trying to be melodramatic, but think about it for a moment. Sure we can talk about being drawn towards great dreams and producing lasting impact. But it is pain and the inherent suffering that comes with failing that moves us to make real change.

What makes your heart thump?

What is that click that commands your attention and brings life to your days?

I am certain you didn’t wake up this morning thinking about mediocrity. But at the end of the day how will you or I know if it was anything more than mediocre if we can’t articulate what it is that makes our “heart thump.”

Impact makes my heart thump—helping people maximize their impact with the people they love, teams they lead and causes that stir their heart. This is why I coach, write and speak. I am seeking to produce impact that inspires hearts, unlock possibilities and changes lives.

Maybe this is you too.

My heart does thump, but it doesn’t mean I don’t fear it. I have been studying mastery and peak performance since I was in high school. My motivation and curiosity translated to, “Please don’t let me be mediocre.”

I work every day on fearing less so that my cowardice does not keep me from taking bold and decisive action. I can say with great certainty that mastery is not something you discover on your own. The trail of those clinging to self-reliance is littered with mediocrity.

Mastery unfolds in a partnership between a teachable spirit and a knowledgeable coach. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far go with others.” In the end it won’t be what you get that will truly matter. It will be what did you give and who was impacted.

Reading Recommendations — (Links to Amazon)

Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Tim Ferris. An amazing collection of insight and wisdom about peak performance.

Summary of Tools of Titans: by Tim Ferriss | Includes Key Takeaways want the short version? I often read these summaries as a means of capturing the main themes and ideas.

Peak Performers: The New Heroes of American Business by Dr. Charles Garfield. The core six attributes Dr. Garfield talks about are timeless.


Are you a podcast listener? These are full of great insight and value.

Michael Gervais: Finding Mastery

Tim Ferris: The Tim Ferris Show