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The Art of Mastery

Learn the Art of Mastery and you will learn the art of extraordinary living. If you can become a master at one thing, you can use that same process to become a master at anything. It requires interest, determination, discipline, perseverance, and lots of practice.

Christina handstand on paddle board

Christina taking her mastery of physical movement to a new level on a paddle board.

I have had the pleasure of witnessing mastery with my children multiple times, and I have seen them transfer the steps to multiple interests. My oldest son, Michael, started mastering things at 2 years old, purely by accident. He was an extremely curious and hyper little boy, but he had a fascination with two things at 2 years old: power tools and music. My husband Mike and I used to watch "New Yankee Workshop" and "This Old House" when Michael was little. He was obsessed with those shows, and couldn't wait until they came on every night. He would watch with rapt attention while the host would describe what he was going to do next and which power tool he was going to use. Michael wasn't talking much yet, just one or two words at a time, but he was totally engrossed in those shows. One day I was pushing him in his stroller through the power tool department of Sears, and his face lit up like a Christmas tree. "Jig saw! Scroll saw! Table saw! Compound slide miter saw!!" I just about fell over! The child could barely speak, and he started yelling the names of all the power tools at me (and he got every one of them right!).

Michael's other obsession at 2 yrs old was a video tape I had called, "In Celebration of the Piano", which was a video of 23 piano pieces, each played by a different artist. Before each piece, the narrator would say the name of the piece and the name of the composer. Michael would beg me to "watch man play piano!" So I would let the tape run over and over and get chores done while he was watching the video. After he had seen it probably 100 times, I wondered if he could tell me the names of any of the pieces. I had recently finished my Masters Degree in Piano Performance and had many piano students, so I was naturally curious if any of this was sticking. I decided to play a version of "drop the needle" (a game we played in college with vinyls and a turntable, where we would quiz each other by dropping the needle at random spots on the record and have to name the song), whereby I would fast forward the tape and start it in random places. Sure enough, no matter where I started the tape, he could name the piece and the composer! He would say things like, ""Au bord d'une Source' by Liszt" or "'Etude' by Moszkowski" or "'Prelude in G' by Rachmaninoff"! I was so astounded that I invited my piano professor over and showed him. He couldn't believe that this little 2 yr old could name all 23 of those pieces from just a few notes from anywhere in the piece!

In Celebration of the Piano Video

This is the video that was 2 yr old Michael's obsession.

When Michael was 5 yrs old, we decided to take a trip to Hawaii. It was a 5 hour flight from San Francisco, and I was absolutely dreading taking this hyperactive little boy on a plane for that long. I went to the store to find some activities he could do in his seat that might help us all through what I felt was sure to be an ordeal, and I stumbled on a beginning origami book with a pack of origami paper. I didn't have the patience for it, but my brother Matt, who went with us, did. He sat next to Michael, and together they figured out how to make several of the figures in the book for the entire 5 hours of the flight! They did the same thing on the flight home, and Michael continued to learn and make all kinds of intricate origami figures for at least a year after that.

Next up was guitar. When Michael was 8 yrs old, he asked me for a guitar. We were tight on money at the time, as we now had six kids, and I didn't know if he would be interested in it long enough to justify the expense, so I said no. That didn't stop him; he kept asking for the next 3 years, so for his 11th birthday, I finally broke down and gave him a beginning electric guitar with an amplifier and set him up with some lessons. He strapped that guitar on his body and almost never took it off. I nicknamed him "the wandering minstrel", as he played night and day for anyone who would listen. Within a few years, he could play all the solos by Metallica, Eddie Van Halen, Megadeth, the Scorpions, and many others. He has since taken that interest and spread it into singing and sound engineering, both of which he has become very good at as well.

Michael singing and playing guitar

Michael singing and playing his beloved guitar.

Michael at the sound board

Michael at the sound board during sound check for his sisters (on stage) in Madrid in 2014

While we were living in Malibu, Michael got a sudden interest in photography. There is so much beautiful scenery there, between the ocean and the mountains, that it was certainly a wonderful place to practice taking pictures. Within a year, after reading many books and watching many videos on how to use all the features of a high end camera to their best effect, as well as learning the aesthetics of setting up the composition of an artistic shot, he was taking some gorgeous shots, and people were paying him for photo shoots for portraits, real estate and even photo layouts for magazines.

Michael's photo of a Lamborghini

Lamborghini in Malibu, photo by Michael Cimorelli

Ocean in Malibu

The ocean in Malibu, photo by Michael Cimorelli

Another interest that Michael took to the level of mastery is personal training. He had been quite athletic as a child in karate, gymnastics, swim team, rollerblading, bike riding, and skateboarding, but in his early teens, he became a sugar junkie and gained quite a bit of weight. When he hit his growth spurt, he grew out of most of the extra weight, and he started training at the gym with some buddies who were really into body building. A few years later, we moved to Malibu, and he got a job at the Malibu Gym, where he was able to not only train on his down time, but he also had the opportunity to observe a lot of celebrity trainers and pick up numerous tips from them. He took it so far as to get certified as a personal trainer, although he was actually more interested in his own training than turning that into his main profession.

Michael deadlifting 315 lb

Michael deadlifting 315 lb

Michael running on the beach

Michael running in Malibu

My six daughters all learned about mastery through music, spending many years learning the art of arranging and singing tight multi-part harmonies and then song-writing. It has become their profession and has allowed them to perform all over the world. None of it happened overnight; they worked at their craft for thousands of hours over the course of many years. Every one of them has also taken the art of mastery into other things as well: Christina as a life coach, Katherine as a poet, Lisa as a painter on small canvases like fingernails and pumpkins as well as her latest passion, screen-writing, Amy and Lauren as painters, Dani as both an artist and a fashion designer who sews her own clothes with patterns of her own design, and all of them write prolifically as well, recently writing their first book together, called Lessons Learned.

Cimorelli book Lessons Learned

My daughters' first book!

Lisa painting a pumpkin

Lisa's artistry on Halloween...

Lisa's finished pumpkin

And the final result...

My other sons are working toward mastery on their interests, too. Alex is becoming an expert on the financial world and photography (he is also a connoisseur of the perfect cup of coffee complete with his own homemade toffee syrup). Christian is an artist (graffiti and shoe painting) and is currently working toward mastering the programming language Python.

Shoes that Christian painted

A pair of formerly white sneakers that Christian used to paint a galaxy

Nick and Joey are working toward mastery of basketball, practicing daily year-round, and I have no doubt that as they get older, other interests will emerge that they will want to master, too, and the knowledge of the skill of mastery will serve them well. I have no doubt that the free time we have through home schooling has been a huge help in developing this, but everyone is given gifts and talents from God at birth, and I believe that everyone has the capacity to be a master at something if they put in the time, study, and practice.

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