“Gather in your resources, rally all your faculties, marshal all your energies, focus all your capacities upon mastery of at least one field of endeavor.” – John Haggai

Remember when Tiger Woods won his first Masters Tournament? A lot of people figured he won simply because of his outstanding talent. Now, I’m not going to deny that Tiger Woods is probably the biggest talent in the game of golf. But that alone is not why he won. In fact, I’m willing to bet that his ability accounted for only about one-third of his success at Augusta.

Let me explain.

That wasn’t the first time Tiger played at Augusta. He played twice as an amateur there. Both times, he finished way over par — far behind the leaders.

But this time, something was different.

Tiger had turned professional. More than that, he thought like a professional. That, alone, elevated his game to a higher level. He wasn’t happy just to play the Masters. He had to win. Simple as that. So, he prepared like never before — and like no one else. He didn’t just play the practice rounds a few days before the tournament, as did so many of the other pros. He studied old videotapes from year after year of past tournaments — and he did that a full six months before the Masters began.

He studied those tapes like there was no tomorrow. He watched every shot. Studied every pin placement on every green. Probably charted where every ball landed on every green and what kind of lie it was to the hole.

And, along the way, he discovered the secret to winning at Augusta. It wasn’t really a secret at all. Most players already knew what Tiger discovered. The difference is that they didn’t make it “center of mind” to use this knowledge to get a huge edge over the field.

They didn’t take this knowledge to the next level.

Tiger did.

He learned that the only way to win the Masters is to conquer the greens. Augusta’s putting greens are treacherous, at best — like putting on a marble coffee table. While watching the tapes, Tiger discovered that virtually every green slopes from back to front. If you’ve ever played golf, you know that you have much more control putting up a hill than down a hill — especially on slick surfaces like those at Augusta. So, Tiger figured out that the secret to winning at Augusta would be to land his ball short of the hole — never long. That way, he’d have easier uphill putts all the way.

But there’s something else he did too. He studied every slope within every slope on all 18 greens. That’s why he knew precisely where to hit the ball so he’d always have the easiest possible uphill shot to the hole.

And because he convinced himself in his mind that he, and only he, had this special knowledge — this competitive edge over everyone he played — he took on the field with unparalleled confidence. In his mind, he was the best because he had all the tools — mentally and physically — to win the toughest tournament in the world.

And you know what happened.

Tiger never did worse than two-putted any green at Augusta — while much of the field struggled with three- and four-putt greens. He blew the competition away, finishing 13 strokes ahead of the runner-up — the largest margin win in Augusta history.

OK, so maybe you’re wondering “What does Tiger’s performance at the Masters have to do with my launching a successful freelance career?”

Everything.

Golf and freelancing are similar in many ways. Both require certain skills in order to be competitive. Both require a blend of ability and mental toughness. Both are solitary pursuits — yet you compete on a high level with your peers. Both consist of a relatively small elite group of top professionals in the field. Both pay off big for the winners.

In both cases, the learning never stops — and you start  out way ahead of the pack if you learn the game right in the first place.

Bottom line: To be not just an average but a very successful freelancer, you need to know a little bit more than the people you are competing against. The only way to do that is to study a little smarter, harder, and better than they do.

There are two steps to out-learning your competitors:

1. Find a master to learn from.

2. Practice, over and over again, what he tells you to do.

You can master your current job and you can master a skill that will give you a second income. Do both of these things and you’ll move ahead of the pack before you know it — just as Tiger Woods moved ahead of the entire PGA field.