Maps for Makers: Systems & Stories for Changing the World

by Rachel Collier


This is a book about magic. I know because I am an expert on magic.

When I was growing up, I read every fantasy book I could get my hands on. My favorite was Harry Potter. I loved how Harry escaped from mean Muggles who ignored and abused him. I loved how Hogwarts trained him to use magic. And I loved how a handful of dedicated, resourceful, and impudent witches and wizards were able to fight Death Eaters and defeat Voldemort.

In university, I studied journalism because I wanted to share stories like the ones in Harry Potter. Stories about the underdog coming out on top. Stories about regular people discovering their power to help others.

In 2016, I graduated and I needed to pay off my student loans. I reluctantly joined a biotech start-up. The CEO, Dr. Paul Lem, claimed that low-cost DNA technology could one day improve the lives of billions of people.

I was skeptical.

“How do you know what can change the world” I asked.

“Which kinds of ideas change the world? Which kinds of people change the world?” Paul responded.

I didn’t know the answer. But I wanted to learn. Badly. I wanted to learn how to make healthcare and education accessible to everyone, how to fight racism and sexism, how to heal our planet.

In short, I wanted to learn true magic.

We spent the next several years reading and distilling hundreds of scientific articles and historical accounts about how to change the world. Over time, the Maps in this book began to form—Maps for making a difference.

I believe these Maps are magic. If these words speak to you, use them.

Map One: Learning to Learn

The man raises his bow and draws the arrow, holding it against the bowstring in effortless tension. He feels the same easy tension in his breath as he sets his eyes upon the straw target. He empties his mind and waits. Suddenly, the arrow is loosed from the bow and his teacher shouts, ?It is there!” The archer has finally hit his mark. 

In 1924, philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel was determined to learn the Japanese art of archery. His friends were skeptical?Europeans rarely succeeded. But with the help of a colleague at the University of Tokyo, Herrigel convinced master Kenzo Awa to take him as a pupil.

Their training began. Awa showed him how the arrow must fly smoothly and effortlessly from the bow, like ?snow from a bamboo leaf.? But Herrigel could hardly even draw the 6-foot bow without his muscles failing. For hours each day, his master patiently pointed out mistakes and adjusted his technique. After a year, Herrigel learned how to draw the bow. After several years, he could shoot jerky wobbly arrows into the air.

Four years into his training, Herrigal was frustrated by his lack of progress. He accused Awa of being a charlatan. In response, his teacher placed a stick the width of a knitting needle into the sand and turned out the lights. When Herrigel retrieved the stick, there were two arrows in it?the second embedded in the first. Herrigel was now a believer and devoted himself to practice.

 Finally, in his fifth year of training, Herrigel mastered the art of archery. His arrows truly flew like snow from bamboo leaves. As he passed his final test, his master said, ?Now at last, the bowstring has cut right through you.?                                                                          

The road to mastery is difficult. It requires tremendous practice, failure, and perseverance. But the reward is world-class skills to change the world. This Map is designed to help you learn the skills you need as quickly as possible so you can make a difference.  

Never let formal education get in the way of your learning. ? Mark Twain

Development is a series of rebirths. ? Maria Montessori


  • Achieve expert-level performance in the shortest amount of time with the least amount of effort


  • It?s faster and easier to change the world when you have world-class skills


  • Phase 1
    • Achieve 80% mastery with a proven system
    • Time: 1-2 hours/day for a few months to a few years
  • Phase 2
    • Master the remaining 20% with competition and coaching
    • Time: 4 hours/day of deliberate practice for 10 years

It isn?t the learning that?s so hard, but the unlearning. ? Charlie Munger

The illiterate of the twenty-first century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ? Alvin Toffler

Phase 1: Intermediate

Step 1: Find the proven system

  • In most fields, there is a proven system that allows beginners to quickly reach intermediate-level performance
  • Find it by asking experts and noting which one keeps getting recommended
  • The proven system doesn?t have to be expensive?it is often free or available in a book
  • Examples of proven systems:
    • Paleolithic diet for nutrition and weight loss
    • Total Immersion (TI) for long-distance swimming
    • SPIN Selling by Neil Rackham and other consultative selling systems
    • Toastmasters for public speaking
    • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie for social skills
    • On Writing Well by William Zinsser for clear writing
    • The Artist?s Way by Julia Cameron for creativity
    • Meditation for attention and clarity
    • Maps for Makers for changing the world

Step 2: Practice the system

  • Practice the system until you can perform the actions automatically without thinking
    • e.g., when you?re learning to drive a car, you have to think consciously about each action. With practice, you can drive a car automatically.
    • Performance suffers when you think consciously because it slows your reaction time
      • e.g., most people have a reaction time of 0.25 seconds. When asked to consciously perform a task, reaction time slows to 0.75 seconds.
      • e.g., tennis player John McEnroe would compliment opponents on their best stroke as they changed sides on the court. This caused them to think consciously about it and play worse.
      • e.g., people perceive you less honest when you pause to think before responding
    • The goal is to achieve a peak state of performance called ?flow?
      • Flow is when you are totally immersed in an activity that stretches your skills to the limit. This state is highly enjoyable and feels like ?time is flying? because it engages both your conscious mind and subconscious mind. People in flow often create work they did not even know they were capable of.
      • Flow requires your skill level to match the difficulty level. You?ll be bored if your skill is high and the activity is easy. Likewise, you?ll be frustrated if your skill is low and the task is hard.
        • e.g., you are bored by biking along a paved path, but you are in flow when you bike down a mountain and have to focus moment to moment on avoiding trees and rock
        • This means that you need to increase the difficulty level as your skill increases
  • Example:
    • In ancient Japan, Musashi Miyamoto and other legendary samurai achieved a state of mind known as mushin no shin, a Zen expression meaning mind of no mind
    • It refers to an absence of anger, fear, or ego. There is no thinking or judging. You are free to act and react without hesitation.
    • Swordsmen trained for years to achieve mushin, repeating the same movements until they could perform them spontaneously without conscious thought
    • With his mastery of mushin, Miyamoto was undefeated in more than 60 duels 

Flow is being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. ? Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

 It is rarely a mysterious technique that drives us to the top, but rather a profound mastery of what may well be a basic skill set. ? Josh Waitzkin

 Phase 2: Expert

Step 1: Get real-world feedback

  • Examples:
    • Enter a competition and see how you rank
    • Launch a product and see if anyone buys it
    • Create a company and see if anyone invests in it
    • Set measurable goals and track whether you achieve them
  • Everyone is biased. Reality reveals your true strengths and weaknesses.
    • Your left brain constantly generates stories to explain why you act and feel the way you do, but these stories are often inaccurate
      • e.g., google ?list of cognitive biases? to see the common traps people fall into
  • After you master one level of competition, move to the next level
    • When you start a new level, it can be frustrating to lose, especially when you?re used to winning
      • Develop a ?growth mindset? where you view failure as an opportunity to learn and try again
        • Researchers have found that even geniuses like Shakespeare and Thomas Edison had many more failures than successes and their odds of success depended on how many times they tried
        • Read Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
  • Example:
    • In the movie Edge of Tomorrow, Major William Cage dies and is reborn over and over again until he masters the skills to fight alien invaders
    • Real-world competition for survival (along with Sergeant Rita Vrataski?s gentle training) transforms him from a coward to a warrior

The entire exercise of Vipassana meditation is to learn the difference between fiction and reality, what is real and what is just stories that we invent and construct in our own minds. Almost 99 percent you realize is just stories in our minds. ? Yuval Noah Harari

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. ? Theodore Roosevelt

Step 2: Practice for 4 hours/day

  • Use real-world feedback to create specific exercises that fix your weaknesses and develop your strengths
    • This process is called deliberate practice and it greatly accelerates improvement
    • e.g., martial arts champion Josh Waitzkin filmed his matches and painstakingly analyzed each frame to discover his errors
  • Allow yourself to rest and recover after each practice
    • e.g., get 7-8 hours of restful sleep every night
  • The end result is you?ll have one or two world-class strengths and no obvious weaknesses
    • e.g., at the age of 35, near the end of his tennis career, Roger Federer debuted an improved backhand and won 19 of 20 matches, including defeating his nemesis Rafael Nadal three times in a row. In previous matches, Nadal won by relentlessly attacking Federer?s weak one-handed backhand.
    • At high levels of competition, you often only have to be slightly better than everyone else to reap most of the rewards
      • This is because there is a very marginal difference of talent between true experts
      • e.g., this ?tournament effect? explains why Beyonc? earned $105 million in 2017, compared to only $56,000 for the typical musician

With deliberate practice, however, the goal is not just to reach your potential but to build it, to make things possible that were not possible before. This requires challenging homeostasis?getting out of your comfort zone?and forcing your brain or your body to adapt. ? Anders Ericsson

We?ve come to believe that world-class performance comes after 10,000 hours of practice. But that?s wrong. It comes after 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, 12,500 hours of deliberate rest, and 30,000 hours of sleep. ?Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Step 3: Get a coach

  • Find coaching candidates by asking top performers for their recommendations
    • The ideal coach is someone who deeply understands the field but also deeply understands you
      • e.g., ?Zen master? Phil Jackson has won 11 NBA championships as a coach, including 6 with the Chicago Bulls. In his autobiography Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, he reveals his deep understanding by explaining things such as the ?triangle offence? and the psychology of superstars like Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and Dennis Rodman.
    • Note that if you can?t find a living coach, you can look to history to find your perfect teacher
      • e.g., Charlie Munger says: ?I am a biography nut myself. And I think when you’re trying to teach the great concepts that work, it helps to tie them into the lives and personalities of the people who developed them. I think you learn economics better if you make Adam Smith your friend. That sounds funny, making friends among the eminent dead, but if you go through life making friends with the eminent dead who had the right ideas, I think it will work better in life and work better in education. It?s way better than just being given the basic concepts.?
  • Test candidates by describing a problem you?re trying to solve and asking for ideas. Choose the coach whose ideas work best for you.
    • Your track record of success in competitions will help convince a top coach to train you
      • The best coaches are always looking for students who have the potential to be world champions
  • Your coach will design a personalized practice program that helps you win
    • e.g., at age 17, Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest American skier to win a World Cup. Her mom Eileen trained her with exercises such as juggling while riding a unicycle to develop her balance and coordination.

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. ? Buddhist proverb

I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think. ? Socrates

Every blade of grass has its Angel that bends over it and whispers, ?Grow, grow.? ? The Talmud

We were kids without fathers . . . so we found our fathers on wax and on the streets and in history. We got to pick and choose the ancestors who would inspire the world we were going to make for ourselves. ? Jay-Z

Example: Henry Ford

  • In 1879, Henry Ford left his family farm at age 16 to apprentice in the machine shops of Detroit, where he learned the fundamentals of engines and how to run a business
  • In 1891, he got a job at Edison Illuminating Company and was promoted to chief engineer within 3 years because of his hard work and innovative strategies
  • In 1896, Ford showed his plans for a ?horseless carriage? to Thomas Edison, who was so impressed that he became Ford?s lifelong mentor
  • In 1908, Ford changed the world by launching the ?Model T??the first affordable consumer automobile

Failure is the opportunity to begin again, more intelligently. ? Henry Ford 

Note: It?s easier to learn if you believe in yourself

  • Self-efficacy is the psychological term for believing in your ability to get something done
  • This ?I can do it? mindset gives you resilience to setbacks
  • Here are three ways to strengthen your ?I can do it? mindset
    1. Develop a growth mindset
      • A growth mindset is the belief that you can change your qualities through hard work and learning
      • Strengthen your ?I can improve? mindset by noticing and re-framing your ?I can?t improve? thoughts
        • e.g., ?Some people are born to do great things and I?m not one of them? becomes ?I don?t feel like I can change the world right now but I know I can train to become ready?
        • Daily Habit #2 is mindfulness meditation that teaches you how to observe your thoughts
    2. Achieve mastery experiences
      • A mastery experience is when you successfully achieve something
        • It?s the most effective way of strengthening your ?I can do it? mindset because it?s real-life evidence that you have what it takes to succeed
      • Achieve mastery experiences by setting actionable goals that are moderately challenging and seeking concrete feedback to improve your skills
        • e.g., for most people, becoming financially free in 5 years is a better challenge than trying to do it in 5 months
    3. Find role models
      • Seeing other people like you achieve success strengthens your belief that you can do it too
      • That?s why you should surround yourself with other social leaders and entrepreneurs who want to change the world
      • If it?s hard to find people like this in your life, you can learn from the lives of role models throughout history

The mind is everything; what you think, you become. ? Buddha

 There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. ? William Shakespeare

The above is an excerpt from Rachel Collier?s upcoming book, Maps for Makers: Systems & Stories for Changing the World. Maps for Makers will be published on June 21, 2020. You can learn more and register for a free copy of the e-book at www.mapsformakers.comMaps for Makers was published with the help of Third Door Stories? new book editing, publishing, and marketing services. Learn more about our services here:

About the author

Rachel Collier is a writer, an entrepreneur, and a dreamer. She is the CEO & Founder of Third Door Stories, a marketing agency created by women, for women. She helps people use the power of storytelling to change the world.


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