Mastering the basics is critical to success. Whether you’re talking about playing chess, playing golf, or investing in real estate, a good foundation is crucial to accomplishment. While getting lost in the details can seem easy, stick to the basics and you’ll win big.

Of course, the real experts in any field can do some incredible things that the beginner cannot. But the real difference between a pro and a novice is simply that the expert is much better and more effective at the basic tasks that are fundamental to that skill.

Let’s look at three simple ideas about how to master the basics in your field of choice. Real success will be sure to follow.

1. Expect mastery. You’ll rarely exceed your own objectives, so expect a lot from yourself. If you’re taking up golf, tell yourself that you’re going to someday be one of the world’s greatest golfers. While this may or may not be true, by adopting this approach, you remove any self-imposed psychological ceiling on your ultimate level of achievement.

* Another approach is to imagine that you’re eventually going to have to teach this skill to someone else. You’ll need to know what you’re doing so thoroughly that you can explain it to anyone.

2. Think about the long-term. Many people want to rush through the basics to get to the more interesting information. Or perhaps they believe that the more advanced work is where real power lies. But even with just a mastery of the basics, you can have huge successes. And to excel at the advanced work, you must first know where to start.

* For example, if you don’t understand the basics of chess, you’re never going to have the foundation to support understanding the finer nuances of the game. If you don’t master algebra, how will you ever be able to master calculus?

* Professional golfers spend the majority of their off-season doing nothing but perfecting the basics. They have a coach who works with them on their golf swing. That’s largely all they do. How many times have they already swung a club in their lives?

* Also, remember that the guy instructing the professional golfer can’t play golf as well as the professional he’s teaching! He just knows how the swing works, which is the foundation of all of the advanced skills.

3. Avoid getting fancy. Always question the assumption that the solution to your current challenge is complicated. Ask yourself if the problem is really the result of a shortcoming in one or more basic skills. Rarely is some fancy technique going to be the answer.

* If you can’t boil an egg well, a space-age pot isn’t going to help you become a better chef. If you can’t strike a golf ball well, a $2,000 set of new golf clubs isn’t going to do much to improve your golf game.

Thoroughly mastering the basics will take time, but it’s time that’s well spent. There are no shortcuts to real success. Adding a new skill to your repertoire is much easier if you have the expectation of first getting a good handle on the foundational skills. Time devoted to the basics is the key to long-lasting progress and success.