EDITOR’S LETTER: Masters of the Universe

Sometimes, I think of success as inevitable. Not my own success, mind you — despite technically being a Millennial, I’ve lived long enough to learn that I’m not entitled to any special treatment. But, when I think of truly successful people — your Bill Gateses, your Tom Fords, your LeBron Jameses, all masters of their respective universes—there’s a sense that somehow their life was preordained, that they never knew failure. Not really anyway. Not like normal people. Success, we think, is perfection.

Without failure there is no mastery, and without mastery there is no luxury.

That’s not true, of course. Failure is just as real for the average person as it was to Steve Jobs, who was famously kicked out of his own company, before he returned and, you know, changed the world. There was nothing magical, or even inevitable about his return, despite what hindsight might seem to imply. Hard work is hard work. Present success doesn’t mitigate past sacrifices and obstacles. And while failure is always retroactively assigned meaning, in the moment it doesn’t feel like it’s foreshadowing great success. Only, it might.

I mention failure because it is intrinsically connected to luxury — and not simply because one exists in contrast to the other. Without failure there is no mastery, and without mastery there is no luxury. The Book for Men is a celebration of the Good Life, but in that, it’s really a celebration of mastery. Whether it’s designers, craftsmen or adventurers, what makes a work sought after — truly worthwhile — is the mastery behind it. It’s the secret alchemy of hard work, opportunity, predisposition and creativity that excellence embodies.

It’s all too easy to write off some special thing as excessive — too expensive or superfluous. That’s the complaint against luxury from those who don’t understand it. But, when it’s seen through the lens of mastery, luxury makes more sense. Having the time to perfect a craft, to rise from the inevitable failures, is in itself a luxury. That’s not to minimize the work, of course. That’s just to say that anything worth having is already born out of luxury, its price already justified before it entered the market, whether it’s a bespoke blazer, a perfect hotel room or a melt-in-your-mouth steak. Someone failed mightily, several times in fact, to bring you that object of desire. Here’s to them and all their missteps, setbacks and sacrifices. Here’s to the masters that make life Good.