Book Report – Mastery
I make it a point to read personal development and business books as often as I can. When I do with, I make simple sets of notes to remind me of the principles I learned for review later. Today, I am going to start posting my summaries and whether the books are good or bad.The first book is Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard.
This book is a short but excellent read. George Leonard learned the skills of mastery as a martial artist and observed himself and his students over many years to see what made the difference between people who are good at what they do and the masters of their craft. Leonard breaks it down into 5 master keys:
1. Instruction – It is extremely important to learn the skills by yourself. Go out and find someone to follow. Whether it be a being, a book or a video, you need instruction to show you what you don’t already know and to have what you already “know” constantly, repetitively knocked into your head. They source of the instruction needs to be someone you feel can really help you. You don’t need to learn from the world’s best in your chosen craft, but someone with a history of teaching will make all the difference.
2. Practice – The old adage that practice makes perfect is only part of the master’s path. Leonard explains how important it is to truly lose yourself in your practice and begin enjoying the practice for the sake of practice…for the sake of practicing your art. This way, even if you are not making noticable progress, the practice is meaningful.
3. Surrender – Sometimes you improve, sometimes you stagnate and sometimes you fall backwards. You need to surrender to the process that is improvement. No one improves without misstep. You need to surrender to whatever direction the process takes you.
4. Intentionality – Your intention is deepest commitment to something. I am writing this now because it is my intention to do so. I wanted to exercise a bit before I started, but my intention towards writing was stronger. Just because you want to do something doesn’t mean you are most deeply commited to it.
5. The Edge – While your practice may seems to take you nowhere, it is important to always be testing or playing at the edge of your capabilities. Only by constantly stretching your abilities will you be able to see where you can go. Playing at the edge, however, doesn’t mean that you ignore, or lose interest in your practice and where you are right now.
What Leonard has learned through his studies is that there are typically 3 types of people:
The Dabbler jumps from one activity to another without ever sticking it out because they can’t handle the steps back and the inevitable plateaus that they find themselves on.
The Obsessive is always striving to improve. They do everything they can to get a step up, looking for short-term results, until they finally give up.
The Hacker is just there to “get the hang of it” and is never willing to become great.
Along your path to mastery, you will meet resistance in many forms. Leonard teaches you about homeostasis, or the idea that you. He makes the following 5 suggestions for dealing with change and homeostasis:
1. Be aware of the way homeostasis works.
2. Be willing to negotiate with your resistance to change.
3. Develop a support system.
4. Follow a regular practice.
5. Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning.
Dealing with all of the ensuing change and resistance can be tiring. Here is how Leonard gets to energy to work towards mastery:
1. Maintain your physical fitness.
2. Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive.
3. Tell the truth.
4. Honour but do not indulge your dark side.
5. Set your priorities.
6. Make commitments. Take action.
7. Get on the path to mastery and stay on it.
When making changes in your life on your road to mastery in your chosen craft, it is important to be aware that there are pitfall that await you and you must accept these as part of the process. Maintaining your energy, understanding the process and following the 5 master keys will help you to avoid as much as possible, the following pitfalls:
- conflicting way of life
- obsessive goal orientation
- poor instruction
- lack of competitiveness
- drugs and alcohol
- prizes and medals (focus on these can more harmful than helpful)
- dead seriousness
I am not a master. One day I hope to find a craft where I can become one. Until then, I am enjoying the practicing as much as I possibly can.