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Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment

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"The pracitcal wisdom in George Leonard's book will have a great influence for many years to come."
—Michael Murphy, author of Golf in the Kingdom and The Future of the BodyDrawing on Zen philosophy and his expertise in the martial art of aikido, bestselling author Gorge Leonard shows how the process of mastery can help us attain a higher level of excellence and a deeper sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in our daily lives. Whether you're seeking to improve your career or your intimate relationships, increase self-esteem or create harmony within yourself, this inspiring prescriptive guide will help you master anything you choose and achive success in all areas of your life.

In Mastery, you'll discover:

The 5 Essential Keys to MasteryTools for MasteryHow to Master Your Athletic PotentialThe 3 Personality Types That Are Obstacles to MasteryHow to Avoid Pitfalls Along the Path
. . . and more

176 pages, Paperback

First published February 1, 1991

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About the author

George Leonard

84 books121 followers
George Burr Leonard (b. 1923) was an American writer, editor, and educator who wrote extensively about education and human potential. He was President Emeritus of the Esalen Institute, past-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, President of ITP International, and a former editor of Look Magazine. He was also a former United States Army Air Corps pilot, and held a fifth degree black belt in aikido.

Leonard was a co-founder of the Aikido of Tamalpais dojo in Corte Madera, California. He also developed the Leonard Energy Training (LET) practice for centering the mind, body, and spirit. Leonard died at his home in Mill Valley, California on January 6, 2010 after a long illness. He was 86 years old.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 608 reviews
Profile Image for Matthew Horvat.
20 reviews9 followers
September 3, 2009
Tools for Mastery

1. Maintain physical fitness
2. Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
3. Try telling the truth
4. Honor but don't indulge your won dark side
5. Set your priorities
6. Make commitments. Take action.
7. Get on the path of mastery and stay on it

George Leonard explains these in his touchstone book, Mastery. The more that I see attempted transformations at work I realize that a big problem is that 'we' don't have a clue about learning. We just aren't in the habit of big change frequently. As one that endured night school for almost 5 years I am coming at change from the other side.

The sense and purpose that the author claims are required for mastery are uncommon indeed. He provides a model that we can use, common pitfalls, examples of typical learners - the hacker, the dabbler and the obsessive and other guidance.

This is useful for all of us so called life long learners. A pocket sized read at just under 200 pages - useful for a lifetime.
Profile Image for Miroku Nemeth.
268 reviews57 followers
March 13, 2012
An Aikido master on mastery...recommended by Shaikh Hamza Yusuf....
If you have ever striven for mastery out of love, where you lose yourself in the practice and the practice, the devotional act of being is in itself its own reward...then you will love this book.

It is a book that challenges the contemporary American ideal of the superiority of only climactic moments, that challenges instant gratification, and reveals a deeper, older, and more essential truth about life. Very interesting reading. I have practiced martial arts for over 28 years, and it is only now, at age 40 when I am contemplating teaching others on a larger scale (perhaps) and as a duty to society at large, that I am finally completing a black belt certification process. I practice daily out of the love for the arts that are my life. And it was the same with drawing, painting, poetry, the study of religion(s)....do we all not have similar stories? And if not, are we living?
Profile Image for Meghan Hughes Ohrstrom.
109 reviews1,948 followers
July 15, 2019
What a riveting read! I loved the approach of this self-help book. It was very detailed, informative, motivational & focused on realistic approaches to tackling what you want to do in life. I really resonated with the idea of “the plateau” & staying on it rather than falling off or giving up when you seem to be making little progress in whatever field you’re trying to further yourself in. I think in our culture, with everything seeming “so easy” or “fast acting”, it’s very discouraging to tackle taking on new things. Often times, we just don’t. We find the excuse of “not having time” or fall into the trap of just wanting the acknowledgement of doing something new rather than really DOING IT! I really encourage everyone to read this book. It truly makes you think about how your mind approaches a new goal or activity & encourages you to take the master’s path of true practice. That comes with willingness to be or look foolish, but it is always worth the effort & “through thick & thin” attitude that is admirable. May we all be willing to fail, get up & keep going, fail again, & continue on for our lives living in true dedication to our passions.
Profile Image for Kirtida Gautam.
Author 2 books125 followers
February 7, 2017
George Leonard wrote this book for me. I am not joking. Every single word of it was meant for me. It was one of those books that manifest exactly at the right time in your life to teach you something of immense value.
What I learnt from Mastery?
To be a learner, you've got to be willing to be a fool.
"Are you willing to wear your white belt?"
My answer is: Yes. I am.
Profile Image for Miguel Mayher.
12 reviews19 followers
June 28, 2009
Video review: http://www.bookvim.com/2009/06/master...

This book has become a classic.

And rightly so.

George Leonard draws from his mastery of Aikido to write a zen-like manual on how to master ANY skill.

If you want to get good at something, or even great - don't read this book.

However, if you really want to master your craft - then you must read this book!.

The book is divided in 3 blocks:

An introduction into the most common approaches to learning a new skill: what Leonard calls the dabbler, the obsessive or the hacker.
A pointer to the solution: falling in love with "the plateau". The point of little or no progress where we spend most of our lives: practicing until you break through to the next one.


He outlines 5 key steps:

1 Instruction
-Get first rate instruction. He explains how to identify the perfect teacher.

2 Practice
-This is the path. For how long? As long as you are alive.

3 Surrender
-Learning involves certain indignities, you will not look good from the get-go. Surrendering means there are no experts, only learners.

4 Intentionality
-To avoid falling into a spineless fluffy practice, you need a clear vision of where you want to get to. The mix of pouring your soul into your vision is unsurpassed.

5 The Edge
-This is where the master distantces himself from the rest. There is tinge of craziness, of unreasonableness, of dark daring in the master's performance. It may even put his life on the line, but what matters to him is living to the fullest, not counting the years.

The last chapters is a "bag of tricks" to ease the journey of mastery. From how to increase your energy, overcome resitance to change (homeostasis), master the commonplace of daily life and even introduces his LET (Leonard Energy Training).

I recommend this book for anyone who wants to get seriously good at a certain skill.

And remember, any area of your life can fall into that category.

Do you want to master it or dabble it?
Profile Image for Scott Dinsmore.
59 reviews388 followers
July 9, 2009
Why I Read this Book: In order to be truly successful I knew I had to understand how to become a master of life and those things important to me. There’s no better place to start.


There is nothing more inspiring than pure excellence. Have you ever witnessed someone do something incredibly well? How did it make you feel? Did it ever inspire you to go out and play that sport or that instrument or tackle that activity? If you’re anything like me, I bet it did. There is a funny thing about the influence that excellence has on us. Unfortunately, I have a feeling it has something to do with how rare it is in today’s world.

Mastery is the process and approach that people dedicate themselves to in order to achieve such superb results. And just like success, the journey for mastery is never over. Have you ever listened to Tiger Woods in an interview after a victory? When they ask what’s next, his response most often is “more practice”. He is the best in the world at what he does yet he continues to push forward on the path to mastery.

George Leonard has taken this rarely practiced art and laid it out to us in a format so simple, most of us could read through it in a day or two. Throughout the book he relates his personal path to the mastery of Aikido to that of all our individual journey’s. You can certainly tell that he speaks from experience.

When it comes to mastery, it is not a question of should I master something, but instead, what should I master? So which area of your life will it be? In one way or another, every one of us is an expert at the polar opposite of mastery–dabbling. Working at something just long enough to get the hang of it but never long enough to endure the frustration and practice required to be any good, let alone, outstanding. Most of us dabble in various recreational sports, hobbies or even our career. You may think there’s nothing wrong going through life as a dabbler but chances are you’re missing out on a great deal of fulfillment when you leave mastery behind. Sometimes without knowing it, the mediocre approach to the activities in life can really weigh you down.

Leonard is not saying we should seek to be masters in everything we do, but we should choose our passions and master those. Especially if it is something that takes up the majority of your time. If we truly want to be outstanding, then there is no other choice.

What I really liked about this book is that it can be first used as an introduction to the topic of mastery but then it serves as a step by step guide to making mastery a part of your life. The instruction starts with the reasons why mastery is so rarely practiced these days and the various things people default to instead. Mastery takes extreme discipline and love for practice and improvement. This is something our society rarely has the patience for with our “get it done yesterday” attitude.

Tony Robbins had a large influence on me reading this book and looking back it reminds me of a point he always makes when it comes to mastery. To be truly outstanding and not just good or even great, the difference is just two millimeters. But it’s those two millimeters that make the world of difference. Take the tangible example of the Olympics and Michael Phelps’ performance this year. How close did he come to losing the butterfly finals? Just millimeters. And despite the fact that the others were only millimeters behind him, the victory was his and only his. That’s mastery. The discipline to take it to the absolute max–those final millimeters. Whether it’s your career, recreational sport or your family, to sincerely be outstanding, you must dedicate your life to one of mastery to experience real success.

Golf is another example. In the beginning you see improvement relatively quickly. At first you can’t even hold the club and then before you know it you can actually make contact and finish a hole. The improvement curve is incredibly steep. But then what happens? You stop getting better. Or at least it feels that way. Your score stops going down and it might even get a bit worse. Then the frustration sets in. And this is where most people call it quits. They determine they’ll never be a good golfer and decide to move on to the next dabbling activity. But for those determined to get better, they do not let the frustration set in. They know that this is a requirement to get better. To get to that next level you might be required to adjust your swing which will make you play worse in the near term but will greatly reward you if you stay dedicated to the practice in the long term. And the process continues–improvement, plateau, digression, to the next level. The only way to truly press on in the path to mastery is to love what you’re doing and love the practice. After all, experience and practice is all life really is, so you better start to enjoy it.

By now we should all know that real success does not come quickly and in fact requires the utmost dedication. Welcome to the path to mastery. There are few words out there that I’ve found to be synonymous with success. Mastery is one of them.

Leonard gives us the tools to take what interests and excites us and to apply the keys to mastery to allow us unreal success. Someone intently dedicated to success is just as strongly dedicated to mastery. The journey is endless which in turn makes the fulfillment just as eternal as we live our lives. As you read each chapter think about your mentors and heroes or the famous greats of the past. Be it Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Ben Franklin or whoever you look up to. They all had something in common. They were masters of their life’s passion and have been practicing since the beginning.

It’s fine to dabble in things here and there, but your true success and fulfillment comes from doing the absolute best you can. Mastery is the perfect guide. We all have our own mastery endeavors in our lives and I look forward to you using these tools to find and build yours and inspire others to find theirs. There’s nothing more rewarding.

Like most things in life, it all starts with humble learning and instruction. I encourage you to begin today. Enjoy the practice.

-Reading for Your Success
1 review
December 29, 2013
I was hugely disappointed with this book.
Expecting great thing with the positive reviews.

There are a few good points that i have contemplated, re-read and absorbed.

But i felt the 90% of the content was dribble. Just simply words to fill the page and expand the size of the book to 170 pages.

For example there is an 1-2 pages wasted on explanation of how house hold air-condition system works in great detail? It is then later related to human behaviour.
3 pages dribble on mastering washing the dishes?
Or how about 4pages of dribble on how to master driving the car...."check the indicators are working, Make sure tyres are inflated”????
Not what i consider valuable content for personal development.

It is in no way the same league as books like 'Think and grow rich’ or 'The Alchamist’

Now that ive finally finished this book im considering to just throw it in the bin. I dont consider it a valuable book to keep on the shelf.
Profile Image for Brett Anderson.
Author 1 book11 followers
November 11, 2013
Some key take away points:
1. Mastery, and learning in general, is a lifelong journey.
2. Success comes in spurts followed by large expanses of plateau; a practice for the enjoyment of the practice.
3. Practice (n) - something you have, something you are, something you practice on a regular basis that is an integral part of your life (pg 74) / "He does it just to enjoy himself."
4. "All of us who are born without serious genetic defects are born geniuses." (pg 12)
5. "Why do we resist our own most constructive and creative impulses and squander our best energy on busywork?" (pg 120)
6. What you already possess dwarves what anyone could ever give you; you are the culmination of amazing knowledge; "The best way to describe your total creative capacity is to say that for all practical purposes it is infinite." (pg 167)
Profile Image for Hesham Khaled.
125 reviews121 followers
March 31, 2016
"To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable
spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment,
then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them.

To love the plateau is
to love what is most essential and
enduring in your
Profile Image for Sarah Siddiqui.
68 reviews27 followers
November 19, 2014
What this book isn't: A manual on how to change your life and be the person you've always wanted to be.

What this book is: A set of rules inspired mostly by the sport of aikido to help you get started and hopefully keep you steadfast on the path of change and ultimately mastery.

The author shares advice which if followed may be quite beneficial in any field. The change however will only come from within. Volumes of text may not have any influence on a person and a single phrase might be enough to change destinies.
Profile Image for Austin.
171 reviews8 followers
March 24, 2017
I don't much go for the self-help genre, and indeed the last half of this book is plagued with a lot of vacuous lists, platitudes, and musings. However, Mr. Leonard's genuine commitment to Aikido and the years-long exposure to Zen philosophy and practice that afforded him make the first half of the book quite life-changing for the average Westerner.

Reading this book at this particular time felt like a drink of cold water in the desert for I have been thirsting after a practice that I could master. After spending years in school environments, I've been feeling a bit let down and disoriented by the lack of something to accomplish on a day to day basis in the 'real world.' But Zen teaches that any little thing can be something to master, and that mastery is a way of thought, attitude, and life. The Chinese Zen master Layman P'ang (c. 740-808 A.D.) wrote this:

"My daily affairs are quite ordinary;
but I'm in total harmony with them.
I don't hold on to anything, don't reject any-
nowhere an obstacle or conflict.
Who cares about wealth and honor?
Even the poorest thing shines.
My miraculous power and spiritual activity:
drawing water and carrying wood."

The way of mastery is NOT the way of complacency however, for it stands opposite of those who dabble, obsess, and hack away at things. Mastery demands patience, commitment, consistency, focus, peace of mind, and faith. This is good medicine.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

--[in regards to victory over communism] "The victory is real and celebration is in order. But so is some cautious self-examination, for there's perhaps no more dangerous time for any society that its moment of greatest triumph." pg. 36.

--"But recognition is often unsatisfying and fame is like seawater for the thirsty. Love of your work, willingness to stay with it even in the absence of extrinsic reward, is good food and good drink." pg. 47.

--" . . . most of life is 'in between.'" pg. 142.
Profile Image for Cav.
660 reviews90 followers
January 8, 2022
"The human individual is equipped to learn and go on learning prodigiously from birth to death, and this is precisely what sets him or her apart from all other known forms of life. Man has at various times been defined as a building animal, a working animal, and a fighting animal, but all of these definitions are incomplete and finally false. Man is a learning animal, and the essence of the species is encoded in that simple term."

Mastery was a somewhat decent read.

Author George Burr Leonard (August 9, 1923 – January 6, 2010) was an American writer, editor, and educator who wrote extensively about education and human potential. He served as President Emeritus of the Esalen Institute, past-president of the Association for Humanistic Psychology, co-founder of Integral Transformative Practice International, and an editor of Look Magazine. He was a United States Army Air Corps pilot, and held a fifth-degree black belt in aikido.

George Leonard:

This one is on the recommended reading list of Dr. Michael Gervais's Compete To Create "Finding Your Best" course, which I just finished. [As a side note; I thoroughly enjoyed the course, and would recommend it to anyone reading this review.]

The book is presented in a straightforward, no-nonsense manner. Leonard writes with an engaging style, so this one shouldn't have a problem holding the reader's attention. Its short length (~190 pages) also ensures that there is not a lot of long-winded prose here.

Leonard presents a simple plot line early on, calling it the "mastery curve." Note that the plot indicates brief periods of accelerated growth, followed by longer periods of platueing:

He mentions that he was an accomplished martial artist, and was an Aikido sensei. He says that he began to notice a few different personality types showing up at his dojo. He calls them "the Dabbler," "the Obsessive," and "the Hacker."

In a common theme that emerges over and over again in the books on mindset and mastery that I've read, Leonard mentions that the performer's mental game and visualization are of paramount importance. He writes:
"The power of the mental game came to public awareness in the 1970s through the revelations of some of the nation's most notable sports figures. Golfer Jack Nicklaus, for example, let it be known that he never hit a shot without first clearly visualizing the ball's perfect flight and its triumphant destination, "sitting up there high and white and pretty on the green." A successful shot, Nicklaus told us, was 50 percent visualization, 40 percent setup, and only 10 percent swing. Premiere pro runningbacks described imaging each of their plays again and again the night before a game; they felt that their success on the field the next day was closely related to the vividness of their mental practice. Body builders and weightlifters testified to the value of intentionality.
Arnold Schwarzenneger argued that pumping a weight one time with full consciousness was worth ten without mental awareness..."

Leonard talks about looking foolish, and making mistakes in this quote:
"It's possible that one of the reasons you got on the path of mastery was to look good.
But to learn something new of any significance, you have to be willing to look foolish. Even after years of practice, you still take pratfalls. When a Most Valuable Player candidate misjudges a ball and falls on his duff, he does it in the sight of millions. You should be willing to do it before your teacher and a few friends or fellow students. If you're always thinking about appearances, you can never attain the state of concentration that's necessary for effective learning and top performance..."

And perfectionism, in this one:
"In a way, it's a pity that technology has brought so many masterful performances into our homes... And on television we can watch top athletes, dancers, ice skaters, singers, actors, comics, and pundits, all giving us their best. Compared to this, how can we even talk about mastery? Then there are those of us who are simply self-critical. Even without comparing ourselves to the world's greatest, we set such high standards for ourselves that neither we nor anyone else could ever meet them—and nothing is more destructive to creativity than this. We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It's about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives."

Finally, Leonard drops this excellent quote, right near the end of the book:
"You are the culmination of an extravagant evolutionary journey. Your DNA contains more information than all of the libraries in the world; information that goes back to the beginnings of life itself. In potentia, you are the most formidable all-around athlete who has ever roamed this planet.
Many creatures possess more highly specialized sense organs, but no total sensorium is so well equipped and integrated as is yours. (The unaided human eye can detect a single quantum of light—the smallest amount possible—and discern more than ten million colors.) Your brain is the most complex entity in the known universe; its billions of twinkling neurons interact in ways so multitudinous and multifarious as to dwarf the capacity of any computer ever yet devised or even imagined. The best way to describe your total creative capacity is to say that for all practical purposes it is infinite.
Whatever your age, your upbringing, or your education, what you are made of is mostly unused potential. It is your evolutionary destiny to use what is unused, to learn and keep on learning for as long as you live. To choose this destiny, to walk the path of mastery, isn't always easy, but it is the ultimate human adventure. Destinations will appear in the distance, will be achieved and left behind, and still the path will continue. It will never end.
How to begin the journey? You need only to take the first step. When? There's always now."


While there was nothing really wrong with Mastery, per se, I did not enjoy it as much as many of the other books on mastery and mindset that I have read recently.
Some good info here, still, and it was not a long read.
3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Frank.
327 reviews73 followers
August 3, 2018
Very well written. His sentences do not read like the simple, short, insignificant sentences common to many "self-help" books. He has an elegant writing style, like that of one accustomed to long periods of silence and thinking. The book is structured well, first telling you what Mastery is, then describing the tools needed to achieve it, and then describing the hindrances to achieving it. The final chapter is a checklist of everything covered in the book.

True, some elements of the book will seem obvious (find a good teacher) or already be known to you--I'm thinking of how he describes Mastery as the journey and not the goal--but it's good to have all this info in one place, like a brief book, to act as a reference. It influenced my decision to get a qualified Mandarin teacher.

Profile Image for Chung Chin.
107 reviews7 followers
January 17, 2012
Although on the whole, I agree with the message of the book, I didn't really enjoy reading it.
Perhaps it was due to the writing style, which seems a little dull to me, and hence, did not kept my attention and had me flipping the pages for more.

Profile Image for Tomás Atilano.
64 reviews4 followers
May 29, 2020
Rendirse al proceso, al esfuerzo diario, al plateau, a los momentos en los que pareciera no estamos progresando. Esa es la clave de los maestros.

Leonard también explica majestuosamente lo siguiente: vivamos en el ahora, en lo que podemos hacer hoy, en aquello que podamos controlar, ahí vamos a disfrutar los frutos de nuestro éxito. No trabajemos por una meta, por un día, por el dinero, si lo hacemos con esta mentalidad nos vamos a decepcionar cuando lleguemos ahí.

¿Por qué? Porque ese momento es efímero, mientras que todo el camino que recorriste para llegar ahí es eterno.

¿Qué tienen en común los maestros? Aman la práctica, se rinden a sus profesores y no se conforman con entrenar o practicar todos los días.

En este camino no hay expertos, solo hay aprendices.

¿Qué debemos tener en nuestro bolso para tomar este camino?

-Mantener siempre nuestra condición física.
-Reconocer lo negativo y maximizar lo positivo.
-Decir siempre la verdad.
-Reconocer nuestro lado oscuro.
-Fijar prioridades.
-Tomar compromisos y accionar.

Disfrutemos el camino. No - hay - otra
Profile Image for Dide.
1,226 reviews38 followers
May 27, 2022
Giving this 4stars now because a lot of the guidance here genuinely needs to be practiced to establish legitimacy of application.
Since I read this more for knowledge than for practice, I hope to reread this soon with application in mind and will review my ratings then.
On the whole, the book was a short read for me but while not dramatically avant-garde on its philosophy, it surely put my mind into states of agreement and curiosity/interest.
Profile Image for Jeremy Anderberg.
445 reviews58 followers
June 15, 2022
Quick, satisfying read about the idea of "mastery." As I approach middle-aged, it's an idea that appeals to me more and more. Almost more than the how-to, I appreciated Leonard's near-poetic descriptions of how fulfilling mastery is. Definitely worth a read — especially since it can be read in just an afternoon!
Profile Image for Peter.
9 reviews5 followers
February 26, 2012
This was a great read: lucidly written and very insightful. I finished the book in two afternoons, and I am by no means a fast reader.

Leonard's insights about mastery may be simple, and we may "already know" many of them, but how many of us have internalized them? This book will be, at most, a powerful revelation. At the very least it will be a helpful reminder and positive reinforcement. Either way it is valuable to the reader.

One of the key themes in this book is the idea that learning happens in a series of spurts, which are separated by long periods of apparent stagnation ("plateaus"). Mastery requires us to change the way we approach these periods - which we usually think of as unimportant "in-between" time. Leonard gives advice on how to embrace these plateaus, and identifies the many impediments that prevent us from persevering.

"Mastery" is great for reorienting your perspective on success and what it requires of you. I especially enjoyed the chapter called "America's War on Mastery," where Leonard astutely identifies how American popular culture reinforces a pattern of failure and devalues the elements needed for mastery.

Leonard does include some helpful exercises for balance and centering, but overall, this book is about adjusting your mindset and not about making lists or following steps. If you want a book about finishing tasks, this isn't it. This book can, however, help you develop a mindset that will make you more successful at what you aim to accomplish.

This is definitely a book that I will revisit in the future for guidance.
Profile Image for Ahmed Khattab.
26 reviews1 follower
February 14, 2022
This was a tremendous book.

The author starts by introducing the key elements of Mastery to the reader. He emphasises the fact that the journey to mastery has a start, but it is never ending. For to become a lifelong learner means you need to stay on the path.

The writer also suggests that we enjoy the plateau, the "straight line" in the journey where nothing seems to be improving, or de-improving. The plateau, the writer concludes is the most important part of the master's journey. Learning to embrace and anticipate the plateau in the journey, and feeling excited and looking at the plateau as a chance to learn while we wait for our next spurt of improvement, and waiting on the plateau again, and again.

I really liked the idea of linking commonplace everyday chores with the master's journey. The master, looks at everything as a chance for practice. The whole journey of mastery is practice. In the "master"'s point of view, practice is a never ending journey in itself.

"Destinations will appear in the distance, will be achieved and left behind, and still the path will continue. It will never end.”
Profile Image for Nick.
Author 21 books102 followers
April 22, 2015
A teacher. Practice. Surrender. Intentionality. The edge. These five ideas contain a huge amount of wisdom about how to master anything new, or hard, or interesting. Leonard's Mastery has application in most areas of life and is useful well beyond martial arts.
Profile Image for Loredana.
2 reviews1 follower
May 20, 2020
I enjoyed reading it. Definitely a book to recommend. I realized how important a daily routine can be in your learning process.
Profile Image for Omar Taufik.
223 reviews10 followers
January 16, 2016
I can simply say this book was a great read and a definate recommendation to anyone.

The author defining mastery as a journey takes us in a journey within his book explaining the 5 keys of mastery in part 2 the actual essence of the book after giving an interesting part 1 on the concept in general describing how other paths contrary to mastery are followed with their negative impact on the individual and society as a whole.
In part 3 the author give us tools to use in this journey with many interesting examples and details.
The book was inspiring in general inspiring in it's details full of insight.

I managed to collect some interesting quotes during my reading which I would like to share with you all below :

"The quick-fix, fast-temporaryrelief, bottom-line mentality doesn't work in the long run, and is eventually destructive to the individual and the society. If there is any sure route to success and fulfillment in life, it is to be found in the longterm, essentially goalless process of mastery."
George Leonard, Mastery, The Introduction.

" Still, you learned an essential skill. What's more important, you learned about learning. You started with something difficult and made it easy and pleasurable through instruction and practice. You took a master's journey."
George Leonard, Mastery p.4

" Our current society works in many ways to lead us astray, but the path of mastery is always there, waiting for us. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.4

" It brings rich rewards, yet is not really a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey. We call this journey mastery, and tend to assume that it requires a special ticket available only to those born with exceptional abilities. But mastery isn't reserved for the supertalented or even for those who are fortunate enough to have gotten an early start. It's available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it—regardless of age, sex, or previous experience."
George Leonard, Mastery p.5

" The master's journey can begin whenever you decide to learn any new skill "
George Leonard, Mastery p.6

"This question, this moment of choice, comes up countless times in each of our lives, not just about tennis or some other sport, but about everything that has to do with learning, development, change. Sometimes we choose after careful deliberation, but frequently the choice is careless—a barely conscious one. Seduced by the siren song of a consumerist, quick-fix society, we sometimes choose a course of action that brings only the illusion of accomplishment, the shadow of satisfaction. And sometimes, knowing little or nothing about the process that leads to mastery, we don't even realize a choice is being offered. Yet even our failures to choose consciously operate as choices, adding to or subtracting from the amount of our potential that we will eventually realize."
George Leonard, Mastery p.11

" The evidence is clear: all of us who are born without serious genetic defects are born geniuses. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.12

" But genius, no matter how bright, will come to naught or swiftly burn out if you don't choose the master's journey. This journey will take you along a path that is both arduous and exhilarating. It will bring you unexpected heartaches and unexpected rewards, and you will never reach a final destination. (It would be a paltry skill indeed that could be finally, completely mastered.) You'll probably end up learning as much about yourself as about the skill you're pursuing."
George Leonard, Mastery p.14

" Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it "
George Leonard, Mastery p.14

" To take the master's journey, you have to practice diligently, striving to hone your skills, to attain new levels of competence. But while doing so—and this is the inexorable fact of the journey—you also have to be willing to spend most of your time on a plateau, to keep practicing even when you seem to be getting nowhere "
George Leonard, Mastery p.15

" How do you best move toward mastery? To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself. Rather than being frustrated while on the plateau, you learn to appreciate and enjoy it just as much as you do the upward surges."
George Leonard, Mastery p.17

" In the long run, the war against mastery, the path of patient, dedicated effort without attachment to immediate results, is a war that can't be won."
George Leonard, Mastery p.37

" Contingencies, no question about it, are important. The achievement of goals is important. But the real juice of life, whether it be sweet or bitter, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how it feels to be alive. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.39

" The question remains: Where in our upbringing, our schooling, our career are we explicitly taught to value, to enjoy, even to love the plateau, the long stretch of diligent effort with no seeming progress?"
George Leonard, Mastery p.40

" Goals and contingencies, as I've said, are important. But they exist in the future and the past, beyond the pale of the sensory realm. Practice, the path of mastery, exists only in the present. You can see it, hear it, smell it, feel it. To love the plateau is to love the eternal now, to enjoy the inevitable spurts of progress and the fruits of accomplishment, then serenely to accept the new plateau that waits just beyond them. To love the plateau is to love what is most essential and enduring in your life. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.48-49

" We all participate in a master's journey in early childhood when we learn to talk or to walk. Every adult or older child around us is a teacher of language—the type of teacher who smiles at success, permits approximations, and isn 't likely to indulge in lectures (i.e., the best type)."
George Leonard, Mastery p.53-54

" Knowledge, expertise, technical skill, and credentials are important, but without the patience and empathy that go with teaching beginners, these merits are as nothing."
George Leonard, Mastery p.58

" So when you look for your instructor, in whatever skill or art, spend a moment celebrating it when you discover one who pursues maximum performance. But also make sure that he or she is paying exquisite attention to the slowest student on the mat."
George Leonard, Mastery p.68

" If a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, then perhaps a moving picture is worth 10,000 words. But it's also true that one good paragraph sometimes has more power to change the individual and the world than any number of pictures."
George Leonard, Mastery p.69

" But teachers as well as students can be lazy, excessively goal oriented, indifferent, psychologically seductive, or just plain inept. It's important to keep the proper psychological distance. If you're too far removed, there's no chance for the surrender that's part of the master's journey (see Chapter Seven); if you come too close, you lose all perspective and become a disciple rather than a student. The responsibility for good balance lies with student as well as teacher."
George Leonard, Mastery p.71

" For one who is on the master's journey, however, the word is best conceived of as a noun, not as something you do, but as something you have, something you are. In this sense, the word is akin to the Chinese word tao and the Japanese word do, both of which mean, literally, road or path. Practice is the path upon which you travel, just that. A practice (as a noun) can be anything you practice on a regular basis as an integral part of your life—not in order to gain something else, but for its own sake."
George Leonard, Mastery p.74

" The people we know as masters don't devote themselves to their particular skill just to get better at it. The truth is, they love to practice—and because of this they do get better. And then, to complete the circle, the better they get the more they enjoy performing the basic moves over and over again."
George Leonard, Mastery p.75

" To practice regularly, even when you seem to be getting nowhere, might at first seem onerous. But the day eventually comes when practicing becomes a treasured part of your life. You settle into it as if into your favorite easy chair, unaware of time and the turbulence of the world. It will still be there for you tomorrow. It will never go away."
George Leonard, Mastery p.79

" But that's not really the point. What is mastery? At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path."
George Leonard, Mastery p.80

" The courage of a master is measured by his or her willingness to surrender. This means surrendering to your teacher and to the demands of your discipline. It also means surrendering your own hard-won proficiency from time to time in order to reach a higher or different level of proficiency. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.81

" Actually, the essence of boredom is to be found in the obsessive search for novelty. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes."
George Leonard, Mastery p.83

" There are times in almost every master's journey when it becomes necessary to give up some hard-won competence in order to advance to the next stage. This is especially true when you're stuck at a familiar and comfortable skill level."
George Leonard, Mastery p.84

" Perhaps the best you can hope for on the master's journey—whether your art be management or marriage, badminton or ballet—is to cultivate the mind and heart of the beginning at every stage along the way. For the master, surrender means there are no experts. There are only learners."
George Leonard, Mastery p.88

" What's the role of intentionality here? It's certainly involved in the creation of the structure-as-idea. It's also involved in the transformation of that structure from one of its forms to another. This sort of transformation, in fact, is what the process of mastery is all about. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.96

" Intentionality fuels the master's journey. Every master is a master of vision."
George Leonard, Mastery p.96

" Playing the edge is a balancing act. It demands the awareness to know when you're pushing yourself beyond safe limits. In this awareness, the man or woman on the path of mastery sometimes makes a conscious decision to do just that. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.99

" But before you can even consider playing this edge, there must be many years of instruction, practice, surrender, and intentionality. And afterwards? More training, more time on the plateau: the neverending path again."
George Leonard, Mastery p.101

"This condition of equilibrium, this resistance to change, is called homeostasis. It characterizes all self-regulating systems, from a bacterium to a frog to a human individual to a family to an organization to an entire culture—and it applies to psychological states and behavior as well as to physical functioning."
George Leonard, Mastery p.108

" Although we might think that our culture is mad for the new, the predominant function of all this—as with the feedback loops in your body—is the survival of things as they are."
George Leonard, Mastery p.110

" The problem is, homeostasis works to keep things as they are even if they aren't very good."
George Leonard, Mastery p.110

" Homeostasis, remember, doesn't distinguish between what you would call change for the better and change for the worse. It resists all change. "
George Leonard, Mastery p.111

" But none of this is meant to condemn homeostasis. We want our minds and bodies and organizations to hold together. We want that paycheck to arrive on schedule. In order to survive, we need stability. Still, change does occur. Individuals change. Families change. Organizations and entire cultures change. Homeostats are reset, even though the process might cause a certain amount of anxiety, pain, and upset."
George Leonard, Mastery p.112

" Bear in mind that an entire system has to change when any part of it changes."
George Leonard, Mastery p.114

"The fine art of playing the edge in this case involves a willingness to take one step back for every two forward, sometimes vice versa. It also demands a determination to keep pushing, but not without awareness. Simply turning off your awareness to the warnings deprives you of guidance and risks damaging the system. Simply pushing your way through despite the warning signals increases the possibility of backsliding."
George Leonard, Mastery p.115

" To learn is to change. Education, whether it involves books, body, or behavior, is a process that changes the learner."
George Leonard, Mastery p.118

" A human being is the kind of machine that wears out from lack of use. There are limits, of course, and we do need healthful rest and relaxation, but for the most part we gain energy by using energy. Often the best remedy for physical weariness is thirty minutes of aerobic exercise. In the same way, mental and spiritual lassitude is often cured by decisive action or the clear intention to act."
George Leonard, Mastery p.120

" Optimism gets regularly trashed by intellectuals as well as by self-proclaimed "tough-minded" journalists and commentators, but numerous studies show that people with a positive outlook on life suffer far less sickness than those who see the world in negative terms. They also have more energy."
George Leonard, Mastery p.124

" Generally, denial inhibits energy, while realistic acknowledgment of the truth releases it. Even serious blows in life can give you extra energy by knocking you off dead center, shaking you out of your lethargy—but not if you deny the blows are real. Acknowledging the negative doesn't mean sniveling; it means facing the truth and then moving on. Simply describing what's wrong with your life to a good friend is likely to make you feel better and more energetic. Once you've dealt with the negative, you're free to concentrate on the best in yourself."
George Leonard, Mastery p.125

" We'll enjoy a much more energetic world when society stops forcing us to put so much of ourselves into that invisible bag. Until then, we can note that the prodigies of energy whom we admire are precisely those people who know how to utilize the blazing energy that flows from that which has been called dark."
George Leonard, Mastery p.128

" Priorities do shift, and you can change them at any time, but simply getting them down in black and white adds clarity to your life, and clarity creates energy."
George Leonard, Mastery p.129

" It might well be, in fact, that much of the world's depression and discontent, and perhaps even a good share of the pervasive malaise that leads to crime and war, can ultimately be traced to our unused energy, our untapped potential. People whose energy is flowing don't need to take a drug, commit a crime, or go to war in order to feel fully awake and alive. There's enough constructive, creative work for everybody, with plenty left over. All of us can increase our energy, starting now."
George Leonard, Mastery p.131

"The point is, when things aren't going well on your path of mastery, don't forget to check out the rest of your life. Then consider the possibility that the rest of your life can be lived in terms of mastery principles."
George Leonard, Mastery p.134

"Perhaps we'll never know how far the path can go, how much a human being can truly achieve, until we realize that the ultimate reward is not a gold medal but the path itself."
George Leonard, Mastery p.138

"We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It's about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives."
George Leonard, Mastery p.140

" Ultimately, nothing in this life is "commonplace," nothing is "in between." The threads that join your every act, your every thought, are infinite. All paths of mastery eventually merge."
George Leonard, Mastery p.150

"Just think what kind of world it would be if we all realized that we could be powerful in everything we do without being tense and rigid."
George Leonard, Mastery p.166

"Whatever your age, your upbringing, or your education, what you are made of is mostly unused potential. It is your evolutionary destiny to use what is unused, to learn and keep on learning for as long as you live. To choose this destiny, to walk the path of mastery, isn't always easy, but it is the ultimate human adventure. Destinations will appear in the distance, will be achieved and left behind, and still the path will continue. It will never end. How to begin the journey? You need only to take the first step. When? There's always now."
George Leonard, Mastery p.167-168

"In the master's secret mirror, even at the moment of highest renown and accomplishment, there is an image of the newest student in class, eager for knowledge, willing to play the fool."
George Leonard, Mastery p.176
Profile Image for Roland Tolnay.
17 reviews
November 15, 2020
Inevitably as we grow up, we develop an idea, an image in our head about how the world works.
About how relationships work, how learning and progress work, how success looks like.
There are many factors shaping this image. Our upbringing, our schooling system, what we see on TV (like commercials or movies), and social media all play a role in it.

The result of this is that we form certain expectations about how "life should be".
We expect certain outcomes from our actions. And if these outcomes do not live up to the image in our heads, we become disappointed. Disappointed in others, or even worse, disappointed in ourselves.
We start to think there is something wrong with us. That we are different than all the other people who managed to succeed. That this just isn't our thing.
And we move on, without ever discovering our true potential.

The most important aspect of the mainstream image we are being exposed to, is to understand where it's coming from.
Our family wants to protect us. Commercials want to sell us something. Movies want to entertain us. People on social media only share their brief highlights.
None of these are intended to accurately portray how things truly work, how "life is".

Luckily there are books out there which intend to do exactly this.
George Leonard's Mastery is one of those books.

Despite it's concise length, it can help you rewire the way you look at progress.
It explains the nature of change, and sets your expectations straight in case you plan on becoming proficient in any area of life. Be it sports, playing an instrument, advancing your career or even improving your relationships.

Progress is not linear.
Apparently stagnating for longer periods of time is normal and should be embraced as part of a larger picture.
Learn to love the small things, the everyday process, the practice as he calls it.

I am grateful I was recommended this book.
Surely I will come back to it periodically, as a way of grounding myself whenever I feel discouraged or when in need of a reality check.

Profile Image for Daniel.
609 reviews8 followers
April 22, 2018
Well this was just the perfect thing to read at the perfect time for me. The author, who wrote Way of Aikido, really digs into much more of why he became and does what he does, but that's a sideline in this book. This explains what you should do to achieve a level of learning that promotes mastery. The book outlines ways to think and processes and rules to delve into new things or to polish up old things and get back into them with dedication. What this book does is strip away notions and barriers to learning, if you do it like this says. I learned a lot reading this and for a older guy, I have always prided myself on keeping myself learning, and my child like lust for new things and learning experiences has always been something I enjoy. In the closing pages of this book it sums all of this up very easily. To learn you must be a fool. Not a stupid, idiotic person, but a fool as in a a court jester. Be unafraid of how it looks when you do something new. Enjoy it, laugh and learn and never mind the views or opinions of others. Lots to take home in this book and I am better for reading it!

Profile Image for Ben Rogers.
2,317 reviews144 followers
January 26, 2023
Master Of Deliberate Practice

If you're looking to master your craft and become a lifelong learner, 'Mastery' is a must-read.

This book delves deep into the concept of deliberate practice and offers practical insights and strategies to optimize your learning and achieve mastery.

The author's writing style is engaging and easy to understand, making it a pleasure to read. I found myself highlighting and taking notes on many of the key takeaways, as I felt it was packed with valuable information and insights.

I am a big proponent of continual learning, and this book reinforced my belief in the importance of embracing lifelong learning and mastering one's studies.

I highly recommend this book to anyone looking to take their skills to the next level.

Profile Image for Alan Bevan.
198 reviews6 followers
January 26, 2018
On the one hand this says nothing particularly surprising but on the other hand, it says much that matters. Its a short book, worth returning to when one feels the need for focus and personal direction. I love the notion of mastery, even though the reality is, as Leonard points out, one spends life working towards it rather than arriving. Nevertheless, it is useful to be clear about what one is working towards...
Profile Image for Nguyen Huu Anh Vu.
121 reviews7 followers
February 17, 2018
The author draws strong example from his days of teaching in military and Aikido.
His writing is clear, concise and on point. Reading the book make me realize how much I have been wasted in this "modern" society.

- Instruction. Find a good mentor
- Practice. Needless to say
- Surrender. Willing to give up what you have learnt to learn new things.
- Intention. Mastery cannot be achieved with half-hearted measure
- Edge: Know your limit
Profile Image for Franklyn Gonzalez.
Author 1 book4 followers
January 30, 2019
A small piece of insight on zen and mastery. Master a skill. Go out there a create a morning routine you dedicate to, every single day. How much entertainment, advertisements, influences our reach on mastering a skill is right! We, including me at times, have the tendency to look for that quick fix and not spend X amount of time on mastering that skill.

All you really need to focus, obsession, and help from a teacher to help you get where you want to be.
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