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Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  7,664 ratings  ·  517 reviews
"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 s
Paperback, 176 pages
Published February 1st 1992 by Plume (first published February 1st 1991)
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Matthew Horvat
Sep 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 cha
Miroku Nemeth
Mar 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Meghan Hughes
Jul 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Miguel Mayher
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Video review:

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,
Scott Dinsmore
Jul 09, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Kirtida Gautam
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chakra-3
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.
Brett Anderson
Nov 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 c
Nov 29, 2012 rated it did not like it
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 dishe
Hesham Khaled
Mar 20, 2016 rated it really liked 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
Mar 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 mast
Sarah Siddiqui
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: self-help
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
Chung Chin
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
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.

Aug 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 see
David Dvali
Jun 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Great. Must read book for everyone
Feb 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Omar Taufik
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-challenge
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 intere
Roland Tolnay
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: home-collection
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
Apr 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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 barrie ...more
Alan Bevan
Jan 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
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...
Nguyen Huu Anh Vu
Feb 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: _favorites, self-help
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
Franklyn Gonzalez
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.
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
My knight gave me this slender paperback when I started my journey as a heavy weapons fighter in the SCA. It is an excellent book full of wisdom I have applied not just to martial arts, but to writing, sewing, computer programming. It's about how to pursue a skill, what it takes to achieve mastery.
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is a quick read gem and brings to home what mastery is about and what it's not. There are no shortcuts in the journey in mastery, nor there are magic pills or secret techniques. The journey towards mastery is never ending and the "master" carries on doing the same thing. In addition to loving the process, the mastery seeker must embrace the plateau and must not delude himself or herself of the expectation of a climax after another (sadly this utterly misguided perception is dominant in ...more
Alexander Rivas
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books-read
The @booksoftitans podcast did an episode on this book and I found it interesting. This book has nothing new I haven't heard before but it is a refresher to read about some of the foundational principles of mastery that still are applied today. It is a quick read that will strength most of your beliefs and knowledge on mastery. ...more
Temo Tchanukvadze
May 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"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"
Laura Leaney
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
Practice. Enjoy the process.
Lois Keller
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
A mix of good advice and overly rigid advice. I liked what he said about the learning plateaus.
Darshani Workman
Oct 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A concise book with advice and practical guidance on how to make incremental changes to one's life. Much to be benefitted from when applied liberally :) ...more
Axmed Bahjad
Awesome book.

Read it please.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full of advice about learning, this book provides readers the philosophy of mastery. Great insights as well as stories were given to reinforce the unhurried nature of mastering a specific domain of knowledge, skills or competencies compared to the present goal oriented learning.
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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 bla ...more

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What will you do when it's your turn to pick your book club's next read? Well, this is what you won't do: panic. Why not? Because we've dug...
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“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.” 35 likes
“To be a learner, you've got to be willing to be a fool.” 16 likes
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