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Mastery: Self-help for Non-dummies

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This well-organized manual on long-term success begins with a definition of mastery — perhaps more a state of mind and being than a laundry list of accomplishments on your resume.

George Leonard’s message in this book is that mastery is as much a way of doing things as what you actually do. He criticizes the quick-fix mentality of our society as a way of living that ultimately destroys its foundation. His concept of mastery invokes the idea of loving what you do to the extent you are willing to love the process of doing it as much as you enjoy the external fruits of the activity.

His antidote to the quick-fix is to throw off the concept that life is supposed to be a series of endless climaxes, moving from one victory to another, and instead to learn to love what he calls ‘the plateau.’

No matter what endeavours you’ve committed yourself to, Leonard says the path of real learning occurs in a gentle upward arc — the graph in the book looks like a slowly rising mountainscape instead of a radical stock market chart of bounding peaks and valleys.

Though it was written before the great stock market hoaxes of the mid- and late-90s, Leonard points out that the desire for unrealistic growth may create short-term miracles but almost always leads to long-term disasters. The evidence of the last three years makes this book all the more wise.

One of the most interesting of his five mastery ‘keys’ is the idea of practice. Not practice as a verb, as in “I’m going to practice the piano,” but practice as a noun, as in ‘a doctor’s practice.’ The difference is how close each is to your heart. As a verb, it’s something you do; as a noun, it is something you have.

To ‘have a practice’ in Leonard’s framework is to make your chosen actiivty an integral part of your life versus something you do in order to make money or impress others.

As a result, having a practice, whether it be playing chess or working as a stone mason ensures that you will stay committed to it longer, approach it with more intention, and perhaps, even achieve greater results than simply playing a game or going to your job.

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About Frank Giovinazzi

  • nabu

    In the book MASTERY…, does the author ever say?:

    – Great masters have great masters.

    Thank you.