Sunday, July 31, 2011

Book Review: "Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long Term Fulfillment", by George Leonard

Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard (New York, NY: Plume, 1992), 176 Pages, 3 Parts, 14 Chapters with Introductions, Acknowledgments and Epilogue.

"To be a learner, you've got to be willing to be a fool. [T]he carefree fool . . . who bears the awesome number zero, signifying the fertile void from which all creation springs."
George Leonard, Page 172-173
Epilogue (The Master and the Fool)

In this short yet focused book, George Leonard outlines the roadmap common to success in any human endeavor - what he calls "mastery". Leonard is a martial arts master, Zen philosopher and author of the highly-praised book, The Way of Aikido.

In Mastery, Leonard defines "mastery" as a process and a journey which brings rich rewards. And he argues passionately and convincingly, I believe, for what makes for "mastery".

What are the elements of "mastery"?

*Instruction or Coaching - Valuable and supportive feedback
*Practice, Practice, Practice - "Perfect practice makes perfect"
*Surrendering to Your Passion - Finding purpose and power from your passion
*Intentionality or Vision -
Your mind's eye creates what you seek
*Playing the Edge -
Pushing your own limits

Leonard goes on to elaborate on each of these elements, and examines how they have applied to many who have excelled from Larry Bird to Arnold Schwarzenneger to Chuck Yeager. Along the way, he describes personality types who fail to achieve mastery, such as the Hacker, the Dabbler and the Obsessive.

He talks about tools to help with mastery such as physical fitness, setting priorities and "learning to love" any plateau in your progress. He discusses pitfalls to mastery such as laziness, vanity and over-competitiveness.

In a fascinating discussion, he explains how being balanced and centered in your body, and developing relaxed power, is similar to developing chi in the martial arts - and is vital to achieving mastery.

Mastery is a wonderful exploration into what makes for human excellence in any endeavor. And it offers valuable and cogent insights for all those who seek to elevate their performance in whatever they do.


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