Mastery by George Leonard

Mastery by George Leonard
Mastery by George Leonard

For the master, surrender means there are no experts. There are only learners.

To be a learner, you have to be willing to be a fool.

Are you willing to wear your white belt?

What is mastery? And how does one become a master at their craft? This is the question tackled by George Leonard’s book Mastery.

Leonard talks about learning curve and how it’s not really a curve at all. It’s a spurt of progress followed by long plateaus – periods of time where you don’t feel like you’re improving at all – followed by a sudden spurt of improvement. The cycle repeats on and on.

Super duper quick summary:

In order to become a master, you need to understand the plateau is part of the process. Continue to practice diligently at your craft anyway. You need good instructors who can give you feedback and guide you on your journey. You need to show up and practice consistently. You need humility. You need the courage to look like a fool when you’re learning. You need to push yourself to the edge. The joy of mastery doesn’t come in the moments of glory and acclaim – it comes from practicing the craft itself. The path to mastery never ends.

Here’s what I liked:

  • I liked the message of the book. I was already sold on it because I’ve found this the only way that works.
  • I liked how he covered the keys to mastery. I also liked that he talked about the pitfalls, the tools to achieve mastery, and how to maintain energy to work towards mastery.
  • I liked how he emphasized the need to move beyond instant gratification. Mastery isn’t just about the glorious moment where you win the championship or win that Oscar. More importantly, it’s about enjoying practicing the craft itself.
  • I liked how he talked about the three characters who don’t achieve mastery – the dabbler, the obsessive, and hacker. He talked about the traps these characters fall into.

Here’s what I didn’t like: 

  • I found myself going, “Uh-huh, yeah, I agree, I know.” There weren’t any new insights or thoughts stirred. At least, for me, personally.
  • Even though this book is a short and sweet read, I felt like a blog post could have served to deliver the same message.
  • The book is dated and you can tell.

You should read it if:

  • You think that life consists of people who “either have it or they don’t.” If you’re constantly asking yourself if you have what it takes, you should read this book. It’ll help you move from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.
  • You feel mediocre in everything that you do. You want to get really freaking good at something – but just haven’t figured out how to do it.
  • You feel stuck in your craft and need to figure out how to get unstuck.
  • You’re into self development and self improvement.

You shouldn’t read it if:

Honestly, this is a book that’ll benefit everyone. Just read it.

If you don’t know the concepts in this book, they’ll blow your mind. If you do know the concepts, it’ll be a good refresher.

Final Thoughts:

I needed this reminder. Thanks George Leonard, RIP.

Finals verdict: 3.5 out 5 stars, recommended.