Mastery by George Leonard — Summary

Learn what characteristics are necessary to achieve mastery

What exactly is mastery? Many may think it is being good at something but is focusing on that really helpful? It turns out that to master mastery we first have to rethink our motivations.

For example, if you want to learn a new skill, do you want it to receive recognition from others? Because that motivation will only get you up to a point. After you’ve beaten a few friends and the gratification that comes with it the motivation may not be enough to keep you improving and may even keep you at your current level. To explain why let’s look at an example.

You’ve learned a new skill that’s sufficient to beat a few opponents and earn a bit of recognition. To further expand your skill you’d have to compete against more challenging opponents, but the idea seems daunting to you as you fear you won’t look as good while playing. You see the problem, a true master develops her talents by pushing forward for the sake of it rather than chasing praise from other people.

Furthermore, your approach to learning should be to accept that it’ll take time, patience and perseverance to become good at something. You should see learning, not as a necessary chore to get to your goals but as an ongoing journey.

By shifting your mindset you’ll enjoy the process and be on your way to true mastery. Watch out, however. Our society markets quick fixes everywhere and they are not exactly compatible with the mastery mindset.

Quick fixes are the opposite of mastery

We get bombarded by daily marketing about magical solutions, as a consequence, many people are misled and think that they always have to get quick results or otherwise it doesn’t work. Developing the mastery mindset is not letting fads steal the focus on what really matters.

Getting rid of  your pride

To truly be able to learn, you have to learn to leave your pride at home. If you complain and discuss with your teacher when he sometimes asks you to do something you don’t fully understand yet or you think you look ridiculous, you won’t be able to become a good student.

Surround yourself with other masters

Sometimes you will bump into a hard obstacle on your learning journey. Being surrounded by other masters who’ve already had the same challenge will help you go through it faster and easier. They’ll understand what’s going on, offer advice and push you to overcome the problem.

Key message: Commit yourself to a lifelong learning. Fall in love with the practice and the results will follow automatically. Cultivate the beginner’s mind for optimal learning.

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Also published on Medium.