Notes on “Mastery” by George Leonard

I. Part 1-The master’s Journey

a. Chapter 1-What is mastery?

i. Mastery is a journey/process, NOT a goal or destination
ii. Modern Society tends to conspire against mastery by leading others to believe in the idea of instant gratification
iii. Most time spent at your skill level is spent on a plateau where you do not improve and are often frustrated. Afterwards you will improve a lot then get a little worse and return to another plateau. Only this plateau is an improvement to your previous plateau
iv. In order to be a master you must practice for the sake of practicing itself

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b. Chapter 2-The dabbler, The obsessive and the hacker

i. The dabbler tries many things, gets improvement, plateaus and gets bored then tries something new
ii. The obsessive is purely result oriented. They are inc

onsistent and when they hit a plateau they quit because their results aren’t increasing linearly
iii. The hacker is content where he’s at. He gets good then doesn’t care to continue improving.
iv. There is nothing wrong with being the dabbler, the obsessive, or the hacker. Everyone is sometimes all of them. But if you want to become a master at a certain skill. You must stay on the path of mastery.

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c. Chapter 3- America’s War against Mastery

i. Marketing and culture tend to communicate quick fixes and instant gratification. It communicates learning being linear or instantaneous. Which is not reality

d. Chapter 4- Loving the Plateau

i. Find joy in regular practice
1. Practice for the sake of practice itself, NOT for reaching a certain level

II. Part 2- Five Mastery Keys

a. Chapter 5- Key 1: Instruction

i. The good thing about no instruction is you have literally unlimited potential in the idea that there is no instructor to tell you something will not work
ii. The bad thing about no instruction is it can take much longer to learn and you will not have anyone to help you along the way
iii. The instructor credentials are extremely important but you should also look at how they work with students of different levels. Would a coach for a world champion boxer be the best at accelerating the learning curve of a beginner?
iv. A good instructor will point out both the good and the bad of what the student is doing
v. Do not follow a guru, instead allow yourself to be taught by a teacher
vi. Understand teachers are not perfect. Know the difference between a master and a master of teaching.
vii. Know when it is time to say good bye to a teacher

b. Chapter 6-Key 2: Practice

i. Practice is NOT something you do. It says something you HAVE, and something you ARE.
ii. For a master, the rewards are fine, but not the purpose of the journey.
iii. Love to practice.
iv. Mastery is practice, and staying on the path.

c. Chapter 7-Key 3: Surrender

i. Surrender to your teacher and the demands of your discipline
ii. Be willing to look like a fool
iii. Satisfaction lies in mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes
iv. There are times when it is necessary to give up hard-won competency in order to advance to the next stage. This is especially true when you are stuck at a familiar and comfortable skill level.

d. Chapter 8- Key 4: Intentionality

i. Visualizations
ii. Thoughts, images and feelings play into your success

e. Chapter 9- Key 5: The Edge

i. Pushing the limits for higher performance, sometime to the point of stupidity
ii. You must be able to play the edge while respecting practice

III. Part 3- Tools for Mastery

a. Chapter 10-Why Resolutions fail and what to do about it

i. Everyone resists change, good or bad. Expect some backsliding.
ii. Any change may cause anxiety
iii. Resistance to change is proportionally to size/speed of change, not if it is good or bad
iv. Be aware of how homeostasis works
v. Be willing to negotiate with your resistance to change
vi. Develop a support system. Particularly those who have gone before you.
vii. Follow a regular practice
viii. Dedicate yourself to lifelong practice

b. Chapter 11-Getting Energy For mastery

i. You gain energy by using energy
ii. Maintain physical fitness
iii. Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
iv. Be honest with others, it will revitalize you.
v. Honor but do not indulge your darker side
vi. Set your priorities
vii. Make your commitments, Take action
viii. Get on the pathway of mastery, and choose to stay on it

c. Chapter 12-Pitfalls along the path

i. Conflicting way of life. Your job may not be your path.
ii. Obsessive Goal Orientation. Be aware the peak is ahead, but don’t keep looking up. Keep your eyes on the path.
iii. Poor Instruction. Your teacher is a teacher, not a guru.
iv. Lack of competitiveness. Competition keeps you motivated.
v. Over competitiveness.
vi. Laziness
vii. Injuries
viii. Drugs
ix. Prizes and medals. External validation can often stop or slow the pathway to mastery
x. Vanity. You must be willing to look like a fool.
xi. Dead seriousness. Have fun.
xii. Inconsistency.
xiii. Perfectionism.

d. Chapter 13- Mastering the common Place

i. Life is mastery
ii. Seemingly ordinary chores can be viewed as something to master.

e. Chapter 14- Packing for the journey

i. Review of the book
ii. Physical exercises

f. Epilogue-The Master and the Fool

i. Always be a student

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