Mastery - The keys to success and long term fulfillment - George Leonard


Mastery, “the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice.”
to describe the path that best led to mastery, not just in sports but in all of life, and to warn against the prevailing bottom-line mentality that puts quick, easy results ahead of long-term dedication to the journey itself.

the quick-fix, fast-temporary-relief, bottom-line mentality doesn’t work in the long run, and is eventually destructive to the individual and the society. If there is any sure route to success and fulfillment in life, it is to be found in the long-term, essentially goalless process of mastery.

it’s not so much an idea whose time has come as an idea that has always been with us—it’s just that we need to be reminded.



Start with something simple. Try touching your forehead with your hand.

Ah, that’s easy, automatic. Nothing to it. But there was a time when you were as far removed from the mastery of that simple skill as a non-pianist is from playing a Beethoven sonata.

First, you had to learn to control the movements of your hands (you were just a baby then) and somehow get them to move where you wanted them to. You had to develop some sort of kinesthetic “image” of your body so that you could know the relationship between your forehead and other parts of your body. You had to learn to match this image with the visual image of an adult’s body.
And we haven’ t yet considered the matter of language—learning to decode sounds shaped as words and to match them to our own actions.

As with all significant learning, this learning was measured not in a straight line but in stages: brief spurts of progress separated by periods during which you seemed to be getting nowhere.

You started with something difficult and made it easy and pleasurable through instruction and practice.
You took a master’s journey.
And if you could learn to touch your forehead, you can learn to play a Beethoven sonata or fly a jet plane, to be a better manager or improve your relationships.
Our current society works in many ways to lead us astray, but the path of mastery is always there, waiting for us.

Chapter 1: What Is Mastery?

It brings rich rewards, yet is not really a goal or a destination but rather a process, a journey.
We call this journey mastery.
It isn’t reserved for the supertalented. It’s available to anyone who is willing to get on the path and stay on it—regardless of age, sex, or previous experience.

The trouble is that we have few, if any, maps to guide us on the journey or even to show us how to find the path.
The modern world, in fact, can be viewed as a prodigious conspiracy against mastery.
We’re continually bombarded with promises of immediate gratification, instant success, and fast, temporary relief, all of which lead in exactly the wrong direction.

The master’s journey can begin whenever you decide to learn any new skill—how to touch-type, how to cook, how to become a lawyer or doctor or accountant.
Sports provide a good starting point for this exploration, in that results of training in the physical realm are rather quickly and clearly visible.