Mastery by George Leonard
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
An Aikido master teaches you how to walk the path to Mastery
Why it’s Awesome
Imagine you’re a kid trying to learn how to hit a baseball. It’s a bright sunny day out on the baseball field and your father is there to teach you. He shows you how to grip the bat, how to stand, how to swing and all the other mechanics.
Finally it’s time to actually try and hit the ball. He lightly pitches towards you and you…miss completely.
You try again. Nothing. You try again. Nothing. You try again, and this time you at least make contact but it goes no where.
After an hour of this you start to get frustrated. Why can’t you just hit the ball like those guys you see on TV? You put down your bat and tell your dad you want to quit.
Your dad walks over to you, smiles and says one word.
Patience. This is one of the most overlooked values in today’s society and is a major theme in George Leonard’s classic book Mastery. This book details the process of what it really takes to become a master at your chosen craft.
Why is it that patience is so important? Leonard explains that in our modern society, we’ve become addicted to quick fixes. We have all the world’s information at our fingertips with the internet and demand instant gratification.
Businesses are acutely aware of this. If you’ve ever seen a fitness infomercial for “6 Minute Abs” or something similar, that’s a smart marketer exploiting this human tendency for the magic pill. “Get rich quick schemes” are no different.
It’s ironic because people who indulge in these magic pill fixes think they’re being smart. They think they’ve beat the system. But as anyone who has walked the path to mastery can tell you, there are no real short cuts. And temptation to slack off or try and cheat is everywhere.
Let’s say you were looking to get in amazing physical shape. You read that losing one pound of fat takes about one week. One week?! But you’ve got that big beach trip coming up in a month and you need to lose twenty pounds!
Well lucky for you, you discover you’ve got options! You could take an ECA stack which will make you twitch like a crack addict. And you can crash diet, cutting down to 1500 calories and getting rid of all carbs. Problem solved right?
Until you realize 1500 calories a day isn’t sustainable and you have to go to your doctor for heart palpitations. As soon as you cut some weight, you binge and put it all right back on, maybe even more so.
But what if you had patience and approached losing weight from the perspective of walking the path of mastery and did it THE RIGHT WAY?
This ability to apply patience to whatever endeavor you’re choosing is what George Leonard calls process orientation. Process orientation is when your focus is not the end result you’re trying to achieve, but rather the process itself. Paradoxically, this tends to make your ability to be successful magnitudes of order better.
In the book, Leonard uses examples from his real life walk to becoming an Aikido master to prove this. In order to achieve a high level of skill in Aikido, he explains that there are months where you may seem to be making no progress at all in your abilities. During that time, a person solely focused on results would inevitably get frustrated and quit. But when your focus is on the process itself, there is no need for instant gratification. You’re just putting one foot in front of the other, over and over again.
What’s really interesting to me is that people like Tim Grover say that actually success comes from craving the end result so bad that work becomes irrelevant. I don’t deny the effectiveness of that paradigm but that’s a neurotic and unfulfilling way of looking at success. But they do have the common thread seeing the big picture.
I’ve had many authors approach me since I began writing this blog, asking if I would review their YA fantasy novel or erotic fiction book.It would probably drive a lot of traffic to my blog, as well as put some money in my pocket.
So how dumb am I for not doing it?
You could say pretty dumb. But what I know is that I’m building something real here. To spend my time writing and reviewing those books would take away from the mission I have here, which is to spread high quality books and ideas. And overall it would dilute the quality of my blog and break the trust I have with my readers.
Plus, I don’t give a shit about those kinds of books. I’d hate every minute of it.
It’s a slow process doing it this way. It might take me years to get to a point where I’m satisfied. But what I know is that I’m enjoying this process. I love reading these books. I love trying to come up with clever ways to explain these ideas. And if it takes me a couple of years to get this blog to the level I want, that’s okay, because I’ll have built something REAL that I can truly be proud of and that will have a real payoff. I’ve given my full commitment to THE JOURNEY ITSELF.
That means there’s probably going to be a lot more failure than success for me in the future. If you want to walk the path to mastery, you have to be willing to do the same thing.
Why Does It Suck
This isn’t so much a diss at Leonard as it is a diss at the people who follow his advice. Leonard would actually agree with me. But I’ve seen so many people who use this idea of process orientation and fuck themselves over. They think that love for the process is enough. No, it’s not.
You could have the greatest business idea in the world and love working on it every second. But if no one wants to buy your product, you are fucked. No one cares that you love your idea. Is it something that actually solves a problem or brings value to people? Stop being so naive.
Or, I see people who never bother to try and fix mistakes because they claim they’re focused on the process. No, fixing errors is part of the process. You don’t just keep chipping away blindly. You need to be constantly course correcting.
Also, unless you’re enlightened something, there also is going to come a point where you’re probably just not going to be able to love the process. In that case, discipline and willpower cannot be understated.
The Wrap Up
Mastery is a must read for anyone on the journey to success. It’s one of those books that majorly altered the way I saw the world. But you need to look at it with common sense and nuance. These are complicated ideas that take mature thinking to really understand. What’s awesome though is that the more time you spend with these ideas, the more they will come to make sense to you.
Buy it now and join me on the path to mastery.