I'm reading "Mastery" by George Leonard.
The book is odd. It's excellent in some ways, it's an exceptionally grounded and pragmatic book. I recommend it.
But, it's a bit of a downer. For instance, I just read Donald Trump's "Think Big and Kick Ass", and after reading it, you feel ready to go climb a mountain, kill a lion with your bare hands, lay waste to an enemy army, and otherwise build an empire.
Mastery isn't like that. Mastery is someone reminding you that success doesn't come easy, that it's a long hard slog through lots of plateaus, and that you should enjoy the process because that's the only way you'll get through it.
In a way, it's an uplifting message if you can really internalize it. It'll help give you strength during the plateaus. It immediately answered some questions I've had recently. Recently I wrote in "A Strange Pattern I’ve Noticed in Productivity" -
You’ll see 3 days in a row – 13th to 15th – were quite expansive. Minimal time into bad categories, lots of time in good and excellent.
Then 16th to 18th break down, with very low time in excellent, not much in good, and lots in bad.
I’ve seen this pattern a lot. After a few very expansive days, then a few days off-track.
Well, the Mastery book explains that phenomenon quite well. But it's... it's kind of a downer sometimes. The vibe is like, "Hey! You! Stop fucking thinking it's easy. It's enjoyable, but it takes a long time and most of it sucks if you're just looking for results. So cut that out and instead enjoy the slow slog, because that's the only way it's going to go anyways, and you'll get there given consistent practice."
Anyway, you don't feel pumped up after reading it. Think Big and Kick Ass, you feel pumped up after reading it (also highly recommended, by the way. More highly recommended than Mastery, actually).
With Mastery, you don't feel pumped up. But there's tons of good insights. It's not the one book to read if you read infrequently, but it's good if you're a prolific reader.
I really enjoyed this part -
In his book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Zen master Shunryu Suzuki approaches the question of fast and slow learners in terms of horses. "In our scriptures, it is said that there are four kinds of horses: excellent ones, good ones, poor ones, and bad ones. The best horse will run slow and fast, right and left, at the driver's will, before it sees the shadow of the whip; the second will run as well as the first one, just before the whip reaches its skin; the third one will run when it feels pain on its body; the fourth will run after the pain penetrates to the marrow of its bones. You can imagine how difficult it is for the fourth one to learn to run.
When we hear this story, almost all of us want to be the best horse. If it is impossible to be the best one, we want to be the second best." But this is a mistake, Master Suzuki says. When you learn too easily, you're tempted not to work hard, not to penetrate to the marrow of a practice.
"If you study calligraphy, you will find that those who are not so clver usually become the best calligraphers. Those who are very clever with their hands often encounter great difficulty after they have reached a certain stage. This is also true in art, and in life." The best horse, according to Suzuki, may be the worst horse. And the worst horse can be the best, for if it perseveres, it will have learned whatever it is practicing all the way to the marrow of its bones.
Suzuki's parable of the four horses has haunted me ever since I first heard it. For one thing, it poses a clear challenge for the person with exceptional talent: to achieve his or her full potential, this person will have to work just as diligently as those with less innate ability.
If I persevere and dedicate my efforts [at skills I'm not naturally good at], I'll someday know this [skill] all the way to the marrow of my bones.
See, that's the general vibe of the book. "You can do it if you're willing to feel pain down to the marrow of your bones." Some great insights. He was a bomber pilot in WWII, graduated at the top of his flight class, and thus was selected to train cadets how to fly bombers at age 20. Later on, he got his black belt in aikido and opened his own dojo.
Tons of good insights. It's like, anti-motivating the moment you read it though. A few hours afterwards you'll feel good, kind of a calm strength, but you don't get the motivation rush that you would from something like Trump. Still, some really good insights. Worth a read, especially if you read a lot and are hitting plateaus lately -
At Amazon: "Mastery" by George Leonard
I've also been meaning to write a full review of Trump. I loved "Think Big and Kick Ass" - I'll probably re-read the whole book and take detailed notes sometime in the next month or two. It's a fast read with some real gems in it.
I made it a reading requirement for my students.
Thanks for bringing this book to my attention Sebastian. I think mastery is a fascinating yet largely ignored concept. Since the apprentice/master paradigm largely disappeared from our culture, people are generally not exposed to it outside of martial arts.
Musashi is a great example of a stunning generalist who's ability to learn stemmed from mastering one area first.
that book/s really gives an inspiration's
especially in our lives, and it helps to motivate other people.
thanks for sharing
A thought provoking reply.This is what I came up with.
We live in a complex world where many competencies make the man more successful. And trying new thing is a new way of our age.
In the East a master of one art easily became master in other arts. This was achieved only through practice.There is legends of warriors trying themselves out not by sword but by competition in some other area. This phenomenon is mentioned numerous times so I'm sure is true. Miamoto Musashi was master of many arts (crafts) and he learned them quickly. In our time such man are Tim Ferris and Josh Waitzkin. So I reached a conclusion that not the particular art or craft, ability is important in acquiring it. the important thing is the process by which you master the art. If you are familiar with the process (of learning) acquiring the skills is quicker than usual. But it seems it is not easy to learn the process because a practice and some guidance is needed. I think that a generalist may achieve the process, just the way he achieves it is different than the usual. What I'm saying is that the process is important not the area you practice.
I was left with the impression that you were put off by the long time efforts mentioned in the book. In regard to the efforts there is a book that explains it well and give different point of view\though not talking about plataeu\. I'm probably getting boring with recommending but this is another good book I listened to MindSet The New Psychology of Success .
I've researched mastery. The author of "Mastery" talks about excellence in an area. You can do pretty well without so much time though you won't be one of the best. For instance your goal to be a strategist. You know It will take long time. That is what I think he refers to mastery.
People like Tim Ferris and Josh Waitzkin have achieved great results in fair time and that is OK to do well but I suppose they are not masters and they don't need to be because they are generalists.
Interesting take on this book. It's actually one of my favourite motivational books, but it's not designed to get you pumped up. I read it a while back when i first started to train Aikido and to use his terms, it allowed me to push through the initial plateau's I met in training. There were days when i was mentally exhausted but would force myself to train anyway. At the end of a tough session I always came away feeling invigorated. I think a plateau is a feeling like inertia, something pushing against you. Once you know what it feels like, you can deal with it.
The reason it is so important for me is that I've always gone along way into new skills, disciplines and areas of learning, and then quit. The message of this book is there will be peaks and troughs in everything you do, but you never get anywhere by quitting. So even five minutes of focus a day during a plateau is enough to keep your goal of mastering a discipline well and truly alive.
After reading this post, I think I might like this book more than Trump's, but I will definitely have to check both out now.
I'm a fan of anything that is uplifting, but once that excitement wears off, I have to review whether I got anything valuable out of the resource or whether it just boosted my ego for a few moments. In this book (Mastery), the lessons sound to be more grounded and based on something you'll refer to when you are down, which to me would be the best time to recall a motivational book. In any book with lots of high notes, you remember the high notes during your high notes.
I think it will be interesting to see how you remember this book as time passes in comparison to Trump's, simply because you might associate bad moments with this book and it may get you through those moments better than when starting or working on something with easy to reach high notes.
Thanks for the recommendation, will probably buy it.
In the same vein of becoming excellent at stuff, I really enjoyed Josh Waitzkins 'The Art of Learning": http://www.amazon.com/Art-Learning-Journey-Pursuit-Excellence/dp/0743277457
Really good stuff there. He talks about the parallels in deep competence he experienced in becoming a chess and push-hands tai chi champ.
I read an asininely large number of books. I probably open or start 300 to 500 books a year, finish 50, read substantial parts of 50 more, and listen to another 30 to 70 on audio. I tend to "fast read" books - which is where I skim until I hit a particularly good part, and then slow down for comprehension. When I read a book that's highly tactical, I try to go through it slowly over a couple months while implementing and testing the tactics.
The following isn't my list of favorite books, nor the best books written, nor even the most important to me. Instead, it's my picks of "must reads" if you're doing "creative building."
That's where you're simultaneously trying to invent/innovate while growing and diffusing your inventions and innovations. It's what entrepreneurs do, but not entrepreneurs only. The following list would be useful to someone trying to proliferate their writing, become prominent in fields ranging from music or journalism, and possibly even governance and politics.
There'll be a mix of philosophical, strategic, and tactical books on the list. Let's begin:
1. Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa - If you're talented and get frustrated with stupid people, you have to read "Musashi" by Eiji Yoshikawa. I mean, you have to. Musashi was one of the greatest swordsmen in Japanese history, invented a new Japanese longblade/shortblade mixed style of swordsmanship, and at one point fought himself out of an ambush when he was attacked by over 30 men. He was undefeated in over 60 duels, including defeating arguably the second best swordsman in Japan at the time while fighting with a wooden oar he carved into a rough swordlike shape. Yoshikawa writes his story about getting into conflict with mainstream society and all of the friction before finally finding a way to hone his craft without unnecessary conflict - and thus reach an even higher level of perfection. A brilliant philosophical read, but also a hell of a swashbuckling story. If you only read one book on this list, read this one.
I was a pretty good reader as a kid. My mom recounts me sitting in the corner reading in pre-school instead of doing whatever other pre-schoolers did. In Kindergarten, I was praised for reading more books than any other kid. Throughout the elementary school summers, I dominated the summer reading programs in all the neighboring cities.
Eventually, I started to realize that all of these books are the same. Sometime when I was 10, I started to realize every book seemed to be about some derpy kid who eventually overcame his fears and saved the world, or at least his friend group.
I had the intellectual ability to read YA and adult books at the time, but not the emotional maturity. So, I hit a standstill.
Time passes on, I get into Classics (aka: any title whose name being uttered made me sound smart). I got a Kindle and subsequently got into Indie trash, at one point reading one book per day. Then the Kindle broke and I had no clue what to do.
I went through a massive overhaul on how I thought about reading, which leads us to how I read today.