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.
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