Book Summary: Mastery


Book Summary: Mastery

This book in three sentences.

The road to mastery is a seemingly endless pursuit of frustration. But, you can achieve a level of excellence (if not mastery) by following tried-and-true techniques. Author George Leonard shares the lessons he learned on his way to become an Aikido black belt and how those lessons apply to achieving mastery in any endeavor.

Mastery Summary

This is my book summary of Mastery by George Leonard. These notes are informal and often contain quotes from the book as well as my own thoughts. This summary may include key lessons and important passages from the book.

The Dabbler: one who achieves the first breakthrough, then drops it at the first sign of plateau. Then picks up something else and repeats the process.

The Obsessive: one who achieves the first breakthrough, then does whatever they can to avoid or smash the plateau. Has no patience. But will do anything at all costs to get better. Anything except embrace the process of mastery.

The Hacker: one who achieves a certain amount of success (usually in one area) and fakes their way through the rest. Mr. Leonard’s example is someone who learns a decent backhand in tennis but ignores the other swings and techniques.

There is no “quick and easy” way to achieve mastery … whether it’s martial arts, music, financial freedom, etc. Slow and steady wins the race.

Loving the plateau. The true master understands there’ll be times for growth and times for leveling-off … even regression. The true master embraces such times because they know when they come out of the plateau, explosive progress will be made. But it takes patience and discipline.

You must enjoy practicing simply for the sake of practicing.

Key To Mastery 1: Find a qualified teacher

Key To Mastery 2:  Practice

Key To Mastery 3: Surrender

Key To Mastery 4: Intentionality

Key To Mastery 5: The Edge

How to keep from backsliding while on the path to mastery:

Be aware of how homeostasis works.
“Homeostasis works to keep things as they are even if they aren’t good.”
Expect push back from your friends and family because homeostasis also applies to groups.

Be willing to negotiate with your resistance.
You’ll feel like quitting … it happens. Don’t smash through. Don’t give up. Find a middle path and keep going.

Develop a support system.
It would be great if you could find someone who’s been where you’re going. It would also be great if the people in your social system were excited for you and supported you. It’s fine if you do it on your own, at least share your goals with others so they understand why you may or may not attend social occasions.

Follow a regular practice.
Mark Reifkind has a quote, “Consistency trumps intensity every time.” Just show up and do the work. Never miss a session.

Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning.
Another popular quote, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

You’ve got this!

Brian Friedman


Special thanks to James Clear for inspiring me to write book summaries using his method and outline.

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