George Leonard’s the Mastery, gives an answer to the question of, “How do I master my craft?” Although this might seem like a complex question, Leonard provides a relatively simple answer. The key to mastering anything is to practice for the sake of practice. When one focuses too closely on the end goal, one may overlook the tools that they had the opportunity to learn and perfect. Not only do masters practice to perfection, but also possess the virtue of patience. As they say, “Rome was not built in a day”, and neither is mastering any craft. Masters will go through a series of stages, at times they will plateau and possibly think this is the end of their journey, but as long as they continue to practice their found passion they will succeed.
Leonard’s message, although simple speaks truths. There are times when I look at friends, family members or even myself and ask the question, “why have you struggled with this task and why have you not succeeded?” The struggle is part of the journey to success. This struggle might take weeks, month or even years until you actually succeed.
Leonard used athletes an example of masters. Larry Bird was an American basketball player, whom Leonard honored with the title of Master. Not only was Larry Bird a talented man and athlete, he never let the struggle of defeat or time disrupted his journey. “ To practice regularly, even when you seem to be getting nowhere, might at first be onerous. But the day eventually comes when practicing becomes a treasured part of life.” Regardless of losing or winning yesterday’s game, Bird was out on the court practicing hours prior to his teammates the following morning. Was he drilling his mistakes from the night before or aiming to be the best on the team? No, he did it because he enjoyed himself. He didn’t do it for the money or the fame, but for the love of basketball. He was humble in this success and concurred his craft over time with patience and practice.
So, how does this relate to my friend the nurse, trying to get through school, my father trying to lose weight or myself pursuing my art? Whether one is going to school, aiming to be healthier or testing creative ability, there will be times doubt. The scale might read 200lb for a long time, but this cannot discourage. One needs to no longer focus on the number that lies beneath their feet, but rather relish in the joys they have experienced over the journey; new found recipes to share with family on Sunday night dinners, the joy of walking to the grocery store vs driving, the sense of feeling happier when living a healthy life. Regardless of the end goal, one must invest and embody the journey of practice.
At first, I found Mastery, to be a reminder of my youth. My grammar school principal Mr. Garin repeating “Practice, Practice, Practice”, rang in my ears. Leonard’s, lessons are something we are reminded throughout of childhood, but as we grow these simple lessons that fall by the wayside or are even forgotten.
This book is dated, short and repetitive. That said, is the reputation part of the message. If we keep reminder ourselves to to what we are doing, to practice and never stop, maybe we will not have a long plateau, but will master our craft.
The next book on the reading list will be, The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah