The keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment
by George Leonard (1991)

This book gives a new and more indepth insight towards mastery of any skills.  Learning any new skill involves relatively brief spurts of progress, each of which is followed by a slight decline to a plateau somewhat higher in most cases than that which preceded it.

There are 5 essential keys to mastery :

1) Key 1 : Instruction

The search for good instruction starts with a look at credentials and lineage. Respect for credentials, however, shouldn’t blind you to other considerations.

The teaching tactics of a Nobel laureate could turn out to be poison for the mind of a neophyte physicist. It’s particularly challenging, in fact, for a top performer to become a first-rate teacher. Instruction demands a certain humility; at best, the teacher takes delight in being surpassed by his or her students.

“If you study calligraphy, you will find that those who are not so clever 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 may be the worst horse. And the worst horse can be the best, for if it preserves, it will have learned whatever it is practicing all the way to the marrow of its bones. My experience as an instructor has shown me, for one thing, that the most talented students don’t necessarily make the best martial artists. Sometimes, strangely enough, those with exceptional talent have trouble staying on the path of mastery.

The master teacher is not necessarily the one who gives the most polished lectures, but rather the one who has discovered how to involve each student actively in the process of learning. If you should end up with a teacher who doesn’t seem right for you, first look inside. Bear in mind that on the path of mastery learning never ends.


2) Key 2 : Practice

The people we know as masters don’t devote themselves to their particular skill just to get better at it. The truth is, they love to practice – and because of this they do get better. And then, to complete the circle, the better they get the more they enjoy performing the basic moves over and over again.

“The master,” an old martial arts saying goes, “is the one who stays on the mat five minutes longer everyday than anybody else.” The master of any game is generally a master of practice. To practice regularly, even when you seem to be getting nowhere, might at first seem onerous. But the day eventually comes when practicing becomes a treasured part of your life. You settle into it as if into your favourite easy chair, unaware of time and the turbulence of the world. It will still be there for you tomorrow. It will never go away.


3) Key 3 : Surrender

The courage of a master is measured by his or her willingness to surrender. This means surrendering to your teacher and to thedemands of your discipline. The early stages of any significant new learning invoke the spirit of the fool. It’s almost inevitable that you’ll feel clumsy. There’s no way around it. The beginner who stands on his or her dignity becomes rigid, armored; the learning can’t get through.

For the master, surrender means there are no experts. There are only learners.


4) Key 4 : Intentionality

What had happened was that sports training and technique had reached an extremely high level of development – so high that further improvements along this line could come only in tiny increments. When Jack Nicklaus attributed only 10% of the success of a shot to the swing, it was perhaps because his swing was already nearly perfect. The realm of mind and spirit was the undiscovered land, the place where pioneers in sport performance could make the greatest gains.

Thoughts, images, and feelings are indeed quite real. Einstein’s thought that energy is equal to mass times the speed of light squared (E=MC2) eventually unleashed awesome power. The transformation of that thought into heat and percussion was a long and arduous process. Still, the thought, the vision, the intentionality, was primary.


5) Key 5 : The Edge

Playing the edge is a balancing act. It demands the awareness to know when you’re pushing yourself beyond safe limits. Running fast and hard almost always demands playing the edge, and it can’t be denied that runners and would-be runners should be offered safe and sensible programs and warned against the dangers and pitfalls of their practice.




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