Practice makes perfect. But what if perfection isn’t the goal? What if the journey and the day to day are the goal?
I grew up playing the violin in a method of teaching called the Suzuki method. I’m so deeply grateful for those lessons and for the opportunities the violin has afforded me. However, the goal of learning for me was perfection. At the end of learning each book (around 10 songs), I’d have a performance. For the performance, the songs had to be perfect. I would then practice upon perfection. For most of my life, I’ve had a desire to just get to the finished product and have it be perfect. Many times, I’ve missed out on enjoying the process along the way. As George Leonard put it:
“But the real juice of life, whether it be sweet or bitter, is to be found not nearly so much in the products of our efforts as in the process of living itself, in how it feels to be alive.”
Mastery, by George Leonard, delves into the steps it takes to achieve mastery in a given field. This quote sums it up well:
Mastery is “the mysterious process during which what is at first difficult becomes progressively easier and more pleasurable through practice.”
It was a short book and a really good one. I came across many ideas that we’ve seen in other Books of Titans books like Outliers, The Art of Learning, The Dip, Thinking, Fast and Slow, and The War of Art. Some of these ideas were the importance of time and systems thinking (conscious vs unconscious, or system 1 vs system 2). Like Josh Waitzkin in The Art of Learning, George Leonard describes the process of practice as the attempt to move skills from the conscious to the unconscious. It’s interesting that Josh Waitzkin and George Leonard are martial artists. They both gathered a number of lessons about learning and mastery from their martial arts training.
Mastery was written 27 years ago in 1991 but is still relevant today. If you’re looking for a quick book to encourage your learning of a new still or mastery of a passion, this one will give you a little spark on your journey.
This is book 24 of 52 of Erik’s 2018 Books of Titans reading list.