#455 The Master

vs. The Dabbler, the Obsessive and the Hacker (You?)

George Leonard was an aikido master who wrote a great little book called Mastery.

It’s a tiny little book packed with a ton of wisdom. I highly recommend it.

There’s one particular passage that’s been tattooed on my mind since I read it over a decade ago. We’re going to talk about that tomorrow. Today, we’re going to take a quick look at how Leonard describes mastery and the other paths that can trip us up.

First, pop quiz! When you think of the path of Mastery and the Master who walks that path, what vision comes to mind? How would YOU describe it?

Take a moment and noodle that. 🍜


Here’s how Leonard describes mastery. He tells us that “We fail to realize that mastery is not about perfection. It’s about a process, a journey. The master is the one who stays on the path day after day, year after year. The master is the one who is willing to try, and fail, and try again, for as long as he or she lives.”

That’s mastery. It’s a PROCESS.

When we commit to the path of mastery we stay on that path day in and day out. YEAR after YEAR. (Reminds me of Steven Pressfield’s wisdom about Turning Pro—and how your life changes the day you truly flip the switch and go from amateur to Professional.)

The alternatives to Mastery? Well, Leonard tells us we can be what he calls a “Dabbler” or a “Hacker” or an “Obsessive.”

Here’s the quick look.

The Dabbler: Gets really into something for awhile and loves the quick results but the moment the newness fades, he or she’s off to the next new thing—rationalizing that it just wasn’t a good fit. Hence, no mastery.

The Obsessive: A bottom-line type of person who wants to get the tennis stroke right on the first lesson and, when results start to slow, pushes even harder to make it work, ignoring the fact that plateaus are part of the path of mastery—pushing and pushing mercilessly to create a continuing upward curve. Then? Injury/burnout/etc. Followed by a sharp, sharp decline. Hence, no mastery.

The Hacker: After sort of getting the hang of something, the hacker is content to stay at a plateau—never really improving his skills beyond the first basic level. Hacking, hacking, hacking. Hence, no mastery.

The Master. The Dabbler. The Obsessive. The Hacker.

And YOU.

How are you showing up these days?

Now… I was going to ask you how you think you can bring a little more mastery to your life but then I realized I should probably give you Leonard’s #1 tip first.

Here it is: “How do you best move toward mastery? To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself.”

Aha! Practice. Again.

So… Today’s +1.

What’s the most important thing in your life right now? (Perhaps The Big 3? (Part I and II.))

And… What’s your DAILY (!) PRACTICE to Optimize that thing or the Big 3 things?

For me?

1. Energy = AM Trail (I never miss a day = my commitment to the practice/mastery)
2. Work = AM Deep Work (Again, I (literally) never miss a day = my commitment to the practice/mastery)
3. Love = AM Kid Time (I too often miss a day here! lol. Although my shut-down complete is pretty legit this still needs work and is being reinstalled!)


1. Energy = __________________
2. Work = __________________
3. Love = __________________

Here’s to your Mastery and the simple practices that keep us on the path!

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