I just finished reading the 1991 book Mastery by George Leonard, which is another good book about developing skill, whether it’s in the martial arts, or anything you wish learn.

He mentions three types of students that look for easier paths, than the long journey towards mastery. Those students are: The Dabbler, The Obsessive, and The Hacker.

The Dabbler
This person tends to come in all gung ho. Buys all the necessary equipment, learns the lingo, etc. to reach the first level where they feel they’ve accomplished something. However, that’s when their interest wanes and they stop missing classes, etc. Before long, they are long gone and onto another avenue to dabble in. George gives examples of how the dabbler applies to careers and relationships as well.

The Obsessive
This person also starts are all gung ho, but it doesn’t stop there. When they reach a plateau, they double their efforts to try and push through, so that progress remains constant. However, this ends up leading to a sharp decline in performance, which fuels the obsessive to work even harder.

The Hacker
This is the typical golfer. They learn the basics until they get the gist of it, and then are happy to just stay where they are. They don’t really work hard to improve, but may get frustrated that they aren’t improving. They are the settlers, and may just show up to class because it’s what they do, but don’t expect them to really practice at home, or improve much.

Mr Leonard gives a good example of how people tend to want the quick and easy. He uses an example from a commercial where they promoted to not work hard to achieve your financial goals, but instead just play the lottery, then you won’t have to work hard. Well, you can see that won’t apply to Budo, or any skill, because there is not a magic pill that will make you a master overnight. It takes many hours in class, and even more training on your own to really excel in a skill.

Some key notes which he summarizes towards the back of the book are:

  • Instruction
  • Practice
  • Intentionality
  • Follow a regular practice [program
  • Dedicate yourself to lifelong learning
  • Acknowledge the negative and accentuate the positive
  • Set your priorities
  • Make commitments. Take action
  • Get on the path of mastery and stay on it

As a finish, he stated to gain mastery you have to release yourself to being the fool. It’s ok to make mistakes, and look the fool, just like when we learned to speak, or even how to walk, we made mistakes all the time, but we didn’t let that stop us. Thus with any skill, be willing to make mistakes, be willing to be the beginner (white belt) again, as you progress towards mastery.