Mastery: Permission to be oh so human.

Our Book of the Month for September is Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard. Read Mastery, and Nānā i ke kumu; you will look to your source and discover some truth in how you allow yourself to learn.

It seems that is a very ambitious promise to make a reader; that after reading this book, you will receive the “keys to success and long-term fulfillment.” What you discover, is that you will very clearly understand the why long-term fulfillment is entirely possible for you. Like many things, for it to become probable and not just possible, you’ll have to work at it. Keys simply unlock doors: you have to walk through them.

However, as I recently wrote to Dwayne Melancon, the warm and wise soul who knew this book was a good gift for me, reading Mastery was so very satisfying; Leonard somehow gives you permission to just be very human, and you end up loving the fact that you are imperfectly and perfectly, plainly human.

Leonard explains that our “habitual behavior system” operates at a level deeper than our conscious thought, so that the journey to mastery—whatever it may be that you have set your sights on to excel at—is a natural for you. Further, if you have the wisdom and patience to love your plateaus, those longer stretches of time between your brief spurts of progress, there is virtually nothing you cannot do. When you finish reading, your only accomplishment has been to finish the book, yet Leonard has given you a profound gift. It is so comforting to have trust in an innate “something” within you, whether you believe that something to be spiritual or biological. You find you have a strong new belief in what he asserts; that your body can learn without your mind consciously willing it to be so.

“The evidence is clear: all of us who are born without serious genetic defects are born geniuses. Without an iota of formal instruction, we can master the overarching system of spoken language—and not just one language, but several. We can decipher the complex code of facial expressions—a feat to paralyze the circuitry of even the most powerful computer. We can decode and in one way or another express the subtleties of emotional nuance. Even without formal schooling, we can make associations, create abstract categories, and construct meaningful hierarchies. What’s more, we can invent things never seen, ask questions never before asked, and seek answers from out beyond the stars. Unlike computers, we can fall in love.”
—George Leonard

I so adore writers who elevate and honor the human spirit!

Better yet, when they can celebrate work with keen insight into the very tactile and palpable pleasures of it. I have written of this in Managing with Aloha: There are far too many negative connotations being spoken in connection with the word “work” when in practice they should overwhelmingly be positive and energizing instead. There can be, and should be, great fulfillment and pleasure in work. It should feel wonderfully satisfying. Ho‘ohana, choose the right work in the first place, and it will be.

One of my favorite parts of Mastery, is where Leonard describes his father’s work as his “place of practice.” As a boy, Leonard would go to the office with him on the Saturday mornings his dad didn’t really have to be there, but did because he was “simply drawn to” it. Those Saturday mornings helped Leonard understand what the face of mastery looked like forever more, knowing that “mastery’s true face is relaxed and serene, sometimes faintly smiling.” I was reminded of the same connection that David Allen asserts in GTD, that it is relaxation which is the key to productivity, and that “your ability to generate power (i.e. greater energy) is directly proportional to your ability to relax.”

Mastery is not a book I can do justice to in just one review. We’ll talk story about it more this month, and if you have read it, and have experienced it, I invite you to join in the discussion.  In fact, I strongly urge you to do so, for I wish to learn from you too, and I hope you will give me that opportunity. Plateaus can have a social character, can they not?

Postscript: Why the early mention of Nānā i ke kumu? It is the Hawaiian value of Source and Truth. Nānā i ke kumu teaches us to look to the work we can do on ourselves—repair, maintain, build, learn, grow—so we can better deal with the peaks and valleys of everyday living. And is that not the pursuit of mastery?

Nānā i ke kumu is firmly rooted in sense of place (i.e. the Source part) and the confidence and strength it gives you. Nānā i ke kumu gives us a kind of kinesthetic memory so that we can always face the changes in the world that are certain to come.

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Amazon link to Mastery, The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, by George Leonard


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