Mastery: The Keys To Success And Long-Term Fulfillment, By George Leonard

George Leonard took up aikido in middle age and eventually became owner of a dojo in Marin County, California. He also is a longtime magazine writer and the president of the Esalen Institute, a northern California retreat for spiritual seekers. This varied career qualifies him well to write an engaging self-help book that draws on lessons from the martial arts. And that is what he has done in Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment.

Unlike Forrest Morgan, who argues in Living the Martial Way that mastery signifies the culmination of one's growth, Leonard views mastery as an ongoing process. His primary argument is that achieving mastery in any area of your life requires long periods of apparent stagnation, when it feels as if you are not progressing at all. Rather than continually seeking the thrill of the next spurt in progress, he urges readers to "love the plateau." Immersing yourself in the training process without just focusing on results not only makes that process more enjoyable but also, somewhat paradoxically, produces better results.

Leonard describes five "Master Keys." The first, Instruction, emphasizes the importance of learning from a good teacher. The second, Practice, reiterates the need for consistent training (loving the plateau). The third, Surrender, refers to the need to detach from your ego and allow yourself to look foolish in order to learn. The fourth, Intentionality, emphasizes the power of mental concentration. And the fifth, The Edge, describes the benefit of challenging the boundaries of what you think you can do.

In addition to providing a conceptual framework for understanding mastery, Leonard offers practical tips, or "Tools for Mastery." His advice incorporates much of what martial artists intuitively understand and articulates these insights in a way that is applicable as we pursue mastery in all areas of our lives.