How to Become a Master of Anything.

5 Keys to Mastery learned from the book by George Leonard

We are all here on Medium because we are seekers. We are here because we are looking for the ways to become a better human being, striving for success, chasing productivity tools, filtering the unstoppable river of information, assembling the mindset like a puzzle game. Here, I would like to save your precious time and share my thoughts about the book that I have recently read. I hope it will bring you closer to completing the puzzle.

“Mastery: The Keys to long-term success and fulfillment” by George Leonard.

The author is a black belt master of aikido. He was working for years to achieve mastery in his path and was surprised to discover that the principles and patterns that are fundamental in martial arts are applicable to any craft.

Those Keys to Mastery are Instruction, Practice, Surrender, Intentionality, and the Edge.


We all need teachers. It is interesting how over the life we need to educate ourselves and get used to the fact that a search of an appropriate instructor is itself a path of mastery. A great teacher will walk 9 out of 10 steps between himself and a student and will find a way to student’s heart to motivate him to make one step forward. It is sad to see how much potential in young people is castrated by mediocrity in their supervisors.

Go out there! Find true masters.

Not only those who have skills but those who have tamed their ego.

Read books. And stop reading them if they are boring after first 50 pages and don’t bring value to your life.

Make an empathetic friend, and isolate yourself from self-centered people. Let your friend become your teacher.

We can only find good instructors when our values as a student are aligned with values of our sensei.

A teacher will appear when the student is ready.


There is no other way around. There is no shortcut. Forget about proverbial 10,000 hours but you can be sure your practice is going to be a hell of a journey. Learn how to enjoy the routine, how to get pleasure from the process, meditate being in the flow of the practice. Experiment. Find your own, individual way to do it. There will be long plateaus, rarer there will be breakthroughs. Embrace them. Learn how to love them all.

The journey is the reward.
(Thank you for this one, Mr. Jobs).


Here comes the tricky one. For many of us, one of the main obstacles on the way to successful learning is that one cannot simply let go what he knows already.

Once I tried to learn how to play flute from my girlfriend. I found it incredibly hard to sit still, and simply perceive. I was interrupting her instructions trying to “figure it out myself”. I thought that playing the flute is somewhat similar to playing guitar. I’ve been mistaken. I failed. And I gave up. A flute is a truly very hard instrument to master, and my respect for my lady grew up ten-fold that day, however, the point is that my inability to surrender is also rooted from my ego, causing my inability to empty myself and become open for knowledge.

I repeated the old well-known story about a professor visiting a zen-master. As professor talked about zen, old master silently served the tea. He started to pour the tea slowly into the cup up to the brim and kept pouring till the tea started to overflow. Professor got the point. He couldn’t learn Zen, cause his cup was not empty.

I got the lesson. If I want to learn I must surrender.


There are countless studies about competing athletes beating the records with preliminary visualizing how they do it, and people increasing their speed of learning a musical instrument by imagining how they play. You should do the same. Hold your vision as a constant idea. Stick to it. Train and use your imagination, not only to imagine how you reach the goal and your plan becomes a reality but with an unflinching mindset that this is HOW it becomes a reality. There is no more room for hope when pure intention comes into play. Don’t wish for change, use your intention to become a change. Action dissolves the doubt.

The Edge

As I write this article it is getting close to 2 a.m. I know I will regret staying up late and writing, but this is the side effect of getting into practice flow.

Well, this is what The Edge is about. Keep awareness of your edges — zones where practice becomes rather harming than doing good. Don’t burn out. Stay balanced. Meditate. Spend time in nature. Recover. And then get up and keep running and learning about yourself, and the world. And don’t take it too seriously.

After all, life is just a game. Or is it?

❓ Do you have a question? Ask me! I answer daily on Quora.

P.S.: I thank my brother in crime Arslan Atajanov(Co-founder, CVO at Labit) for recommending this book, and being such an amazing friend and co-founder.