The 5 Keys to Mastery by George Leonard examines ways for humans to reach their full potential. Whether you apply these concepts to your professional life, personal achievements, or child-rearing, these 5 Keys will make for a healthier, happier, and more productive you. This is an excerpt of a longer discussion featuring BB King, Carlos Santana, and others.
George Leonard: I try to find something that they are doing right, for instance, and then say, “You could make it even better, if this.” And John Wooden, you know, he’s known as the greatest coach of all times in basketball. And somebody did a…New York Times magazine did an analysis of his teaching. About 50% of the time, he said they were doing something good. About 50% of the time, he was correcting. Not saying it was bad, but correcting. But you know, there are a lot of coaches, and they think that this macho image, “You did that wrong, can’t you get this right?” That’s not good teaching. Not good. Positive reinforcement and quick reinforcement, as quick as possible, don’t make them wait. Of course now, if you’re teaching creative writing, you have to wait until you read it and so forth. You make adjustments, I use a lot of sports examples because they are so clear.
Interviewer: A lot of what you are saying does…I mean, you started out talking about parenting, but a lot of these concepts do apply to parenting.
George Leonard: Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, the house should be a learning environment, it is a place for exploration and a place for feedback from other human beings, teachers we call them. Teachers, we are all teachers.
Interviewer: It’s wonderful stuff. What’s your definition of success along the path of mastery? Is there a place where…there can’t be a place where you stop.
George Leonard: No, you never stop, never stop. It is your own feeling of satisfaction, your own feeling of satisfaction. You know, to write a really good paragraph, hey, that’s good, and you know, that’s last, you can read it years later and say, “Hey, how the hell did I write this?” That’s nice. “Oh, I’m playing jazz.” You’re improvising, that’s very interesting. You know, you do things you didn’t know you can do, that’s another criteria. If I can do something I didn’t know I can do, and in jazz, you can do it very quickly. That’s very nice. It’s just intrinsic reinforcement, it’s not outside, it’s not, so somebody will brag on you, although that’s not a bad idea, but that’s not the real joy and juice of life. It’s how it feels inside. And you know, you know.
I’m very dedicated to the idea of a potentially human being, I don’t think we’ve even started to reach any kind of end to this, and I think it’s one of the greatest challenges that we have. I think on the other side of it, the failure of most people to achieve their potential. And you know, this goes all the way back…first of all, you gotta have enough food. People are starving in Africa, they cannot achieve their potential. In Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, you gotta have air before you can breathe, you gotta have just something very simple, you got to have food. You got to have some kind of community, and each of these you have to fulfill. But at the end of that, then you can go beyond. Anything that you thought you could do. I’ve been really researching this for many, many years and I think that my magnum opus, my big book is gonna be the real big book on human potential. And the tragedy of people who do not achieve their life…what they could in their life, there’s nothing more tragic to me, and this happened to me once to talk to an old person at the approach of death, and this older person said, “I realize now I wasted my life.” It’s very sad. So, I think…I really believe that a great deal of neurosis, disease, unease and this nervousness, drug abuse, crime and perhaps even war, can be attributed to the failure of developing our potential. I think it is a matter of the utmost importance.