One of the best books about copywriting I’ve ever read has nothing to do with copywriting or being a better copywriter.
In fact, I’m not sure it’s on any copywriter, marketer, or guru’s top list of marketing and copywriting books. So it’s not very popular in marketing circles for that reason.
It’s also not a book that makes selling membership sites, courses, or masterminds very well.
That’s because if you embrace what you discover in this tiny book, and you won’t be swayed by claims of fast money, quick mastery of copywriting, or instant ROI.
Not that those benefits are bad, of course. But this book may dissuade you from wanting the easy road.
This book I’m referring to may, however, make you a better copywriter in five, ten, or even twenty years from now.
The book? It’s called Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment by a man named George Leonard. The tiny tome is short yet powerful and the basic premise is this:
In a world that praises instant gratification, instant results, and instant mastery, the true master knows that mastery takes time, sustained effort, patience, and a bit of zen.
The book includes chapter titles like, “America’s War on Mastery”, “Loving the Plateau”, and “Mastering the Commonplace”. Very un-sexy promises in a world where getting into the 2-comma club and getting rich yesterday are the norm.
Mastery by George Leonard outlines five steps, or “master keys” to attaining excellence in something. These steps are:
Key 1: Instruction
First, says Leonard, you must arrange for “first-rate instruction”. He recommends mentoring, but you can also use books, tapes, courses, and what-not. Just don’t go it alone, says Leonard.
Key 2: Practice
Then, he says, you need to practice. We all know on some level we need to practice, but what really does that mean? This quote from the book (p.74 of the printed copy) says it best,
“For one who is on the master’s journey, however, the word is best conceived of as a noun, not as something you do, but as something you are. In this sense, the word is askin to the Chinese word tao and the Japanese word do, both which mean, literally, road or path. Practice is the path upon which you travel, just that.”
Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, p.74
Mastery is – simply put – “staying on the mat” as George Leonard puts it. Showing up, doing the work, practicing the monotonous swings, and keeping at it longer than anyone else.
Key 3: Surrender
The third key is to surrender. Surrender your ego. Surrender your current proficiency for a greater level of proficiency. Surrender the known for the unknown, comfort for courage.
And on that note, he gives a life lesson on contentment, “Satisfaction lies in the mindful repetition, the discovery of endless richness in subtle variations on familiar themes” (p.83).
Key 4: Intentionality
Key number four is intentionality. For Leonard, this word refers to the mental games and focus required to attain mastery. It also points to the visualization most masters of their craft use to stay focused on their goal, such as the often-told story of Arnold Schwarzenegger visualizing working his muscles while he lifted weights.
Key 5: The Edge
Finally, George Leonard says that the final key is the edge. True masters don’t just mindlessly stay on a plateau of greatness. They constantly seek to find the “edges” of their skills. They ask – what is the peak? Can I go further? Can I climb higher? Can I do better? They continue to push themselves onward and upward, further and farther.
I am reminded of the monotonous copywriting activities out there that some have claimed are “worthless”, like hand copying successful ads and promotions like you’ll see in Todd Brown’s Agora Copywriting School program or Copy Hour‘s 90-day handwriting program. And yet doing the rote hand-copying combined with the instruction is exactly the kind of activity George Leonard says will lead to mastery.
Which is why I’m beginning my practice of hand-copying anew, as well as setting aside daily time to write and hone my craft so I can be better for my clients.
How will you add “mastery” to what you do as an expert?