Embarking upon the master’s path is a decision to go on a journey.

It can’t be embraced with society’s quick-fix mentality, expecting instant gratification and immediate results, but rather through a commitment to a lifelong process of learning, development and change.

In Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment, George Leonard identifies three patterns of behavior that tend to knock us off the path, represented in the personas of the Dabbler, the Obsessive, and the Hacker.

Can you identify with any of these characters?

The Dabbler



The Dabbler loves the newness of things. Whether a new sport, career opportunity, or relationship, he approaches it with enthusiasm. The first signs of progress bring him great joy, only to be followed by confused disillusionment when the inevitable plateau that follows that first peak is reached. He then rationalizes why that pursuit was not the proper fit, and moves on to find the next new thing.

“The Dabbler might think of himself as an adventurer, a connoisseur of novelty, but he’s probably closer to being what Carl Jung calls the puer aeternus, the eternal kid.”

The Obsessive



The Obsessive thrives on the upward surge. When the plateau comes, instead of recognizing it as a necessary period for development, he refuses to accept it, and redoubles his efforts. The bottom line is all that matters, regardless of what’s sacrificed along the way.

“Somehow, in whatever he is doing, the Obsessive manages for a while to keep making brief spurts of upward progress, followed by sharp declines – a jagged ride toward a sure fall. When the fall occurs, the Obsessive is likely to get hurt. And so are friends, colleagues, stockholders, and lovers.”

The Hacker (not this definition)

good 'nuff road - sign

The Hacker chooses comfort over uncertainty, and is willing to settle for remaining in static and unchanging roles. At work, the minimum amount is done to just get by. In marriage, the arrangement is viewed as a static economic and domestic institution, instead of an opportunity for learning and development.

“After sort of getting the hang of a thing, he or she is willing to stay on the plateau indefinitely. He doesn’t mind skipping stages essential to the development of mastery if he can just go out and hack around with fellow hackers.”


I felt a little embarrassed as I read this chapter, as I can relate to all three personas!

Where do these patterns of behavior play out in your life?