Who are you?

Yesterday I read the book “Mastery”, by George Leonard. In the beginning of the book he illustrates some strategies for mastering a subject. I identified myself as “the dabbler” and as “the obsessive”. But sorry to say, no master :frowning: . Who are you? Read on…

The Master
A typical master, raises his skill as time goes by. He accepts plateaus, since he knows that they are necessary for the upward surges. In fact he loves the plateaus as much as the rest of the learning experience.

The Dabbler
The dabbler approaches each new skill with enormous enthusiasm. At last, he has found the right place to be in. When he falls from the first (or second) peak he collapses. He suddenly realizes that something is wrong and he leaves the subject. But soon the dabbler meets another subject that arouses his interest, and the pattern is repeated.

The Obsessive
The obsessive has to become number one. The result is what counts. He buys books, courses, computers, anything that will make the progress as fast as possible. He doesn’t want to accept plateaus. He wants to force the upward surges. After repeatedly trying to force the human nature according to his own will and failing to do so, he gives up and falls, loosing his interest in the subject.

The Hacker
The hacker learns a few things about a subject and stays on the plateau. He is satisfied by having enough skill to be able to hack around with fellow hackers.

I think I once Mastered Dabbling in Obsessive Hacking.

I would say I am a Master/Dabbler

I sometimes have a Hacking Cough :confused:

Master Hacker.

Basing that on the fact that get a couple of short plateaus followed by a LONG plateau followed by climbs. Just looking at my career.

Writing is purely dabble hack.

I’m just a Master Hack. :wink:

Personally I dislike all these programs separating people into categories.
You can do it so many ways that will never improve the human condition. Introverts and extroverts for example. Or the world is composed of two types of people-those who wear expensive watches and those who don’t. Both valueless examples.

The description of work or application method implies that all our human activities follow that same route. It ignores the fact that we work harder or in different ways at whatever task we give value to.

One person is motivated to be a good cook whilst another just views food as fuel so no effort to learn.

All of us are different and do not fit into neat categories.


I quite agree. We don’t fit into categories! Bad categories.

But still, it’s fun to play! I have been both obsessive and a dabbler in my past, but now, Master all the way. Age does teach one a few things! :slight_smile:

It’s not about separating people into categories. It’s about describing different learning strategies. People use different learning strategies in different areas and in different periods of their life. For instance I remember being a master when I studied at the University. I’ve been a hacker when learning to play the guitar. I’ve been dabbler when learning Cocoa, Python, PHP and Lisp, and so on. Most people can recall similar experiences.

George Leonard’s Mastery is an excellent book. I’ve used it for years to help my students learn the type of commitment needed to cultivate mastery or to see why their efforts are not paying off. In an age of immediate gratification and the distrust of experts (see Andrew Keen’s The Cult of the Amateur), Leonard’s book helps people see the years and years of sustained dedication and practice necessary for mastery. I don’t think his (Leonard’s) intent was to cast people in rigid molds.

Combined with Howard Gardners’ ideas about talent and genius (at least I think they’re Gardner’s)—that the merely skilled commit their skill to developing their talent, but that beyond that is the individual who commits talent in the service of a large-scale vision—Leonard’s book provides insight into the process of expanding one’s intellectual and creative potential.


The presentation was of limited responses to opportunities.
We all have different learning strategies and motives for achieving for what we want.
That is what we agree on.

I object to bland statements such as “Oh you have been to Eton therefore you will be a cabinet minister.”
Our experience does not make us what we will become as a guarantee. It merely provides an opportunity that we may or not take up.

Telling people that their learning or ambition plans are poor/bad/pointless is crap intellectually as you have inferred in your answers. We all have stories of people who came up the wrong side of the tracks.
We all have stories of those who were shitheads but because they followed the path they were delivered of what they want.

I choose my story.


Not even a hacker, just a hack. A pure hack, always have been, and proud of it. :slight_smile:

P.S. Interested in the book - another one for the reading list.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian:

Brian tells his followers to be different. They all respond as directed, “I’m different,” says one, and “I’m different,” says another, and “I’m different,” says a third, and so on until they come to one lone follower who says, “I’m not.”


How dare you invoke the sacred Life of Brian !
Sardines will rain down on you and your issue will all have hairy noses.

I am tempted to mention Colin Wilson’s The Outsider at this point as you need to have a sense of being disjointed or not fitting into society. But I won’t.

Turbeville v Savage.

So cool I married an iceberg.

Bit like George Lakoff’s “Don’t think of an elephant”!
As for those categories, I think I’m all of them and I’m none of them … so it doesn’t buy me much!


Worra feeble cop out!! tch! tch! `s worse than ‘A hacking cough’ :open_mouth:

Definitely a Dabbler, but I recognize a bit of Obsessive as well. I’m usually stuck in a perpetual project cycle: I work on a project… get sidetracked… pickup an older project again… get bored… etc.
Sometimes I even finish something. Guess I’m also a Master at procrastination.

I think it depends on circumstance. I think with approaching ideas I consider myself a master - I try to explore things in lots of depth and keep on going deeper and deeper; and also building different ideas together (dabbler tendancies).

With technical skills I am a hacker - I get to to a point of competance and then stop trying to learn anything new; e.g. like with sound tech - with my latest set of demos, I have learned enough skills to get things sounding alright but for mixing I am VERY happy to send it off to a music tech student who knows what the hell they are doing.

I can also have dabbler tendancies. There’s a reason, why I can play 8 instruments.

Overall I would say Master Hacker suits me.

According to this I’m an obsessive dabbler. I always get wild enthusiasms for new things, and I bore my Mum almost to death with them, as she is the only person unfortunate enough to be around to listen to me. But I am very obsessive and competitive, something which I see as a strength, as I push myself to do well in anything I commit to.

When I was at school/college I always felt I had to be on top, and I worked really hard to do well. I don’t think I was much of a dabbler then, as I was too focussed on my courses and didn’t have time for much else. But since I left college a few years ago I have become a dabbler- not really through choice though. I have been trying to get to University ever since, but have been much too ill to go, and have just had to postpone for yet another year. So now I dabble. I look for things to occupy me, but always move on, and I’m always waiting until I get to Uni. I don’t lack concentration, but when I’m ill it’s hard to do one thing for very long, especially if the pain is really bad. So I guess another reason I dabble is escapism-always trying to find something to take my mind off of (out of?) my body, but nothing ever works for long.

Sorry if the above is confusing-I evidently can’t write too well at three o’clock in the morning!

since you bumped the post, i’ll join in too!

i hate to admit being a dabbling hacker, or a hacking dabbler. Being a hacker is really quite shameful, to just get to a level and then stay there - the real word for that is stagnate.

I am going to aspire to masterdom, or at least some more dribbling I mean dabbling.

Shortly before this thread ceased to be active, I received a private message asking for details about my attributing the thoughts I mentioned above about the differences between the merely skilled, the talented, and genius (although I didn’t use that word explicitly) to Howard Gardner. I looked, but never could find the source.

Today I did and the ideas actually come from Fire in the Crucible by John Briggs (see page 155). It’s a wonderful exploration of creativity and genius. The book was published in 1988, although my Jeremy P. Tarcher paperback dates from 1990. I read it before I kept research notes in a computer and today I came across the old paper notebook with my notes.

On page 157 Briggs starts a chapter on the work of… Howard Gardner! I had confused the two thinkers.