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Daniel Irvine on building software

Book review: Mastery by George Leonard

8 June 2014

This 1992 book is short and to the point. The author is making the case for adapting a life of learning and growing. A path of mastery.

Curiously, over two decades ago the author was already at war with the “quick fix”, that part of us which wants instant gratification and easy stimulation for our ego. Two decades ago, we didn’t have Facebook, we didn’t have Instagram, we certainly didn’t have Snapchat. Yet somehow our society has become more and more dependent on this quick-fix world. As a result, many, many young people grow up without understanding true happiness.

I feel lucky to have in my life both yoga and programming. Both of these are passions that give me immense satisfaction, but I’m an expert with neither. Programming is something I’ve done since I was a child and so I feel like I’m good, and--sure--I know my stuff, but there’s always more to learn. That’s such an exciting thing. Probably the most exciting part of my job is getting to work with talented and passionate people that I can learn from. That doesn’t just mean those with more experience than me, it means everyone.

In yoga I’m a novice but I improve each and every day that I practice. Oddly, I believe that practising yoga has made me a better programmer. For one, I’m more disciplined and my work has become something of a craft, not a career. The inverse is true too: my programming helps my yoga. The importance of retrospectives in programming has helped me deal with the high level of personal introspection needed when practising yoga.

Odd that two totally opposite disciplines can be so similar. Mastery is about this exact topic. Mastery of any discipline is a similar experience and provides similar fulfilment. Reading this book will help you understand that process.

If you’re not already on the path to mastery, this book will help you get started and that in turn will help you lead a happier and more successful life.

About the author

Daniel Irvine is a software craftsman at 8th Light, based in London. These days he prefers to code in Clojure and Ruby, despite having been a C++ and C# developer for the majority of his career.

For a longer bio please see To contact Daniel, send a tweet to @d_ir or use the comments section below.

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