HOUSTON — What does it take to become an ace golfer or chess whiz? Is the ability to speak multiple languages, rock at playing the violin, or write a bestseller reserved for the rare and gifted?

In Mastery: How Learning Transforms Our Brains, Minds, and Bodies (April 16, 2024; Prometheus Books; ISBN: 978?1633889408; Hardcover), noted psychologist and author Arturo E. Hernandez, Ph.D., reveals how the skills we marvel at and yearn to possess are not born or built purely through discipline. Instead, as he makes clear, new skills bloom from combining, recombining and layering small parts that represent an amazing new whole.

In Mastery, Dr. Hernandez explores and expands upon these 6 Secrets to Building Your Brain Power:

  • How to apply the right kind of practice—deliberate yet flexible—and focus on engagement rather than the rigid, single-minded quest for perfection.
  • Why learning early matters—yes, it’s easier for youngsters to pick up new skills—but how older people have the advantage of broader connections and diverse experiences.
  • The impact of our innate human ability, present at birth, is to recognize and pay attention to faces in reading and writing, which is the road to new skills later in life.
  • The role of genetics in aptitude and talent—and why a gene rarely does any of its work alone.
  • The surprising effects of pressure (both external and self-imposed) and emotions (including anger) on performance in areas of expertise from tennis to piano.
  • How to master the five principles of mastery: will (what do you want to do or learn?), ability (what are you good at?), opportunityflexibility and clarity (what matters to you?).

“The process of learning something new or becoming better at something we already know applies to everyone,” Dr. Hernandez observes. “Whether we are a professional in a sport, a polyglot who speaks at least eleven languages, or just learning something new and becoming good at it, the same rules apply. No matter our ultimate level of expertise, we humans are adept at taking a bunch of little pieces and creating a much bigger whole. Our gift as humans—our defining feature—is the emergent process that leads to mastery.”

Throughout the book, Dr. Hernandez shares fascinating stories of experts, such as Dan McLaughlin, who laid out a plan to become a golf pro to Jane Goodall, the renowned primatologist who struggled with a secret malady: difficulty remembering people’s faces. Mastery reveals the path to startling potential for anyone seeking to learn a new skill or teach someone else to do the same, improve their proficiency at what they already enjoy doing, or better understand how our brains evolve and excel.

About the Author:

ARTURO E. HERNANDEZ, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at the University of Houston and an expert in the brain bases of bilingualism, the foundation of his first book, The Bilingual Brain. He has won prestigious awards for his work, including the Wilhelm Bessel Research Award from the Humboldt Foundation in Germany and a Fulbright Global Scholar Award. Fluent in four languages—English and Spanish (both of which he learned as a child), Portuguese (which he mastered in early adulthood) and German (which he learned in his 30s)—he is also an avid tennis player who has competed in tournaments and spent time coaching his children.