Book notes: Mastery by Robert Greene

Mastery by Robert Greene book summary review and key ideas.

Mastery by Robert Greene

Synopsis:

“What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force’s last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up where The 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world’s masters.

Temple Grandin, Martha Graham, Henry Ford, Buckminster Fuller – all have lessons to offer about how the love for doing one thing exceptionally well can lead to mastery. Yet the secret, Greene maintains, is already in our heads. Debunking long-held cultural myths, he demonstrates just how we, as humans, are hardwired for achievement and supremacy. Fans of Greene’s earlier work and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers will eagerly devour this canny and erudite explanation of just what it takes to be great.” – Audible

Opening thoughts:

I read this author’s other book called The Art of Seduction. It was a solid book and had really good principles, but I remember it had a lot of fluff. This book seems pretty long too, so I’m expecting more of the same. If this book turns out to be good, I feel like I should read the book Power which comes up a lot in different reading lists.

Key notes:

  • Mastery: The feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves
  • 3 distinct phases or levels of mastery:
    1. Apprenticeship
    2. Creative active
    3. Mastery
  • All primates evolved to be essentially social creatures
  • Mirror neurons allowed primates to effectively read and interpret the behavior of others
    • Mirror neurons also allowed primates to think inside of the mind of other creatures
    • This sensation could also be applied to in adamant objects when at a high level of mastery
    • Our ancestors evolved this intuitive the power hundreds of thousands of years before the invention of language
      • That is why when we experience this intelligence, it feels pre-verbal
  • Our hunting ancestors reverse the process of time being the enemy
    • The longer they spent observing something, the deeper their understanding and connection to reality
    • With experience, their hunting skills would progress
  • Natural talent or high IQ cannot explain future achievement
    • Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence play a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers
  • People get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life

Chapter 1: Discover Your Calling – The Life’s Task

  • The first move towards mastery is always inward
    • Learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force
  • Leonardo saw his illegitimate birth as a blessing because he was able to grow in his own way and pursue all of his interests and see the connections between them
  • The stronger you feel and maintain the force and destiny in your life, the greater chance for fulfilling this life’s task and achieving mastery
    • What weakens this force or makes you not feel it is another force: social pressures to confirm
  • You must see your career or vocational path more as a journey with twists and turns rather than a straight line
  • What we lack most in the modern world is a sense of a larger purpose to our lives
  • In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it
  • Occupy the perfect niche, the Darwinian strategy
    • Find a niche in the ecology that you can dominate
    • Create a field that is uniquely your own
      • This fits with a culture where information is so widely available, and which connecting ideas is a form of power
  • Avoid the false path, the rebellion strategy
    • Actively rebel against the forces that have pushed you away from your true path
  • Let’s go of the past, the adaptation strategy
    • Your life’s tasks are a living, breathing organism
    • Don’t rigidly follow a plan set in your youth
  • Find your way back, the life or death strategy
    • You must listen to the message of your frustration and pain if you deviate from what you’re supposed to do, whether because of money or something else
    • Let the pain guide you.
    • The way back requires a sacrifice. You cannot have everything in the present
    • The road to mastery requires patience
      • You will have to keep your focus on 5-10 years down the road when you will reap the rewards of your efforts.
  • When faced with deficiencies instead of strengths, assume this strategy
    • Ignore your weakness and resist the temptation to be more like others
    • Direct yourself towards the small things you are good at
      • Concentrate on becoming proficient at these simple and immediate skills

Chapter 2: submit to reality, the ideal apprenticeshiP

One can have no smaller or greater mastery the master of oneself.

Leonardo da Vinci
  • The goal of an apprenticeship is the transformation of your mind and character
  • You must choose places of work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning
    • Practical knowledge is the ultimate commodity and will pay you dividends for decades to come
  • Three steps in your apprenticeship:
    1. Deep observation – the passive mode
    2. Skills acquisition – the practice mode
    3. Experimentation – the active mode.
  • The ability to observe any unfamiliar environment will become a critical lifelong skill
  • Concentrated practice overtime, such as 10,000 hours, cannot fail but produce results
    • The future in science does not lie in increased specialization, but rather in the combining and cross fertilization of knowledge in various fields
  • In the arts, tastes and styles are changing at an accelerated rate
    • An artist must be on top of this and be capable of creating new forms, always remaining ahead of the curve
      • It doesn’t require specialization but knowledge of other arts and even sciences
    • The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways
  • In general no matter your field, you must think of yourself as a builder using actual materials and ideas
    • You are producing something tangible in your work, something that affects people in some direct concrete way
    • You must understand the building process and possess the necessary skills
  • Eight strategies to pursue and complete the ideal apprenticeship:
    1. Value learning over money
    2. Keep expanding your horizons 
    3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority 
      • A child’s sense of inferiority gives them a hunger to learn
      • Through learning, they can bridge the gap and not feel so helpless
        • Their minds are completely open, they pay greater attention
        • This is why children can learn so quickly and so deeply
    4. Trust the process
      • When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient
    5. Move towards resistance and pain
      • Resistance practice: you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice
    6. Apprentice yourself in failure 
      • Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done
    7. Combine the how and the what
      • We must constantly round our knowledge in the our field and ask questions on how things work
    8. Advance through trial and error

Chapter 3: Absorb the Master’s Power – The Mentor Dynamic

  • The mentor-protege relationship is the most efficient and productive form of learning
    • The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you
    • Their knowledge and experience become yours
    • They provide immediate feedback on your work so you can improve more rapidly
      • The mentor you choose should be strategically aligned with your inclinations and life task, the future position you envision for yourself
  • Masters are those who by nature have suffered to get where they are
  • Roche begin training and eventually in 2001 came across Manny Pacquiao
    • He could instantly tell from Manny’s first punch with the snap and intensity that he was a fighter he was looking for to develop this new style of boxing
    • With Manny, his progress was more rapid because he was very teachable
      • He never seemed to tire of training or worry about overdoing it
      • He also didn’t let his ego get in the way like other fighters while training
  • The best relationship between a mentor and student is interactive where they both learn from each other and improve and adapt

Chapter 4: See People As They Are – Social Intelligence

  • Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible
    • Social intelligence involves focusing our attention outward instead of inward
      • Honing the observational and empathic skills that we naturally possess
    • It means moving past our tendency to idealize and demonize people, and seeing and accepting them as they are
  • To be truly charming and socially effective, you have to understand people
    • To understand them, you have to get outside yourself and immerse your mind in their world
  • When trying to read and understand people, take special note on how they respond to stressful situations
    • Often the mask they wear in public falls off in the heat of the moment
  • Sometimes the things they do that may seem like small issues maybe signs about something deeper about their character
    • Don’t make the common mistake of judging people on your initial impressions
  • During initial encounters, you’ll tend to be more nervous, less open, and more inward
    • You are not really paying attention
    • Furthermore, people have trained themselves to appear a certain way
  • In general, in your interaction with people, find a way to make the conversation revolve around them and their interests
    • All of them will go far in winning them to your side
Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence
  • Craft the perfect persona
    • The personality we project to the world plays a substantial role in our success and in our ascension to mastery 
  • Consciously mold your appearance, creating the image that suits you and controlling peoples judgments
  • See yourself as others see you
  • Suffer fools gladly
    • Each language has elements that reflect the uniqueness of its culture
    • Culture plays a large role then we might imagine in how we think and communicate
    • Fools are ruled by their egos and insecurities
      • They tend to enjoy drama and political intrigue for their own sake
      • When they criticize, they emphasize matters that are irrelevant to the overall picture or argument

Chapter 5: Awaken the Dimensional Mind – The Creative Active

  • The dimensional mind has two essential requirements:
    1. A high level of knowledge about a field or subject
    2. The openness and flexibility to use this knowledge in new and original ways
  • Creative activity is one that involves the entire self: our emotions, our levels of energy, our character, and our minds
  • Five strategies for developing creative flexibility:
    1. Cultivate negative capability
      • Truly creative people in all fields can temporarily suspend their ego and simply experience what they are seeing without the need to assert a judgment for as long as possible
      • This ability to endure and even embrace mysteries and uncertainties it’s called negative capability
    2. Allow for serendipity
    3. Alternate the mind through the current
    4. Alter your perspective
    5. Revert to primal intelligence
  • The Creative Breakthrough – Tension And Insight
    • Uphold the value of active wonder
    • Constantly remind yourself of how little you truly know and how mysterious the world remains
  • Creativity by its nature is an act of boldness and rebellion
    • You’re not accepting the status quo or conventional wisdom
    • The world is dying for bolder ideas
  • Make creativity rather than comfort your goal and you will ensure far more success for the future
    • What must ultimately motivate you is the work itself and the process
  • The greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience
    • The almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash
  • The principles of Mechanical Intelligence: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself
    • Separating out the work will make you lose touch with its functionality
  • It is essential to build into the creative process an initial period that is open ended
    • You give yourself time to dream and wonder
    • It is best to have wide knowledge of your field and other fields giving your brain more possible associations and connections
    • To keep this process alive you must never settle into complacency
      • You must develop the need to constantly improve your ideas
  • The uncertainty drives the creative urge and keeps it fresh
    • Lastly, you must come to embrace slowness as a virtue in itself
  • You must bring to your new idea all of the knowledge you have acquired in your field but for the purpose of reversing it

Chapter 6: fuse intuitive with the rational – mastery 

  • Intuition is driven by memory 
  • Mastery is not a function of genius or talent, it is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge
  • The x-factor for attaining mastery is making a choice to forge your own route, one that others will see as unconventional
    • This key choice takes self confidence and self awareness
      1. Connect to your environment – primal lowers powers 
        • We must first transform ourselves into consummate observers
          • See everything in our surroundings as a potential sign to interpret
      2. Play to your strengths– supreme focus 
        • Einstein‘s Theory of Simple Relativity: everything is relative to everything else
          • Speed, time, space, distance, and so on except for the speed of light, which never changes
        • For Einstein, imagination and intuition played a far larger role in his discoveries then than his knowledge in science and mathematics
          • His extraordinary qualities where his patience mixed with his extreme tenacity
        • A key component in the process of attaining mastery is determining your mental and psychological strengths, and working with them
          • It requires many hours of dedicated focus and practice
      3. Transform yourself through practice – The fingertip fee
      4. Internalize the details – The life force
      5. Widen your vision – The global perspective
        • In any competitive environment in which there are winners and losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail
          • The reason is because such a person will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing
        • Most people are perpetually locked in the present. Their decisions are overly influenced by the most immediate event
          • They easily become emotional and describe greater significance to a problem than it should have in reality
        • Your motto should be look wider and think further ahead
      6. Submit to the other – The inside out perspective
        • The rejection and reversal of mastery leads to enslavement by the false self
          • This is the accumulation of all the voices you have internalized from other people about how you should conform to their ideas on what you should be like and what you should do, as well as adhere to society’s values that can easily seduce you
          • It also includes the voice of your own ego which constantly tries to protect you from unflattering truths
  • Mastery isn’t about luck or genetics, but following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Mastery is the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves
  • Mirror neurons allowed us to effectively read and interpret the behavior of others, as well as think inside the minds of others
  • The first step to mastery is learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force
  • In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it
  • The road to mastery requires patience
  • The goal of an apprenticeship is the transformation of your mind and character
  • Concentrated practice overtime, such as 10,000 hours, cannot fail but produce results
  • The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways
  • The mentor-protege relationship is the most efficient and productive form of learning
  • Creative activity is one that involves the entire self: our emotions, our levels of energy, our character, and our minds
  • Creativity by its nature is an act of boldness and rebellion
  • Make creativity rather than comfort your goal
  • The greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience
  • develop the need to constantly improve your ideas
  • Embrace slowness as a virtue in itself
  • Intuition is driven by memory 
  • The x-factor for attaining mastery is making a choice to forge your own route
  • Mastery isn’t about luck or genetics, but following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within

Closing thoughts:

This was a really good book with really solid concepts. However, as I predicted, this was a very long book. I think the principles were very valuable, but the author had so many stories to tell. Some of the stories were repeated, but they were to emphasize new points he made.

In my opinion, I think the book could have been half the length, if not more. But that’s just me. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in the book that really supported the claims he was making. It was all very interesting and still kept my attention despite how long it took me to get through it.

Overall, it’s a great book and I see why it’s on so many people’s top book lists. Definitely find the notes or main points, but if you have the time, I’d say go ahead and read it.

One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

So many good ideas to takeaway. I’ve heard many of these before, but if I had to choose one to put into practice, it would be:

  • Embrace slowness as a virtue. The greatest impediment to creativity is impatience.

This reminds me of the book I just finished Big Magic which talks all about creativity and art. I think internalizing the fact that mastery is a long process and requires consistent, persistent, and deliberate practice to attain really puts into perspective what we should be focusing on.

Nutshell:

Everything you need to know about mastery, specific examples of people who have attained mastery in the past, and a principles to reach the levels of mastery.

Rating:

4/5

Similar books:


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