Book Summary of ‘Mastery’ by Robert Greene

This book is about creating the life you want through the pursuit of mastery. It’s about becoming the best in your chosen craft and finding inspiration from the masters throughout history.

Mastery, at it’s core, is the feeling we have when we have a great command of reality, other people and ourselves.

By studying the masters throughout history – like Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Darwin, Martha Graham, and others – Robert Greene has found that at the root of mastery is a simple process and it’s accessible to all of us.

Join me as I explore that process and explore strategies for moving through this process in the most powerful way possible.

1. Discovering Your Calling

According to Greene, in seach of us is an inner force guiding us towards our Life’s Task – what we are meant to accomplish in our time on earth.

In childhood, this was clear to us, even if we didn’t understand it. We were drawn to some activities and subjects and we had a natural and deep curiosity about those things. However, as life moves on, we start to lose that force. We listen to our parents, friends and teachers and gradually shift towards what the world expects from us. In the process we lose touch with our inner force.

So, whether you are just beginning your career or you are nearing the end of it, the first step toward mastery is to look inward and reconnect with that force. When we do that, everything else starts to fall into place.

Strategies for finding this “life task”

  1. Return to your origins: what were you obsessed with when you were younger? This is where you’ll start to find clues that will lead you to your life’s task.
  2. Occupy the perfect niche: find the combination of your natural interests and a niche that you can dominate.
  3. Avoid the false path: money, fame and making our parents happy are all paths towards an unfulfilling life.
  4. Let go of the past: if you are in a career that doesn’t fit your life’s path, find a way out. Just because you invested time and money into it, doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.
  5. Find your way back: you’ll be pulled off your path in your journey towards mastery. Make sure to keep finding your way back.

2. Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

After your formal education, you are entering the most critical phase of your life – the apprenticeship phase. As Greene points out, every time you change careers or acquire a new skill set, you re-enter this phase.

This is where you’ll master the skills you need to succeed and where you’ll transform yourself into an independent thinker, preparing you for the creative challenges you’ll face on your path to mastery.

An apprenticeship can take many forms – working with a master in the field, graduate school, or working different jobs within a field. The important thing to remember is that you are the only one who can direct this phase – nobody is going to do it for you.

Strategies for Completing the Ideal Apprenticeship

  1. Value learning over money: in the apprenticeship phase, learning is always worth more than money.
  2. Keep expanding your horizons: whenever you find yourself settling into some circle of people or thought, force yourself to shake things up and look for new challenges.
  3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority: as soon as you tell yourself you already know something, the learning stops. Always have a beginners mind.
  4. Trust the process: the path to mastery takes time. Keep learning and working in your field with as much energy as you can muster.
  5. Move toward resistance and pain: this is always where the growth is.
  6. Apprentice yourself in failure: failures are the best opportunities for learning and growth.
  7. Combine the “how” and the “what”: always strive for a deep understanding of how everything works in your chosen field.
  8. Advance through trial and error: try out as many different paths as you can to get to your ultimate destination. Trial and error is the only way to break new ground.

3. Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

According to Greene, the mentor-protege relationship is the most efficient form of learning.

If you pick the right mentor, they will know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you to grow. In the process, their knowledge and experience become yours.

Strategies for Deepening the Mentor Dynamic

  1. Choose a mentor according to your needs and inclination: make sure you choose one that connects with your Life’s Path and that suits your current needs.
  2. Gaze deep into the mentor’s mirror: as Greene says, we should strive to get the sharpest dose of reality possible from our mentor. Welcome criticism as an opportunity for growth.
  3. Transfigure their ideas: as you learn from your mentor, don’t simply copy their ideas. Make them into your own by thinking for yourself.
  4. Create a back and forth dynamic: always make it clear what you are looking for from your mentor, and push back on them when necessary. This is the mentality that true masters adopt.

4. See People as they Are: Social Intelligence

One of the biggest obstacles in the pursuit of mastery comes from the emotions we have to face with as we deal with other people. Quite often we misread the intentions of other people and react in ways that cause confusion or conflict.

Social intelligence is the ability to see people for what they are in the most realistic light possible. If we can learn to focus deeply on others, get adept at reading their behaviors and understanding their motivations, we can keep ourselves on the path to mastery.

If we don’t do these things, we have not achieved true mastery and whatever success we have achieved will be fleeting.

Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence

  1. Speak through your work: your work should demonstrate an understanding and caring for the people you are serving.
  2. Craft the appropriate persona: people will judge you based on your outward appearance. You must consciously mold these appearances, creating an image that suits you, so that you can control people’s judgements and allow you to focus on your work.
  3. See yourself as others see you: get comfortable being honest about your flaws. Start by reviewing past events that didn’t go well and looking for your contributions to them.
  4. Suffer fools gladly: fools are a part of life and you can either deal with them productively (by ignoring them) or unproductively (by letting them absorb your time and attention).

5. Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

As you accumulate more skills and start to internalise the rules that govern your field, your natural inclination will be to seek ways to use your newfound knowledge in ways that suit you.

However, you are likely to feel anxious and insecure about doing that, preferring to stick with applying what you learned only in the ways in which you learned it.

To continue on the path to mastery, you must fight through this anxiety and expand your knowledge to related fields and in the process make new connections between different ideas.

As you do this, you’ll start to see more and more of reality around you and in the end, bring you to new heights of power.

Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase

  1. The Authentic Voice: finding your voice takes time. Sometimes it take years to absorb the techniques and conventions of your field, but if you don’t take the time to master them and personalise them, you’ll never find your authentic voice.
  2. The Fact of Great Yield: be on the lookout for things that have profound ramifications to your field.
  3. Mechanical Intelligence: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself. In doing this work, you see and feel the flaws in the design. This craftsmanship involves creating something with an elegant, simple structure, getting the most out of your materials — a high form of creativity.
  4. Natural Powers: creativity takes time, and you should give your self the ability to explore a wide variety of fields as you search for big insights. In this stage, slowness is a virtue.
  5. The Open Field: by taking all of the knowledge and skills you have created so far on your journey and applying them against the conventions that currently pervade your industry, you can find the proverbial white space.
  6. The High End: if your work ever starts to feel stale or boring, return to the larger purpose that put you on this path in the first place.
  7. The Evolutionary Hijack: creativity and adaptability are inseparable. We must learn to take what we experience and move with the opportunities that present themselves in the moment.
  8. Dimensional Thinking: instead of trying to boil down your field into simplifications and abstractions, you look at your field from as many different angles as possible, giving your thoughts added dimensions. This makes the process more complicated, but ultimately leads you close to the truth.
  9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious: by looking for contradictions – both in the world and within yourself – you’ll find a rich mine of information that is deeper and more complex than you ever thought possible.

6. Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

By immersing ourselves in our field of study for many years, we start to develop an intuitive feel for the complicated components of our field.

When we combine this intuitive thinking with rational processes, we find ourselves expanding our minds to the outer limits of our potential.

This is where we finally achieve true mastery.

Strategies for Attaining Mastery

  1. Connect to your environment — Primal Powers: The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us. In order achieve this, we must become powerful observers of the world around us.
  2. Play to your strengths — Supreme Focus: Mastery – Greene points out – is like swimming. It’s too difficult to move forward when we are creating our own resistance or swimming against the current. Know your strengths and move with them.
  3. Transform yourself through practice — The Fingertip Feel: practice and the thousands of hours we need to invest doing it, is critical to our success. Embrace the transformative powers we gain through practice.
  4. Internalise the Details — The Life Force: your path to mastery must include the ability to extend your knowledge as far as possible by absorbing all of the details you possibly can.
  5. Widen Your Vision — The Global Perspective: As Greene points out, in any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail.
  6. Submit to the Other — The Inside Out Perspective: our natural tendency is to project onto other people our own beliefs and value systems. We must combat this by continuing to expose ourselves to other people and attempt to see things as they see them.
  7. Synthesise all forms of knowledge — The Universal Man/Woman: we should seek to have our mastery not over this subject or that subject, but ultimately on the connections between them, based on decades of deep observation and thinking.

Hope you found this useful. Until next time…

P.S. I need a business coach (willing to train [at my expense] the right individual with some get up and go / sales/ marketing prowess) to facilitate demand for my coaching business. If you, or someone you know, is interested, please click for more information

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