Mastery by Robert Greene
Sit Down and Read
One Line Summary
Follow your natural inclinations to become the very best. Like no one ever was
Why it’s Awesome
Robert Greene is a gangster to the core. Any dude that can make a near 400 page book about history exciting has talent. And you can forget about the 48 Laws of Power. This is his best book.
In typical Robert Greene style, he examines the historical lives of history’s greatest masters in all different disciplines. As it turns out, whether you were a physicist or a writer, they followed a predicable path to mastery. This book reveals that path in depth and gives advice about how to get on it.
The first and most important predictor of mastery was whether or not a person was following their natural inclinations. These natural inclinations come from a person’s natural interests and talents. So a person must learn to act through his own intentions and follow their intuition. No one knows you as well as yourself.
One thing I’ve discovered is that it’s extraordinarily easy to deceive yourself that you are acting through your own intentions. But you aren’t. You act a certain way because you want to impress your friends. You want your parent’s approval. You want strangers to think you’re cool or intelligent or whatever.
But none of it is because it’s what you want to do.
This is why this is the hardest part to mastery. A master has to be willing to say fuck all to other people’s opinions and approval before anything can happen. This often requires social suicide, which our primal tribal brains equate to actual suicide. But it can’t happen any other way.
Think about it. Isaac Newton locked himself in a room for months and eventually emerged with having come up with is essentially modern Calculus (let’s ignore the Leibniz debate). Could someone do that if they were looking towards other people’s opinions? No. He had full trust in his own intuition and inclinations which allowed him to act through his own intentions.
However the ability to follow your own inclinations is not enough on its own. You still need to practically learn the skills of whatever area you are attempting to master. This leads to the next phase: Apprenticeship
Every great master had an intense immersion of learning in their field, sometimes involving a mentor but not always. Everyone’s journey is personal. But they still learned.
The final stage is Mastery and the fusing of your intuition and rationality. By this point, a master has developed such unconscious competence in their field that their intuition is a powerful force beyond what any normal person could comprehend.
Why Does It Suck
In typical Robert Greene fashion, the book is a bit paranoid when it comes to human nature. I’m convinced that in Robert Greene reality, he imagines everyone fighting for power and just fucking each other over. Of course that happens, but shit man what an awful way to view the world. Confirmation bias would say that whatever you believe, you’re simply going to keep recreating that reality over and over.
This book also is crazy long and Greene repeats himself a lot. But that’s a minor point.
The Wrap Up
Mastery is an amazing book for anyone looking to take that journey towards excellence. Much of his book is inspiration for how I’m currently living my life and I can feel myself walking this same path.
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