Mastery

I recently finished the book, Mastery by Robert Greene. Mastery in a particular subject, trade or skill includes the feeling of having a greater command of reality, other people and ourselves. It is a misconception to imagine that creativity and brilliance comes out of nowhere, or a good mood, is the result of natural talent or just luck. The author’s thesis is that at the root of the power of mastery is a simple process that is accessible to us all. Lots of time and work must be dedicated in order to master anything, but it is possible. While I do not agree with all the author’s ideas, there are some great insights shared and those inspired me to deliberately embark on the journey to achieve mastery in some areas. Here are some of the ideas from the book which stood out to me:

  • Mastery involves a childlike state in which spontaneity and access to the unconscious are common. There is a mix of the instinctive and the rational.
  • People wrongly assume that mastery is inaccessible to all but a few select individuals.
  • At the root of the intensity that leads to mastery is not talent or brilliance but a deep and powerful inclination toward a particular subject. The inclination is a reflection of a person’s uniqueness.
  • It is an emotional quality that determines those who master a field from those who simply work at a job. Our level of patience, desire, persistence, confidence, energy and motivation play a bigger role than our intellectual powers.
  • You must see your attempt at attaining mastery as something necessary and positive.
  • Your Life’s Task is to build your uniqueness (an “inward” task) through your work, but the social pressures to conform are a powerful counterforce that must be overcome.
  • You must see your work as something more inspiring, like a vocation, instead of something to get through on the real way to pleasure. However, your work must be deeply connected to who you are and not a separate compartment in your life.
  • Your vocational path should be seen as a journey with twists and turns, not a straight line.
  • Finding a larger purpose for our lives is a religious-like quest.
  • You must love a subject and feel a profound connection to it in order to achieve mastery.
  • Be primarily committed to your Life’s Task, not a position, company or career.
  • Mastery requires a great deal of patience – keep your focus on five or ten years down the road.
  • Ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be like others – direct yourself to the small things you are good at and become proficient at these simple and immediate skills.
  • Don’t envy those who are naturally gifted.
  • Search for, and find, an apprenticeship that will bring challenges to toughen and improve you along with providing objective feedback on your performance. The goal is transformation of your mind and character.
  • Accept and embrace the tedious work required on the journey to mastery – cultivate the ability to handle these situations with discipline.
  • As you gain skills and confidence, move to a more active mode of experimentation which might involve initiating a project of some sort or doing work that exposes you to criticism of peers or the public.
  • The strategies for completing an ideal apprenticeship are: value learning over money, keep expanding your horizons, revert to a feeling of inferiority, move toward resistance and pain, apprentice yourself in failure, combine the “how” and the “what” and advance through trial and error.
  • To learn requires a sense of humility. Accustom yourself to criticism. Fight complacency by cultivating a sense of active wonder.
  • Praise can do harm. Become motivated by the work itself and the process. Public attention is a nuisance and distraction.
  • In looking at the exceptional work of Masters, do not ignore the years of practice, the endless routines, the hours of doubt and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these Masters endured.
  • Use your spare time not to look just for entertainment or distractions, but take up hobbies that bring pleasure and a chance to strengthen your memory capabilities and the flexibility of your brain.

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