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128 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fans of Greene's work will be pleased
"Mastery" continues in the tradition of Greene's other work, especially The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books). Consider this book, if you will, as a synthesis and application of the principles in those three books: in the "48 Laws," Greene introduced a set of concepts loosely based on Gracian's "The Art of Worldly...
Published on October 5, 2012 by kelsie

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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but too much frosting
Let me start off by saying that I'm a Greene fan, and I own all of his other books and have read them multiple times. This makes me bias towards giving him a good review, but it also sets the bar very high.

This has much of the familiar writing style Greene fans have come to love. It goes over historical examples of masters, and distills the lessons to be...
Published 23 months ago by Jordan A. Ghasemi


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128 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fans of Greene's work will be pleased, October 5, 2012
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
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"Mastery" continues in the tradition of Greene's other work, especially The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books). Consider this book, if you will, as a synthesis and application of the principles in those three books: in the "48 Laws," Greene introduced a set of concepts loosely based on Gracian's "The Art of Worldly Wisdom" that assisted readers in determining how to gain and maintain control. In "Seduction," Greene taught readers the principles of gaining and maintaining status as a desire of others; and in the "33 Strategies," Greene shifted the ground beneath our feet from the boardroom and living room to the battlefield, describing how militaristic techniques and approaches could be used to achieve our goals and outcomes.

"Mastery" synthesizes much of this previous work into a larger framework, a longer-term project--a "bigger picture," so to speak. Greene defines "mastery" as the ultimate power: "[A] form of power and intelligence that represents the high point of human potential. It is the source of the greatest achievements and discoveries in history. It is an intelligence that is not taught in our schools nor analyzed by professors, but almost all of us,a t some point, have had glimpses of it in our own experience."

As with his previous works, Greene relies heavily on historical anecdotes to explain his six-step plan to the achievement of mastery:
1. Discover your calling: the life's task
2. Submit to reality: the ideal apprenticeship
3. Absorb the master's power: the mentor dynamic
4. See people as they are: social intelligence
5. Awaken the dimensional mind: the creative-active
6. Fuse the intuitive with the rational: mastery

For each of these steps, Greene includes a detailed explanation of what the step's goal is, relevant historical examples of the step in action, and the strategies for achieving the goal and moving to the next step. For example, in the first step (the life's task), Greene somewhat metaphysically argues that "You possess an inner force that seeks to guide you toward your Life's Task--what you are meant to accomplish in the time that you have to live." Determining what this task is is the goal of the first step. Greene then offers up Leonardo Da Vinci as an example of this search, and provides five strategies for "finding your life's task": returning to your origins, occupying the perfect niche, avoiding the false path, letting go of the past, and finding your way back. Each of these strategies is further accompanied by more historical anecdotes.

Whereas the "48 Laws," "33 Strategies," and "Seduction" had focused on somewhat tighter, more confined situations--and were presented in a rather fragmented, isolated manner that did not necessarily relate each rule or precept to the others--"Mastery" is a conscious attempt to bring together all this information and these principles into a single, directed course of action. This book, more than all the others, is Robert Greene's answer to the question of how to "win friends and influence people" (with emphasis on the latter).

A worthy addition to any library--especially those with well-thumbed copies of Greene's earlier books.
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204 of 225 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant Classic, September 29, 2012
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
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"Mastery - the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves."

"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."

Mastery is a book that will stand the test of time. Robert Greene writes to instruct others how to achieve mastery in any field, told through a series of mini-biographies, life lessons, timeless quotes, and a modern understanding of psychology and human nature. Mastery combines these different varieties of anecdotes and instructions simply and beautifully. It is a great read, and one that would have been relevant 500 years ago and will still be relevant 500 years from now. Few non-fiction books that are published today can claim such an accomplishment.

Greene identifies three levels of learning a subject. First there is apprenticeship, marked by intense learning. Secondly, the creative-active level, set apart by practice. The third and final phase is mastery. The first four chapters of the book focus on apprenticeship, followed by one chapter each for the final two phases.

The entire books is an excellent read, but here are some of the bright spots that stood out to me:

* The biographies are really, really good. The four that stood out to me tell the life story of Benjamin Franklin, Freddie Roach, Marcel Proust, and Temple Grandin. Good mix of contemporary and ancient biographies. Its worth reading Mastery just for the mini-biographies.

* Chapter four on social intelligence is excellent. Social intelligence is often overlooked as a step to mastering anything, but Greene highlights here and provides some great tips on dealing navigating the social landscape.

* The first chapter deals with finding your life's task. The last part focuses on strategies to identify your life's task, and there are some very helpful tips here.

* The layout of the book is great. You can open to any chapter and find useful information right away. It is a great read the first time through, and will remain a useful reference once you are finished.

A few things I didn't love:

* It reads like a timeless book. The principles it contains and the methods that Greene prescribes will always be useful. That said, at times it feels too dense - almost like you are reading an ancient Zen manuscript.

* Many of the biographies are continued and built on in subsequent chapters. The first few paragraphs of each are usually very similar, and I found myself skipping through them quickly. Will actually make it more useful when using as a reference in the future, but you will want to skip a few paragraphs if you are reading it straight through.

Mastery is an excellent book, and one that I can highly recommend to anyone. The focus on the apprenticeship model and how you can apply it in the modern world is unique and will only become more relevant in the future. Though Greene never denounces formal higher education, many of the examples he gives highlight alternative routes you can take. I will recommend this book to many, but will buy a few copies to give to high school juniors and seniors considering which education/career path to take.
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151 of 166 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part Instruction/Part Inspiration - NOTHING like OUTLIERS, October 17, 2012
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
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I read Gladwell's "Outliers" and when I saw Mastery, I thought, didn't Gladwell already DO this book?
Kind of, but not really.
This book is totally different.
Gladwell's book is filled with examples.
Greene's book is an instructional inspiration, so to speak. Outliers didn't present a roadmap, which is what really differentiates the books.
It starts with examining your past and how to discover what you are meant to do -then steers you on a path towards following those who are where you want to be, how to work with them and make the most of the relationship - and one of my favorite parts is seeing people as they are (social intelligence).
It then delves into creativity and how to blend it with reality - how to become a master of your chosen destiny.
If you love quotes, this book is packed with them. It's also packed with examples of true stories.
Outliers leaves readers with the answer of how successful people got to the top -
Mastery leaves readers with a road map of how to become one of those successful people (accompanied by stories of achievement).
Compelling and commanding - this is a book that should come with a highlighter and will have a permanent place on your inspirational bookshelf.
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52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful work on finding your life's purpose and developing a path to mastery, February 17, 2013
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This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
This is an extremely powerful work on how to achieve mastery in one's life. Mastery can be thought of as the unique way each of us can fully actualize our potential for greatness and enjoy a fulfilling life.

Achieving Mastery in life is a lot of work but it is the way to a flourishing life (a life of self-fulfillment). Spinoza's quote "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare" came to mind several times as I read the book. The author provides ideas and strategies that can improve the process for those willing to expend the effort. I plan to re-read and work with the ideas and strategies covered in this book and apply them to my personal context. I also plan to purchase copies of the book for my wife and 2 teenage sons so they can benefit from this material as well.

The work begins by discussing how to discover one's purpose in life. This is unique to each individual and needs to be well thought through. The author gives 5 strategies for finding your life's task and illustrates these strategies with historical and contemporary figures. Two of the strategies he discusses that really gave me a lot to think about are:
1. ) Occupy the perfect niche - the Darwinian strategy. In this strategy you need to find the career niche that best fits your interests and talents and then evolve that niche over time. I found the eaxample of V.S. Ramachandran very interesting
2.) Let go of the past - the adaptation strategy. The following quote from this section that really resonated with me:
"You must adapt your Life's Task to these circumstances. You do not hold on to past ways of doing things, because it will ensure you will fall behind and suffer for it. You are flexible and looking to adapt."

The author then covers the Apprentice Phase which he breaks into 3 steps:
1.) Deep Observation - the Passive Mode
2.) Skills Acquisition - the Practice Mode
3.) Experimentation - The Active Mode

There are detailed strategies for completing the ideal appenticeship. These are illustrated by examples. 2 of my favorites in this section were "move toward resistance and pain" as illustrated by the example of Bill Bradley and "apprentice yourself in failure" as illustrated by Henry Ford. All 8 strategies are worth thinking about in detail.

The next section covers learning through a Mentor and is one of the best parts of the book. The example of Michael Faraday is used as a great illustration. There are strategies discussed for finding the appropriate mentor(s), knowing when to break away from the mentor and what to do if you cannot find a mentor (the example here is Thomas Edison and there is an interesting tie-back to Faraday). Having a mentor is the most effective way to gain deep knowledge of a field in the least amount of time - it greatly accelerates that path to Mastery.

The next section deals with social intelligence and seeing people as they are. Benjamin Franklin is used as an example. There are 7 deadly realities covered in this section (envy, conformism, rigidity, self-obsessiveness, laziness, flightiness and passive aggression) as well as strategies for acquiring social intelligence.

The fifth section is on awakening the dimensional mind. This is where you see more and more aspects of reality and develop ways to become more creative (and not get stuck in the past). There are several strategies on creativity discussed in detail. I found the discussion on ways to alter one's perspective especially illuminating. These include avoiding:
* Looking at the "what" instead of the "how"
* Rushing to generalities and ignoring details
* Confirming paradigms and ignoring anomalies - (key quote: "...anomalies themselves contain the richest information. They often reveal to us the flaws in our paradigms and open up new ways of looking at the world")
* fixating on what is present, ignoring what is absent (Sherlock Holmes example)

The section continues with strategies and examples for this "creative-active" phase. My favorite was a section on Mechanical Intelligence with the Wright Brothers as an example.

The Final Section is on Mastery as the fusing of the Intuitive with the Rational. The strategies in this section are very powerful and I will be returning to them again and again. Here are the 7 strategies:
1.) Connect to your environment
2.) Play to your strengths (this is very important - see further thoughts on this below)
3.) Transform yourself through practice
4.) Internalize the details - the life force (Leonardo Da Vinci example)
5.) Widen your vision
6.) Submit to the other - the Inside Out perspective
7.) Synthesize all forms of knowledge

This is a very powerful book filled with a lot of good ideas and strategies. There are ideas I plan to continue to "chew" on and think more deeply about while I work to integrate these ideas and strategies into my personal context.

A lot of the book stresses the importance of self-discipline, persevering through difficult challenges, the importance of an adaptive and active mind, independent thinking and integrating all of one's knowledge. Here are a few recommendations I would make to augment the material covered in this book:
1.) For Self-Displine and Willpower (and perseverance):
Willpower by Tierney and Baumeister
The Power of Habit by Duhigg
Grit (see TED Talk by Angela Duckworth and the GRIT assessment as well - Grit Assessment can be found at: available at [...])
2.) For an adaptive/active mindset (and recovering from failure)
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Apapt by Tim Harford
3.) For a great fictional example of many of the ideas covered in the book, I would recommend Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (Roark as a positive example; Keating as a negative example of what the author calls "the false self")
4.) Other Real world examples
Richard Feynman (see his books "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" and "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out"
5.) Finding your strengths
Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
VIA Survey of Character Strengths (available at [...])
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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but too much frosting, December 21, 2012
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
Let me start off by saying that I'm a Greene fan, and I own all of his other books and have read them multiple times. This makes me bias towards giving him a good review, but it also sets the bar very high.

This has much of the familiar writing style Greene fans have come to love. It goes over historical examples of masters, and distills the lessons to be taken away from them. I particularly like how he takes people and events and puts an interesting take on them--such as painting Franklin as a rational patriot who would do anything to help his country, and not simply a pleasure-seeker gone wild in France; in other books he said Lincoln always wanted to free the slaves but could not say it, it's not what we learned in history class but it makes more sense. He also uses what has become my favorite phrase of his: "Better to...." When I hear these words I get nostalgic and brace for a brilliant observation I can't help but agree with and wonder why I didn't think of it myself.

But where this book really shines is, of course, his example-stories. This is his classic style, he tells--or rather shows--you how the lessons he is giving work in the real world, and he does it with clarity and precision. However, where this book fails is in the analysis that precedes and follows these stories. In his past works, these conclusions were concise and accented the examples, here they dominate and bury them.

This book seems to be larger than the others, why does he spend so many pages theory-crafting about the examples he just gave? The stories are a much more powerful means to get his point across, without needing lecturing. His other works feel like a pleasant conversation where I patiently listen to his stories and brief analysis. This, on the other hand, sometimes reads like a textbook which makes me want to put it down, which is not something his books have ever done before. I don't mind the cross-references or the bit of neurology here and there, but what I can't stand is any more than two pages of analysis to conclude an already lengthy example. Worse, much of these conclusions are redundant! Sometimes he will say something, then a few paragraphs later he will say it again in different words and possibly in the negative.

The stories are like the cake, they [should] make up the bulk of the text, and get the obvious points across. The analysis and explanation should be the frosting on the cake, to connect the dots and narrate the examples. But, like too much frosting on a cake, these meandering and repetitive analyses have broken the delicate balance his other books have perfected.

In sum, the book is a good read, but it is not as easy or fluid as his others. The author exposes himself too much by over-explaining his examples, especially since there are no more colorful side-anecdotes to break up the text, which I miss dearly. Perhaps I shall update this later after I have time to re-read and reflect...
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterful assessment of outstanding achievement, November 14, 2012
By 
John Konrad "@gCaptain" (morro bay, ca, United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
In full disclosure as an author researching the topic of high level success and failures I received a copy of the book a few weeks early. The following is my review:

The acquisition of high levels of skill in science, business, music, the arts and sports has long been a topic of intense debate in psychology and a few bestselling books have recently been published on the topic but each leaves the reader feeling kind of hopeless. In Outliners, Malcolm Gladwell stated that many elements critical to success, including "demographic luck" (the effect of one's birth date) and education, are out of an individuals control. David Brooks, the New York Times columnist, reiterated many of the same points in his 2011 book "The Social Animal," while Geoff Colvin, in his 2010 book "Talent Is Overrated," focuses on the importance of 10,000 hours of deliberate practice as the most critical element.

But this isn't quite the story that science and history tells. Research has shown that mavens, from Renaissance painters to silicone valley entrepreneurs, are not simply a product of their legacy, environment or parental support, rather, all have followed a similar, self-directed, path to Mastery. In this book Robert Green turns his attention from the laws of power, seduction and war to the secret path taken by all masters .

Like Greene's other books Mastery takes a intricate subject and, with apparent ease and gusto, distills the lessons of success into simple steps. Most intriguing is the book's assertion that, despite upbringing, genetic makeup or simple luck, anyone can become a master. While parents compete to put toddlers in outstanding preschools Mastery identifies many historic figures, like Benjamin Franklin, with non-exceptional childhoods and, in doing so, Greene takes a firm stance on the side of self-realization over the importance of parents, educators and environment.

"I researched hundreds of masters, alive and dead." said Greene in a recent email to me. "On the nurture issue I cite people who were actively encouraged as children and I cite many, like Steve Jobs, who had very neutral upbringings. But I cite many more like Charles Darwin who had a negative environment, in which their desires were actively discouraged. Perhaps in the end, in my sampling, there might be a very slight skew towards nurture, but not enough to convince me. "

According to the book motivation is the greatest force of achievement and it's a force that must come from the individual. What makes a master is the unique stamp they put on their profession and their willingness to go in unusual directions. This must come from within. In his chapter discussing the importance of mentors Greene admits that parents and teachers can help focus ambition but only if the student is a willing participant burning with internal desire. Mastery shows how a student's abilities can be stoked from the outside but, like a fireplace, the moment that stoking stops, or significant challenges are met, the average person wilts but masters continue to strive.

So if, as Greene contends, neither encouragement or discouragement matter and all of us are born with an essentially similar brain, with more or less the same configurations and potential for mastery, why is it then that in history only a limited number of people seem to truly excel and realize this potential power?

The book states that all people have a unique inclination, a natural curiosity first experienced during childhood but most people forget this interest or ignore it to follow career paths dictated by parents, teachers or an unnatural pursuit of success and money. Masters take another path. Charles Darwin, ignored his father's mandate that he become a doctor, joined the ship HMS Beagle and discovered the theory of evolution. Temple Grandin revolutionized an industry by ignoring her doctor's dim prognosis of low achievement and using her autism to see the world from the perspective of livestock. And, most famously, Steve Jobs ignored nearly everyone's advice in his desire to redefine computing.

Each master was able to retain or reconnect with their childhood passion, curiosity and a sense of wonderment which propelled their study. Greene agrees with points made by other offers, including the fact that hard work can often induce pain and the importance of 10,000 hours of dedicated practice, but he claims that, like most children, masters are able to find enjoyment and satisfaction in even the most arduous surroundings.

"Mastering your field and being creative is the ultimate power" says Greene. "If you have a curious mind that is enriched with knowledge and knows your field well then your brain can start to make interesting associations between different ideas and you begin to see things that other people can't. That is the philosopher's stone of power."

Encouraging is the fact that anyone, regardless of age or upbringing, can reconnect with their childhood and, in doing so, become a master and enjoy the highest level of fulfillment. Most encouraging is the fact this idea is backed up by the ardent research and keen eye expected of Robert Greene. In short, the book is a masterful assessment of outstanding achievement.

-John Konrad author of Fire on the Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster [Hardcover]
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting stories, but not a practical guide to mastery, February 7, 2013
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This review is from: Mastery (Kindle Edition)
Greene is a devoted researcher and a master of the historical anecdote. In this book, he tells some very interesting stories about some very interesting people (Einstein, Mozart etc.) If you like the author and his style, you may enjoy this book.

However, I wouldn't recommend this as a serious advice book. It's extremely long and Greene's list of things you 'must do' numbers in the hundreds. This is not a practical guide to mastery; it is just a very long book with some interesting ideas and inspiring stories.

If you want a more practical, clearer guide to mastery, I highly recommend George Leonard's Mastery: The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment.
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best book ever written, November 21, 2012
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
I never write reviews for anything, ANYTHING, mainly because I just don't care to or have the time. But for this book I felt a duty to give it the highest accolades because it couldn't possibly have been more creatively and beautifully written. I own all of Robert Greene's books and this by far is the concentration of all his previous books churned together into 318 pages of incredible information. It's the top shelf for inspiration of a greater magnitude. It's not just the sheer and impressive amount of work that's put into it but the example it sets for other artists when it comes to devotion and finishing what I consider to be quite the magnum opus so far. It's my new personal bible and you'd be a fool not to own a copy.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Path and Principles to Mastery, October 28, 2012
This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
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I felt like this book was written for me, I had always wanted to read the biographies of successful people that mastered their fields of endeavor like Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Leonardo Da Vinci and many others. I have read many books that gave me glimpses of the greats and some principles of why they conquered where many others failed and never broke through. This book not only contains a great overview of the biographies of the masters but the step by step principles and concepts that allowed them to over come circumstances that baffled and broke so many others.

This book is a great tool for anyone looking to master their our own field and get the results they are looking for. Of course the price a student who wants to master a field is not cheap but is parallel to the heights they want to reach to.

1. Connect and absorb yourself into the study of your field with an open mind, take it all in, filter what works and how it works as you travel the path.

2. Play to your strengths, you will tend to be good at what you love and are passionate about follow that path so you will have the energy to take you where you want to go. Focus like a laser on exactly what it is you want to accomplish and your ultimate goal.

3. Transform yourself through practice, real focused, in depth, meaningful practice. Push yourself to the edge of your capabilities to continue to improve. Get a feel for doing the work in your field, program your body to just know how to do the basics so you can move on to the next level of creation and advancing the field to a new level.

4. Internalize the details of your field. Study all the past and current masters, study until the voices of the masters become your own internal guides. Absorb the current knowledge of your field of study until it is like a second language you have learned.

5. Widen your vision, take principles that are needed from other fields. Look at problems through every possible angle. Find the groove that you fit into and add value from the view point or angle that best suites your abilities and passions.

6. Find a mentor that is already a master, learn all you can from them until you have integrated all his knowledge and expertise into your own, now take what you have learned from him and go to the next level with your own lifetime of work. Stand on the shoulders of giants.

7. Be wise in all your social dealings to make needed allies not enemies.

The pursuit of mastery is one of the most exciting journeys anyone can go on. This book takes you on that journey many times with many masters throughout history with all different disciplines and fields, you see what it takes. Along the way it also gives the reader a map to follow if we choose to go on our own quest of mastery.
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21 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspiration and Disappointment, December 16, 2012
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This review is from: Mastery (Hardcover)
Thanks to other reviewers and commenters on this book. I am impressed with the dialog recorded here. Robert Greene's first three books changed my entire outlook on life. Studying his writing gave me greater ability to get what I want, in romance, in art and in business. "Mastery," Greene's fifth book, is a mixed bag. On the positive side, it is informative and inspiring. Greene puts a great deal of research and stylistic refinement into his books, and the quality of his presentation here meets his high standard. The stories he tells and the lessons he takes away are worth reading.

Two flaws marred this experience for me. Greene introduces a master, cites an important lesson from that master's life, then returns to the same person much later in the book. When he returns, he re-introduces us to the person, nearly verbatim. This is confusing and unnecessary. Greene distills this book from a great wealth of research, and he does not need to cite his sources in this jarring manner. The book could be structured in a more pleasing, less repetitive way.

The second flaw is more serious. Greene follows the unfortunate lead of other self-help authors in asserting that everyone can be great. He implies this belief throughout the book, then makes it explicit toward the end: "Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within. Everyone has such inclinations."

This is misleading at best and simply false at worst. Among Greene's examples of mastery are Mozart, Leonardo and Goethe. These men did not merely descend to earth and shine their lights on humanity; each worked very hard to become a master. However, their work alone did not make them the giants they became. One psychologist estimated that Goethe possessed an IQ of 210. I plan to improve my mind until my dying day, but I will not test out at 210 IQ, ever. Thousands of young musicians have worked themselves to insanity at the Julliard School and the Curtis Institute, and never became a modern Mozart.

Intelligence is highly heritable. If you don't think so, just look inside any recent book on human biology. Our efforts to improve ourselves are governed by physical limits. We can be better than we are, and we should improve all we can. In doing so, we must work with what we have. It is not helpful to go crazy and tell ourselves we have no limits. In my experience, that is a recipe for disaster, depression and paralysis.

Why do some people have a problem accepting this? Both our heritage and our hard work matter. We don't have to give up dreaming of greater achievements when we acknowledge our limits.

I would like to see Robert Greene accept this reality, as he's urging us on. Something like, "You may not be able to equal Leonardo, even if you diligently apply yourself. If you are a person of more average gifts, you could still reasonably expect to achieve a higher level of control in your work, and more recognition from your peers than you now enjoy. New possibilities--limited possibilities--can open up for you, and you'll have the satisfaction that your work was the best your talents could produce."

Omission or denial of this obvious truth leaves a sour taste in my mouth. Over-promising reduced my enjoyment of this otherwise-excellent book. I still recommend reading it, because its positive messages are valuable. Robert Greene is an excellent author, and I will continue to read his books. Another helpful book on the creative process is Twyla Tharp's "The Creative Habit."
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Mastery
Mastery by Robert Greene (Paperback - October 29, 2013)
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