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Mastery Paperback – October 29, 2013
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 1.3 pounds
- Paperback : 368 pages
- ISBN-10 : 014312417X
- ISBN-13 : 978-0143124177
- Product Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
- Publisher : Penguin Books; Reprint Edition (October 29, 2013)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,858 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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It is a pattern followed by the self-help writers to fill their tomes with anecdotal story after story that lead nowhere and this book follows that pattern. I kept reading, hoping to find some nuggets but ... nothing.
And not only did the book lay the foundation of why mastery is important, but Robert Greene also does a beautiful job of weaving through the challenges people on the quest experience - as well as providing a thorough, and proven roadmap of each of the phases someone on this quest must implement.
It’s a life changing book and I highly recommend it.
Robert Greene's book addresses these issues not just with solutions, but with case studies that allow you to see how these principles work in reality. Henry Ford failed the first time he tried to manufacture a car? Buckminster Fuller was about to commit suicide because he felt like such a failure? Charles Darwin's father thought his son had no future or skills?
This is what real success looks like and I think for many, it will help them put their focus where it must be: on doing the work and finding a mentor or coach who can give you the necessary feedback for mastery. The things we often covet, such as fame or more money, won't get you to mastery directly, and even if you're successful at obtaining them without learning your trade, they won't mean very much (I have worked with plenty who prove that!). Mastery is the goal and this is a great book for getting there.
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 [...])
Top reviews from other countries
1. The Apprentice stage
2. Creative / Active stage
Most people achieve the first stage but it comes with a set of its own prerequisites. One must find the purpose of their life in order to ensure catapulting themselves to the level of someone aiming for mastery. Nowhere does the author mention “hard work” because when you do something you want to do or be beyond great at there is no real energy required. The initial phases may perturb you or make you want to give up but you must fight the social dynamic surrounding you. Many may have tried a field and failed at it. We must not allow our social convictions to make us settle down. We must look beyond… Before I sound more jumbled up let me tell you Mastery is not an easy book to read or sit through. It challenged nearly everything but in many ways it has told me the key to unhappiness and resentment. The reason we are unhappy or depressed is because our creative potential remains potential and never sees the flourish it wants to enjoy.
If you start something purely for the purpose of making money, your drive will be limited only for a few years. However, if something holds your interest and you wish to submerge yourself, initial failure or resounding success, should not matter. I noticed the book has many quotes but none of the quotes are simple. I had to read them again two or three times, sometimes even more and still did not understand most of those quotes. I felt rather dense.
The author’s examples of people with average intelligence who went on to achieve a lot include - Charles Darwin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Zen Master Hakun, Benjamin Franklin, Mozart, the poet John Keats, Thomas Edison, scientist Michael Faraday, the writer Marcel Proust, the dancer Martha Graham, the jazz legend John Coltrane and the pianist Glenn Gould.
Nothing can be achieved unless you discover your calling. This is also step 1. There are various strategies in finding your life’s calling and I can’t enlist all of them here. He also talks about taking on a person as your mentor. I found this very intriguing. All examples will make for excellent read. Side Note : When you have a person as your mentor in a certain field, you will save yourself the time invested in making mistakes and learn from all the virtues of your mentor. They will guide you and curb you in a way to the right path. A worthy mentor will not shy from sharing his tricks, secrets and strategies from you; ideally he/she will through live on. You, however, are not bound to take everything the mentor says and may choose certain virtues to instil in your own personality.
The CREATIVE ACTIVE stage requires often times many years of practice and experimenting including various setbacks and failures.
The author forewarns the reader of various creative pitfalls such as “grandiosity” , “inflexiblity” , “dependency” , “Conservatism”, “impatience” and so on. Then he ventures to explain various strategies.
Again there are several examples here, often the author connects the same person as an example in the “Apprentice” phase, then the “Creative/Active” phase and eventually the “mastery phase” About the chapters and pages on MASTERY - I would like to say - you have to read them for yourself. I found this the most challenging part of the book because though I read it in entirety, the retention was not that high. This is merely because masters are not common people. They flow through extreme waves of consciousness. Let me enlighten you with an example I made of my own -
Supposing you are sitting with Shakespeare in a library and you both are given sheets of paper to fill with literary candour. The way you approach the scenario and the way he will approach will have the difference and education of a hundred or so years because the way he approaches writing is from within and possesses a kind of sorcery not easily understandable by an amateur. The brains of a master are wired differently after years and years of practice and application.
I am not trying to belittle you or make you feel afraid, I am merely stating that this book is not one you can read just once and then let sit. You have to make this your life guide, your life coach. You have to absorb the essence of what the author is saying. This is possibly why I think this is not for everyone. It is far from being just an interesting read. I mean it is more than just that. Something in me has changed since I began this book. I give it four stars because thats exactly how much I understood the book. I took close to four weeks to finish it.
I don't think I'd read another book by the author but I would recommend that everybody choose at least one book wisely. Depending on what you would to gain, Greene can definitely inspire you and his books do offer valuable pockets of knowledge for those interested in historical figures and insight into their characters.
The same concepts and themes are repeated throughout this book as touched upon in his highly regarded '48 Laws of Power'. These being the only two books by Greene I've read. His writing style can sometimes drag on and I was just pushing myself to finish after about half way through. Happy I read this one but not a book I'd read twice.