- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (October 29, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 014312417X
- ISBN-13: 978-0143124177
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 759 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Mastery Paperback – October 29, 2013
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"Greene’s specialty is analyzing the lives and philosophies of historical figures like Sun Tzu and Napoleon, and extracting from them tips on how to manipulate people and situations—a cutthroat worldview that has earned him a devoted following among a like-minded readership of rappers, drug dealers and corporate executives."—The New York Times
About the Author
Robert Greene has a degree in classical studies and is the author of several bestselling books, including The 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War, The Art of Seduction, and Mastery. He lives in Los Angeles.
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Top customer reviews
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 [...])
Robert Greene's Mastery is such a book. It's Greene's fifth book broadly tackling the art of strategy, and like all his books, it's entertaining, educational, densely packed with biographies of powerful and interesting people, and almost completely devoid of fluff.
Greene's overarching thesis challenges the conventional notion of "genius" as a genetic gift bestowed upon a handful of individuals--Mozart and Einstein immediately come to mind. To Greene, such a conception of genius is illusory. All "genius," Greene contends, is acquirable, and all masters, regardless of intrinsic ability, go through roughly the same process on their path towards mastery:
1) Finding your Life's Task. Greene argues that there's an inner force that guides you towards what you're "destined" to accomplish. Once you discover your Life's Task, throw everything at it.
2) Finding an ideal apprenticeship--the time when you hone the necessary skills and acquire the discipline vital to mastery.
3) Finding the right mentor. This is the key to a fruitful apprenticeship, enabling you to absorb the master's knowledge and power. Greene cautions that you must know when it's time to sever ties with your mentor and craft your own path in order to prevent remaining in your mentor's shadow indefinitely. The goal, Greene advises, it to eventually surpass your mentor.
4) Acquiring social intelligence. Social intelligence is an important theme in all of Greene's books. Quite simply, our personal and professional advancement will invariably stall if we don't learn to read people and deftly maneuver through the labyrinth of others' whims, passions, and ambitions.
5) "Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active." This stage involves expanding your knowledge to fields related to your craft, thereby challenging you to "make new associations between different ideas." Greene believes this is a critical step to optimizing your creative output and achieving mastery.
6) Fusing the intuitive with the rational. Greene argues that Einstein's discoveries can be as much attributed to his intuition as to his mathematical analysis grounded in pure reason. Practice and intimate knowledge of our field foster the integration of intuition with reason.
For each stage, Greene outlines concrete steps to take to achieve these goals, including approaching difficult problems from unconventional angles or altering your perspective, embracing the holistic approach--i.e. utilizing and synchronizing the full range of resources and options your environment has to offer.
One of the features that distinguishes Mastery from Greene's two other masterpieces, 33 Strategies of War and 48 Laws of Power, is its greater focus on the biographies of contemporary masters, most of whom are not well known to the general public. Greene delves into the lives of legendary masters like Mozart, Einstein, Goethe, Darwin, and da Vinci, but also of lesser known contemporary masters like software engineer and entrepreneur Paul Graham, animal scientist and inventor Temple Grandin, and linguistic archaeologist Daniel Everett, who cracked the previously thought to be indecipherable language of the reclusive Amazonian tribe, Piraha.
Linking the human capacity for mastery to our biology and indeed, metaphysics, Greene writes in a veritably spiritual manner, making Mastery highly compelling and exceedingly motivational.
The title Mastery is fitting, since Greene is undoubtedly a master in the art of strategy. It is amusing to hear some of his detractors bemoan the "amoral" nature of his books. Amoral virtues--be it courage, prudence, or temperament--are indispensable to achieving moral ends. A strategically inept well-meaning person will likely fail to achieve any significant good, because he is ill-prepared to deal with endless obstacles that stand in his way. Whereas a person well versed in the art of strategy and equipped with the amoral virtues necessary to overcome such obstacles, has the potential to achieve noble ends.
The one area where I could quibble with Greene has to do with the age old debate over the role of nature vs. nurture. Since genetic makeup is a fixed variable outside of our control, it is perhaps pointless to dwell on its role in our development when writing a book about the concrete things we can actually do to better ourselves. Still, I wonder if Greene's unequivocal dismissal of the traditional interpretation of genius as inherent isn't to some extent mistaken. Regardless of how many thousands of hours Mozart spent studying his craft, is it really conceivable that any person of sound mind and body could replicate his success?
I tend to think that there is something to be said about intrinsic genius; that there are masters who are born with an uncanny and natural ability to perceive things others do not and cannot, no matter how hard they try. Nevertheless, even if Greene errors in downplaying the role DNA plays in cultivating "genius," it in no way diminishes his strategy for acquiring mastery. Whether all of us can become the Einstein in our field makes little difference. What matters is that we can reach our maximum potential--become men and women in full--by following Greene's blueprint.
I had to learn the hard way.
He is a master to write "Mastery"
Help you to understand and navigate our biggest issue in the workplace which is "other people'