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on February 17, 2013
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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on November 19, 2015
 It got me less focused on achieving results quickly, and to focus on letting go of time, and spending time doing what’s necessary to gain an understanding and comprehension of the craft.

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.
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on September 9, 2016
As a coach, I'm working with people to increase their professional performance. I have a scientific background in this topic and have gotten great results for my clients. But what's clear is that the biggest stumbling blocks to achieving the goals you want in your career are: 1) an impatience that causes you to doubt your ability to achieve your goals, and 2) a lack of feedback on strategy selection and execution that leaves you operating in a vacuum and results in strategy hopping or quitting too early.

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.
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on March 21, 2014
The stories that Green told about the history of the different personalities was interesting, but after I read this I felt a void and forgot what the main idea was. There was nothing that really helped the reader tap into their own soul reading this and say "Oh now I get it." I was hoping this book would help one tune in and help them find their calling or be so inspired by the stories in here that it would get them going in the right direction. This book did not do that for me.

Unlike his previous books, especially the Art of Seduction, this was not a real page- turner and one of those books that you can't put down. I felt some of the things Greene tried to discuss and interpret were a bit outside of his wheelhouse. Perhaps this can explain why this book wasn't as fascinating as some of his others. Maybe because now that he is ridiculously wealthy -maybe he is more lackluster about putting a lot of time and effort in his new releases-I don't know.

One thing that was really appalling and a turn off was at the end of the book he thanked that quackof an author of The Game-Neil Struass. I had to read it over numerous times, I couldn't believe it. A brilliant well-written author like Greene thanking Neil, a guy who knows nothing about women or The Game, and rubbing elbows with him is mind boggling. Is Greene trying to lose value and sabotage his credibility by thanking this moron Strauss-despite The Game being a best seller. Come on Greene you're a smart guy what are you thinking? Surely Neil didn't give you advice for the Art of Seduction. I wonder about their association.

Nevertheless surely a decent read for anyone, especially Greene's admirers of his other works, but if you think this book will open up your heart and eyes to your true calling-think again. I wish Greene would do another Art of Seduction part II or another fascinating topic.
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on August 22, 2013
There are countless self-help books--some good, some trite. Then there are self-help books that revolutionize the genre.

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.
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on September 11, 2015
The concept that people are born genius is completely shattered with this book. If you think you have to be born that way, you need to read this book! However, it doesn't just try to make this point but ultimately wants to encourage that even you (yes you) have that ability to become a master at whatever you were born to do, (rather than born with the ability) and even become someone who people call genius. It's your ability to focus which is becoming a lost art in these modern times with so much entertainment that is out there. How crucial it is for mankind to continue to develop the skill to even just focus is just the tip of the iceberg that Greene dissects to make his point. From Einstein to Benjamin Franklin and even learning about the history of Charles Darwin and his process of mastering his theory of evolution was surprisingly very inspiring and interesting to read (and I'm not really into all that stuff -- or so I thought I wasn't! This book takes us to the very beginning of mankind to today in a remarkable way that had me not wanting to put it down. Was I finding my true ability to focus on something I was finding fascinating where others may not have? That is the very point. Is it true that almost anyone has the ability to master their craft? Well that all depends. It depends on the person's want or discovery of a curiosity that is ultimately found. It could take a lifetime or it could take a couple of decades. The point is, are you searching for the very gift you were born to do? And when or if you find it, are you mastering it?
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on December 7, 2016
Wish I had this in my hands 30 years ago as a college graduate.
WOW.
I had to learn the hard way.
He is a master to write "Mastery"
Brilliant.
Help you to understand and navigate our biggest issue in the workplace which is "other people'
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on February 18, 2014
Greene strikes the right notes in Mastery. He thematically replays the novice, apprentice to master pattern in dozens of well-known to less known “Masters” from music to mathematics. Greene is particularly focused on the transition of the ‘expert’ apprentice as they breakthrough into Masters of their own ways. Using the usual set of overachievers to get every readers attention (Einstein, Bach, Edison, et. al.) and introduces lesser known, though no less significant Masterful outcomes and break through.

Greene delivers a compelling and interesting narrative. There’s a lot in here to be savored. You can see Greene masterfully reveal his premise. The book gets better as you go. I highlight stuff. As I look at the remains of the read … not too many highlights in the first third and I have to admit that I was not ‘drawn in’. Then, a usual number of highlight’s in the middle and I recall the moment I was sucked in. Finally, I must have exited control and highlighted way too much for the purpose of “high lighting”. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing.

I’m not sure how one categorizes Greene’s writing. Are they analytical history, process-ology, philosophical discourse or simply a unique genre? This reader hasn’t figured that out but just really enjoys Greene’s discussion.
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on August 9, 2016
this book was recommended to me while I was reading Grit on the beach in Miami.

It's a great book on how to become successful and great at anything. It takes focus and Robert Greene adeptly takes you through how to achieve goals with focus.
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on June 9, 2014
I didnt exactly know what to expect from this book. I was looking around
to find secrets that were definitely hidden. and I really didn't know what to look for,either.

Well, this book delivers about 5-fold on those secrets.

this book is for someone who has available time to just stop, take some walks maybe, then come home
to this book in quietness. if you want to live your life in a hurry, then forget it. if you live for distractions, then
forget it.

but for someone searching honestly, its a godsend and I thank Robert Greene for spending his time conceiving and
executing this bombshell! maybe a better description is timebomb. . . 'cause stuff will definitely go off sooner or later in you.

thanx

john
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