Two Key Points from “Mastery” by Robert Greene

Robert Greens’ book, “Mastery”, is about how humans reach the heights of skill and craftsmanship in all areas of life. He calls such people “Masters”.

It’s really good.

In fact, it is so good that after a couple of years since reading it, I have decided to go back and read it again. (Well, in my case listen, as I still have too many credits on my Audible account).

There are a lot of cool ideas in the book: such as 10,000 hours and genetic disposition. Greene goes much deeper than what I have written here, but the thesis of the book is that one needs to acknowledge one’s life’s calling and then work tirelessly towards it.

10,000 hours

A large part of Greene’s thesis is that people who achieve the highest levels of skill in a craft are those that put in more than 10,000 hours of work.

While I do not monitor my own time spent in learning a new skill, I can say that the idea of time spent doing something (with focus) directly correlates to one’s skill in that area.

My experience in reaching above average levels of proficiency in both sports, foreign languages, and other areas of life has taught me that the big difference between an average and above average performer really comes down to the amount of time a person spends learning the task.

“Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

― Robert Greene, Mastery

Genetic Disposition

Greene also suggests that “masters” have a genetic disposition towards their fields. Well, I’m no scientist, but it is certainly an interesting idea.

I do not consider myself a master, but I can attest to the idea that I have been drawn to certain subjects and disciplines throughout my entire life.

Maybe you have too.

In fact, Greene believes we all specific fields that call to us.

He believes that we are drawn to these fields early in our childhoods. However we often abandon such aspirations because of things like our parents expectations or addiction to a “fat paycheck”.

As for me, I can remember reading books early in my childhood. I used to sit alone in my grandmother’s library and just pour through books.

I remember getting the first Harry Potter book and completely ignoring everything else until I finished it.

I just couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was a feeling, more than affection or even an addiction; it was a deep sort of connection to the words and the world.

As far as genetics are concerned, I am not the first one in my family to be inclined towards the arts. My grandmother, the one who had the basement full of books and actually gave me that first copy of Harry Potter, was a director of the English Literature program within her school district.

My father is an author. My mother is constantly reading.

And so it would seem, at least according to my own personal experience, that yes, we are products of our genetic dispositions.

“If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become—an individual, a Master.”

― Robert Greene, Mastery

You Can’t Do Anything You Want (Or Think You Want)

A good take away from “Mastery” is the idea that you can become exceptional at anything you want is wrong. You know where your natural-born inclination lies. It is your special place in the world and you have to listen to that.

This advice runs counter to a lot of different ideas. Parents and friends might directly or indirectly pressure you into doing something that you don’t want to do. And their reasons are seductive indeed, money, fame, status- all the good stuff.

In my life, I have noticed that Greene’s advice to be true. Real power and influence only come to people who are incredibly skilled at what they do. These attributes do not come to squares trying to be circles. No matter how smart the squares are.

I remember that after graduating college, I really wanted to be a businessman. I had this idea that I was smart and that smart people could do anything they wanted. So, Ipso facto, I decided that I would be a businessman: i.e. make a lot of money.

Well, that is a story for another day. But luckily I paid enough attention to realize that the people with real happiness were the ones who developed a skillset based on their own inclinations.

Today it is clear that people who try and take shortcuts, such as starting a business without learning the fundamentals of their industry, are destined for mediocrity. There is incredible wisdom in starting small while doing something you love.

“Most people don’t have the patience to absorb their minds in the fine points and minutiae that are intrinsically part of their work. They are in a hurry to create effects and make a splash; they think in large brush strokes.

Their work inevitably reveals their lack of attention to detail – it doesn’t connect deeply with the public, and it feels flimsy.”

Robert Greene, Mastery

One thought on “Two Key Points from “Mastery” by Robert Greene

  1. Pingback: Literary ADD | WillDyke.org

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