Mastery by Robert Greene

(New York: Penguin, 2013), 368


  • mirror neurons as enabling humans to think inside and therefore puts time on our side since we can learn as the foundation of mastery (7-9)

I. Discover Your Calling: The Life's Task

You possess an inner force that seeks to guide you toward your Life's Task—what you are meant to accomplish in the time you have to live. The first move toward mastery is always inward—learning who you really re and reconnecting with that innate force. Knowing it with clarity, you will find your way to the proper career path and everything else will fall into place. It is never too late to start this process.

Strategies for Finding Your Life's Task

1. Return to your origins—The primal inclination strategy

2. Occupy the perfect niche—The Darwinian strategy

3. Avoid the false path—The rebellion strategy

4. Leg to of the past—The adaptation strategy

5. Find your way back—The life-or-death strategy

II. Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

After your formal education, you enter the most critical phase in your life—a second, practical education known as The Apprenticeship. Before it is too late you must learn the lessons and follow the path established by the greatest Masters, past and present—a kind of Ideal Apprenticeship that transcends all fields. In the process you will master the necessary skills, discipline hour mind, and transform yourself into an independent thinker, prepared for the creative challenges on the way to mastery.

  • Charles Darwin's transformation during his voyage on the Beagle (49+)
  • The goal of an apprenticeship: not money or title but the transformation of your character (55)
  • Practical knowledge is the ultimate commodity and will pay dividends for decades to come --> you much choose positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning (55)

The Apprenticeship Phase—The Three Steps

1. Deep Observation—The Passive Mode

  • observe the rules and procedures that govern success in this environment, and the power relationships that exist in the group (57)
  • submit to and absorb the reality (58)

2. Skills Acquisition—The Practice Mode

  • develop tacit knowledge (59)
  • start with one skill and master it before moving on to others (60)
  • you must accept and embrace the tedium that comes with learning new skills (60)

3. Experimentation—The Active Mode

  • even in today's technological world you must work with your hands and think of yourself as a builder (63-64)
  • "The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. And the process of learning skills, no matter how virtual, remains the same." (64)

Strategies for Completing the Ideal Apprenticeship

1. Value learning over money

2. Keep expanding your horizons

3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority

4. Trust the process

5. Move toward resistance and pain

6. Apprentice yourself in failure

7. Combine the "how" and the "what"

8. Advance through trial and error

III. Absorb the Master's Power: The Mentor Dynamic

Life is short, and your time for learning and creativity is limited. Without any guidance, you cannot waste valuable years trying to gain knowledge and practice from various sources. Instead, you must follow the example set by Masters throughout the ages and find the proper mentor. Choose the mento who best fits your needs and connects to your Life's Task. Once you have internalized their knowledge, you must move on and never remain in their shadow. Your goal is always to surpass your mentors in mastery and brilliance.

Strategies for Deepening the Mentor Relationship

1. Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations

2. Gaze deep into the mentor's mirror

3. Transfigure their ideas

4. Create a back-and-forth dynamic

IV. See People As They Are: Social Intelligence

Often the greatest obstacle to our pursuit of mastery comes from the emotional drain we experience in dealing with the resistance and manipulations of the people around us. We misread their intentions and react in ways that cause confusion or conflict. Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible. Navigating smoothly through the social environment, we have more time and energy to focus on learning and acquiring skills. Success attained without this intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.

The Seven Deadly Realities

  1. Envy
  2. Conformism
  3. Rigidity
  4. Self-obsessiveness
  5. Laziness
  6. Flightiness
  7. Passive Aggression

Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence

1. Speak through your work

2. Craft the appropriate persona

3. See yourself as others see you

4. Suffer fools gladly

V. Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

As you accumulate more skills and internalize the rules that govern your field, your mind will want to become more active, seeking to use this knowledge in ways that are more suited to your inclinations. Instead of feeling complacent about what you know, you must expand your knowledge to related fields, giving your mind fuel to make new associations between different ideas. In the end, you will turn against the very rules you have internalized, shaping and reforming them to suit your spirit. Such originality will bring you to the heights of power.

Keys to Mastery

Step One: The Creative Task

Step Two: Creative Strategies

  1. Cultivate negative capability
  2. Allow for serendipity
  3. Alternate the mind through "the current"
  4. Alter your perceptive
  5. Revert to primal forms of intelligence

Step Three: The Creative Breakthrough—Tension and Insight

Emotional Pitfalls

  1. Complacency
  2. Conservatism
  3. Dependency
  4. Impatience
  5. Grandiosity
  6. Inflexibility

Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase

1. The Authentic Voice

2. The Fact of Great Yield

  • humans are the opportunists and generalists of the animal kingdom=

3. Mechanical Intelligence

  • "Mechanical intelligence is not a degraded form of thinking, as compared to abstract reasoning. It is in fact the source of many of our reasoning skills and creative powers. Our brain developed to its present size because of the complex operations of our hands. In working with resistant materials to create tools, our ancestors developed a pattern of thinking that transcends manual labor itself." (219)

4. Natural Powers

5. The Open Field

6. The High End

7. The Evolutionary Hijack

8. Dimensional Thinking

  • Rosetta stone: take the wholistic approach to complex problems rather than looking for false simplifications (236+)

9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious

VI. Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

All of us have access to a higher form of intelligence, one that can allow us to see more of the world, to anticipate trends, to respond with speed and accuracy to any circumstance. This intelligence is cultivated by deeply immersing ourselves in a field of study and staying true to our inclinations, no matter how unconventional our approach might seem to others. This power is what our brains were designed to attain, and we will be naturally led to this type of intelligence if we follow our inclinations to their ultimate ends.

  • high-level intuition is categorically different than rational thinking...masters no longer see the parts, but see the whole
  • intuition is driven by memory
  • we need to learn to quiet the anxiety we feel in the face of complexity so as to engage with it

Strategies for Attaining Mastery

1. Connect to your environment—Primal Powers

2. Play to your strengths—Supreme Focus

3. Transform yourself through practice—The Fingertip Feel

4. Internalize the details—The Life Force

5. Widen your vision—The Global Perspective

  • the person with the global perspective will win

6. Submit to the other—The Inside-out Perspective

7. Synthesize all forms of knowledge—The Universal Man/Woman

  • Goethe: "The problem with most people, he felt, is that they build artificial walls around subjects and ideas. The real thinker sees the connections, grasps the essence of the life force operating in every individual instance. Why should any individual stop at poetry, or find art unrelated to science, or narrow his or her intellectual interests? The mind was designed to connect things, like a loom that knits together all of the threads of a fabric. If life exists as an organic whole and cannot be separated into parts without losing a sense of the whole, then thinking should make itself equal to the whole." (307)