Mastery by Robert Greene

The Big Idea: Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within.


  • Masters practice harder and move faster through the learning process.
  • Masters feel an intensity desire to learn and a deep connection to their field of study.
  • Desire, patience, persistence, and confidence >> reasoning ability.

I: Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task

  • Your inner calling was probably clear to you during your childhood.
  • Connect with your inclinations.
  • View your path as a journey with twists and turns, rather than a straight line.
  • Return to your origins; look back at your childhood interests.
  • Occupy the perfect niche; choose an area that interests you; look for side paths that interest you, and continually move towards a narrower niche. Alternatively, blend two distinct areas of expertise that compliment each other.
  • Avoid the false path; beware forces (fame, money, attention, status) pushing you away from your true path.
  • Let go of the past; follow your calling and don’t be tied to a particular career or position.
  • If you lose your way, make public your return to your path, so that it becomes a matter of shame and embarrassment to deviate from this new path.

II: Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

  • After your formal education, comes The Apprenticeship.
  • The goal of The Apprenticeship is simply to learn.
  • Choose an Apprenticeship that offers the most opportunity to learn.
  • 3 Stages of Apprenticeship: Deep Observation, Skills Acquisition, Experimentation
  • Observe: observe the rules and procedures.
  • Observe: do not make the mistake of imagining you must get attention, impress people, or prove yourself in this stage.
  • Skills Acquisition: focus on practice and repetition.
  • Skills Acquisition: reduce the skills to something simple and essential.
  • Skills Acquisition: begin with one skill that you can master, and that serves as a foundation for acquiring others.
  • Experimentation: in this stage, move to a more active mode of experimentation.
  • Experimentation: exercise your problem solving skills by working with your hands and learning more about the inner workings of the machines and pieces of technology around you.
  • Value learning over money.
  • Read books and materials that go beyond what is required.
  • When you enter a new environment, your task is to learn and absorb as much as possible.  For that purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling.
  • Trust the process; push through the point of frustration and continue to practice.
  • Move towards resistance and pain.
  • Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.
  • Take the extra effort to learn how things are done, not just how they appear, and gain a deeper understanding and feeling for the whole.
  • Through trial and error, find out what work suits you, and what doesn’t.  

III: Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

  • The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you. Their knowledge and experience become yours.
  • During the Apprenticeship Phase you will need mentors whose authority you recognize and to whom you submit.
  • The reason you require a mentor is simple: life is short; you have only so much time.
  • You will want as much personal interaction with the mentor as possible.
  • Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations.
  • Choose a mentor who will give you tough love, reveal your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Learn from your mentors, listen, but cultivate some distance by altering their advice to fit your own inclinations and style.

IV: See People as They Are: Social Intelligence

  • Success attained without social intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.
  • Social intelligence means getting inside someone else’s world and seeing and accepting them as they are.
  • Pay attention to tone of voice, the look in their eye, their body language.
  • Initial impressions are often misleading.
  • If you have a gift for a certain skill, make a point of displaying weakness in another area.
  • If you have a rebellious streak, be careful not to display your difference too overtly.
  • When you need something from someone, appeal to people’s self-interest, and get used to looking at the world through their eyes.
  • Be prudent and keep your ideas close so they can’t be stolen. Secure credit in advance as part of teams working together.
  • We like to think we are rational, but we are largely governed by our emotions.
  • The root cause of passive aggression is human fear of direct confrontation.
  • Be efficient, detail-oriented, and make what you write or present clear and easy to follow. This will show your care for the audience or public at large.
  • People will judge you based on your outward appearance. Be aware of this and plan for it.
  • See yourself as others see you. Seek opinions from those you trust about your behavior as well.
  • Be tolerant of stupidity or incompetence in other people. It is simply part of life.

V: Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

  • As you accumulate skills, become increasingly bold and begin to experiment.
  • If your work comes from a place deep within, its authenticity will be communicated.
  • Let go of your need for comfort and security. Creative endeavors are by their nature uncertain.
  • Keep a notebook with you at all times. The moment any idea or observation comes, you note it down.
  • Observe things. Conduct thought experiments.
  • Train your mind to look at things from multiple perspectives.
  • Anomalies usually contain the richest information, so do not ignore or explain them away.
  • It’s obvious to observe what is present, but don’t ignore what is absent.
  • The emotions we experience at any time have an inordinate influence on how we perceive the world.
  • Make creativity rather than comfort your goal, and continue to be bold.
  • Like an athlete, enjoy practice, push past your limits, and resist the easy way out.
  • Love learning for its own sake.
  • Read from many different fields, and look for interesting implications and anomalies in others that have implications in your own field.
  • Whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself.
  • Embrace slowness as a virtue
  • If we are not careful, however, we get locked into seeing every problem the same way.
  • What really makes successful entrepreneurs is their willingness to adapt their idea and take advantage of possibilities they had not first imagined.
  • Fluidity of mind is the essential entrepreneurial trait. The other essential entrepreneurial trait is supreme tenacity.
  • Mastery takes years of practice, endless routines, hours of doubt, and tenacious overcoming of obstacles.

VI: Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

  • Time x Focus = Mastery.
  • Masters internalize all the individual parts, and gain an intuitive feel for the whole.
  • Cultivate a greater memory capacity. Intellectually stimulating hobbies can serve this purpose.
  • Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge.
  • The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery.
  • To achieve mastery, play to your strengths instead of struggling to overcome your weaknesses.
  • Transform yourself through practice.
  • The person who has the wider, more global perspective will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing.
  • Get inside the mind of others so you can understand their perspective.
  • Build connections between different fields and ideas.

Comments are closed.