loading words...

Aug 03, 2019 14:05:09

Notes: Mastery, Robert Greene

by @basilesamel PATRON | 1240 words | 493🔥 | 544💌

Basile Samel

Current day streak: 493🔥
Total posts: 544💌
Total words: 242521 (970 pages 📄)

I'm re-reading Mastery, one of my favorite self-help book. The following document is an attempt at synthesizing its essence to avoid forgetting it. I hope it will also entice you to read it in its entirety.



Definition of mastery : "the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves"

The three phases of mastery : student (apprenticeship) -> practitioner (creative-active, journeyman) -> master (mastery)

Mastery is not only accessible to us all, it's the meaning of life itself.


Our mind is what led us to reach the top of the food chain. Its growth was triggered by our sense of sight and our needs for socialization.

Our visual system is built to think ahead to avoid predators: "the emergence of the conscious, reasoning mind". Not to merely see, but to focus.

Our social intelligence stemmed from a higher attention to details: mirror neurons and our abilities to be inside someone else's mind or to introspect/retrospect.

Mastery was already about making efficient decisions quickly by developing an understanding of the surrounding environment.

"The body could decay but the mind would continue to learn and adapt. Using time for such effect is the essential ingredient of mastery. [...] when we trust that going through a process of months or years will bring us mastery, [...] we infallibly move to higher and higher levels of intelligence." There is no shortcut to mastery, you have to go through and trust the process. Technology is merely a tool, it can't put in the work for you.


We are born with the same capabilities, and yet few of us reach mastery. Why is that? 

It's not about IQ or natural talent, there is no relation between mastery and intelligence. It's about your personal inclination (the original meaning of the word "genius" - your unique innate qualities), an interest in a particular topic pushing you to practice harder and faster.

This intense connection is the lifeline keeping you afloat amidst the hardship. The more you nurture it, the more resilient you become.

It used to be much harder to become a master because of social reproduction. Now, knowledge is widely accessible and we have much more freedom to choose.

Refuting our individuality is an attempt at freeing ourselves from our responsibilities. We become passive, because it's easy and it gives a false sense of control. Effort and discipline are pushed away to idolize self-destructiveness and instant gratification. It's the contrary, your depression stems from your alienation from your own creative potential. 

You need to feel emotionally connected to your work to strive. Mastery is about defining our own destiny, power over ourselves. We are responsible for our own actions.

The first part of the book is about finding your inner calling and how to embrace it by starting your apprenticeship. Then, the author describes how to navigate on your own to, one day, reach mastery based on the examples of established masters. Robert Greene warns the reader about mastery not being a destination but a process.



Mastery is a work of introspection, first and foremost. You have to trust the hidden force within you to do things your way, not how others do it.


Our DNA is unique, so are we as individuals. It is only logical to think we all have an inner vocation related to our uniqueness, things we are naturally attracted to from birth. We can either pursue it - it's our fate - or fall for the social pressure to conform.

Three steps: reconnect with your natural inclinations, find a corresponding career path, find your niche.

Your work shouldn't be separated from your "regular" life: it should act as a positive force and an integral part of your vocation.

Learn from others but make it your own. Don't hesitate to stray away from the way. A career is not a straight path.

Once you find your own niche, you become your own master.

We live in a world where we no longer can rely entirely on the institutions to protect us, we have to develop our own strength by pursuing our life's task. You need your uniqueness to strive.

We have to believe we have something to accomplish, no one else can give meaning to our lives. Our species evolves thanks to diversity: if we don't nurture our own, we are bound to fade away.


Five strategies to find your vocation. It needs planning to overcome the obstacles and keep your course.

Return to your origins. As a child, you tend to be attracted to specific things. Revisit them. (Einstein => a compass, Marie Curie => her father's laboratory, Ingmar Bergman => a cinematograph, Martha Graham => a dance performance and her inability to express herself with words, Daniel Everett => a different culture => Mexican migrants, John Coltrane => another master => Charlie Parker) You need a primal connection to the subject to master it.

Occupy the perfect niche. Ramachandran => sea shells (origins) => anomalous neurological disorders (niche), Yoky Matsuoka => sport and maths (origins) => neurobotics (niche). Find a niche in your own ecology to dominate by experimenting and combining several apparently unrelated paths.

Avoid the false path. Mozart => composing (inclination) > performing (wrong path) => his father (obstacle). False path = following the wrong reasons (not according to our inclination). Realize you are on the wrong path, then rebel to overcome the obstacles.

Let go of the past. Freddie Roach => boxing (past success) => training. Don't be tied to a title, commit to your life's task. Always be adapting.

Find your way back. Buckminster Fuller => business failure, contemplating suicide => decided to pursue his own ideas no matter what. Listen to your frustration and make a radical change.

Temple Grandin found her Life's Task by focusing on her weaknesses: "ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others". A life's task isn't always obvious, but you will eventually stumble upon it if you find the confidence to pursue what you like.


 Apprenticeship is a practical education following the formal one.


Darwin's apprenticeship was a voyage he undertook in South-America.


Every master underwent a self-directed apprenticeship. Self-directed = "intuitive grasp of what is most important and essential in their development". All apprenticeship share common patterns => "ideal apprenticeship".

From childhood to adulthood, parents and teachers tell us what to do. Then we are thrown against reality. From a passive position we are forced to become active and independent. How to go about it? Naive approach = follow what others do, but an apprenticeship is about finding your own way.

"the goal of an apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title, or a diploma, but rather transformation of your mind and character - the first one on the way to mastery [...] you will transform yourself from someone who is impatient and scattered into someone who is disciplined and focused, with a mind that can handle complexity. [...] you will master yourself"

Choose jobs offering the biggest learning opportunities where you can measure your progress, not comfortable ones.


Deep Observation (passive mode)

Skills Acquisition (practice mode)

Experimentation (active mode)

From Basile Samel's collection:

contact: email - twitter / Terms / Privacy