Book Notes: Mastery

Mastery by Robert Greene
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book pulls together some historical examples of learning to gain Mastery by people such a Edison and summarises some of the stages from these.

  • Calling – you need to identify what is your passion, not one based on circumstances or one enforced on you by someone else.
  • Apprenticeship follows three phases
    • Deep Observation – where you are watching others to understand what to do
    • Practice – trying out your understanding
    • Active – pushing yourself to get feedback from peers or the public
  • Strategies for apprenticeships
    • Value learning over money – the best apprenticeships might not pay (well)
    • Keep expanding your horizons – push yourself to look broadly
    • Revert to a feeling of inferiority – be open to new learnings
    • Trust the process – invest the time, gaining skills is quick
    • Move towards resistance and pain – invest the effort, gaining skills is not easy
    • Learn in failure – what can you learn from failure when they happen
    • Combine the “how” and the “what” – seek to understand the how not just what
    • Advance through trial and error – experiment, see what works and what not
  • Mentors are key to you being supported through your apprenticeship
    • Choose the mentor according to your needs and inclinations
    • Gaze deep into the mentors mirror – we become overly optimistic with our abilities, you need a grounding to reality
    • Transfigure their ideas – it is not about copying your mentor but absorbing the relevant parts and adapting
    • Create a back-and-forth dynamic – where mentor and mentee learn from each other so that the relationship evolves as the mentee grows their own ideas
  • Social intelligence
    • The seven deadly realities – envy, conformism, rigidity, self-obsession, laziness, fightiness and passive aggression
    • Speak through your work – convincing people with quality work not fighting
    • Craft the appropriate persona – so that you can be consistent to listeners
    • Suffer fools gladly – don’t lower yourself to their level or fight them
  • The Creative-Active
    • Creative Tasks – choose your task wisely, one which you can obsess about, engage deeply and emotionally commit
    • Creative Strategies – we like to do the same things, it’s easy for us.
      • Negative capabilities – embracing mystery and uncertainty, suspending judgement and admit that we wound up in our own ego and vanity.
      • Allow for serendipity – random external stimuli lead us to association we can not come to on our own.
      • Alternate the mind through “the current” – cycling between speculation and observation/experimentation to dig deeper resulting in a theory which explains something beyond our limited senses.
      • Alter your perspective
        • Search for the “how” not just the “what”
        • Investigate details, don’t just generalise
        • Look into anomalies
        • What is absent, not just what is present
      • Revert to primal forms of intelligence – e.g. drawings and models
    • Creative Breakthrough – sometimes we need some distance from the problem to come back with fresh ideas and perspectives
  • Mastery
    • Connect to your environment
    • Play to your strengths
    • Transform yourself through practice
    • Internalise the detail
    • Widen your vision
    • Submit to others – get an inside perspective
    • Synthesize all forms of knowledge

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