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Mastery by Robert Greene Book Summary


I first read Mastery by Robert Greene when I was in university. At the time, I was in the middle of pursuing a degree in physics, and had ambitions of eventually becoming a researcher in physics. Although my career path has taken me on a different trajectory, this book has since had a huge influence on my life, and how I view the different phases of my life.


The journey to mastery involves three distinct phases or levels:

  1. Apprenticeship

  2. Creative-Active

  3. Mastery

Discovering Your Calling

Everyone has an inner inclination that they were in touch with in childhood, but abandoned as they grew older and became increasingly influenced by their parents and the education system. This calling is present and unique in everyone, and leads to a Life’s Task.

The first step to mastery is to rediscover this calling and to find your Life’s Task, which can be done through the following strategies:

  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. Let go of the past - The adaptation strategy

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

Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

The apprenticeship is a period of time where skills and knowledge are gained, but more importantly, a transformation is done of the mind and character. There are three steps to this first transformation:

  1. Deep Observation (The Passive Mode)

  2. Skills Acquisition (The Practice Mode)

  3. Experimentation (The Active Mode)

The following are 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 towards resistance and pain

  6. Apprentice yourself in failure

  7. Combine the “how” and the “what”

  8. Advance through trial and error

Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

As part of the process of attaining mastery, it is important to have a mentor that can guide you through everything, which will help to make your journey to mastery more efficient.

The following are strategies for deepening the mentor dynamic:

  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

See People as they Are: Social Intelligence

In any kind of workplace environment, there will inevitably be politics and bureaucracy involved. This presents an obstacle in the pursuit of mastery: the emotional drain that is experienced in dealing the resistance and manipulations of others.

Social intelligence is the ability to see people as they are and avoiding confusion and conflict that comes with dealing with others. This allows for more time and energy to focus on learning and acquiring skills. Social intelligence has two components:

Specific Knowledge - Reading People

Pay less attention to the words that people say and pay more attention to the tone of their voice and body language - their nonverbal communication. Put yourself in their shoes and see things from their perspective in order to figure out their true motives.

General Knowledge - The Seven Deadly Realities

The following are general patterns of human nature that are important to see in others and avoid as much as possible:

  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 your

  4. Suffer fools gladly

Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

As you emerge from your apprentice, you will begin to use your skills and knowledge in unique ways that suit your inclinations. During this creative period of time, you need to actively seek to explore your originality instead of remaining complacent.

This requires a mindset called the Dimensional Mind, which has two components: a high level of knowledge about a field or subject, and the openness and flexibility to use this knowledge in new and original ways. This requires three steps:

  1. The Creative Task

  2. Creative Strategies

  3. The Creative Breakthrough - Tension and Insight

Emotional Pitfalls to Avoid
  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

  3. Mechanical Intelligence

  4. Natural Powers

  5. The Open Field

  6. The High End

  7. The Evolutionary Hijack

  8. Dimensional Thinking

  9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious

Fuse the Intuitive with the Rational: Mastery

Once a deep immersion in a field in cultivated based on inner inclinations, an intuitive feel for the complicated components of the field is had. This allows us to see more of the world, to anticipate trends, and respond with speed and accuracy to any circumstance. By combining this intuitive sense with rational processes, mastery is attained.

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

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

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

August 10th, 2021