Mastery summary


Rating: 9/10

Author: Robert Greene Read The Original

High-Level Thoughts

I really enjoy Robert Greene's writing style. It's similar to your grandpa telling stories of the past while weaving in lessons on how to become the best version of yourself. Compared to The 48 Laws of Power, I enjoyed this book much more mainly due to the fact I could apply almost all of the lessons. Mastery definitely has given me insight into what it takes to truly become a master at something. Chasing fame, wealth, and status are the quickest ways to become miserable and fail. If you enjoy the process of getting better, can spend countless hours practicing without feeling the passage of time, chances are you found what you were meant to do. If your someone who wants to become a master in your field or are not sure what you want to do with your life, I highly recommend this book.

Mastery Summary

  • Everyone is born with certain inclinations they are naturally drawn to and have a talent for, explore and you will find it.
  • Learn from a mentor or books, but find a way to develop your own style so you can surpass and transcend what your master has taught you.
  • Value learning above everything else, status, fame, wealth, in order to become a master your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.

I - Discover Your Calling: The Life Task's

  • A natural response when people feel overwhelmed is to retreat into various forms of passivity. If we don’t try too much in life, if we limit our circle of action, we can give ourselves the illusion of control.
  • Everything that happens to you is a form of instruction if you pay attention.
  • Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious. For Einstein, it was not physics but a fascination with invisible forces that governed the universe.
  • ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others. Instead, like Temple Grandin, direct yourself toward the small things you are good at.
  • Example of the Japanese researcher who went on to create her own robotics/neuroscience major, after dreaming as a young child of one day creating a robot who would play tennis with her.
  • "Extraordinary people are not a different category; the workings of this engine in them are simply more transparent…." —James Hillman]
  • Freddie Roach one of the greatest boxing trainers of all time while growing up training was told by his parents who were familar with the boxing world that he wasn't good enough. This ignited a fire and he trained so hard that he eventually was able to beat his "gifted" brother and go on to join the USA team.

II - Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship

  • Darwin noted some obvious changes in himself. He used to find almost any kind of work boring, but now he could labor all hours of the day; in fact, with so much to explore and learn, he hated wasting a single minute of the voyage.
  • The pain and boredom we experience in the initial stage of learning a skill toughens our minds, much like physical exercise. Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life.
  • The future in science does not lie in increased specialization, but rather in the combining and cross-fertilization of knowledge in various fields.
  • He had discovered, however, that through rigorous training—mental and physical—he could overcome his fear and almost any deficiency in his skill level.
  • Buried in their minds is the sensation of overcoming their frustrations and entering the cycle of accelerated returns. In moments of doubt in the present, the memory of the past experience rises to the surface. Filled with trust in the process, they trudge on well past the point at which others slow down or mentally quit.
  • it is a curse to have everything go right on your first attempt.
  • Three Steps:
  • Deep Observervation (Passive Mode)
  • The first apprenticeships had no books or manuals, you had to watch what your masters did carefully.
  • Skills Acquisition (The Practice Mode)
  • You must develop the power of concentration, and try not to multitask.
  • Experimentation (The Active Mode)
  • Benjamin Franklin being a print shop apprentice but secretly absorbing and teaching himself writing from newspapers at the same time.
  • Albert Einstein working at the patent office learning the nuances of how these inventions worked before coming up with the theory of relativity, much of which was thought of at his day job.
  • Value learning above everything else, status, fame, wealth.


  • Many pianists become lost in the shadow of their illustrious mentors and never amount to anything.
  • As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Poor is the apprentice who does not surpass his Master.”
  • As they improved, the fighters would begin to tune him out, feeling like they already knew enough. Their egos would get in the way and they would stop learning.
  • The only solution is to evolve a more interactive dynamic with the mentor. If they can adapt to some of your ideas, the relationship becomes more animated.
  • Thomas Edison had no chance for formal education, and nobody crossed his path who could serve as a teacher or mentor. And so in lieu of that, in every city he spent time in, he frequented the public library.
  • What made this successful was Thomas Edison's relentless desire to learn through whatever crossed his path, as well as his self-discipline. He had developed the habit of overcoming his lack of an organized education by sheer determination and persistence. He worked harder than anyone else. Because he was a consummate outsider and his mind had not been indoctrinated in any school of thought, he brought a fresh perspective to every problem.
  • He turned his lack of formal direction into an advantage.


  • Specific Knowledge of Human Nature -> the ability to read individuals
  • General Knowledge of Human Nature -> cumulated understanding of the overall patterns of human behavior.
  • Franklin accepted, but almost from the beginning he could sense something was not right. And so, as he had promised himself, he took a step back and calmly reviewed the facts.
  • We think we understand people, but we are viewing them through a distorted lens.
  • Instead of obsessing over himself and what other people were not giving him, he thought deeply of how they were experiencing the world, what they were feeling and missing.
  • If you look closely enough, you can often perceive in your relationships with bosses or superiors reenactments of the childhood family dynamic—the idealizing or demonizing that has become habitual.
  • Observe before you react.
  • Semmelweis -> person who discovered not washing hands led to countless deaths in hospitals was ostracized and died penniless. Compared to Harvey who discovered the theory that the heart pumps blood and circulates throughout the heart (vs old belief that blood was consumed) built his social status, connections and solid evidence before revealing his theory, died with the majority of the community believing his work.


  • Some people maintain their childlike spirit and spontaneity, but their creative energy is dissipated in a thousand directions, and they never have the patience and discipline to endure an extended apprenticeship.
  • Others have the discipline to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge and become experts in their field, but they have no flexibility of spirit, so their ideas never stray beyond the conventional and they never become truly creative.
  • The Original Mind -> when we used to look at the world without any filters, the way a child sees it, and all the ideas and questions that sprout from observation.
  • The Conventional Mind -> We become defensive about the world we now take for granted, and we become upset if our beliefs or assumptions are attacked. We are now under pressure to make a living and conform to society.
  • The Dimensional Mind -> the creativity of a child, but the discipline of a master to be able to execute on your passions and ideas.
  • Step One: The Creative Task:
  • You must have patience and faith that what you are doing will yield something important.
  • The Primary Law of the Creative Dynamic that you must engrave deeply in your mind and never forget: your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work.
  • The sense of having enemies or doubters can serve as a powerful motivating device and fill you with an added creative energy and focus.
  • This is a corollary of the Law of the Creative Dynamic—the higher the goal, the more energy you will call up from deep within.
  • Step two: Creative Strategies:
  • Negative Capability -> put down your ego, and learn from others.
  • To put Negative Capability into practice, you must develop the habit of suspending the need to judge everything that crosses your path.
  • Look for analogies and metaphors.
  • The Current -> constant dialogue between our thoughts and reality. How Darwin was able to come up with the theory of natural selection.
  • Creative people are those who have the capacity to resist this shorthand. They can look at a phenomenon from several different angles, noticing something we miss because we only look straight on.
  • If we feel afraid, we tend to see more of the potential dangers in some action. If we feel particularly bold, we tend to ignore the potential risks.
  • Step three: The Creative Breakthrough - Tension and Insight
  • Evariste Galois in 1831 was challenged to a duel, certain he was going to die, he spent the whole night summarizing all of the ideas on algebraic ideas that had been troubling him for several years. Suddenly the ideas flowed, and even new ones were created.
  • Coltrane began to practice night and day, with such assiduity that his reeds would become red from blood
  • Their model depended not on superior technology, but on the highest number of test runs, creating an optimal learning curve
  • Santiago Calatrava architect who also got a degree in civil engineering to be able to see the limits of his designs, and also wanted to give his buildings the feeling of movement.
  • The greatest danger he faced was that his energy would go flat over time as the design dragged on into years, and he would lose touch with his original vision. To combat this, Calatrava would maintain an attitude of constant dissatisfaction.
  • You take pleasure in the laborious research process; you enjoy the slow cooking of the idea, the organic growth that naturally takes shape over time.
  • You take pleasure in the laborious research process; you enjoy the slow cooking of the idea, the organic growth that naturally takes shape over time.


  • The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don’t simply absorb information—we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use. We look for connections between the various elements we are learning, hidden laws that we can perceive in the apprenticeship phase.
  • What made those twenty years qualitatively different from those of an ordinary person was the intensity of his attention. He did not simply read books—he took them apart, rigorously analyzed them, and learned valuable lessons to apply to his own life. All of this reading implanted in his brain various styles that would enrich his own writing style. He did not merely socialize—he strained to understand people at their core and to uncover their secret motivations
  • You are unique, and there is a purpose to your uniqueness. You must see every setback, failure, or hardship as a trial along the way, as seeds that are being planted for further cultivation, if you know how to grow them. No moment is wasted if you pay attention and learn the lessons contained in every experience.
  • But Masters have a strong inner guiding system and a high level of self-awareness. What has suited others in the past does not suit them, and they know that trying to fit into a conventional mold would only lead to a dampening of spirit, the reality they seek eluding them
  • You must see whatever you produce as something that has a life and presence of its own.
  • If your work is not having the desired effect, you must look at it from all angles until you find the source of the problem. You must not merely observe the rivals in your field, but dissect and uncover their weaknesses. “Look wider and think further ahead”

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