Mastery - Book Review

Mastery

 
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Mastery by Robert Green
By Jonathan Roseland

Book ReviewA Masterclass on a Lost Art

Years back, my friend Hypnautic recommended Robert Greene's book The 48 Laws of Power to me when I was younger. I liked the illustration of power dynamics via historical examples, battles, political intrigues, and characters. This book takes a similar approach to examining the lives of various scientists, doctors, inventors, writers, and artists.

I'm glad I read Mastery but it wasn't an epiphany-filled 352 pages for me. It confirmed a lot of things I've heard before about skill acquisition and personal development...

  • The importance of apprenticeship
  • The massive amounts of time that mastery requires
  • Why social intelligence is key to mastery ("The ability to think inside other people is no different from the intuitive feel Masters gain in relation to their field of study." p. 146)
  • We want to take both holistic and focused approaches to mastery

I have pursued the path to mastery in various disciplines. I have a black belt in a martial art, Tae Kwon Do. I mastered a second language and Joomla, the content management system that I work with.

One of my favorite examples from the book was that of Daniel Everett.
His job was to learn the language of a remote Amazonian tribe, so he could translate the Bible into their language and proselytize to them. Their language is one of the most unique in the world, it contains no colors or numbers and doesn't even have a past or future tense. One of his breakthrough moments with this language came when he learned a word...

...one time he learned a new word that a Pirahã explained to him meant “what is in your head when you sleep.” The word then means to dream. But the word was used with a special intonation that Pirahã use when they are referring to a new experience.
(p. 301)

This was essentially their word for novelty, but their culture was hyper-focused on the present moment. The past and future they weren't so worried about.

I think someone might get more out of this book who hasn't gone through the process of mastery with anything yet. For me, this book just kind of confirmed the things I already knew about personal development and skillset acquisition. The major takeaway from the book is that mastery takes a lot of work, the kind of mastery that changes the world takes a lifetime of pretty hard workSo I encourage you to figure out what motivational mechanism that could empower you to work hard for a lifetime...

  • For some of the masters in the book, they were solving problems that saved lives.
  • Some of them were empowered by social validation.
  • Some were very religious and believed they were working for a higher power.
  • Some use smart drugs and Biohacking technologies to enhance their cognition and motivation.

As for me, I'm passionate about habits. When I wake up in the morning I'm not making plans for world domination, I'm just thinking about the habits I'm going to practice in the day to come.

I'll finish with two quotes that jumped out at me from the book...

The problem that technology presents us is that it increases the amount of information at our disposal , but slowly degrades the power of our memory to retain it. (p. 265)
He called this future “the velocipedic age,” one determined by speed. He was concerned that it could lead to a deadening of the human spirit. (p. 308)

4 stars blue

Check out this cool 4-minute warp-speed reading of the notable passages from the book...

The great danger is that we give in to feelings of boredom, impatience, fear, and confusion. We stop observing and learning. The process comes to a halt.(p. 3).

This intense connection and desire allows them to withstand the pain of the process— the self-doubts, the tedious hours of practice and study, the inevitable setbacks, the endless barbs from the envious. They develop a resiliency and confidence that others lack.(p. 12)

Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers. Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.(p. 12)

people get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life.
(p. 14)

First, you must see your attempt at attaining mastery as something extremely necessary and positive.(p. 14)

Second, you must convince yourself of the following: people get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life.(p. 14)

"Become who you are by learning who you are. " What he meant is the following: You are born with a particular makeup and tendencies that mark you as a piece of fate. It is who you are to the core. Some people never become who they are; they stop trusting in themselves; they conform to the tastes of others, and they end up wearing a mask that hides their true nature. If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become— an individual, a Master.(p. 29)

You must understand the following: In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.(p. 31)

One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself. —L EONARDO DA VINCI
(p. 54)

First, it is essential that you begin with one skill that you can master, and that serves as a foundation for acquiring others. You must avoid at all cost the idea that you can manage learning several skills at a time. You need to develop your powers of concentration, and understand that trying to multitask will be the death of the process.(p. 60)

It is better to dedicate two or three hours of intense focus to a skill than to spend eight hours of diffused concentration on it.
(p. 61)

Masters are those who by nature have suffered to get to where they are.
(p. 116)

choose a mentor who is known for supplying this form of tough love.
(p. 116)

the American version of the French spirit and way of life. He was appealing to their notorious narcissism.
(p. 133)

the many years of viewing people through the lens of our emotional needs turns into a habit that we can hardly control.
(p. 135)

In general, the greatest Masters in history— Leonardo, Mozart, Darwin, and others— displayed a fluid, sensitive way of thinking that developed along with their expanding social intelligence.
(p. 146)

In general, the greatest Masters in history— Leonardo, Mozart, Darwin, and others— displayed a fluid, sensitive way of thinking that developed along with their expanding social intelligence.
(p. 146)

the ability to think inside other people is no different from the intuitive feel Masters gain in relation to their field of study.
(p. 146)

even a scientist must play the courtier.
(p. 151)

"immediacy of experience"— what was not before their eyes did not exist, and therefore there were almost no words or concepts for things outside immediate experience.
(p. 162)

the pace too frenetic and the moral ambiguity too disturbing.
(p. 175)

The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.
(p. 183)

In general you must adopt a more analogical way of thinking, taking greater advantage of the associative powers of the mind.
(p. 187)

The reason for this "regression" to visual forms of thinking is simple. Human working memory is limited. We can only keep in mind several pieces of information at the same time.
(p. 197)

the expression ostinato rigore, which translates as "stubborn rigor" or "tenacious application."
(p. 203)

our experience of our own body is something constructed in the brain and can go haywire , then perhaps our sense of self is also something of a construction or illusion, one that we create to suit our purposes, and one that can malfunction.
(p. 213)

woke up repeating certain words that must have come to him from a dream: "You could control the program by clicking on links."
(p. 232)

By delving into the chaotic and fluid zone below the level of consciousness where opposites meet, you will be surprised at the exciting and fertile ideas that will come bubbling up to the surface.
(p. 245)

dissect their emotions and problems with such exactitude that it was unnerving,
(p. 250)

notorious decadent
(p. 251)

Although time is the critical factor in attaining Mastery and this intuitive feel, the time we are talking about is not neutral or simply quantitative.
(p. 260)

The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.
(p. 260)

The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich.
(p. 260)

The problem that technology presents us is that it increases the amount of information at our disposal , but slowly degrades the power of our memory to retain it.
(p. 265)

But anything that is peculiar to our makeup is precisely what we must pay the deepest attention to and lean on in our rise to mastery.
(p. 285)

A character in a novel, for instance, will come to life for the reader if the writer has put great effort into imagining the details of that character. The writer does not need to literally lay out these details; readers will feel it in the work and will intuit the level of research that went into the creation of it.
(p. 294)

one time he learned a new word that a Pirahã explained to him meant "what is in your head when you sleep." The word then means to dream. But the word was used with a special intonation that Pirahã use when they are referring to a new experience.
(p. 301)

he could hear his own inner voices, his own demonic dualities talking to each other.
(p. 305)

He called this future "the velocipedic age," one determined by speed. He was concerned that it could lead to a deadening of the human spirit.
(p. 308)

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