Silent Whispers

Chasing Illusionary Butterflies!

Mastery- Book 11 Review

Posted by Mrityunjay on March 31, 2018

Interested in knowing how geniuses like Mozart, Darwin, Einstein, Humphry Davy to living legends like Paul Graham, VS Ramachandran etc mastered their respective fields? If yes, then look no further than the book “Mastery” which is laden with lucid examples towards the paths of glory. Written by Robert Greene, the theories and concepts presented in the book may not be entirely new to the readers but they have been presented in a very interesting format. Greene has gained fame or notoriety (depending upon which side of the fence you are in) from “48 laws of Power”; so I was pretty curious to read this one expecting more cynicism or Machiavellian techniques but book had none of these. Filled with inspiring tales and positive anecdotes, it made for a good read.

Mastery tries to enlighten us with how Masters are made. He emphasizes that masters are not simply “naturally gifted” or possess high IQ. Its much more than that. At the core of their mastery lies, their passion for their work, unflinching focus and guts to tread their own paths irrespective of limitations and restrictions imposed upon their beings by society or nature.

Robert Greene digs deep into the process of how to attain mastery with several wonderful tales of legends. I personally loved the stories of Leonardo Da Vinci and Charles Darwin. So many finer details which I was not aware of. It was also an eye opener in a way because there is so much unknown about how we perceive the legends without ever getting to know what made them. All those countless hours of practice, numerous disappointments, opposition and rejection by establishment, dollops of luck and serendipity and that’s how these geniuses are made.

According to the author, a typical journey of a master consists of mainly 3 stages:-

    1. Looking out for work related to your true passion

    2. Searching the right mentor and being the right apprentice

    3. Becoming actively productive after years of apprenticeship

41FnF8UYX0LIt all starts with who you are, how do you reconnect to your inner force, not letting it drown in cacophony of worldly considerations and identifying your true inclinations. Having discipline and developing an independent thinking is of paramount importance if you wish to attain mastery. The fact that, we all have limited time on earth, we cannot possibly learn everything on our own so we need to find mentors who can challenge us and guide our way in the right direction. This has been demonstrated in a beautiful way in the relationship between Michael Faraday and Humphry Davy. The path to success is paved with manipulations and resistance by people but instead of succumbing to frustration we need to manoeuvre our way skillfully away from the impediments. Benjamin Franklin was a classical example of this tact and grit phenomenon. As we accumulate more skills and learn more things, we learn to fuse the intuitive with rational which is instrumental in achieving the outer possibilities of our potential.

Robert Greene says that, masters pull from everywhere. Every minuscule, non-noticeable thing in nature has the potential to inspire an improvement. But for that, we need to keep our mind open enough to create connections between different patterns and signals. The Author also highlights the importance of socializing. We can not achieve much in this world without social intelligence. We need to accept others as they are instead of wasting our energy in trying to change them. The only person we can change is ourselves and so that is where our focus should lie. Consider what Greene has to say;

“You must allow everyone the right to exist in accordance with the character he has, whatever it turns out to be: and all you should strive to do is to make use of this character in such a way as its kind of nature permits, rather than to hope for any alteration in it, or to condemn it offhand for what it is. This is the true sense of the maxim – Live and let live… To become indignant at [people’s] conduct is as foolish as to be angry with a stone because it rolls into your path. And with many people the wisest thing you can do, is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter”.

The books harps on the concept of hard practice. It’s important to repeat and keep practicing diligently – pushing yourself to get better. People who do not practice and learn new skills never gain a proper sense of proportion or self-criticism. The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. And the process of learning skills, no matter how virtual, remains the same. Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge. Most importantly, we have to get fired up about the essence of our work.

Mastery is endowed with many case studies, practical strategies to follow, and also the cases where the process didn’t work. It is fascinating to witness the lives of dozens of masters, reading about their habits, traits and attitudes. The tales also include the lives of unlikely masters, whose achievements seemed impossible given their disabilities and impairments. Mastery makes for a captivating read.

Some quotes from the book:-

Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.”

“People around you, constantly under the pull of their emotions, change their ideas by the day or by the hour, depending on their mood. You must never assume that what people say or do in a particular moment is a statement of their permanent desires.”

We are all in search of feeling more connected to reality—to other people, the times we live in, the natural world, our character, and our own uniqueness. Our culture increasingly tends to separate us from these realities in various ways. We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behaviour, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, Masters of the small reality we create. In doing this work, we are in fact creating ourselves.”

“The most effective attitude to adopt is one of supreme acceptance. The world is full of people with different characters and temperaments. We all have a dark side, a tendency to manipulate, and aggressive desires. The most dangerous types are those who repress their desires or deny the existence of them, often acting them out in the most underhanded ways. Some people have dark qualities that are especially pronounced. You cannot change such people at their core, but must merely avoid becoming their victim. You are an observer of the human comedy, and by being as tolerant as possible, you gain a much greater ability to understand people and to influence their behaviour when necessary”

Happy Reading, folks. Cheers.

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