[This post has been illustrated by the talented Chloe Kendall. She put some kittens through the Mastery process to help us understand it more fully. Even if you don’t take the time to read all 7000 words of this post, take the time to scroll through and see her fantastic drawings. As a quick-skim they go well with the bold words.]
I couldn’t get enough out of Robert Greene’s latest book “Mastery”. It is the single best book at becoming phenomenally good at any craft that I’ve ever read.
So much I bought tons copies for Christmas presents –
WAY too many copies…
And that’s because some of those copies are for the StartupBros Community!! (The Broship?)
Free Mastery Book Giveaway!
I wish I had enough books for all of you, but I don’t have very many left.
All you have to do is sign up below and you will be entered to win the ability to master anything you want!
Or at least that’s what this book says…
Enter to win below!
Now On To The Book Review
Now, on to what I thought of the book itself… In short, this book review is a masterwork on becoming a master. I’ve organized this review as follows. The first section is comprised of the lessons that have stuck with me after reading the book. The second will loosely follow the table of contents as I highlight some of my favorite bits by Greene. Me On Greene – Greene has been studying powerful people for decades now and has a really tight grasp on the whole thing. It’s amazing to me how densely insightful this book is – in the business world, only Nassim Nicholas Taleb competes on this front. Even if you have no interest in becoming a “master”, this book is fascinating just for the mini-biographies. Greene has read a shocking number of biographies and has distilled the recurring lessons and most interesting stories into the fewest pages possible, which tends to run long. It’s a joy to read about the Wright Brothers, Einstein, and Paul Graham in the same chapter. He pulls from scientists, musicians, inventors, writers, businessmen, and others to display the universality of these principles. I found myself mapping a lot of these ideas onto my own life and getting giddy every time Nietzsche is quoted (which is often). The true test of the utility of any book like this is how intensely it impacts your life. It’s been two weeks since finishing Mastery so I can see what lessons have really stuck and which haven’t. Which ideas from the book are here to stay and which ones were forgotten. Time teaches us a lot about what’s important to us. In this case, let’s see what’s important from Mastery.
Changes I’ve Made
Structured myself for more apprenticeship opportunities. Greene highlights the importance of learning from other masters instead of focusing on book learning. I’ve begun to shift my focus from book learning to learning from mentors. Books present the same information to everyone while people can tailor information to your current needs. This isn’t to take the power away from books (indeed, this very motivation was made concrete by a book.) Instead, it’s about finding a balance – shifting back and forth. Widened my intake of information. I had, for a moment, narrowed in my intake of information too much. Masters pull from everywhere. Everything has the potential to inspire an improvement in their craft. We have to keep our mind open enough to create connections between different industries. Often times one industry will learn a lesson much earlier than another because they are forced to. Look at the music and film industries. They are both under similar pressures but the music industry has just had to deal with them earlier. Also, nature has much to teach us about any industry. Nature’s forces are at work in everything – even man-made industries. Learned to be more accepting of people. I know, this is an odd lesson to pull from a book about achieving mastery. When you get to Greene’s section on socializing, though, you’ll understand. Without social intelligence it’s difficult to do much in this world as far as getting the things you want done. It’s also near-impossible to form worth-while relationships unless you can learn to accept others. Consider the following quote Greene opens up the “Keys To Mastery” section with:
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.
It’s hard when people don’t behave just as we want them to. So we try to change them and get frustrated when we can’t. In the end the only person we can change is ourselves and so that is where our focus should lie. The bad behavior of others should help us behave better – not frustrate us about human nature. Sometimes this isn’t possible – sometimes the person is too close to us, sometimes the stakes are too high. We can’t help but engage. Careful. Greene makes a fantastic argument for focusing on the needs and wants of others instead of our own. We expect others – especially close family and friends – to meet our expectations and act in ways we would have them act. Instead of seeing people as they are we create inaccurate stories about what they are or what they should be. These stories lead to unnecessary frustration, fear, or admiration. More respect for rational intuition. Everyone who is better than good at what they do talks about a little voice or following their gut or describes some kind of divine connection when doing their work. It’s the wordless-reasoning, the intelligence too quick for words, that is helping to drive them where they need to be. The same kind of phenomenon that Malcolm Gladwell explores in Blink.This kind of intelligence is only useful when it has experience to draw from, which bring me to the next point… More respect for hard practice. I’ve talked about this previously but it’s important to repeat. Practicing diligently – straining yourself to get better – is extremely important in leading a fulfilling life. Our work has the potential to be a huge source of meaning in our life. It doesn’t need to be “meaningful” work (people hide in charities and non-profits) but it needs to be done meaningfully. When you push your skills then you feel a creative (and sometimes physical) exhaustion that makes life worth living. Hard work is great but isn’t worth much if you’re not pushing yourself in the direction of your inclinations. When you’ve practiced hard for long enough then you will begin to experience the sensation of “divine” intuition mentioned above.
Greene on Greene. Mastery is laid out in a beautiful way with a natural progression of sections with each section following the same template. The sections are as follows:
- Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task – In which we discover that thing we should be spending more time and energy on.
- Submit To Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship – In which we discover the secrets of learning something in the best possible way. Greene goes into apprentice-master relationships and then goes onto to detailing the best way to complete an apprenticeship.
- Absorb The Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic – In which we discover how to take full advantage of what our mentor’s have to offer.
- See People As They Are: Social Intelligence – In which we discover how to (and why we must) see people in the most realistic light possible.
- Awaken The Dimensional-Creative Mind: The Creative-Active – In which we discover how to expand our knowledge once we form a firm foundation. These techniques will save us from complacency.
- Fuse The Intuitive With The Rational: Mastery – In which we discover the intelligence that is cultivated by immersing ourselves deeply in a field of study.
Before I go into the sections of the book I need to reiterate this – BUY THE THING! (Or sign up and win it.) You won’t regret it.
It’s an immensely useful and inspiring book. Easy to read and easy to implement.
Get on it!
Notes and Excerpts from Mastery
And now, the master, Mr. Greene:
Some passages are sentences, some are multiple paragraphs, they’re all amazing.
Introduction For animals, time is their great enemy. If they are potential prey, wandering too long in a space can spell instant death. If they are predators, waiting too long will only mean the escape of their prey. Time for them also represents physical decay. To a remarkable extent, our hunting ancestors reversed this process. The longer they spent observing something, the deeper their understanding and connection to reality. With experience, their hunting skills would progress. With continued practice, their ability to make effective tools would improve. The body could decay but the mind would continue to learn and adapt. Using time for such effect is the essential ingredient of mastery. In fact, we can say that this revolutionary relationship to time fundamentally altered the human mind itself and gave it a particular quality or grain.
When we take our time and focus in depth, when we trust that going though a process of months or years will bring us mastery, we work with the grain of this marvelous instrument that developed over so many millions of years. We infallibly move to higher and higher levels of intelligence. We see more deeply and realistically.We practice and make things with skill. We learn to think for ourselves. We become capable of handling complex situations without being overwhelmed. In following this path we become Homo magister, man or woman the Master. To the extent that we believe we can skip steps, avoid the process, magically gain power through political conections or easy formulas, or depend on our natural talents, we move against this grain and reverse our natural powers. We become slaves to time – as it passes, we grow weaker, less capable, trapped in some dead-end career. We become captive to the opinions and fears of others. Rather than the mind connecting us to reality, we become disconnected and locked in a narrow chamber of though. The human that depended on focused attention for its survival now becomes the distracted scanning animal, unable to think in depth, yet unable to depend on instincts. — Even if [in the past] people wanted to follow their inclinations, access to the information and knowledge pertaining to that particular field was controlled by elites. That is why where are relatively few Masters in the past and why they stand out so much, —
Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted! They acquired greatness, became “geniuses” (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole. -Friedrich Nietzsche
Hear what’s here
— Part 1: Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task Find your way back – The life-or-death strategy [The beginning quote here is a voice that Buckminster Fuller heard after severe failure and contemplating suicide.] As he walked toward the water, he mentally prepared himself for death. Suddenly something stopped him in his tracks – what he would describe later as a voice, coming from nearby or perhaps from within him. It said, “From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your though. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself. You do not belong to you. You belong to the Universe.Your significance will remain forever obscure to you, but you may assume that you are fulfilling your role if you apply yourself to converting your experiences to the highest advantage of others.” Never having heard voices before, Fuller could only imagine it as something real. Stunned by these words, he turned away from the water and headed home. On the way there he began to ponder the words and to reassess his life, now in a different light. Perhaps what he had perceived moments earlier as his mistakes were not mistakes at all. He had tried to fit into a world (business) in which he did not belong. The world was telling him this if he only listened. The Stockade experience was not all a waste – he had learned some invaluable lessons about human nature. He should have no regrets. The truth was that he was different. In his mind he imagined all kinds of inventions – new kinds of cars, houses, building structures – that reflected his unusual perceptual skills. It struck him, as he looked around at row after row of apartment housing on his way back, that people suffered more from sameness, from the inability to think of doing things differently, than from nonconformity. He swore that from that moment on he would listen to nothing except his own experience, his own voice. He would create an alternative way of making things that would open people’s eays to new possibilities. The money would eventually come. Whenever he thought of money first, disaster followed. He would take care of his family, but they would have to live frugally for the moment. Over the years, Fuller kept to this promise. The pursuit of his peculiar ideas led to the design of inexpensive and energy-efficient forms of transportation and shelter (the Dymaxion car and Dymaxion house), and to the invention of the geodesic dome – a whole new form of architectural structure. Fame and money soon followed.
— The way back requires a sacrifice. You cannot have everything in the present. The road to mastery requires patience. You will have to keep your focus on five or ten years down the road, when you will reap the rewards of your efforts. The process of getting there, however, is full of challenges and pleasures. Make your return to the path a resolution you set for yourself, and then tell others about it. It becomes a matter of shame and embarrassment to deviate from your path. In the end, the money and success that truly last come not to those who focus on such things as goals, but rather to those who focus on mastery and fulfilling their Life’s Task. —
Getting in over your head
— Part 2: Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship 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 this process.
— 61. People who do not practice and learn new skills never gain a proper sense of proportion or self-criticism. They think they can achieve anything without effort and have little contact with reality. Trying something over and over again grounds you in reality, making you deeply aware of your inadequacies and of what you can accomplish with more work and effort.
— 67. It is a simple law of human psychology that your thoughts will tend to revolve around what you value most. If it is money, you will choose a place for your apprenticeship that offers the biggest paycheck. Inevitably, in such a place you will feel greater pressures to prove yourself worthy of such pay, often before you are really ready. you will be focused on yourself, your insecurities, the need to please and impress the right people, and not on acquiring skills. It will be too costly for you to make mistakes and learn from them, so you will become addicted to the fat paycheck and it will determine where you go, how you think, and what you do. Eventually the time that was not spent on learning skills ill catch up with you, and the fall will be painful.
— 74. Understand: when you enter a new environment, your task is to learn and absorb as much as possible. For the purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling of inferiority – the feeling that others know much more than you and that you are dependent upon them to learn and safely navigate your apprenticeship. You drop all of your preconceptions about an environment or field, any lingering feelings of smugness. You have no fears. You interact with people and participate in the culture as deeply as possible. You are full of curiosity. Assuming this sensation of inferiority your mind will open up and you will have a hunger to learn. This position is of course only temporary. You are reverting to a feeling of dependence, so that within five to ten years you can learn enough to finally declare your independence and enter full adulthood.
— 77. When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient. Assuming your practice proceeds at a steady level, over days and weeks certain elements of the skill become hardwired. Slowly, the entire skill becomes internalized, part of your nervous system. The mind is no longer mired in the details, but can see the larger picture. It is a miraculous sensation and practice will lead you to that point, no matter the talent level you are born with. The only real impediment to this is yourself and your emotions – boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity. You cannot suppress such emotions – they are normal to the process and are experienced by everyone, including Masters. What you can do is have faith in the process. The boredom will go away once you enter the cycle. The panic disappears after repeated exposure. The frustration is a sign of progress – a signal that your mind is processing complexity and requires more practice. The insecurities that will transform into their opposites when you gain mastery. Trusting this will all happen, you will allow the natural learning process to move forward, and everything else will fall into place.
— 80 [On John Keats] He had learned that it was in the actual writing of the poem that the best ideas would often come to him, and that he had to boldly keep writing or he would miss such discoveries.
— 80. To attain mastery, you must adopt when what we shall call Resistance Practice The principle is simple – you go in the opposite direction of all your natural tendencies when it comes to practice.
— 81. In the end, your five hours of intense, focused work are the equivalent of ten for most people. — 82. In the car business, everyone wrote Henry Ford off. He had blown his two chances and nobody was ever given a third, not with that amount of money at stake. But to friends and family, Ford seemed blithely unconcerned He told everyone that these were all invaluable lessons to him – he had paid attention to every glitch along the way, and like a watch or an engine, he had taken apart these failures in his mind and had identified the root cause: no one was giving him enough time to work out the bugs. The people with money were meddling in mechanical and design affairs. They were injecting their mediocre ideas into the process and polluting it. He resented the idea that having money gave them certain rights, when all that mattered was a perfect design.
— 83. Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education. They tell you about your own inadequacies. It is hard to find out such things from people, as they are often political with their praise and criticisms.
—- 84. 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 fromm and such
— 87. We must make ourselves study as deeply as possible the technology we use, the functioning of the group we work in, the economics of our field, its lifeblood. We must constantly ask the questions – how do things work, how do decisions get made, how does the group interact? Rounding our knowledge in this way will give us a deeper feel for reality and the heightened power to alter it.
— 89. Although there are many ways in which this could influence the concept of apprenticeship, it is the hacker approach to programming that may offer the most promising model for the new age. The model goes like this: You want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests. Like a hacker, you value the process of self-discovery and making things that are of the highest quality. You avoid the trap of following one set career path. You are not sure where this will all lead, but you are taking full advantage of the openness of information, all of the knowledge about skills now at our disposal. You see what kind of work suits you and what you want to avoid at all cost. You move by trial and error, This is how you pass your twenties. You are the programmer of this wide-ranging apprenticeship, within the loose constraints of your personal interests. You are not wandering about because you are afraid of commitment, but because you are ready to settle on something, ideas and opportunities will inevitably present themselves to you . When that happens, all of the skills you have accumulated will prove invaluable. You will be the Master at combining them in ways that are suited to your individuality.
— 90. The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery. —
Learn everything your mentor has to teach
— Part 3: Absorb The Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic
— 96. [Michael Faraday] Then in 1809 a book came into the shop that finally gave him some hope. It was called Improvement of the Mind – a self-help guide written by Reverend Isaac Watts, first published in 1741. The book revealed a system of learning and improving your lot in life, no matter your social class. It prescribed courses of action that anyone could follow, and it promised results. Faraday reading over and over, carrying it with him wherever he went.
— 103. The reason you require a mentor is simple: Life is short; you have only so much time and so much energy to expend. Your most creative years are generally your late twenties and on into your forties. You can learn what you need through books, your own practice, and occasional advice from others, but the process is hit-and-miss. The information in books is not tailored to your circumstances and individuality; it tends to be somewhat abstract. When you are young and have less experience of the world, this abstract knowledge is hard to put into practice. You can learn from your experiences, but it can often take years to fully understand the meaning of what has happened. It is always possible to practice on your own, but you will not receive enough focused feedback. You can often gain a self-directed apprenticeship in many fields, but this could take ten years, maybe more.
— 104. The mentor is like the philosopher’s stone – through direct interaction with someone of experience, you are able to quickly and efficiently heat up and animate this knowledge, turning it into something like gold.
— 107. In a looser sense, a figure from the past or present can serve as an ideal, someone to model yourself after. Through much research and some imagination on your part, you turn them into a living presence. You ask yourself – what would they do in his situation or that? Countless generals have used Napoleon Bonaparte for just such a purpose.
— 112. If, like Jung, you are somewhat confused and ambivalent about your direction, it can be useful to choose [a mentor] who can help you gain some clarity about what you want, someone important in the field who might not fit perfectly with your tastes. Sometimes part of what a mentor shows us is something we will want to avoid or actively rebel against. In this latter case, you might initially want to maintain a little more emotional distance than normally recommended, particularly if she is the domineering type. Over time you will see what to absorb and what to reject.
— 115. …from the first time they had met, he had recognized in Hakuin the necessary ingredients for true learning. He was fierce determined, and hungry for enlightenment. The problem with all students, he said, is that they inevitably stop somewhere. They hear an idea and they hold on to it until it becomes dead; they want to flatter themselves that they know the truth. But true Zen never stops, never congeals into such truths. That is why everyone must constantly be pushed to the abyss, starting over and feeling their utter worthlessness as a student. Without suffering and doubts, the mind will come to rest on cliches and stay there, until the spirit dies as well. Not even enlightenment is enough. You must continually start over and challenge yourself. —
Focus on others
— Part 4: See People As They Are: Social Intelligence
— 130. [Benjamin Franklin] decided he would have to adopt a new philosophy: complete and radical acceptance of human nature. People posses ingrained qualities and characters. Some are frivolous like Keith, or vindictive like his brother, or rigid like the printers. There are people like this everywhere; it has been that way since the dawn of civilization. To get upset or try to alter them is futile – it will only make them bitter and resentful. Better to accept such people as one accepts the thorns on a rose.
— 134. During this period of immaturity [the prolonged childhood of humans], we often transfer these idealizations and distortions to teachers and friends, projecting onto them what we want and need to see. Our view of people becomes saturated with various emotions – worship, admiration, love, need, anger. Then inevitably, often in adolescence, we start to glimpse a less-than-noble side to many people, including our parents, and we cannot help but feel upset at the disparity between what we had imagined and the reality. In our disappointment, we tend to exaggerate their negative qualities
— 135. With mentor and bosses, we project onto them our childhood fantasies, becoming unnecessarily adoring or fearful of authority figures and creating stormy and brittle relationships in the process. We think we understand people, but we are viewing them through a distorted lens In this state, all of our empathic powers are rendered useless.
— 136. As [Benjamin Franklin] got older he came to believe, as many young people do, that getting along with others is a function of behaving charmingly and winning them over with a friendly manner. But as he engaged with the real world, he began to see his charm as the actual source of his problem. Being charming was a strategy he had developed out of childish need; it was a reflection of his narcissism, of the love he had of his own words and wit. It had no relation to other people and their needs. It did not prevent them from exploiting or attacking him. To be truly charming and socially effective you have to understand people, and to understand them you have to get outside yourself and immerse your mind in their world.
— 137. The most effective attitude to adopt is one of supreme acceptance. … 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 behavior when necessary.
— 138. … you need to train yourself to pay less attention to the words that people say and greater attention to their tone of voice, the look in their eye, their body language – all signals that might reveal a nervousness or excitement not expressed verbally. … Cutting off your interior monologue and paying deep attention, you will pick up cues from them that will register with you as feelings or sensations.
— 139. …you should take special note of how people respond to stressful situations – often the mask they wear in public falls off in the heat of the moment.
— 140. …people are in a state of continual flux. You must not let your ideas aout them harden into a set impression. You are continually observing them and bringing your readings of them up to date.
— 143. It is useuless to fight against people’s rigid ways, or to argue against their irrational concepts. You will only waste time and make yourself rigid in the process. The best strategy is to simply accept rigidity in others, outwardly displaying deference to their need for order. On your own, however, you must work to maintain your open spirit, letting go of bad habits and deliberately cultivating new ideas.
— 143. Even when we act for the greater good, we are often unconsciously motivated by the desire to be liked by others and to have our image enhanced in the process. … Often those who are the most self-absorbed will surround their actions with a moral or saintly aura, or will make a show of supporting all of the right causes.
— 145. Rely on yourself to get things done and you will not be disappointed.
— 152. Understand: your work is the single greatest means at your disposal for expressing your social intelligence. By being efficient and detail oriented in what you do, you demonstrate that you are thinking of the group at large and advancing its cause. By making what you write or present clear and easy to follow, you show your care for the audience or public at large. By involving other people in your projects and gracefully accepting their feedback, you reveal your comfort with the group dynamic. Work that is solid also protects you from the political conniving and malevolence of others – it is hard to argue with the results you produce. If you are experiencing the pressures of political maneuvering within the group, do no lot your head and become consumed with all the pettiness. By remaining focused and speaking socially through your work, you will both continue to raise your skill level and stand out among all the others who make a lot of noise but produce nothing.
— 154. Sometimes, [Teresita Fernandez] reasoned, what you do not reveal to people is all the more eloquent and powerful.
— 160. And so, accepting his fellow courtiers as his companions for the next few years, Goethe devised a strategy, making a virtue out of necessity: He would talk very little, rarely venturing an opinion on anything. He would get his interlocutors to go on and on and about this or that subject. He would wear a pleasant mask as he listened, but inwardly he would observe them as if they were figures in a stage play. They would reveal to him their secrets, their petty dramas, and their inane ideas, and all the while he would smile and always take their side. What the courtiers did not realize was that they were supplying him with endless material – for characters, bits of dialogue, and stories of folly that would fill the plays and novels he was to write in the future. In this way he transformed his social frustrations into a most productive and pleasant game. —
Begin to harness your intuition
— Part 5: Awaken The Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active
— 180. You mut never simply embark on any creative endeavor in your field, placing faith in your own brilliance to see it through. You must make the right, the perfect choice for your energies and your inclinations.
— 195. What you must do then is not only alter your mental perspective, but reverse your emotional one as well. For instance, if you are experiencing a lot of resistance and setbacks in your work, try to see this as in fact something that is quite positive and productive. These difficulties will make you tougher and more aware of the flaws you need to correct.
— 196. Language is a system largely designed for communication. It is based on conventions that everyone can agree upon. It is somewhat rigid and stable, so that it allows us to communicate with minimum friction. But when it comes to the incredible complexity and fluidity of life, it can often fail us.
— 198. If you think too hard, you will come up with something too literal. Let your attention wander, play around the edges of your concept, loosen up your hold on consciousness, and allow images to come to you.
— 200. After ten long years of incessant thinking on the problem of general relativity, Albert Einstein decided one evening to give up. He had had enough. it was beyond him. He went to bed early, and when he awoke the solution suddenly came to him.
— 201. Think of yourself as your own Zen Master. Such Masters would often beat their pupils and deliberately lead them to points of maximum doubt and inner tension, knowing such moments often precede enlightenment.
— 202. We naturally begin to take for granted certain ideas we have learned and developed.
— 204. The best way to neutralize our natural impatience is to cultivate a kind of pleasure in pain – like an athlete, you come to enjoy rigorous practice, pushing past your limits, and resisting the easy way out.
— 204. Praise generally does harm. Ever so slowly, the emphasis shifts from the joy of the creative process to the love of attention and to our ever-inflating ego. Without realizing it, we alter and shape our work to attract the praise that we crave.
— 214. Instead of beginning with some broad goal, they go in search of the fact of great yield – a bit of empirical evidence that is strange and does not fit the paradigm, and yet is intriguing. This bit of evidence sticks out and grabs their attention, like the elongated rock. They are not sure of their goal and they do not yet have in mind an application for the fact they have uncovered, but they are open to where it will lead them. Once they dig deeply, they discover something that challenges prevailing conventions and offers endless opportunities for knowledge and application.
— 217. … the key to building anything right is repetition.
— 231. Your project or the problem you are solving should always be connected to something larger – a bigger question, an overarching idea, an inspiring goal. Whenever your work begins to feel stale, you must return to the larger purpose and goal that impelled you in the first place.
— 236. The difference then is not in some initial creative power of the brain, but in how we look at the world and the fluidity with which we can reframe what we see. Creativity and adaptability or inseparable.
Explained: The kitty-transcendence of Mastery!
— Part 6: Fuse the Intuitive With The Rational: Mastery
— 254. … real life and the novel became inextricably interwoven. When he needed a new character, a wealthy debutante for instance, [Marcel Proust] would hunt down her equivalent in society and get himself invited to balls and soirees where he could study her.
— 259. It would be a misconception, however, to imagine that Masters are simply following their intuitions and moving beyond rational thinking. First, it is through all of their hard work, the depth of their knowledge, and the development of their analytical skills that they reach this higher form of intelligence. Second, when they experience this intuition or insight, they invariably subject it to a high degree of reflection and reasoning. In science, they must spend months or years verifying their intuitions. In the arts, they must work out the ideas that come to them intuitively and rationally shape them into a form.
— 260. These moments of self-doubt were [Marcel Proust’s] way of propelling himself forward and reminding himself of the short amount of time remaining to him.
— 261. No moment is wasted if you pay attention and learn the lessons contained in every experience. By constantly applying yourself to the subject that suits your inclinations and attacking it from many different angles, you are simply enriching the ground for these seeds to take root.
— 263. Through continual experience and practice, our ancestors recovered some of the immediacy and speed they had lost. They could respond intuitively instead of instinctually. on this level, intuition was more powerful than instinct in that it was not tied to very specific circumstances or stimuli, but could be applied to a much wider area of action.
— 273. To become such sensitive observers, we must not succumb to all of the distractions afforded by technology; we must be a little primitive. The primary instrument that we depend on must be our eyes for observing and our brains for analyzing.
— 288. Getting to a high level of achievement through practice seems so banal, so uninspiring. Besides, we don’t want to have to think of the 10,000 to 20,000 hours that go into such mastery. These values of ours are oddly counterproductive – they cloak from us the fact that almost anyone can reach such heights through tenacious effort, something that should encourage us all. It is time to reverse this prejudice against conscious effort and to see the powers we gain through practice and discipline as eminently inspring and even miraculous. The ability to master complicated skills by building connections in the brain is the product of millions of years of evolution, and the source of all of our material and cultural powers.
— 294. 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 no 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.
— 298. “Look wider and further.”
— 301. What this means is that for the Piraha all that concerns them are things that can be experienced in the here and now, or that relate to something that someone personally has experienced in the very recent past.
— 302. Learning an alien culture from so deeply inside it, [Daniel Everett] could no longer accept the superiority of one particular belief or value system. To hold such an opinion, he determined, is merely an illusion that comes from remaining on the outside.
— 307. Goethe had now come to the conclusion that all forms of human knowledge are manifestations of the same life force he had intuited in his near-death experiences as a young man. The problem with most people, he felt, is that they built artificial walls around subjects and ideas. The real thinker sees the connections, grasps the essence of the life force operating in every individual instance. Why should any individual stop at poetry, or find art unrelated to science, or narrow his or her intellectual interests? The mind was designed to connect things, like a loom that knits together all of the threads of a fabric. If life exists as an organic whole, then thinking should make itself equal to the whole.
— 309. The artificial barriers between the arts and the sciences will melt away under the pressure to know and to express our common reality. Our ideas will become closer to nature, more alive and organic. In any way possible, you should strive to be a part of this universalizing process, extending your own knowledge to other branches, further and further out. The rich ideas that will come from such a quest will be their own reward. —