In the book Mastery, Robert Greene examines the lives of exceptional historical figures like Charles Darwin and Leonardo Da Vinci to uncover how they become widely-admired Masters. Using the strategies in this book, you too can become a high achiever and attain mastery in your desired field(s). In this free Mastery summary, we’ll briefly outline the key concepts, processes and strategies involved in attaining mastery, fulfillment and success in your life.
Mastery: An Introduction
Mastery is the sensation that you’re in full control of yourself, your environment and reality. As a master, you can enjoy both money and fulfillment doing what you naturally love.
Based on extensive research on neuroscience, cognitive sciences and various Masters’ biographies, Robert Greene discovered that mastery can be nurtured systematically in 3 phases:
- Apprenticeship: This is when you learn the basics of a certain field.
- Creative-active: With immersion and practice, you deepen your understanding of the field and experiment with your own methods.
- Mastery: You have such high levels of focus, knowledge and experience that you can see the full picture and bend/change the rules to achieve spectacular results. It typically takes at least 10,000 hours of intense practice, or about 20 years to attain the required combination of skills, knowledge, and intuition.
In our complete Mastery summary we’ll present the strategies and tips for the 3 phases of Mastery in 6 parts. Here’s a quick overview of the key ideas:
How to Attain Mastery
1. Finding Your Calling or Life’s Task
All of us have an internal force that nudges us toward our calling or Life’s Task. As a child, you were intuitively drawn to certain topics or activities. Yet, as you mature, this force may be muted due to social pressures—you end up working for money or for others’ approval and get disconnected from your true identity.
Look inward and reconnect with your natural inclinations. Find your vocation or the work that’s deeply connected to who you are. Start with something that roughly fits you, then adapt along the way while building on your existing abilities. When you find your ideal vocation, it feels “right” and you find yourself learning much faster with a sense of child-like wonder. By aligning your efforts with your passions, it’s easier to sustain the years of hard work required on the path to mastery.
In our complete book summary, we elaborate on 5 strategies to discover your life’s task: the (i) Primal Inclination Strategy, (ii) Darwinian Strategy, (iii) Rebellion Strategy, (iv) Adaptation Strategy and (v) Life-or-Death Strategy.
2. Be an Ideal Apprentice
All Masters go through a transformative phase in their lives, like how a butterfly emerges from its chrysalis. This typically involves a self-directed apprenticeship that lasts 5-10 years.
During the apprenticeship phase, your goal is not to seek money or status, but to transform your mind and character. Go beyond the theoretical knowledge from your formal education to gain practical insights of how the world truly works, develop practical skills and discipline, and train yourself to think independently.
Choose a role that will give you the greatest growth opportunities. Charles Darwin spent almost 5 years on a ship collecting life and mineral specimens. The voyage transformed him from a reluctant student to a committed, enthusiastic naturalist. The insights from those months of real-world study sparked his theory of evolution, which he then devoted his life to validating.
In our full Mastery summary, we explain the strategies for becoming an ideal apprentice, including:
- How to use the 3 modes of apprenticeship—passive, practice and active modes—to conquer any field; and
- The 8 strategies for a successful apprenticeship.
3. Learn Optimally from Your Mentor
Life is short, so don’t waste time learning without guidance. A good mentor can greatly accelerate your apprenticeship.
You can self-learn using generic information from books/courses. However, good mentors speed up the learning process drastically by tailoring the insights and feedback specifically for you. It’s best to have 1 mentor at a time, and to learn from face-to-face interaction (so you can pick up the nuances behind mastery). But if you can’t find a perfect mentor, find various mentors to fill different gaps.
To attract potential mentors, develop yourself (with the necessary work ethics, organizational skills and an enthusiasm for learning), be prepared to embrace menial work and add value to the Masters in whatever way possible, and invest in a strong mentor-protégé relationship. In our complete Mastery summary, we’ll explain further on the 4 strategies to optimize the relationship with your mentor.
However, remember: on the path to mastery, each mentor is only a stepping-stone to the next level. Your goal is to surpass your masters. Once you’ve internalized what they have to offer, move on without guilt. Don’t stay in their shadows.
4. Cultivate Social Intelligence
Social intelligence is the ability to see people as they are, instead of how we imagine them to be. It improves your relationships and quality of thinking. On the other hand, social naivety leads to mistakes, conflict and confusion, leaving you with little time/energy for mastery.
In particular, you should master human nature in 2 parts:
- Specific knowledge of human nature (i.e. the ability to read people and understand their character and viewpoints); and
- General knowledge about timeless patterns of human behavior.
Get our full Mastery summary for more details on:
- How to embrace human nature as it truly is (including the 7 ugly aspects of human nature); and
- The 4 strategies for developing social intelligence.
5. Become Multi-Dimensional (Creative-Active)
During childhood, our minds are totally open, we experience the world using all our senses and anything seems possible. Yet, as we grow up, we start to limit ourselves with rules and assumptions.
Masters have a “Dimensional Mind” that combines the childlike spirit with focused, disciplined learning.
This in turn requires (i) deep knowledge on a subject and (ii) the ability to apply this knowledge in flexible, original ways.
Learn the rules of a field during your apprenticeship without being limited by them, and actively seek to challenge and reshape the rules you’ve learned. Keep expanding your skills, knowledge and experience by exploring new fields, making new connections and experimenting with new concepts.
In our full 17-page summary, we explain the 3 steps to becoming multi-dimensional the 6 common emotional obstacles to creativity and 9 creative-active strategies you can use. Here’s a quick overview of the 3 steps involved:
6. Combine Intuition & Rationality (Mastery)
There’s a higher form of intelligence that enables us to grasp the intangible and predict trends, much like a sixth sense. Masters often talk of seeing something “more”. Chess master Bobby Fischer could see forces that predicts how a chess game would unfold. Albert Einstein had a mental image of how the universe worked that others couldn’t conceive.
This intelligence is cultivated through years of intense and persistent immersion in a field. You acquire such a thorough understanding of the intricacies in a field that you can combine the rational and intuitive to grasp the complex realities, a process that typically takes 15-20 years. You can learn the 7 strategies to attain mastery from our complete Mastery summary.
Getting the Most from Mastery
Mastery is attainable by anyone who’s willing to work for it. Listen to your inner voice, direct your focus to observe, think deeply and practice something repeatedly until it’s intuitive to you. Then, keep building on that intuition to continually move to the next level.
In this article, we’ve briefly outlined some of the key insights and strategies you can use to achieve desired change. For more examples, details, and actionable tips to apply these strategies, do get our complete book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 17-page text summary, and a 27-minute audio summary.
Mastery by Robert Greene is a voluminous book that includes many detailed stories and anecdotes of Masters from all walks of life, e.g. sports, architecture, anthropology, art, business and medicine. Greene presents each idea with specific examples, deep insights and nuances to help us understand what the journey to mastery entails. You can purchase the book here for the full details.
About the Author of Mastery
Mastery is written by Robert Greene–an American author best known for his books on strategy, power and seduction Besides this book, he has also written several bestsellers including “The 48 Laws of Power”, “The Art of Seduction”, “The 33 Strategies of War” and “The 50th Law (with rapper 50 Cent)”. Greene attended the University of California, Berkeley, before finishing his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in classical studies. Before becoming an author, Greene estimates that he worked 80 jobs, including as a construction worker, translator, magazine editor, and Hollywood movie writer.
“When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient.”
“Your true self…comes from deep within you…It exists for a purpose, and it is your Life’s Task to bring it to fruition.”
“You cannot make anything worthwhile in this world unless you have first developed and transformed yourself.”
“Mentors do not give you a shortcut, but they streamline the process.”
“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.”