Manuel Brandt

Book Notes: Mastery

These are my notes after reading the book “Mastery” by Robert Greene.

General Insights:

  • Mastery is not a talent or born gift, and it can be acquired by almost anyone.
  • It gets acquired through hard work and focus on a specific field and requires 20.000+ hours of quality time to achieve.
  • You must see your attempt of mastery as something extremely necessary and positive. You’re setting an example of what can be achieved as a Master in the modern world. You are contributing to the most important cause of all the survival and prosperity of the human race in a phase of stagnation.
    • There will be a lot of doubt from yourself and others. “Aiming for Mastery is arrogant and selfish” or “The way to Mastery is so hard why attempt that instead of enjoying my time on this earth as much as possible?”. However that is wrong. Attempting Mastery is the most selfishness thing one can do. Without Masters there wouldn’t have been all these great inventions that today make our lives much better. Instead it’s selfish to just use what was created by Masters and don’t attempt to contribute something similar ourself.
  • To reach Mastery, we need to find our “Life’s Task”. We can usually find it by looking into our childhood, finding a special uniqueness we had before our way was directed by our parents, teachers, and society.
  • We need to adapt. Our Life’s Task might change over time.
  • To reach Mastery takes time and only once it’s reached we have the unique ability to create connections like others can’t. Because of the time required, this happens in our later stage of life. Therefore, actually, it’s the case that the older we are, the better we are in creating outstanding successes and innovations. Don’t let yourself think you’re too old, and your best days are over. With every year you get smarter, your brain develops more, and you can achieve more outstanding things.
  • Once way to Mastery is always unique. What worked for others will not work for you the same way. Finding once unique way to Mastery requires a lot of time and hard work. It’s therefore important that it brings you joy.
  • You can not ultimately understand why you are drawn to certain activities or forms of knowledge. This cannot really be verbalized or explained. It is simply an act of nature.

The 3 Phases to Reach Mastery

  • The process to mastery has 3 phases, the apprenticeship, creative-active, and Mastery.
  • Seeking the way to Mastery is coming from a deep need that all of us have inside of us. In following this voice, you realize your own potential, and satisfy your deepest longings to create and express your uniqueness. It exists for a purpose, and it is your Life’s Task to bring it to fruition. 

The Apprenticeship Phase

The apprenticeship is a phase of 5-10+ years where we try to learn as much as possible in a specific field or area of fields. Every master went through this phase.

  • There’s rarley a master who did in in under 10 years. Even Mozart started composing with 10 but his major works were written after he was 20.
  • These phases are mostly lead by intuition and are really individual.
  • Nobody will help you to find your way through the perfect apprenticeship. You need to get it done on your own.
  • The Apprenticeship has 3 parts: Observe and learn, practice, and experiment.
  • General tips:
    • Trust in your process. Results will always come over time.
    • Learn from failure.
    • Money doesn’t matter.
    • Keep learning and joining new challenges.
    • Try and learn a variety of activities and skills.

The Creative Phase

After you’ve spent a lot of time in your apprenticeship phase, it becomes time to actually be creative and use what you’ve learned to create something new.

  • Being creative means to keep some childhood-like creativity and mix it with skills and learnings from an intense apprenticeship phase.
  • The process comes with multiple steps:
    • Step 1: Pick a creative task.
    • Step 2: Grow your creativity.
      • Be open and don’t have prejudice.
      • Create chances of luck by being active/productive.
    • Step 3: Creative breakthrough.
      • Many creative breakthroughs were connected to a creative block or frustration. These times are actually helpful for us. At this point, we cross the initial excitement about a project we worked on, and we can see it more objective. This is when creative breakthroughs happens.
      • Also, make yourself tighter deadlines. Giving yourself endless timer something is not helpful. Instead, set tight deadlines and make every day for you a challenge. This will result in more process and more ideas throughout the way.
  • Throughout this phase, there are plenty of emotional pitfalls. The most common go them are:
    • Getting arrogant.
    • Getting conservative and careful to not destroy self reputation and ego.
    • Being impatient and telling oneself things like “I’m not the young guy with lots of energy and excitement anymore” to end the journey.
    • Being not motivated by the work and process but, for example, by external rewards.
  • Learnings from other masters in their process.
    • Be patient and focus on the work itself.
    • You don’t need a goal at the beginning. Be open to where your way will lead you. (I learned this myself)
    • Whatever you create, test and use it yourself.
    • Wide knowledge is helpful.
    • Never settle and reach an endpoint. Cultivate dissatisfaction and the need you constantly improve your ideas and work.
    • Always keep in mind the bigger picture and your large purpose.
    • Creativity and adaptability are inseparable. The creative process is not a straight line but rather the branching of a tree. You wander from point to point until you reach your outcome.

The Mastery Phase

The Mastery phase is the final phase, which starts once we reached Mastery.

  • At this point, we put in 20.000+ hours into a specific field and can make connections nobody else can. This is when we create our biggest successes.
  • It is described for all masters that they “saw more” and had an extreme sense of intuition.
  • This intuition is a transformation that happens after intense training of ~20.000 hours in a specific field.
    • The time needed also depends on the quality of focus. You don’t just need to spend a lot of time but a lot of quality/focused time.
  • You must maintain a feel of destiny and trust the process. Even you might not see it yet, if you stay connected to your life’s task, Mastery will come.

Accelerators: Mentors & Social Intelligence

  • Mentors are important, as they will speed up your progress dramatically.
    • Your goal is to outshine your mentor.
    • You should always have a mentor. You can have on general mentor or multiple mentors at the same times with different focuses.
    • Books can temporarily make up for a mentor.
  • Having social intelligence helps in every stage of live. It helps us to save time and create focus by handling our surroundings well.
  • The book shares a few strategies on how to acquire social intelligence.
    • Let your work speak. By staying focused on your output, you give people around you less to argue about. Don’t get caught up by negative surroundings, instead stay focused on your outcome.
    • Craft the appropriate persona. Even if this sounds odd at first, you should be heavily aware and impact how you act and how that seems to other people. Create a persona, or multiple persona of yourself, that you think fits your role and what you want to achieve. We all were masks in different situations, you are simply more aware of it than others. 
    • Learn to see us as others see us. This skill will help us to improve and to heavily improvise our social intelligence.

Great Quotes:

  • “Too often we make a separation in our lives – there is work and there is life outside work, where we find real pleasure and fulfillment. This is a depressing attitude because in the end we spend a substantial part of our waking life at work.”
  • “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, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process.”
  • “Concentrated practice over time cannot fail but product results.”
  • Through learning skills your sense of pleasure becomes redefined. What offers immediate pleasure comes to seem like a distraction, an empty entertainment to help pass the time. Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confidence in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings. You develop patience. Boredom no longer signals the need for distraction, but rather the need for new challenges to conquer.”

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