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Mastery [Hardcover]

Robert Greene
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 13 2012
The eagerly anticipated new book from the author of the bestselling The 48 Laws of Power

What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force’s last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up where The 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world’s masters.

Temple Grandin, Martha Graham, Henry Ford, Buckminster Fuller—all have lessons to offer about how the love for doing one thing exceptionally well can lead to mastery. Yet the secret, Greene maintains, is already in our heads. Debunking long-held cultural myths, he demonstrates just how we, as humans, are hardwired for achievement and supremacy. Fans of Greene’s earlier work and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers will eagerly devour this canny and erudite explanation of just what it takes to be great.

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About the Author

Robert Greene has a degree in classical studies and is the author of several bestselling books, including The 48 Laws of Power, The 33 Strategies of War, The Art of Seduction, and Mastery. He lives in Los Angeles.

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Guide To Apprenticeship And Mastery Nov. 23 2012
By Patrick Sullivan TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In interest of full disclosure, I am a huge fan of Greene`s other books. Here is a brief outline of Greene`s style of writing. First he spins out a mini-biography. Most of the time, these people will be well known historical figures. On other occasions Greene digs up someone, that is not very well known. Yet they all seem to have, some sort of fascinating life story. Greene then distills the various biographies, and points out some of life`s greatest lessons.

In the case of Mastery, Greene attempts to explain the road map to success in one`s chosen field. He gives detailed accounts, of how people went through the apprentice stage of learning a vocation. Then he explains how these individuals went a step further, and became the masters in their field.

All in all, this was a fantastic read. The reader will find a combination of enjoyable anecdotes, mixed with some first-rate advice on how to live life.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Oct. 11 2013
By Ondrej
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed the book from the beginning. It motivated and reminded me that no one achieves success exclusive of hard work and dedication. Recommended to anyone in any field as the overall process to reach the top is similar.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice!! Jan. 13 2013
By Mikozou
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Bought this for my wife she is love it and love me more so thanks you robert you have changed my life
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5.0 out of 5 stars Another masterpiece by Robert Greene April 9 2014
By Alex H.
Format:Hardcover
Very much like some other books of Robert Green that I have read (48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction), Mastery is of enormous pleasure to read, with highly organized and fascinating historical personalities, accounts, examples, references, stories and anecdotes, mixed with a high density of stylized explanation, reasoning, practical knowledge, personal insights and strategies to absorb. It is indeed life-changing, and very much worth passing to your next generation.

The writing is strong, skillful, to-the-point and in all just extraordinary. Mr Greene can really build momentum with his writing, accelerate readers' thoughts, taking you smoothly around hard corners, weave a web of interconnected ideas with perfect reasoning, and get the to finish line with ruthless accuracy and amazing style. No sentence is meaningless, no punctuation is wasted, and every word serves a purpose.

It is indeed the Formula 1 Grand Prix for the mind. It is the self expression of Mastery itself. If you really enjoy the style of his writing, many other nonfiction books will begin to taste plain, and feel like a lengthy, sleepy and bumpy bus ride with a tad too many stops and detours. If you are looking for a rather rigorous, methodological, loving and gentle guidance, well, this isn't it either - like explained in the book, there is no shortcuts, no fixed ways you can blindly follow, you always need to admit to discipline, take a step back and observe and analyze yourself in the microscope with the most harsh and critical perspective, along the way also open up your dimensional mind, immerse yourself in others, and be ready to (re)discover the world, the players in it, and yourself, with a more human heart.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  287 reviews
89 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fans of Greene's work will be pleased Oct. 5 2012
By kelsie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"Mastery" continues in the tradition of Greene's other work, especially The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and The 33 Strategies of War (Joost Elffers Books). Consider this book, if you will, as a synthesis and application of the principles in those three books: in the "48 Laws," Greene introduced a set of concepts loosely based on Gracian's "The Art of Worldly Wisdom" that assisted readers in determining how to gain and maintain control. In "Seduction," Greene taught readers the principles of gaining and maintaining status as a desire of others; and in the "33 Strategies," Greene shifted the ground beneath our feet from the boardroom and living room to the battlefield, describing how militaristic techniques and approaches could be used to achieve our goals and outcomes.

"Mastery" synthesizes much of this previous work into a larger framework, a longer-term project--a "bigger picture," so to speak. Greene defines "mastery" as the ultimate power: "[A] form of power and intelligence that represents the high point of human potential. It is the source of the greatest achievements and discoveries in history. It is an intelligence that is not taught in our schools nor analyzed by professors, but almost all of us,a t some point, have had glimpses of it in our own experience."

As with his previous works, Greene relies heavily on historical anecdotes to explain his six-step plan to the achievement of mastery:
1. Discover your calling: the life's task
2. Submit to reality: the ideal apprenticeship
3. Absorb the master's power: the mentor dynamic
4. See people as they are: social intelligence
5. Awaken the dimensional mind: the creative-active
6. Fuse the intuitive with the rational: mastery

For each of these steps, Greene includes a detailed explanation of what the step's goal is, relevant historical examples of the step in action, and the strategies for achieving the goal and moving to the next step. For example, in the first step (the life's task), Greene somewhat metaphysically argues that "You possess an inner force that seeks to guide you toward your Life's Task--what you are meant to accomplish in the time that you have to live." Determining what this task is is the goal of the first step. Greene then offers up Leonardo Da Vinci as an example of this search, and provides five strategies for "finding your life's task": returning to your origins, occupying the perfect niche, avoiding the false path, letting go of the past, and finding your way back. Each of these strategies is further accompanied by more historical anecdotes.

Whereas the "48 Laws," "33 Strategies," and "Seduction" had focused on somewhat tighter, more confined situations--and were presented in a rather fragmented, isolated manner that did not necessarily relate each rule or precept to the others--"Mastery" is a conscious attempt to bring together all this information and these principles into a single, directed course of action. This book, more than all the others, is Robert Greene's answer to the question of how to "win friends and influence people" (with emphasis on the latter).

A worthy addition to any library--especially those with well-thumbed copies of Greene's earlier books.
182 of 198 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instant Classic Sept. 29 2012
By Bradley Bevers - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
"Mastery - the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves."

"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."

Mastery is a book that will stand the test of time. Robert Greene writes to instruct others how to achieve mastery in any field, told through a series of mini-biographies, life lessons, timeless quotes, and a modern understanding of psychology and human nature. Mastery combines these different varieties of anecdotes and instructions simply and beautifully. It is a great read, and one that would have been relevant 500 years ago and will still be relevant 500 years from now. Few non-fiction books that are published today can claim such an accomplishment.

Greene identifies three levels of learning a subject. First there is apprenticeship, marked by intense learning. Secondly, the creative-active level, set apart by practice. The third and final phase is mastery. The first four chapters of the book focus on apprenticeship, followed by one chapter each for the final two phases.

The entire books is an excellent read, but here are some of the bright spots that stood out to me:

* The biographies are really, really good. The four that stood out to me tell the life story of Benjamin Franklin, Freddie Roach, Marcel Proust, and Temple Grandin. Good mix of contemporary and ancient biographies. Its worth reading Mastery just for the mini-biographies.

* Chapter four on social intelligence is excellent. Social intelligence is often overlooked as a step to mastering anything, but Greene highlights here and provides some great tips on dealing navigating the social landscape.

* The first chapter deals with finding your life's task. The last part focuses on strategies to identify your life's task, and there are some very helpful tips here.

* The layout of the book is great. You can open to any chapter and find useful information right away. It is a great read the first time through, and will remain a useful reference once you are finished.

A few things I didn't love:

* It reads like a timeless book. The principles it contains and the methods that Greene prescribes will always be useful. That said, at times it feels too dense - almost like you are reading an ancient Zen manuscript.

* Many of the biographies are continued and built on in subsequent chapters. The first few paragraphs of each are usually very similar, and I found myself skipping through them quickly. Will actually make it more useful when using as a reference in the future, but you will want to skip a few paragraphs if you are reading it straight through.

Mastery is an excellent book, and one that I can highly recommend to anyone. The focus on the apprenticeship model and how you can apply it in the modern world is unique and will only become more relevant in the future. Though Greene never denounces formal higher education, many of the examples he gives highlight alternative routes you can take. I will recommend this book to many, but will buy a few copies to give to high school juniors and seniors considering which education/career path to take.
127 of 137 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part Instruction/Part Inspiration - NOTHING like OUTLIERS Oct. 17 2012
By Elly Sparks - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product
I read Gladwell's "Outliers" and when I saw Mastery, I thought, didn't Gladwell already DO this book?
Kind of, but not really.
This book is totally different.
Gladwell's book is filled with examples.
Greene's book is an instructional inspiration, so to speak. Outliers didn't present a roadmap, which is what really differentiates the books.
It starts with examining your past and how to discover what you are meant to do -then steers you on a path towards following those who are where you want to be, how to work with them and make the most of the relationship - and one of my favorite parts is seeing people as they are (social intelligence).
It then delves into creativity and how to blend it with reality - how to become a master of your chosen destiny.
If you love quotes, this book is packed with them. It's also packed with examples of true stories.
Outliers leaves readers with the answer of how successful people got to the top -
Mastery leaves readers with a road map of how to become one of those successful people (accompanied by stories of achievement).
Compelling and commanding - this is a book that should come with a highlighter and will have a permanent place on your inspirational bookshelf.
32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Powerful work on finding your life's purpose and developing a path to mastery Feb. 17 2013
By Mike Mertens - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is an extremely powerful work on how to achieve mastery in one's life. Mastery can be thought of as the unique way each of us can fully actualize our potential for greatness and enjoy a fulfilling life.

Achieving Mastery in life is a lot of work but it is the way to a flourishing life (a life of self-fulfillment). Spinoza's quote "All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare" came to mind several times as I read the book. The author provides ideas and strategies that can improve the process for those willing to expend the effort. I plan to re-read and work with the ideas and strategies covered in this book and apply them to my personal context. I also plan to purchase copies of the book for my wife and 2 teenage sons so they can benefit from this material as well.

The work begins by discussing how to discover one's purpose in life. This is unique to each individual and needs to be well thought through. The author gives 5 strategies for finding your life's task and illustrates these strategies with historical and contemporary figures. Two of the strategies he discusses that really gave me a lot to think about are:
1. ) Occupy the perfect niche - the Darwinian strategy. In this strategy you need to find the career niche that best fits your interests and talents and then evolve that niche over time. I found the eaxample of V.S. Ramachandran very interesting
2.) Let go of the past - the adaptation strategy. The following quote from this section that really resonated with me:
"You must adapt your Life's Task to these circumstances. You do not hold on to past ways of doing things, because it will ensure you will fall behind and suffer for it. You are flexible and looking to adapt."

The author then covers the Apprentice Phase which he breaks into 3 steps:
1.) Deep Observation - the Passive Mode
2.) Skills Acquisition - the Practice Mode
3.) Experimentation - The Active Mode

There are detailed strategies for completing the ideal appenticeship. These are illustrated by examples. 2 of my favorites in this section were "move toward resistance and pain" as illustrated by the example of Bill Bradley and "apprentice yourself in failure" as illustrated by Henry Ford. All 8 strategies are worth thinking about in detail.

The next section covers learning through a Mentor and is one of the best parts of the book. The example of Michael Faraday is used as a great illustration. There are strategies discussed for finding the appropriate mentor(s), knowing when to break away from the mentor and what to do if you cannot find a mentor (the example here is Thomas Edison and there is an interesting tie-back to Faraday). Having a mentor is the most effective way to gain deep knowledge of a field in the least amount of time - it greatly accelerates that path to Mastery.

The next section deals with social intelligence and seeing people as they are. Benjamin Franklin is used as an example. There are 7 deadly realities covered in this section (envy, conformism, rigidity, self-obsessiveness, laziness, flightiness and passive aggression) as well as strategies for acquiring social intelligence.

The fifth section is on awakening the dimensional mind. This is where you see more and more aspects of reality and develop ways to become more creative (and not get stuck in the past). There are several strategies on creativity discussed in detail. I found the discussion on ways to alter one's perspective especially illuminating. These include avoiding:
* Looking at the "what" instead of the "how"
* Rushing to generalities and ignoring details
* Confirming paradigms and ignoring anomalies - (key quote: "...anomalies themselves contain the richest information. They often reveal to us the flaws in our paradigms and open up new ways of looking at the world")
* fixating on what is present, ignoring what is absent (Sherlock Holmes example)

The section continues with strategies and examples for this "creative-active" phase. My favorite was a section on Mechanical Intelligence with the Wright Brothers as an example.

The Final Section is on Mastery as the fusing of the Intuitive with the Rational. The strategies in this section are very powerful and I will be returning to them again and again. Here are the 7 strategies:
1.) Connect to your environment
2.) Play to your strengths (this is very important - see further thoughts on this below)
3.) Transform yourself through practice
4.) Internalize the details - the life force (Leonardo Da Vinci example)
5.) Widen your vision
6.) Submit to the other - the Inside Out perspective
7.) Synthesize all forms of knowledge

This is a very powerful book filled with a lot of good ideas and strategies. There are ideas I plan to continue to "chew" on and think more deeply about while I work to integrate these ideas and strategies into my personal context.

A lot of the book stresses the importance of self-discipline, persevering through difficult challenges, the importance of an adaptive and active mind, independent thinking and integrating all of one's knowledge. Here are a few recommendations I would make to augment the material covered in this book:
1.) For Self-Displine and Willpower (and perseverance):
Willpower by Tierney and Baumeister
The Power of Habit by Duhigg
Grit (see TED Talk by Angela Duckworth and the GRIT assessment as well - Grit Assessment can be found at: available at [...])
2.) For an adaptive/active mindset (and recovering from failure)
Mindset by Carol Dweck
Apapt by Tim Harford
3.) For a great fictional example of many of the ideas covered in the book, I would recommend Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead (Roark as a positive example; Keating as a negative example of what the author calls "the false self")
4.) Other Real world examples
Richard Feynman (see his books "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman" and "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out"
5.) Finding your strengths
Strengthsfinder 2.0 by Tom Rath
VIA Survey of Character Strengths (available at [...])
50 of 60 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, but too much frosting Dec 21 2012
By Jordan A. Ghasemi - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Let me start off by saying that I'm a Greene fan, and I own all of his other books and have read them multiple times. This makes me bias towards giving him a good review, but it also sets the bar very high.

This has much of the familiar writing style Greene fans have come to love. It goes over historical examples of masters, and distills the lessons to be taken away from them. I particularly like how he takes people and events and puts an interesting take on them--such as painting Franklin as a rational patriot who would do anything to help his country, and not simply a pleasure-seeker gone wild in France; in other books he said Lincoln always wanted to free the slaves but could not say it, it's not what we learned in history class but it makes more sense. He also uses what has become my favorite phrase of his: "Better to...." When I hear these words I get nostalgic and brace for a brilliant observation I can't help but agree with and wonder why I didn't think of it myself.

But where this book really shines is, of course, his example-stories. This is his classic style, he tells--or rather shows--you how the lessons he is giving work in the real world, and he does it with clarity and precision. However, where this book fails is in the analysis that precedes and follows these stories. In his past works, these conclusions were concise and accented the examples, here they dominate and bury them.

This book seems to be larger than the others, why does he spend so many pages theory-crafting about the examples he just gave? The stories are a much more powerful means to get his point across, without needing lecturing. His other works feel like a pleasant conversation where I patiently listen to his stories and brief analysis. This, on the other hand, sometimes reads like a textbook which makes me want to put it down, which is not something his books have ever done before. I don't mind the cross-references or the bit of neurology here and there, but what I can't stand is any more than two pages of analysis to conclude an already lengthy example. Worse, much of these conclusions are redundant! Sometimes he will say something, then a few paragraphs later he will say it again in different words and possibly in the negative.

The stories are like the cake, they [should] make up the bulk of the text, and get the obvious points across. The analysis and explanation should be the frosting on the cake, to connect the dots and narrate the examples. But, like too much frosting on a cake, these meandering and repetitive analyses have broken the delicate balance his other books have perfected.

In sum, the book is a good read, but it is not as easy or fluid as his others. The author exposes himself too much by over-explaining his examples, especially since there are no more colorful side-anecdotes to break up the text, which I miss dearly. Perhaps I shall update this later after I have time to re-read and reflect...
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