Bestseller Robert Greene guides you through the arduous but rewarding journey of finding your passion, committing to it and developing mastery in the field you love the most.
Robert Greene is a monster bestseller of life guidance that centers around practical ways of imposing your will on the world. He usually writes about how to gain and hold onto power, and often takes an adversarial view of human interaction. Here, however, he offers an almost incongruously mindful manual to mastering your great passion and building your life around it.
To become a master, you must have an unwavering desire for your subject. This, Greene asserts, gives you the patience and determination to persevere through practice and setbacks.
A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind. (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
You have an inner calling that, when you listen to it, helps you unlock your potential, discover your true self and find meaning in life.
Avoid choosing a path for the wrong reasons. Money, fame or parental approval won’t sustain you through the challenging road ahead. When you face difficulties, don’t abandon what you have already built. Find a new way forward.
Time to Learn
Greene explains that all masters must go through an apprenticeship phase during which they learn and explore the world with an open mind.
During your own apprenticeship phase, observe how things work and who has the power in your field. Repeat foundational skills until they feel effortless. Monitor your progress, and fill in any pieces missing from your knowledge base.
Learning something can mean starting from the bottom. Feeling inferior to those above you often serves as a motivating force.
Do not think what is hard for you to master is humanely impossible. (Marcus Aurelius)
As you work your way up, trust the process, Greene states. Hard work pays off. Double down on your efforts and push yourself to improve.
Find a trustworthy mentor who can keep you on the right path and provide you with trade secrets.
You may go through many mentors on your journey. Greene cautions you to take your time when choosing one. Pick a mentor whose values align with your future goals, who gives tough love and whose support spurs your confidence to experiment. Your way of thinking should shape the way your mentor teaches.
While working with a mentor, balance staying receptive to their teachings with finding your own unique style. For example, famed pianist Glenn Gould approached his mentor, Alberto Guerrero, with a hunger to learn but also a desire to preserve the way Gould wanted to play. Gould learned from Guerrero but added his own flair.
One repays a teacher badly if one remains only a pupil. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
Eventually, Greene notes, all would-be masters outgrow their mentors.
Sometimes you may have to learn without a mentor. Though difficult, this path builds your self-reliance and confidence.
Understanding Human Nature
Often, the people you work with can get under your skin and cause problems. Greene asserts that, instead of reacting to others’ behaviors, masters attempt to understand why people do what they do and how to influence them.
Your creativity, the way you think and your attention to detail will benefit from learning to read individuals and understanding human behavior patterns.
Use your work to demonstrate your ability to listen and cooperate with others. For example, stay efficient and punctual to show your consideration of others’ time.
People will judge you based on your appearance. But, Greene claims, you can and should use this to your advantage; craft a mysterious persona. In this way, you control what aspects people can judge, which gives you more flexibility.
It is great folly to hope that other men will harmonize with us. (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)
Step outside your emotions and learn to see yourself as others do. An honest view of your personality – including your foolish side – helps you tolerate others’ shortcomings. Sometimes, however, to stay sane, you must walk away from toxic relationships entirely.
The apprenticeship phase may leave you feeling rigid or stuck within previously formed patterns of knowledge.
Tap into your sense of childhood wonder and reach for a higher level of creativity. Direct your extensive knowledge and training toward creating something new and entirely yours.
Your foundational skills can show you the gaps in your field that your unique vision could fill.
Such originality will bring you to the heights of power.
Invest time in forming emotional connections with your work. Test designs on yourself to build intuitive thinking, and strive to constantly improve, Greene writes.
World-famous dancer Martha Graham, for example, adapted the Denishawn method she learned as a young girl into her own unique, emotional, “torso-driven” genre of movement. Graham took everything she learned and turned it on its head to make it her own, including having dance studios with no mirrors.
Expanding beyond the norm keeps you open and adaptable to sparks of inspiration. Over time, your mind becomes multidimensional – able to see problems from all angles.
Internalize Your Skills
All masters have a moment where their years of practice come together in an instant, and they see the whole of their subject as it functions within the universe.
For example, after decades spent studying chimpanzees, Jane Goodall could intuitively predict their behavior because she could think like them. Mastery shaped her brain to work like a whole ecosystem – fluidly making connections.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift. (Albert Einstein)
Greene points to the fact that Albert Einstein did not do well in school because his abstract, visual problem-solving abilities did not align with academic teachings. Leaving school unburdened Einstein from the misery of trying to fit in and allowed him the creative space and time to discover his theory of relativity.
Once your skills become second nature, lose yourself in the details of your field or step back for a universal point of view.
As always, Greene vests in profound, but never corny or superficial, positivity. He believes in – and, indeed, functions as proof of – the power of determination and heeding your inner voice. His guidance is pragmatic, straightforward and actionable. Greene’s prescribed levels of commitment and perseverance are demanding, but so is the life Greene recommends.
Robert Greene also wrote The 48 Laws of Power; The Art of Seduction; The Laws of Human Nature; and The Daily Laws