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In this book, Robert Greene demonstrates that the ultimate form of power is mastery itself. By analyzing the lives of such past masters as Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and Leonard da Vinci, as well as by interviewing nine contemporary masters, including tech guru Paul Graham and animal rights advocate Temple Grandin, Greene debunks our culture’s many myths about genius and distills the wisdom of the ages to reveal the secret to greatness. With this seminal text as a guide, readers will learn how to unlock the passion within and become masters.

318 pages, Hardcover

First published November 1, 2012

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About the author

Robert Greene

310 books13.6k followers
There is more than one author by this name on Goodreads.

Best-selling author and public speaker, Robert Greene was born in Los Angeles. He attended U.C. California at Berkeley and the University of Wisconsin at Madison, where he received a degree in classical studies. He has worked in New York as an editor and writer at several magazines, including Esquire; and in Hollywood as a story developer and writer.

Robert has lived in London, Paris, and Barcelona; he speaks several languages and has worked as a translator. In 1995 he was involved in the planning and creation of the art school Fabrica, outside Venice, Italy. There he met Joost Elffers, the New York book packager and discussed with him his idea for a book on power and manipulation, the ultimate modern version of Machiavelli's The Prince.

Robert and Joost became partners and in 1998, The 48 Laws of Power was born. The book has been a national and international bestseller, and has been translated into 17 languages. In 2001, Robert released his second book, The Art of Seduction, which is more than a sequel to The 48 Laws; it is both a handbook on how to wield the ultimate form of power, and a detailed look at the greatest seducers in history.

The third in this highly anticipated series of books, The 33 Strategies of War, hit bookstores January 2006 and offers a strategic look behind the movements of War in application to everyday life. In addition to having a strong following within the business world and a deep following in Washington, DC, these books are also being hailed by everyone from war historians to some of the heaviest hitters in the rap world (including Jay-Z and 50 Cent).

The popularity of these books along with their vast and fiercely loyal audience proves these are profound, timeless lessons from historical leaders that still ring true in today's culture. Robert currently lives in Los Angeles.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,395 reviews
Profile Image for Tom.
388 reviews93 followers
January 19, 2013
Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power is his most notorious work, so blatantly amoral that many of its adherents are rumored to hide in the closet. But since its publication, his work has gradually taken a moral turn. In his follow-up, The Art of Seduction, Greene mentions having compassion for one’s “victim”—he or she being seduced. The 33 Strategies of War instructs readers that there is no moral value in ignoring certain tenets. In Mastery, which concerns the pursuit of virtuosity in one’s field (and, according to Greene, ends the journey that began with 48 Laws), Greene finally mentions the value of a “great contribution to society.” Elevating this brand of altruism over self-aggrandizement, the book becomes his most essential work.

Greene’s format hasn’t changed much. He details six steps to Mastery, typically beginning chapters with an anecdote from history about a Master—the first here being Leonardo Da Vinci (who, with his diverse career, was a wise choice). Then he moves through gorgeous passages on figures such as the Wright Brothers or Albert Einstein, concluding with Goethe’s life story. What separates Mastery from the rest of his oeuvre is that Greene’s emphasis on his subject’s importance in the 21st century forces readers to play close attention.

Consider The Art of Seduction. After finishing, a reader will watch a flirtatious couple and think to herself, “They’re doing it all wrong.” Thus her worldview has been changed forever. Still, the book is targeted at those who can tolerate seeing life as a stage, and most people would prefer their own version of reality. In Mastery’s case, Greene clearly believes it crucial that we all become Masters of our skills for our planet’s future. Thus after we read the stories, we are locked in to his deconstructions. Here Greene actually makes the same case for the seductive lifestyle, but this time it is gravely serious instead of guiltily pleasing.

Few will find the book inaccessible—Greene covers virtually every possible field and often includes the connections between them, such as Yoky Mastuoka’s work on robotics and tennis. Some might raise eyebrows when told that in childhood their career field was clear to them, but Greene compensates with a “reversal” addressed to those who lacked such direction, or, later, to those without the capacity for social intelligence. Rarely is Greene blunt about the specific issues facing our age, but parsing his implications can be its own adventure—is he speaking of hipsters in describing the ironic attitude? Does he believe, like Goethe foretold, that our information overload is leading to cultural decay?

The flaws in Greene’s prose haven’t changed. He overuses “Understand” and “Think of it this way:.” The problem with such repetitive phrasing is that just having read it in the last chapter, our brains are inclined to think we’ve read what follows this before, and so we skim. Furthermore, the length can be trying, and one wonders about the necessity of eight or nine stories for one of Greene’s steps—the constant shifting of setting and characters can render some sections hard to focus on, and even harder to recall.

Yet, as with his previous work, there is a method here, and it works in the book’s favor. Greene is not David Foster Wallace, nor does he wish to be—he includes just enough SAT words to read as authoritative but layman-friendly. And the aim of the over-length is to upload his ideas into the reader’s mind so that we ruminate sufficiently. In our attention-deficit culture, concision can be frivolous. Hence Greene’s loquacity might be precisely what will have Masters mentioning his book as an influence 10 to 20 years from now, and this time out of the closet.

Rating: A-
Profile Image for Filip.
75 reviews18 followers
December 31, 2012
I spent almost as much time getting myself to write a review for this book as I have reading it. Is it a five star book? Is the repetition of featured stories (you know what I'm talking about if you've read it) such a big deal? Am I just getting fooled by Greene and riding an emotional high of "anything is possible to master if you set your mind to it"?

I've slept on it for long enough to conclude that this book indeed IS brilliant.

It completely shatters the myth of iconic people being destined for success by birth or some wild genius feat. Many of the great masters had an unremarkable upbringing. Some, like Marcel Proust, turned their waste of time itself into mastery (hence the "In Search Of The Lost Time", his centerpiece).

The primary difference between masters and ordinary people is that the masters never gave up on their craft and took as long as it was necessary to perfect it. Mozart may have been a child prodigy, but it took him almost a decade to write a composition of value. After 10 years of pondering, Einstein's theory of relativity came to him in a flash minutes after he completely disregarded any solution.

This is such a great opportunity to have a closer look at what made the likes of Mozart, da Vinci and others into forces of nature that they were in their time and beyond.

As a reader, you leave empowered to set on your path and create your own masterpiece, realizing you do have what it takes - but it's a marathon of patience and hard work, not a 100 meter race piled with gold.
Profile Image for Tharindu Dissanayake.
283 reviews505 followers
January 3, 2023
"Your whole life is a kind of apprenticeship to which you apply your learning skills."

That took a lot longer than I thought it would, but it was time well spent!
Review to come.

"Conforming to social norms, you will listen more to other than your own voice."
Profile Image for Courtney Rene.
80 reviews9 followers
November 14, 2012
We all are searching for power of some type. We may not say it out loud, but deep inside we all know that this is a true statement. Whether it’s power through success or power through knowledge or whatever, we are all searching. On this quest for power we usually find that we have personal obstacles that get in our way, that we struggle to overcome, and block us at every turn. This book, Mastery by Robert Green wants to teach you how to overcome one of the biggest obstacles we face. The obstacle that holds us back the most. The obstacle of ourselves. It could be in the form of fear of failure, or in the form of disability, or the lack of knowledge we seek but the obstacle in the end is ourselves. Even so saying, one of the greatest things about being human is the ability to continue to evolve, to learn all throughout our lives. This book sets out the 6 keys or steps to overcoming and obtain that power we are desperate to achieve. Helps us reach the goal that we all are striving for, that power over ourselves to become extraordinary. Power to be the masters of our own lives. This book is a great addition to anyone’s library. With its antidotal stories or the peak into the lives of people that used the Mastery method, this book is an enjoyable read as well as an easy learn of the keys. For anyone out there searching to become something more, something exemplary, this is the book for them.
Profile Image for Dave Bolton.
192 reviews80 followers
May 11, 2013
Unfortunately a mess of ideas and misconceptions (did you know that Albert Einstein discovered relativity due to spending a badly estimated 10,000 hours thinking about it over 10 years?) that did little to illuminate mastery. Lord, even the table of contents is confusing.

Some of the profiles are interesting, but they are also repetitive. Each time a profile is incrementally built on, one has to read all the parts that were earlier presented, which is a ridiculous way to treat a studious reader.

If you want to learn about the mechanics of mastery, I like George Lenard's simple book Mastery. The scope is much narrower, but that is its strength.
Profile Image for Rrrrrron.
237 reviews16 followers
August 20, 2013
For a book that received mostly 4-5 stars on amazon and audible, this was particularly bad. So many other books on what drives success are so much better. For instance, Talent is Over-rated. Or Outliers. Or Drive. And the message is work hard and find something you are passionate about so that you work hard. Two main reasons why the book is so terrible.

First, it was meandering and long-winded trying to tie stories about evolution and human history to 'mastery'. And that was mostly nonsense and bad ugly speculation or fiction by the author. And totally unnecessary to whatever 'mastery' he is trying to sell. He does the same thing for historical figures who are known to be successful. For instance, somehow Marie Curie found her calling after spending time in a lab. Charles Darwin thought about the prospects of going on the Beagle and found his calling. Many people were filled with great sense of calling and came to nothing. What does any of this have to do with 'mastery'. Not much it turns out.

Second, he goes on and on about examples of success and getting into that 'zone' where you are in the mastery zone and describing it over and over without any new insight. Sorry that is just inspirational jibberish.
Profile Image for Krishna Chaitanya.
68 reviews121 followers
September 4, 2020
"How to master a skill?" If this question is nagging you and keeping you awake at night, then you should pick this one. If you want to master the skill all by yourself not taking any help then you would lose decades of time, so, learn from the masters. Mastering a skill is frighteningly difficult task, but you could attain by learning from the masters who have patiently yet fiercely spent decades of time for their discoveries and inventions.

1) The apprenticeship phase: Follow your inclinations. In this phase you dedicate 10000 hours of your time in learning your desired skill, need to put in your effort by overcoming obstacles and boredom. You need a teacher from whom you can learn, be respectful, obey at all costs by letting go of your ego.

2) Creative active phase: After learning the skill inside-out, you start experimenting on the skill by being creative, you need to let go of the fixed mindset, complacency and need to accept criticism.

3) Mastery: You've been a humble student and has attained the knowledge about the internal semantics of your skill, it's time for you to invent something new and substantial with your knowledge.

This cannot be read as if it were a novel, there's a lot to absorb, patiently devour the content and take notes.
Profile Image for Paul.
Author 5 books104 followers
April 5, 2013
Drawing lessons from the lives of accomplished people, this book offers practical, organized advice for how to realize your own Life's Task.

If a friend had not recommended this book to me, I doubt I would ever have given it a look. I bought Greene's The 48 Laws of Power a few years ago but quickly found it to be repugnant. It struck me as being a manual for psychopaths: handsome, well laid out, well thought out--and chilling. I wondered what sort of a person Robert Greene must be.

I probably still don't know the answer to that, but I have now finished reading one of his books, and it is written from what feels like a different point of view. For while the earlier book was about how to gain and hold control of other people, this one is about how to find, develop, and fully realize one's own Life's Task. There is still one section of the book devoted to the politics of "mastery"--how to deal with the envious, the lazy, and the clueless--but most of the advice concerns how to apply one's own effort.

The author's method was to study the biographies of those who have achieved mastery--command of a particular discipline or skill. The masters he looks at range from the historical, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Benjamin Franklin, and Michael Faraday, to the contemporary, such as the architect Santiago Calatrava, the boxer and coach Freddie Roach, and the autistic animal psychologist Temple Grandin. To get material on the contemporary masters, of whom there are nine in the book, Greene conducted in-depth interviews with each. The book is laid out as a step-by-step sequence of explicit rules, each illustrated with case studies from the lives of the masters. The structure is clear, effective, and engaging. Indeed, I was impressed when I first opened the book to its table of contents, which is laid out as a miniature outline of the whole, with text summarizing the flow of the argument. Nice.

So what exactly is mastery, and how do you achieve it? Greene defines mastery as a heightened form of power and intelligence which any of us can attain, and which almost all of us experience from time to time under suitable conditions, such as the urgent need to solve a problem or to meet a deadline. A master is someone who, through long training and discipline, has acquired the ability to enter this state of mind at will, and whose work therefore has a characteristic stamp of authority and innovativeness. According to Greene, such mastery represents the fullest realization of our human potential in the world, and all of us, whether we know it or not, aspire to it and are capable of it.

But not without a great deal of effort, of different kinds, over a long period. My first awareness of this book came a couple of years ago when I heard the soundbite that it takes 10,000 hours of practice at something to achieve mastery of it. Greene does mention this figure (it's not original with him), but notes further that those 10,000 hours must be of a certain quality in order to count toward mastery. The effort must be focused, disciplined, and goal-oriented. In general this can't be achieved on one's own; one needs the guidance of a mentor.

Greene breaks the whole process down into 6 steps:

1. Discover your calling
2. Undergo your apprenticeship
3. Accept training from a mentor
4. Develop "social intelligence" to cope with people
5. Expand your knowledge beyond your own field
6. Fuse the intuitive with the rational to perform at peak

He breaks these into specific subtasks or "strategies," each illustrated with case studies from the lives of real masters. Curious about how to find your life's task? Greene gives 5 separate strategies. The emphasis though at this stage is self-knowledge. You can't become who you truly are unless you know--or in some way intuit--who you truly are. The good news is that there are abundant clues in our lives as to who we truly are. If we don't know who we are, it is because we have not cast off the brainwashing that each of us undergoes in the process of growing up.

Such casting off is easier said than done. I think back to a conversation I had in my mid-20s with a former schoolmate. I had dropped out of university to pursue a career (I cringe now to type that word) as a writer. He said that that was what he had wanted to do, but instead, under pressure from his parents, he had gone through law school. He did become a lawyer--a prominent and successful one--but I think back to our conversation in 1986 and wonder whether he has second thoughts (God knows I do).

Greene implies that the path of mastery is only for the few. This is not due to the rarity of innate talent, the importance of which Greene downplays. For what we call prodigious ability or genius is most often the product of long, diligent effort--Edison's "one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration" (and Thomas Edison is one of the masters profiled in the book). The child Mozart by age 10 had probably already amassed his 10,000 hours of focused practice due to his early monomania with music. The bigger obstacles are fear and conformism, and we all have fear, and we all have some desire to conform. It is these obstacles that lead the great majority of us through our lives of quiet desperation.

Here too, though, there is good news, for Greene says more than once that it is never too late to start on the path to mastery. At a couple of points I felt that he might be contradicting himself when he stresses how long it takes to get through the steps to mastery. But that might just mean that while you can always start, you might not be able to finish the path to mastery before the clock runs out.

The idea of a Life's Task brought to mind a comparison with Sacred Contracts: Awakening Your Divine Potential by Caroline Myss, which is also concerned with helping one find one's life mission. The contrast between these writers is great. Myss's point of departure is the spirit: she sees human life as fundamentally a spiritual journey, and whatever careers or tasks we might undertake must be part of that spiritual journey, if we are to find them fulfilling. Greene's outlook, in contrast, is worldly. He does speak of world problems and acknowledges the importance of solving them, but he sees the human enterprise as a result of evolution, and mastery as the most enjoyable state for a human brain to be in.

There is no real conflict between these points of view, but they are distinct. Greene's chapter on social intelligence might just as well have been called "dealing with dickheads in the workplace." Here there is a taste of the Machiavellian tone of The 48 Laws of Power. But if human beings really are just naked apes, then Machiavelli is exactly whom you need to get to the top of the pile.

Greene writes in an authoritative, even apodictic style, as though he really does see himself as a latter-day Machiavelli or Sun Tzu. Time will tell, I suppose. For my part I enjoyed this book and I respect it. Furthermore, it has inspired me to take courage in my own Life's Task, and I expect to turn to it again and again on that lonely but rewarding journey.
Profile Image for Olly.
12 reviews22 followers
December 17, 2020
We are all geniuses in the making, short of hard work and the right luck, so believes the populist Robert Greene.
For a book treating 'masters' as a scarcity in our population, now made all the rarer by ironic attitudes towards skill in a technological age, Greene introduces his book with the guarantee that every reader can find their inside talents and master them.

Stories of past 'Masters' are woven into threads of highly speculative narrative fallacies. What did Da Vinci think on his death bed? Did the once-underachieving Darwin narrowly escape the priesthood by joining the Beagle due to his childhood obsession with collecting?
It's hard to follow Mr. Greene's selective reasoning in all these stories of survivorship bias, and apply it to our own lives.

The conviction he so confidently writes with is to be expected in a self-help book, but the omissions of modern sociological findings against his own theories shouldn't be. It's clear that outside of these stories there is no easy single thread to be found connecting the mastery of Mozart to that of Einstein or Keats, except perhaps that they didn't have to read an instruction manual on finding their own inner greatness.

Greene doubles the already-specious 10,000 hours that Gladwell claimed to lay behind genius. He also claims to have spent his own 20,000 hours in researching and writing this book, and in doing so has possibly given us the greatest proof against his own ideas.
Profile Image for Mark Bao.
29 reviews222 followers
January 18, 2015
4.5/5, rounding up. Best book I've read in a while, mainly because it's one of the few books I've found on long-term skill and personal development for excellence. The main thing I got from this book is: Mastery is the process of gaining knowledge in the right ways, in a field that you feel closely connected to, while in the process arranging support structures that increases your propensity of gaining that knowledge (especially mentors), then applying what you've learned to certain projects, with the ultimate goal of attaining a deep, intuitive understanding of your field from which you make progress. The intuition part is essential: his theory is that we gain deep knowledge about a field, so when we face new problems, we are able to activate the disparate parts of our deep memory that turn things up. That's why, say, Jane Goodall is so good with animals: given a lot of situations, she's faced similar ones before, and can apply her knowledge and experience.

What I got from that is that the process of mastery is a long one, and most take a long time to gain the raw knowledge and intuition necessary for mastery. But there is a path that we can take to do so, to gain that key knowledge and intuition, and for each of the steps along that path there are ways to do it right. From the biographies of the Masters that are profiled in the book, you get to see the amount of bullshit and the trials and tribulations that they went through to gain mastery—and you also wonder about the ones who, in the same position, understandably gave up.

I've always been one that has wanted to identify the inefficiencies and get to mastery faster without those inefficiencies, but this book made me think that there are key things that we just have to do to attain the level of knowledge and excellence necessary. It's really not easy to gain mastery or be excellent, but it can be attained.

Key ideas from each section:

1. Find your calling. Society (Society! —Alexander Supertramp) leads us away from this calling. And a lot of the time, our origins give us the right answer for what this might be—that is, what we are naturally drawn to.

2. Apprenticeship is necessary. When you've figured out this calling, you have to learn as much as possible. What you are gaining from this stage is not only knowledge but also character. (Knowing how to work, in a way.) The necessary tasks during this are: deep observation (understanding the environment), skill acquisition (getting the tacit knowledge), and experimentation (trying out what you've learned). The goal of this is to gain the raw knowledge; this can be a long process, and to want to skip it is folly. To want to gain recognition and whatnot at this stage is also a distraction (which is something I disagree with: gain as much recognition as you can, that is legitimate, and make sure it isn't overblown. Don't be quiet.) Understandably, he calls part of this stage "Submit to Reality", and that's what you're doing: submitting to the idea that you are unexperienced, naive, and don't know jack shit, and you're here to learn so you aren't as clueless later on. That's a hard and humbling pill to swallow, but essential, I think. There are no shortcuts.

3. Mentorship helps a lot. The right mentors will allow you to gain the knowledge of other Masters. Developing these skills in a vacuum is difficult, and mentors are like catalysts. Key aspect: it should be an *active mentor–protégé dynamic*. It's not a one-way: take their ideas, challenge them. Mentorship education is a fast-track, and it gives you *direction* from someone who knows the lay of the land. Key passage:

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 in 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. (p. 103)

4. Social intelligence is essential. To win mastery, you have to play the game, which sometimes involves dealing with politics and other bullshit. Know how to read people, and avoid the seven deadly realities that he talks about ("envy", "self-obsessiveness", "conformism"), etc. Deal with the politics—don't be idealistic and try to avoid them. Be like Benjamin Franklin in his famous book-borrowing thing. Let your work show your excellence.

5. Creative phase. Apply your learnings. But the problem with this is that when we internalize a way of thinking, it becomes a lot harder to think in different ways (the curse of knowledge, also the subject of a blog post I'm working on). His solutions are: 1) cultivate negative capability, and don't fight the feeling of the unknown or uncertain—see it as beneficial, so you don't try to erase the unknown with some justification quickly; 2) allow for serendipity, by being open to serendipitous things (and perhaps engineering the space for serendipity), 3) use what he calls "the current", an alternating idea–application cycle where you come up with a new idea, then try it out, then refine it, and etc.—an iterative process; 4) alter your perspective, by getting out of paradigms, seeing negative cues, seeing details, seeing the "how" behind things; 5) using primal forms of intelligence.

6. Mastery. Intuition is absolutely necessary for mastery. A great example of this is Bobby Fischer, who "spoke of being able to think beyond the various moves of his pieces on the chessboard; after a while he could see "fields of forces" that allowed him to anticipate the direction of the entire match" (p.271). Understanding your environment is key, as is building the core skills (such as focus) that go beyond natural ability, since those core skills are more sustainable.

It's hard to portray the gestalt of this book, but it's worth reading. A caveat: like with all nonfiction books, and particularly with Robert Greene, you have to take the ideas with a grain of salt. Many ideas are presented without serious evidence or scientific backing, and rely on a lot of anecdata (especially with the author biographies he bases his ideas on). He relies too much on the unsubstantiated 'science' of mirror neurons. As such, we should look at the ideas in this book as just that, and not as hard-set rules, and really consider whether they are legit yourself.

On the whole, this was an excellent book that presented some good ideas and also gave me a feeling of how the lives of other masters went, which both makes me feel a bit more comfortable about where I am, as well as makes me feel motivated to become more excellent like they were. It's inspiring but it also gives you a path forward. And despite the deficiencies in the strength and defensibility of its arguments, the ideas in this book and the long, longitudinal view of the importance of gaining skills, knowledge, intuition, and character to build mastery is what makes this a great book.
Profile Image for Brian.
55 reviews8 followers
June 16, 2013
I won this book as part of Goodreads' First Reads program in exchange for my honest review.

This book is really 2 distinct parts. The first is a series of biographies on modern and classic 'masters' in their respective fields. The second part is examining what lessons can be learned from these masters and how they can be applied in our everyday lives to become masters in our own rights.

I really enjoyed the biographies, they were a series of short, concise examinations of great people that was enjoyable to read. However, I feel the application sections really didn't do justice to their subjects. The tone was so superior that it almost came off as condescending in my view. The author's book is based on 2 premises, that mastery is some lost art and that everyone should strive for mastery. The author takes a very simplistic view on the everyday world and essentially tells the reader to sacrifice everything else at the expense of becoming a master. He fails to realize that people have families that need to be supported, that not everyone will have the opportunities that those in the biographies had, that many fields are ultra competitive in this job market, and that being happy doesn't always mean being a master in your field.

Because of the authors view of mastery over everything else, I found a lot of the advice to very off-putting and ineffective. There are numerous instances where the pursuit of money is belittled, almost to the point that the author almost seems to say that earning money outside of your field to be mastered is ill-advised. There is a section on getting the most out of one's mentors, then ditching them, even with advice on how to get away from them. Even parents are ever so subtly denigrated at point. I literally laughed out loud when the author tells us that people who are friendly when you first meet them at work are secretly plotting to take you down.

The road to the author's mastery is to be a colossal jerk it seems. I would much rather take the path to accomplished and be nice.

I gave this book 2 stars; the wonderful biographies are outweighed by the higher-than-thou advice that really became a chore to read by the end.
1,231 reviews33 followers
November 25, 2012
I read this with lots of reservation. After all, I've read so many self-help and enlightenment sort of books before, so what could be new in this one right?
Well, there were plenty. It offers plenty of examples so it's more like a show than tell sort of approach, which I appreciated. There are a lot of nuggets in it that will allow the reader to reflect on the unifying theme of what Mastery is about. In my case, it was relevant because I have mastered (no pun intended) the jack-of-all trades concept where I flit to one hobby/skill to another, getting bored if I stay on to something for too long. This book showed me why focus and dedication is important to achieve true greatness. I liked this book a lot.
Profile Image for ScienceOfSuccess.
109 reviews192 followers
July 4, 2019
Probably the best of Robert's books.

The main problem I had with this "masterpiece" is that his writing style is repetitive.
He starts a story, doesn't end it, then starts again and add something, and he does it with few stories over and over again.

Honestly, if he would take his pills, he probably could sum up the whole book in 20 pages.

This time I won't argue with research, assuming it was better, but he also took some ancient or unknown people and made them god's kind of.

Cool read if u want to brag about reading "non-fiction" but honestly you won't learn much, and what you read is 50% authors personal fantasy mixed with 50% of historical facts.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,377 reviews467 followers
May 13, 2019
"Mastery" is unlike Greene's previous books, which were "The Prince" for modern times. This one seems almost to have been written by a different person. Instead of instructing the reader on how to achieve fleeting victory over other evil jackasses, now the author is trying to help you to do something meaningful for the world in the long-term. The quirky perspective yields content that is not in any of the standard books on management, leadership, psychology or wisdom.

The audience here is the creative eccentric. Apart from the usual advice about focusing on your passion and all that, what Greene adds is brutally direct advice about what creative types need to do to cope with all the "fools" and "sharks" in the world. Among other things, it involves treating fools like furniture. I'm not sure that the advice is useful, but it does seem to be unique.

Update--May, 2017: The perspectives from this book have turned out to be very useful on numerous occasions. For people striving for Mastery, it's like a Lonely Planet guide to an alien culture that makes no sense, except that the alien culture is the regular world all around us every day.
Profile Image for Olga.
97 reviews5 followers
March 8, 2014
supt din deget!
Survivorship bias. Hindsight bias. Narrative fallacy. Cherry picking famous biographies to fit the story. Overall - motivational gibberish for suckers!
Profile Image for Frank Calberg.
159 reviews38 followers
July 5, 2020
Takeaways from reading the book:

The book contains useful advice as well as several good examples of what masters such as Albert Einstein and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did when they lived. Reading the book, I learned that a deep inclination toward a particular subject / field lies at the core of mastery. This inclination is a reflection of a person’s uniqueness. To find your path to mastery, you need to listen to who you are, listen to what dominates your thoughts, and connect with this inner force / calling / purpose. What feels right for you? What are your personal values? Who are you?

You will know what really drives you, when you find it. Why? Because you will feel excited and curious to do more, learn more. As you search for the path / profession / task / work that you think is what is chosen for you, keep in mind that every human being in the world is unique. In other words, in your search for what you find meaningful, you need to trust yourself and listen to the voice that comes from deep within yourself. In this process, you need to clear away / ignore / free yourself from voices / doubters / critics that confuse you and/or that you see as barriers for finding the way that is right for you. Characteristic for masters is that they follow their own route which suits their spirit and rhythms – a route that other people may see as unconventional.

Masters manage to blend their childlike spirit with discipline. Whatever field you work on discovering and getting good at, it takes lots of practice – including much thinking, observing, listening, doing, trying out things, and reflecting - to reach mastery. In this process, be curious, open-minded, and value learning above everything else. This will lead you to the right choices.
Profile Image for Ali Karimnejad.
313 reviews150 followers
July 11, 2022
نبوغ، ذاتی نیست، تحصیل کردنیه. اما نه به این آسونیا

رابرت گرین توی این کتاب با بررسی زندگی یک سری آدم‌های سرشناس، من جمله داروین، بنجامین فرانکلین، داوینچی، مارسل پروست، انیشتن و مواردی از افراد معاصر، اومده و داره توصیه‌هایی می‌کنه برای موفقیت. کمابیش میشه گفت که این توصیه‌ها در جهت تخصیص زمان کافی به یک کار بخصوص برای رسیدن به درجه بالایی از مهارت هست که اصطلاحا به اون مرحله "استادی" یا "چیرگی" و یا هر ترجمه مناسب‌تری که برای تیتر کتاب بنظرتون میاد، میگیم.

مثلا یک کوزه‌گر یا نمی‌دونم، یک نقاش رو در نظر بگیرید که کارش بیشتر ملموسه. همونطور که این آدم بعد از تجربه سالیان دراز به مرحله‌ای از استادی و مهارت می‌رسه که خلاقیت در او بروز می‌کنه و آثاری خلق می‌کنه که آدم رو به حیرت می‌اندازه و به طور مشخص نمی‌شه گفت ناشی از گذروندن کدوم مرحله است، در باقی کارها هم همین اصل برقراره. این خلاقیت یا چیزی که ما اصطلاحا بهش میگیم "بینش، شم یا فراست" در اثر ممارست طولانی بدست میاد و کار آسونی نیست. لذا رابرت گرین داره توصیه‌هایی به شما می‌کنه ک�� چطور این سفر طولانی رو با موفقیت طی کنید.

در مقام مقایسه بخوام بگم، رابرت گرین هم مثل مالکوم گلدول، به اصل 10000 ساعت تمرین برای رسیدن به مرحله از "چیرگی" معتقده. اما مالکوم گلدول در کتاب "آوت‌لایرز" عنوان می‌کنه که رسیدن به این میزان از آموزش و ممارست نیازمند شرایط مساعدی هست که برای بیشتر افراد محیا نیست و فقط بعضی افراد به سبب شرایط محیطی مناسب از اون بهره‌مند می‌شن و بعدا به عنوان نوابغ شناخته می‌شن و در واقع اینها محصول جامعه زمانه خودشون هستن. یک ریویویی برای اون کتاب نوشتم که >اینجا< می‌تونید بخونید. این در حالی هست که رابرت گرین، معتقده هر فردی می‌تونه به اون مرحله از استادی و مهارت برسه مشروط به اینکه با همه توان به اون سمت حرکت کنه و این توصیه‌ها رو بکار بگیره. بین نظرات این دو نویسنده، من خودم تقریبا 50-50 هستم با کمی گرایش به سمت گلدول. هر دو، از برخی جنبه‌ها درست می‌گن و در برخی زمینه‌ها دچار اغراق و بزرگنمایی هستن.

در مورد رویکرد نویسنده هم باید بگم که توصیه‌هایی که می‌کنه اگرچه عمدتا ساده و کاربردیه، اما این نگاه که شما بیای زندگی یک آدم موفق، یا حتی 10 آدم موفق رو بررسی کنی و از بین اونها دنبال ویژگی‌های مشترک بگردی و اونها رو به عنوان رمز موفقیت بیای تحویل مردم بدی، رویکرد بسیار ضعیفی هست که البته خیلی هم متداوله. این مدل استدلال‌های استقرایی توی اکثر کتابهای با محوریت "مثل یک میلیونر بیاندیشید" هم پره و آدم رو به این توهم می‌رسونه که "عهه؟! پس همچین سخت هم نیستا!" در صورتی که شما اگر مُصر باشی می‌تونی بین بقال سر کوچه‌تون و بیل‌گیتس هم 10 تا تشابه شخصیتی پیدا کنی. اینطوری نیست. متاسفانه کتاب بسیار در آوردن مثال‌های مختلف از افراد مختلف (که در خیلی موارد تکراری هم میشه) اصرار کرده و همین باعث شده حجم کتاب بی‌دلیل زیاد بشه و خوندنش حوصله سر بر؛ اگرچه نکات مفیدی هم در خوندنش هست. لذا اگر احیانا جایی خلاصه کتاب، یا پادکستش رو گیر بیارید بنظرم شاید مفیدتر باشه.
Profile Image for Nyamka Ganni.
261 reviews117 followers
February 5, 2016
Супер сургамжтай ном байна. Маш олон амжилтанд хүрсэн хүмүүсийн амжилтын түүхийг өгүүлсэн нь маш ойлгомжтой байдлаар хүн өөрт тохирсон дуртай салбараа олж, хэрхэн мастер болж болох арга замуудыг тайлбарлажээ.

Mozart - Багаасаа л гоц байсан ба. Сонгодог хөгжмийн ертөнцөд хувьсал авчирсан.
Faraday - Миний дуртай эрдэмтэн.
Ben Franklin - Сэргэлэн, нийтэч, EQ сайтай хүн байсан байна.
Marie Curie
Henry Ford - Зарчимч, өөрийн үзэл бодолдоо бат зогсож чаддаг
Albert Einstein - Түүний амьдрал байнга амжилтаар дүүрэн байгаагүй.
Charles Darwin - Агуу, агуу.

Goethe - Хүн ер нь нэг талбарт мастер болоход бүх мэдрэмжүүд нь нээгдэж нэг бус нэлээдгүй олон салбарт мастер болдог бололтой.
Leonardo Da Vinci - бас л олон салбарт мастер болсон хүн байсан байна аа.

Marcel Proust - өнөөх алдартай гайхал номнууд нь өөрийнх нь амьдралын түүх юм байна. Багадаа туниа муутай өвдөмтгий хүүхэд байсан нь ээжтэйгээ ойрхон болоход нөлөөлсөн бололтой. Түүний амжилтын нууц нь тэвчээртэй зорилгодоо үнэнч байдал нэмээд хичээнгүй зүтгэл юм уу даа. Номнуудыг нь нээж үзэх өдөр удахгүй ирэх байх гэж найдна.

Өөр бусад мундагчуудын сургамжтай намтар их байна аа.
Profile Image for Ben Lever.
88 reviews13 followers
December 1, 2012
Definitely one of the greatest books I've ever read.

Greene brings together the stories of various masters over the centuries - from scientists to pilots to boxers to writers - to show how one truly masters a field. Combating the pernicious myth of the naturally-talented genius who comes out of nowhere with the world-changing idea, he shows how an intense apprenticeship is necessary for the deep insights these masters produce - even though this apprenticeship does not often take the route of a conventional education.

I feel like the pieces of this have been dancing around the edges for a long time. You see hints of it in Greene's first book, The 48 Laws of Power, and a strong feel of it is in his recent collaboration with 50 Cent, The 50th Law. But more than that, in blogs posts and things like Kirby Ferguson's video series Everything Is A Remix - our culture has some powerfully wrongheaded ideas about the natures of intelligence, creativity, power, and many other forces, and our traditional educational institutions are ill-equipped to prepare us for reality.

Although I don't like saying too much about it because I haven't actually accomplished anything yet, my life's current trajectory is already based on the kinds of things he's talking about, so this book will be immensely useful in fine-tuning what I'm doing. I've certainly missed some key aspects, and I will be re-reading this and his other works very soon.

I do have some minor nitpicks with some of the "rational vs intuitive" parts, and Greene does have a slight tendency to mythologise certain aspects of the world - he often talks about things being "impossible to explain" (as opposed to just "difficult to explain" or "beyond the scope of this book") and he commits the naturalistic fallacy a lot - but I suspect most of this is not really a problem with the ideas, just a problem with simplifying them for a mass audience.

To quote Greene's protege, Ryan Holiday, this book is "a master studying mastery in what turns out to be a masterpiece". I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Profile Image for Peter Colclasure.
252 reviews22 followers
October 11, 2022
Buckle in. This is a long review. I spent nearly as much time writing it as I did reading the book. And while this review is largely negative, it’s not a take-down (note the three stars). I felt that some parts of the book were captivating. In particular, the mini-biographies of masters (contemporary or otherwise). Whenever I was immersed in the life of Leonardo da Vinci, Darwin, or Glenn Gould, I was fully engaged, and these biographical sketches alone made the book worth purchasing. Additionally, the overall structure of the book is well-thought-out, as the outline at the beginning makes clear. The outline is valuable in and of itself, as it makes the entire book comprehensible at a glance.

I could go on. There are many praiseworthy aspects to this book, but I won’t spend much time on them because they have been thoroughly touted in the near-ubiquitous five-star reviews.

Like I said, I found the biographies captivating and interesting. But often, while reading through Robert Greene’s analysis of mastery that follows each biographical sketch, a question began to nag at my mind, and that question was this:

“Is this bullshit?”

Much of the book reads like a cross between Thich Nhat Hanh and a Tony Robbins self-empowerment seminar: listen to the voice within to discover who you really are, be authentic to your true self, resist the pressures of conformity, and unleash the power within. Each one of these points needs a lot of unpacking. Let’s deal first with the notion of discovering who you really are. Is there merit to the idea of a core, innate self?

David Foster Wallace (Master™) has a very poignant and somewhat sad observation that bears mention here:

“Day to day I have to make all sorts of choices about what is good and important and fun, and then I have to live with the forfeiture of all the other options those choices foreclose. And I’m starting to see how as time gains momentum my choices will narrow and their foreclosures multiply exponentially until I arrive at some point on some branch of all life’s sumptuous branching complexity at which I am finally locked in and stuck on one path and time speeds me through stages of stasis and atrophy and decay until I go down for the third time, all struggle for naught, drowned by time. It is dreadful. But since it’s my own choices that’ll lock me in, it seems unavoidable — if I want to be any kind of grownup, I have to make choices and regret foreclosures and try to live with them.”

I bring this up in the context of Mastery for two reasons:

1.) The notion of “being authentic to your true self” is kinda sophomoric in the sense that your self is constantly evolving and changing, and also the fact that your “true self” might contain impulses towards serial homicide as much as astrophysics or chess, and should thus be regarded with due caution. I think your true self is something you create by making decisions, rather than something you excavate by listening to voices, inner or otherwise.

2.) Success, while coveted, is also a form of prison. One of the consequences of being great at something is that you lose the option of being great at something else. If it were true that each of us has one and only one life’s task, which we must divine and pursue, then the foreclosure of other options wouldn’t be an issue. But sometimes people have multiple life’s tasks and they must choose. Do I want to be a writer or a filmmaker? Do I want to be an athlete or a pastry chef? Do I want to be a teacher or sumo wrestler? I contend that people might find several fields, not one, in which they would be equally fulfilled and actualized. Also sometimes zero fields, which is another sad reality which goes unremarked here.

Let’s address another notion that runs rampant through this book, that we must “resist the pressures of conformity.” That’s about as profound as saying “It’s best not to get hit by a car.”

I was a teenager once too. Resisting conformity was my raison d’être. I harbored a vague resentment towards shopping malls and fashion magazines and I read a lot of Howard Zinn. As I matured I realized the equation of conformity = bad is simplistic. First off, most conformity is harmless. Is it really oppressive if you buy a shirt or get a certain haircut because it happens to be in style? Second off, some baseline conformity is essential to the functioning of civilization. Like, obeying traffic laws or refraining from public nudity.

So I’m not arguing in favor of conformity. It’s just as I’ve grown older I’ve noticed that while everyone agrees (in theory) that conformity is bad, (in practice) they conform on a number of fronts, and that the reasons for this conformity are most often benign, and that paradox is interesting to me.


Let’s start with the premise. What is mastery? He defines it on the first page as “. . . 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.” And goes on for another page and a half elaborating mastery as a form of “intense concentration,” “heightened creativity,” and an ability to “penetrate to the core of something real.” All of this is frustratingly vague, but let’s roll with it.

I found his insistence that “mastery” is a form of power to be problematic. Let’s define power as the ability to effect change. To get others to change their behavior, or to change the world. Certainly Dawrin’s mastery accomplished that, as did Einstein’s. But what about Glenn Gould? Bobby Fischer? Usain Bolt? These guys are immensely skilled at a particular task, but does their skill amount to power? In other words, did Bobby Fischer’s mastery of chess really change anything about the world? Perhaps “power” doesn’t need to be defined that broadly. Maybe it’s only power over your own self represented by mastery, the power to practice and improve. Glenn Gould et al would now fit the bill. I think this would be better defined as discipline, but whatever. You want to call it power? Be my guest.

The problem here is that we’re still left wondering what, exactly, is mastery? Is it simply being highly skilled? Or is it being effective? Or being successful? Or being recognized? Or original? These are overlapping but distinct ideas, and Greene doesn’t parse them in any satisfactory manner.

Another weakness is that the book presumes you want to be a master. Even if it’s true that everyone desires to be truly great at something, the book never elucidates why, and thus misses a prime opportunity to get at the core of the human condition. What’s driving us? Why are we so dissatisfied? What is it about the existential maw that drives us to practice scales at the piano or found internet start-ups? That’s the truly interesting question, and the book never once addresses it, only threatening us with depression if we don’t pursue our life’s task.

The book explains that attaining mastery is hard work. It can involve isolation, poverty, and sheer drudgery. And while most of us intuitively agree that mastery is worth it, again, the book doesn’t really explain why. It makes a half-assed attempt at one point, saying that pursuing your life's task is the only way to be truly happy. But what if you actualize your life’s task and you’re still unhappy? David Foster Wallace, Kurt Cobain, and Virginia Woolf were all masters, and guess what they have in common…

There are many things I would like to be truly great at. I have enormous respect for anyone with a work ethic. I play piano, fairly well, but I’m no Glenn Gould. I sometimes wonder what potential could be unleashed if I seriously sat down and started practicing six hours a day. But I also suspect that the secret to a good life is more balance than achievement. And I’m confused how to navigate these seemingly contradictory intuitions (working hard vs. stopping to smell the roses). I received no guidance from this book.

I’m not an evolutionary biologist, but I’m skeptical of the idea that we each possess secret intellectual superpowers temporarily suppressed by modern civilization. I think that modern civilization has unleashed the potential of the average human far more than any time in history. I’m suspicious of Greene’s characterization of human evolution more broadly. If it’s true that evolution programmed us with the ability to be really really good at something if we try really really hard, it’s also true that evolution programmed us with the instinct to conserve precious calories by sitting on the couch and watching Netflix. So our evolutionary heritage is less a force to be unleashed than a force to be overcome if we want to put a man on Mars or learn to break dance.


Other problems:

Generalizations - lots of generalizations of the prima facie sort, such as “our minds are always hurrying to generalize about things,” which is itself a generalization.

Giving names to things that don’t need names - on pg. 180 he writes, “This is The Primary Law of the Creative Dynamic that you must engrave deeply in your mind and never forget: your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work. If you go at your work with half a heart, it will show in the lackluster results and in the laggard way in which you reach the end . . .” Basically, he’s saying you gotta be sincere. The Primary Law of the Creative Dynamic is a big dull clumsy equivalent of “sincerity.” And I wish like hell it was true. I wish that emotional commitment truly correlated with results, 100% of the time. The poetry of any random teenager is counterevidence. Greene goes on to write that if your motivation is merely money or recognition you will never create great work, and I think this is sort of true, but I also think the desire for money and fame isn’t mutually exclusive from the passionate need to express oneself. As Paul McCartney said, he and Lennon used to sit down and say, “Let’s write a swimming pool.”

Tautologies - such as, “All sound is vibrations.” “Inspiration leads to creativity and creativity leads to inspiration.” “Everything in nature has a structure.” It’s a weakness of style.

Typos - I noticed several errors in subject-verb agreement and one misspelling. If you’re going to write a book about mastery, you might want to master copy-editing first.


If you’ve actually read this entire review, I’m impressed. Again, I generally enjoyed the book and got a lot out of it. It just that I felt nearly every conclusion that Greene drew from his well-written biographies needed to be qualified.
Profile Image for Enrico Bertini.
28 reviews51 followers
December 30, 2014
This is one of the most important books I read in my entire life. Mastery goes very well beyond any simplistic formula found in self-help books and describes what it takes to achieve mastery by analyzing the life of hundreds of masters from the past and today.

The book is organized in stages of maturity towards achieving mastery.

One of the main messages of the book that will stick with me forever is this: it does not matter how much talent you have, you will always need to spend and enormous amount of time practicing and studying before you can achieve mastery. And of course you'll need to love what you do otherwise you'll never be able to put all these hours together.

Another super important concept is the role of mentorship. Finding a good mentor is key to achieving mastery. This sounds especially important today where I believe we have lost the role of mentorship and mentors and believe we can do everything on our own.

Mastery is very pleasurable to read with lots of fantastic stories from masters like Pasteur, Einstein, Proust. Mozart.

Do yourself a favor: read this book. It'll change your perspective on your passion.
Profile Image for Rishi.
49 reviews12 followers
December 2, 2020
He needs to get mastery in writing. This book went all over the place, all over the people, yet taught me next to nothing. He would start a story, give some shitty interpretation of the story, then move to next without actually giving a proper ending to previous story.

Then After ages of other boring stories, He would revisit this story saying, as seen in chapter x, and continue a blabber full of repetition about the same story. He would again conclude the same.

Man what a waste of read.

As far as i got it, mastery is nothing but doing one thing for a long period of time, no matter how bored you get, always try to look at it in new way, try to go in flow and so on and so forth.
Profile Image for Ryan DeLuca.
5 reviews22 followers
January 19, 2013
One of the best books I've ever read. Should be required reading for every teenager that wants success in life.
Profile Image for Sherif Nagib.
91 reviews370 followers
May 19, 2020
كتاب رائع عن موضوع مهم هو الإتقان والتمكن. عن طريق الغوص في سير العديد من النوابغ والأساتذة في مجالاتهم، من ليوناردو دافينشي لأينشتين لمارسيل بروست، وغيرهم، يحاول الكتاب فهم كيف وصلوا إلى ما وصلوا إليه من براعة في مجالاتهم. الكتاب ممتع، ما عدا الثلث الأخير الملئ بالتكرار والإطالة بشكل مستفز.
Profile Image for Mohammed Fathi Hozain.
225 reviews31 followers
January 20, 2021
كتاب الاتقان لروبرت جرين
بعد تجارب كثيرة مع كتب التنمية البشرية التي باءت معظمها بالفشل حيث اني لم استطع استساغه هذا النوع من الكتب كنت قد قررت عدم القراءه تماما في هذا المجال , الا اني رجعت الى القراءه , لماذا , لعده اسباب اولها اسم الكاتب الذي على غلاف الكتاب هو روبرت جرين الذي لطالما احترمت كتاباته على سبيل المثال 33 استراتيجية للحرب و48 قاعدة للسطوة , لقد كانت كتاباته كلها جاده واقعية تحترم عقل قارئها , لذلك بدأت قراءة الكتاب .
لا ابالغ ان قلت ان هذا الكتاب يعتبر من اهم الكتب التي اتممت قرأتها هذا العالم , وربما من اهم الكتب التي قرأتها في حياتي كلها ,.
كان الكتاب موضوعا على قائمة القراءات منذ اكثر من اربع سنوات وكنت اؤجل قراءته بسبب الضخامة الكبيرة في حجم الكتاب حيث ان عدد صفحاته يربو على اربعمائة صفحه , ولكن قررت اخيرا البدء فيه , ولقد اخذت وقتا طويلا في قراءته لانه يحتاج من القارئ الى صفاء عقل وتركيز شديد , فقد كنت اعيد ما اقراءه مره تلو اخرى حتى افهم ما يريد الكاتب ايصاله .
الكتاب المترجم يحمل عنوان الاتقان ولكنه بالانجليزية له عنوان
والتي تعني الاستاذية , وياليت الكتاب العربي حمل نفس الاسم , اذا اعتقد انه هو الاقرب الى موضوع الكتاب
اذا ان الكتاب يبحث في موضوع الوصول الى النبوغ والاستاذية في اي مجال محدد سواء مهنه كالطب او الهندسة او حرفه او فن من الفنون سواء كان رسم او نحت او اي شئ , والكتاب جامع لكل الخطوات للوصول للقمة في تعلم المجال .
ما يعجبني في كتاب روبرت جرين هى القصص الحقيقة التي يسردها ويستخدمها في توضيع القواعد التي يذكرها , حيث اني تعودت على هذا الاسلوب في كتبه السابقة مثل 48 استراتيجيه للوصول للسطوه و قاعدة للحرب . الكتاب بالاضافة الى انه يقدم وصفات مجربة وجاده وخطوات دقيقة للاتقان بالاضافه الى ذلك انه يقدم متعه شديدة في القراءة .
انصحكم بشدة بقراءة هذا الكتاب الذي افادني كثيرا
Profile Image for Arjun Ravichandran.
222 reviews139 followers
December 15, 2012
'Mastery' is not of the same ilk as the supremely concise and concentrated '48 Laws' ; neither is it the deep psychological excavation of fear that was 'The 50th Law' ; It is an altogether different beast.
Fans of Greene's previous work who were expecting a manifesto (that is to say, a clear and sharp work) will be disappointed. The book is more diffuse, more abstract, and altogether, more difficult to get a good hold of.
That's not to say the book isn't without value. It's just different from Greene's previous works. Think of the book as a sprawling summation of many of his previous themes and motifs. Read carefully, at least 2 to 3 times, there is plenty of meat inside these pages to set someone off on a new course.
Profile Image for Aaron Goldfarb.
Author 12 books45 followers
November 27, 2012
If you're a Greene fan, you're going to like this one. But it's also a good starting point if you've never read any of his works before. Personally, I still think 33 STRATEGIES OF WAR is his all-encompassing masterwork, but MASTERY is still highly valuable.
Profile Image for David Bradley.
24 reviews14 followers
November 1, 2012
Robert Greene's Mastery explores the lives of many historical Masters (Mozart, Da Vinci, Proust, etc.) and explains how their Mastery is attainable for everyone. By ignoring societal constraints and complications, following our own interests, serving time in an apprenticeship phase, and staying committed to our craft, Greene believes that everyone can become a Master and make lasting contributions to society.

While I like Greene's message and find his writing to be absorbing, I have some serious concerns about this book. First is the fact that Greene's conclusions stem from extremely shaky "evidence". There are practically no scientific studies cited in this book, and very rarely do Greene's interpretations involve any proof at all. Every piece of evidence that Greene presents to support his theory is anecdotal. Greene is not a scientist himself, and really gives no reason why we should believe his arguments. Throughout this book, I could not help but think that anybody could have come to Greene's conclusions and presented them as facts. So, why should we believe in what Greene has to say? Unfortunately, this book never provides an adequate answer. We are left to assume that what Greene tells us is true, because Robert Greene says so.

Another issue in this book is it's extremely repetitive nature. Every single section tells an anecdote about someone considered a Master in his or her field, and then Greene goes on to explain that this person is a Master only through hard work, something that everyone can achieve. This cycle occurs over and over and over and over and over and over, for 300+ crammed pages and is truly exhausting. Even more disconcerting is how Greene will, within his repetitive structure, duplicate anecdotal sections. There are three sections throughout the book that discuss famed boxing trainer Freddie Roach, and each section tells the same exact anecdote. A fact may be added or the story might be expanded at the end, but the reality is that I ended up reading the same story three times (never has Roach been given such exposure in a book that has absolutely nothing to do with boxing). The effect is nearly maddening and forced me to skim over various sections, searching for new information.

While I found a number of flaws with this book, I don't want to take anything away from Greene's prose. The book is well written, provides interesting mini-biographies about famous figures, and can be quite captivating in the areas that till new ground. But, for me, it is hard to take a book seriously when it relies so much on anecdotes and ignores the need for any scientific evidence. In a book about Mastery, it's clear that Greene is no Master of science, no Master of proof, and no Master of Mastery, but is, instead, simply a Master of selling books.

Thanks to Viking Books and First Reads for sending me the ARC of this book.
Profile Image for Willian Molinari.
Author 2 books118 followers
April 22, 2021
I'm migrating all my reviews to my blog. If you want to read the full review with my raw notes, check it here: https://pothix.com/masterybook

One of the best books I ever read.

This book goes through the life of various masters of our history. Some of them I did not know and decided to look after their life, which was a great experience as well.

If you want to be a master of something, be prepared to use a huge amount of time dealing with it and practicing. Masters don't become what they are by just working 9-5 and watching television in their spare time. They are passionate about what they do and most of the time they don't care about how much money it will generate for them.

In the last moments of his life, Einstein was still writing equations about his hypothesis. Champollion tried to decipher the Rosetta stone for 20 years of his life, trying multiple time and learning from it. Daniel Everett had to immerse in the life of Pirahã people for 12 years in order to understand their culture and language, which made him abandon his faith in Christianity (because of the relation between culture and religion).

These are just some of the stories from the book. This book resonated with the Einstein: His Life and Universe and with the stories I heard about Benedito de Espinoza. Masters like them had strong beliefs on what they were doing/researching and dedicated their life to it.

Some of the stories presented in the book made me think differently about how to approach problems and how to plan my life to reach my goals.
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