Pages: 352
Rating: 3/5

The fundamental message of Mastery is that the only way a person can become a master of the world-changing variety like Goethe, Mozart and Leonardo da Vinci is to spend a huge amount of time practicing and learning. This is the famous 10,000 hours theory. This message is repeated endlessly through the book and every chapter revolves around it in some way.

The book provides examples from the lives of historical masters like those listed above as well as contemporary ‘masters’ like venture-capitalist Paul Graham and the autistic animal scientist Temple Grandin. While the modern masters Robert Greene lists are clearly very successful people I wouldn’t put them in the same league as Marie Curie or Charles Darwin. Obviously these are the only living masters that Greene got the opportunity to interview and I suppose I shouldn’t fault him for that.

A serious problem is that the book repeats the same biographical details multiple times over the course of the book. I bet that if you cut out all the duplicate biographical information the number of pages would go down significantly.

One chapter that goes a long way toward redeeming this book is the one on social intelligence. Greene talks about how many of us have a naive perspective of people i.e. we tend to think of them as completely bad or completely good. He says that this is a remnant of our childhood and that social intelligence means:

moving past our tendency to idealize and demonize people, and seeing and accepting people as they are.

This had a profound impact on me. I definitely tend to idealize or demonize people. This is something that I am trying to stop.

I leave you with the some more lines from the book that made an impact on me.

On having a “life’s task”:

We human animals are unique-we must build our own world. We do not simply react to events out of biological scripting. But without a sense of direction provided to us, we tend to flounder. We don’t know how to fill up and structure our time. There seems to be no defining purpose to our lives.

I shudder to think of how many weekends I have spent lazing around my rooms watching TV shows and movies. Relaxation and rejuvenation are important but if I had a life goal I obsessed over constantly I doubt I would have wasted all that time.