By Robert Greene
“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason, mastery demands all of a person.” - Albert Einstein
Do you ever feel that you have unfulfilled potential just waiting to be unleashed? The mastery of your existing skills and abilities can propel you towards success in your field if you’re able to harness your potential. Everyone has the ability to reach proficiency in his or her field; the difficulty is finding the motivation, time, and commitment to the cause. A permanent commitment to personal growth is essential to sustainable professional development. Such is exemplified through the behavior of Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, and Leonardo Da Vinci.
Examining the habits and behavioral attributes of accomplished artists, scientists, and other remarkable human beings, Robert Green’s “Mastery” highlights the innate potential within us all. There is a proven path to success, achieved by mastering the essential skills in any given profession. The key to mastery of any field can be attained by following his three arduous steps. Be passionate, find a mentor, then network. Mustering the motivation to fully commit to the process is the most difficult step of the journey, but the results are unparalleled.
1. Find a skill or field that is more than just a job
People who are passionate about their work go much further than those who don’t. Genuinely caring about work on a personal level shows dedication and assertiveness that is generally unseen in most workplaces. This passion and enthusiasm for the task at hand sets the masters apart from the rest, allowing them to surge past their competition. Showing genuine interest in unexciting work is not meant to be easy, but this first step is the key to mastery in any profession.
It all starts by determining personal strengths and weaknesses and incorporating them into a professional strategy. To do this, Greene suggests revisiting childhood passions or aspirations to discover potential opportunities. The natural motivation born out of passion offers a unique approach to any career, while demonstrating a bold ambition. To express the sheer amount of work it takes to become a master, Greene revises Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 rule. He instead insists that the mastery of any skill should take at least 20,000 hours of practice. For someone who loves what they do, 20,000 hours is merely an invitation to explore their craft on their employer’s dime.
2. Apprenticeship - Seek out a mentor and follow every word they say
The best way to hone any ability is to follow in the footsteps of someone who has already mastered it. With an endless stockpile of resources within arms reach, the ability to connect with masters in any given field has never been easier. In order to truly understand and master a skill, the subject must absorb information from any medium they can get a hold of. Books, blogs, tutorials and podcasts are only a small piece of the puzzle. A true master is able to digest information from a variety of resources to supplement the experience gained from their mentor. Though these resources can provide irrefutable benefits to a career, the information is often far too broad, leaving out the nuances of a specific position.
A mentor will accelerate the process by tailoring their advice and knowledge to the situation, skills, and personality of their student. Many people have spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of their valuable time to learn lessens that could be taught in seconds by an experienced mentor. Apprenticeship and mentors are an irreplaceable source of information, crucial to any pursuit of mastery.
3. Mastery of social intelligence
The last step in Greene's strategy involves the mastery of social intelligence. Without it, people and social situations are bound to stand in the way of success. To paint a picture, upon hearing the name Darwin, the first person that comes to mind is Charles, the father of evolution, right? Turns out he had a brother, who was a genius in social but lacking in his social abilities. What Charles lacked in his academic prowess, he made up for with social and political intelligence, which was a large determinant of his success. Darwin’s social abilities allowed him to navigate the challenging religious and political waters surrounding his controversial theories and discoveries. Although the importance of networking in any successful career path is undeniable, it can be hard to visualize without a relevant example.
Greene goes on to cite a great case study from Gladwell’s outliers to really drive his point home. Tracking thousands of high-IQ kids in the United States from childhood to adulthood, scientists noticed these children were winning awards left and right when they were young. However, when they reached adulthood, it was a completely different story. The gifted group did no better than a random control group, and while generally unhappier, many were working in jobs involving unskilled labor. Greene's point is that success requires much more than just book smarts. It is essential to master social intelligence to harness the full potential of any ability.
There are no shortcuts to the mastery of any skill, and it is a long and grueling journey. Greene’s “Mastery” offers a clear cut path to success, but it requires persistence through thousands of hours of hard work to get there. However, those who are willing to commit to the cause can harness their inner potential, unlocking endless possibilities in their career path.