Mastery by Robert Greene

Mastery by Robert Greene is one of the first books I read this year and it will shape how I will approach the rest of my life. Honest, thorough, and engaging, Robert Greene instructs you how to truly devote your life to your inner calling.

mastery

Real World Examples

“Darwin could have played it safe, collecting what was necessary, and spending more time on board studying instead of actively exploring. In that case, he would not have become an illustrious scientist, but just another collector. He constantly looked for challenges, pushing himself past his comfort zone. He used danger and difficulties as a way to measure his progress. You must adopt such a spirit and see your apprenticeship as a kind of journey in which you will transform yourself, rather than as a drab indoctrination into the work world.”

– Robert Greene

I discovered Robert Greene (like most people) through his book The 48 Laws of Power. I quickly fell in love with his writing style and sought out more of his work.

Greene tends to collect his ideas into a “law” or principle that he has observed during his own personal experience or through his research. Then he codified it with a historical example of that law being played out either in that person’s favor or to their detriment.

The real world examples add an extra dimension to the idea being presented, helping it to be digested, as well as helping the principle stick with you. The laws come alive in his writing with the historical characters acting them out.

In Mastery, Robert Greene pulled from historical examples as well as contemporary sources that he interviewed himself. The figures featured in this book that have stuck with me the most are Hakuin Zenji, Wolfgang Von Goethe, The Carolina Islanders, and Cesar Rodriguez Jr.

Practical Advice

It is not a matter of studying for twenty years and then emerging as a Master. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus.”

– Robert Greene

The advice in this book is immensely practical regardless of your interests. Greene stresses that you achieve mastery through hard work and constant improvement. To gain mastery in a field, first you must master yourself.

Conclusion

I would recommend Mastery to anyone who is interested in self-discipline and wants to achieve something great.

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Stop Trying to Make Art

“Say who you are, really say it in your life and in your work. Tell someone out there who is lost, someone not yet born, someone who won’t be born for 500 years. Your writing will be a record of your time. It can’t help but be that. But more importantly, if you’re honest about who you are, you’ll help that person be less lonely in their world because that person will recognise him or herself in you and that will give them hope.”

– Charlie Kaufman, BAFTA Screenwriters’ Lecture 2011

I’ve been working on this screenplay to try to get in the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. It was dark, sad, and a lot different from the stuff I usually do. It felt like I was imitating filmmakers that were popular at Sundance, although I didn’t want to admit it.

Eventually, I had to scrap the script because it just wasn’t me. I started to dig deep to see why I would try to abandon writing the things that I am normally interested in.

I realized that I was “trying to make art” instead of being vulnerable and actually doing the work. As silly as it sounds, writing a gritty familiy drama is less traumatic to me than showing someone a video of me running around in a chicken suit. 

The family drama will ring hollow because I don’t really care about it, but I put my heart and soul into every one of my dumb, no budget shorts. They are personal without trying to be, they are my art without any of the pretension of award ceremonies.

Art doesn’t become art because an external force bestows the title on it. A work is rises to that level when you love it enough to keep making it, even though no one else cares.  Art isn’t made for an audience, you make it because you are burning to tell that story.

 

“This is the other secret that real artists know and wannabe writers don’t. When we sit down each day and do our work, power concentrates around us. The Muse takes note of our dedication. She approves. We have earned favor in her sight. When we sit down and work, we become like a magnetized rod that attracts iron filings. Ideas come. Insights accrete.”

– Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

 

Don’t Vote

“In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousand fold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations.”

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago

I visited a local veteran’s memorial recently.

vote

The monument depicts all of the major conflicts that the United States participated in from the Revolutionary War to the War on Terror. The individual bricks make up the names of people who fought, where they fought, and when they died.

There is a lot of names.

I have fretted over writing this. I don’t expect a good reaction. My countrymen seemed to whipped into a frenzy over this midterm election, but I think this something they need to hear. It is something that no one is saying, but its truth is no less sound.

Don’t vote, improve yourself.

Voting Won’t Save You

They have begun to realize that the difficulties confronting us are moral problems, and that the attempts to answer them by a policy of piling up nuclear arms or by economic “competition” is achieving little, for it cuts both ways. Many of us now understand that moral and mental means would be more efficient, since they could provide us with psychic immunity against ever increasing infection.

But all such attempts have proved singularly ineffective , and will do so as long as we try to convince ourselves and the world that it is only they (i.e; our opponents) who are wrong.

-Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols

I’m not implying that you shouldn’t vote because things are fine (like this pathetic, manipulative ad). Things are bad and will only get worse if we don’t improve as individuals. Voting is a distraction, not a solution. People think they can vote for a candidate, instead of actually bettering themselves. It is away to abdicate responsibility for their own heinous behavior.

Nothing is inherently wrong with voting itself, be an active citizen, but a vote will not save you from evil.

Shall I tell you what the real evil is? To cringe to the things that are called evils, to surrender to them our freedom, in defiance of which we ought to face any suffering.

-Seneca the Younger

Ideology

People are not evil. I think ideology is evil. The memorial is filled with names kiled by ideology. Ideology incenses people with religious-like fervor to kill each other because of mere differences of opinion.

I have been alive for two years (approximately) where my country has not been involved in “major military operations.” President Obama was at war for both terms and it looks like President Trump will be too.

Both of our political parties are ideological and corrupt. It will not change anything if one or the other is in power, so we, the American people must save ourselves by improving ourselves.

There is no greater evil we face than the lie of a Political Savior, but luckily we can save ourselves.

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Thanks for reading! This was difficult to write given our current climate, but it feels good to get it off my chest.

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Long Exposure Photography- Sunrise

Recently, I had the opportunity to capture the sunrise. I wanted to do some long exposure photography again, this seemed like a good excuse.

For this outing I shot with the Nikkor 85mm f/1.8 and my Nikon D3100. For most shots I was shooting wide open at for about 30-15, but as the sun came up I moved more to 1/100-1/200.

I did mess with them a little in Lightroom and convert them into .jpegs also.

More than the color, I really like the texture of the images. It reminds me of an oil painting in a strange sort of way.

It’s really fun to edit long exposure photography because of all of the data you have to play around with, but Nature’s color balance is usually good enough.

long exposure photography

I’m generally more of a night person, so it is always a treat to see the sunrise. It’s a miracle that happens everyday!

I know these aren’t great photos, but I’ll definitely try to experiment with this again and get better ones!

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Thanks for reading! Got any tips for getting sunrise photos or any cool ones of your own?

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Stillness and Vulnerability

The first fourth of my day is dedicated to mustering up the courage to write, the second fourth is about procrastinating, the third is thinking about what I will write, and the last one is actually writing.

I don’t think the act of writing is very difficult, but looking my own consciousness in the eye is quite the task. I’ve started and stopped Zazen meditation numerous times for that reason. Something about stillness is frightening to me.

I have been a lot more focused lately and I have been trying to become more disciplined. Some of my goals have been to read and write something everyday and to get my sleeping habits under control.

My sleeping habits and my writing habits are very similar.  I usually try to sleep listening to music, movie reviews, or anything really even though it just makes it harder. I consciously put them off as if I am afraid of something, but what am I afraid of?

Perhaps, it has to do with vulnerability? You have to feel safe to both write and sleep. I’m not attacked by predators or criminals, but I do often have a dream where my teeth fall out and I am exposed as something.

That feels right.

There is vulnerability in stillness. Whether it be writing, sleep, or meditation.  I become open to harm whether it be internal (doubt, dreams) or external (predators, weather). I have felt many times when I have written something that I have held back for some reason.

I understand now.

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Character, Action, and Dialogue

Creating an interesting character is my favorite part of writing. Writers like to obsess over dialogue, while important to fleshing out a character, is like judging a person solely on their shoes.

Action informs the character more so than the things he says, in my estimation. Words can deceive or have double meanings, but a choice is honest. You can say that you love your wife, but when the ship sinks and dive after your mother, leaving her to drown, we know where you allegiances really lie.

In the film, American Psycho, Patrick Bateman says all the right things, but he brutally murders people (or at least fantasies about doing it). Which reveals more about him, his words or actions?

JEAN 
Thanks, Patrick. I'd love some.

Bateman walks in with a bottle of wine and a corkscrew in 
his hand and hands her the sorbet.

Jean is eating the sorbet.

JEAN 
Want a bite?

BATEMAN 
I'm on a diet. But thank you.

JEAN 
You don't need to lose any weight. You're kidding, right? 
You look great. Very fit.

BATEMAN 
(Weighing the corkscrew examining the point for sharpness) 
You can always he thinner. Look...better.

In the critically acclaimed film, Boyhoodyou get the impression that dialogue is supposed to serve the purpose of action.

INT. BOWLING ALLEY CAFE - EVENING

The family sits around a table enjoying their snacks, while
Dad smokes a cigarette.

                      DAD (O.S.)
          Alright, let me tell you what's
          happening in Iraq, alright? Exactly
          what every thinking person in the
          world knew was gonna happen before
          they got started. Bush and his little
          numb-nut fanatics he's got around
          him, they don't give a rat's ass.

                      SAMANTHA
          That's a quarter.

                      DAD
          What's a quarter?

                      SAMANTHA
          You said a-s-s.

                       DAD
          Oh, sorry.   My bad.

                      SAMANTHA
          And my teacher says it's a good war,
          because it's better to be safe than
          sorry.

                      DAD
          That's what they're teaching you in
          school? Alright, listen to me.
          Listen to your father, okay? That
          is the lie. That's the big lie.
          Iraq had nothing to do with what
          happened at the World Trade Center.
          You know that, right?

                       SAMANTHA
          I guess.
                                        23.

            DAD
Alright. Who are you gonna vote for
next fall, MJ?

            MASON
I don't know.

            SAMANTHA
He can't vote. He's not eighteen.

            DAD
Yeah, oh -- alright, who would you
vote for?

            MASON
Kerry?

            DAD
Anybody but Bush!   Okay?

            SAMANTHA
Are you gonna move back?

            DAD
Uh... I'm plannin' on it.   You know,
I gotta find a job.

            MASON
Are you and mom gonna get back
together?

            DAD
I don't know. That's not, uh...
entirely up to me, you know?

            SAMANTHA
I remember when I was six, you and
mom were fighting like mad. You
were yelling so loud and she was
crying.

            DAD
That's what you remember, huh?

            SAMANTHA
Yep.

            DAD
You don't remember the trips to
Galveston, camping in Big Bend, all
the fun we had?

            SAMANTHA
Nope.
                                                    24.

                      DAD
          You ever get mad at your mother?

                        SAMANTHA
          Yeah.

                      DAD (O.S.)
          You ever get mad at your brother?

                        SAMANTHA
          Yeah.

                        DAD
          Yeah.    You ever yell at him?

                        SAMANTHA
          Oh yeah.

                      DAD
          Yeah. Doesn't mean you don't love
          him, right?

                        SAMANTHA
          Mmm...

                      DAD
          Look, the same thing happens when
          you're grown up, alright? You...
          You know, you get mad at people.
          You know, it's not a big deal.

                      MASON
          What'd you do in Alaska?

                      DAD
          I worked on a boat for a while.     Um,
          I tried to write some music.

                      MASON
          Did you see any polar bears?

                      DAD (O.S.)
          No, but I saw a Kodiak bear.     It was
          fuckin' huge.

                     SAMAMTHA (O.S.)
          Dad! That's fifty cents for the F-
          word!

Dad reaches into his wallet.

                     DAD
          I'm sorry. Here, take a dollar,
          alright? Keep the change.
                     (MORE)
                                                          25.

                       DAD (CONT'D)
           You guys are gonna be seein' a lot
           more of me. Okay? I missed you two
           real bad, while I was gone. Okay, I
           want you to know that. I just needed
           to take some time. You know, to...
           Just... Your mom and me, okay...
           Well, your mother, okay, is a piece
           of work. Alright, I think, I think
           you know that by now. Alright? And
           I'm just, I'm so happy to be with the
           two of you. Okay. And I'm sorry
           about that bumper business. Alright.
           I'm gonna get better at stuff like
           that, okay?

As a token of reconciliation, Dad high fives them both,
smiling.

In a fragment from American Psycho, you learn more than an entire scene from Boyhood. Why?

Boyhood is full of noise, but it doesn’t really tell us anything. You should be able to flip to random page and understand the point of the piece. Is this movie about Dad? Samantha? Our protagonist (Mason) is so passive that it could be easy to forget about him all together.

Consider action more than empty dialogue next time you write something. Sometimes silence (or even just less words) really is golden.

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On Bonsai Presentation

Last weekend, I attended my first meeting of the Atlanta Bonsai Society. The guest speaker was Austin Heitzman, the renowned craftsman from Portland, Oregon, and he spoke about the bonsai presentation.

Bonsai presentation

Heitzman explained why it is important to choose a stand that meshes with your tree. It it enhances the story that the piece is telling. My favorite example was a juniper that was collected while a mountain lion was stalking the collector.

Bonsai presentation

He also explained how the stand can enhance the feeling that you want to convey with the bonsai. If it is a strong, thick tree you can use stark edges and a wide base to accentuate the tree’s strength.

Bonsai presentation

Or you can use delicate detail to highlight the intricate foliage.

Bonsai presentation

I really appreciate bonsai because of the attention to every little detail. Nothing is too unimportant to ignore with your tree. It resonates with me for the same reason that I like to write screenplays and shoot films.

I’ve heard people say, “What is the big deal with bonsai? They are just tiny trees,” and what I think they miss is the storytelling aspect. To me, bonsai is minimalistic storytelling at its finest.

 

The Human Condition Trilogy

The Human Condition is Masaki Kobayashi’s harrowing ten-hour trilogy about a Japanese pacifist in WWII.

The films are beautiful, heartbreaking, and a true testament to the human spirit.

No Greater Love

human condition

We meet Kaji, our protagonist, as he contemplates the upcoming war. He gets married to his sweetheart Michiko despite his worry for the future. His luck seems to change when he gets exempted from the draft and gets a job managing a labor camp in Japanese occupied Manchuria.

human condition

The labor camp is a very interesting setting both narratively and visually. The rolling hills of dirt are not the epic location you think of when of WWII. However, after watching the film, I cannot help, but think of them whenever I imagine the Eastern Front.

At the camp, it is very clear that they are under staffed and overworked. The Manchu workers themselves are worked to death and there is every incentive to do just that. Kaji insists are treating the workers like human beings, but his superiors blow him off.

But, things aren’t that bad until the POWs arrive.

The Military Police orders that the POWS be kept behind an electric fence. Things slowly deteriorate and some of the POW are accused of crimes they didn’t commit. Kaji tries to strand up for them, but they are still executed.

Kaji is taken to prison, interrogated, tortured, and then drafted into the military.

Road to Eternity

human condition

Kaji fares well in the military. He is a model solider, but is under constant suspicion because of his past.

This film was the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket. The Private Pyle subplot was completely lifted from Road to Eternity and many shots look very similar.

After training, Kaji gets sent out to the front and combat deeply changes him. After the vast majority of his unit is wiped out in his first battle he is desperate to make it back to his wife.

A Soldier’s Prayer

human condition

Kaji and two other soldiers make the arduous journey back towards friendly territory. Along the way they see what the war has done to the land.

This is definitely the most heartbreaking of the three. Eventually, Kaji is captured by the Soviets and works at a labor camp in a situation that mirrors the first film. The situation is even worse than when they were wandering in the middle of nowhere.

Kaji tries to advocate for himself and his people with the Soviets, but it is no use. Eventually he escapes and vanishes in the snow.

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I intentionally glossed over some major points in the film. You should definitely check it out! These are some of the most important films ever made and are (for at least now) my favorite films.

The Human Condition shows us the evil of war and ideology, but also gives us hope for a better future.

The trilogy is available to watch (in some form) on Filmstruck, Amazon, and YouTube.

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Chronicles of Weeaboo- Chapter 3

Another episode of The Chronicles of Weeaboo has been completed!

Read about Chapter 1.
Read about Chapter 2.

This one was especially interesting because I couldn’t get all the locations I wanted. Luckily, I found a soultion that worked better!

In this episode, Wally recieves help from a familar face that puts him back on track for his adventure.

I hope you enjoy it!

Special thanks to Trisha Wheeler for awesome performance as Kyoko!

Don’t Throw Yourself Away

I have a lot of interests. A career path has long been a source of anxiety for me. The world is so big and full all sorts of interesting things, it seems insane to narrow my scope to one particular aspect of it.

The more I learn about one subject, the more I want to delve into another subject related to it and so on and so on.

interests
I like butterflies so I learned more about them, which in turn led to learn about macro photography so I can capture their beauty.

I’m not trying to be wishy-washy and deliberately indecisive. I know what I don’t like. Tedious, repetitive work like accounting or filing I can’t stand, but choosing between interests is really difficult for me. It is like asking whether you like lunch or dinner better.

“Don’t throw any of yourself away. Don’t worry about a grand scheme or unified vision for your work. Don’t worry about unity–what unifies your work is the fact that you made it. One day you’ll look back and it will all make sense.”

― Austin Kleon

When I came across that line in Steal Like an Artist, I felt relieved. I want to be able to pursue all of interests in life from the tiniest bug to the biggest film set.

When I decided that I wanted to pursue a creative career, I felt like I was betraying something, but when I was pursuing a career in Science that feeling was still there. I wanted to do both, but I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

We’re taught from such an earlier age to pick a particular approved path and stick with it. You’re either a doctor, a lawyer, or a plumber. That is the end of the conversation.

Now I’m trying to integrate everything I can back into my life and I feel more whole. When you sacrifice a side of yourself to fit into a specific box, be careful because you don’t know important integration is until its gone.

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Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad I got this off my chest. I hope you got something out it too.

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