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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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.

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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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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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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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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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Happy Lizards

Last week while watering my plants, I came across a little group of lizards (Carolina Anoles) sunning in a patch of kudzu.

This is a pretty ordinary sight around my house, but the lizards were in absolute bliss in the warmth. They stretched and turned to get every inch of their skin in the light.

Luckily, I got my camera in time to capture the experience in 24 fps.

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I’m really grateful to live in a time where people can share these experiences so quickly and in high quality with one another.

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You are the Reason Social Media is Awful

Eternal suffering. Burning flesh. Damnation. Separation from God.

No, I’m not talking about Hell. I’m talking about using Facebook and Twitter.

A photo of Twitter HQ.

Social media is constantly discussed by politicians, preachers, artists, and social activists. The outcry has become so loud that even people like Elton John are willing to suspend speech altogether so he can post photos of his cat in peace.

How could this happen?

This may be hard to take, but it’s all your fault. You couldn’t control yourself, so we all have to suffer for it. Great job.

We all make mistakes, but no one can deny that you really messed up. You tried to use 280 characters talk about complex philosophical issues with @x420blzeit for 4 consecutive hours.

If you wanted deeper discourse than the mainstream media, you could have at least gotten off the toilet and talked to someone.

Also, for someone who hates the “mainstream” so much you sure share the most generic bullshit imaginable. A timelapse of food?! How original!

Enjoy your smoothie, dumbass.

I’ve been in deep thought lately and I’ve come to conclusion that all the whining, the screeching, and the forced memes you post about how “toxic” and “hateful” the internet has become is actively ruining what little joy we have. Maybe if you added something positive to the mix every once in a while it wouldn’t be so bad.

Next time you want to scream about the government, maybe go volunteer and actually help the world?

I hope you all enjoyed this post. Sometimes we all need to be reminded that we contribute to the worsening of the world and only we can fix it!

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Do Drugs Make You More Creative?

Approached by something truly creative, someone will inevitably say, “What kind of drugs was he taking?” I’ve heard this ever since I could remember, but I have always found it strange.

Do drugs really cause creativity?

drugs

 

“I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.”

-Salvador Dali

There seems to be a clear connection between drugs and art style and creative people are more likely to use drugs , but the connection between narcotics and producing masterworks is hazy at best. Another study showed that artists used drugs to help regulate the emotions that crop up during the creative process.

In my own experience, drugs have only served as a dampener to creativity. I may feel euphoric, but I don’t do anything. When I do find the energy to create something, usually it is subpar at best.

I will confess that I haven’t tried any drugs that were not prescribed to me. The drug with the most euphoric effect I have taken is Xanax, but I don’t think that invalidates my argument.

drugs

I don’t think screenwriting is therapeutic. It’s actually really, really hard for me. It’s not an enjoyable process.

-Charlie Kaufman

I don’t begrudge anyone that takes drugs for recreational purposes. Life is difficult. Creative people tend to be more emotional and have a harder time regulating that emotion, but the whole idea of taking drugs to “be more creative” sounds disingenuous.

Being creative consistently is difficult. The entire process is filled with doubt and fear. Most drugs dampen those feelings, but those feelings are necessary to create good work.

Without a healthy amount of fear, your work will be filled with embarrassing mistakes. The overall quality will drop and the pieces won’t be an accurate expression of yourself, but an expression of your current mind state.

How sustainable can this process be? Countless brilliant artists’ lives were cut short by this harmful creative process. You can take too many on drugs, but you can’t overdose on creativity.

drugs

“We are all in search of feeling more connected to reality…We indulge in drugs or alcohol, or engage in dangerous sports or risky behavior, just to wake ourselves up from the sleep of our daily existence and feel a heightened sense of connection to reality. In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity. Engaged in the creative process we feel more alive than ever, because we are making something and not merely consuming, masters of the small reality we create.”

-Robert Greene

I want to feel something genuine. My whole attraction to art stems from that idea. Drugs aren’t a valid gateway to get the experiences that I crave. I want to be as present as possible and learn from my experiences.

That is Art to me. It is not novelty for novelty’s sake, but an expression of a human experience unique to the artist and simultaneously common to the species.

What do you think about the relationship between drugs and creativity?

Fireworks in My Head

I don’t like to write about this topic. Everyone has their own issues and they don’t need the added burden of mine. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) isn’t super rare, but we aren’t the type of people to stand out in the middle of the street and tell everyone about it.

My hope is that by writing honestly about it, that fewer people feel alone. The feeling of isolation is the worst part of the disease.

I was diagnosed with OCD when I was 18, but in hindsight there were signs of it very early in my life. I remember seeing a commercial on the Cartoon Network of Small Soldiers that deeply disturbed me. It is not unusual for a young child to be frightened by a movie, but it doesn’t go on for years.

That was my first brush with Intrusive Thoughts.

An “Intrusive Thought,” is an unwanted thought surrounding an action or image that the thinker finds horrifying. These thoughts can include suicide, murdering a family member, or something else that causes distress. The thinker doesn’t want to commit these acts, he is repulsed by them.

I would go through periods where the thoughts would be an issue, but not long enough for it to stop me from progressing through my life. When high school came around I also started to develop migraines, but we sorted it out through medication and chiropractic adjustments.

Things were looking up for me. I was dating a girl, I went to film school, and I worked freelance on a couple different films. However, the thoughts slowly crept in, taking more and more of time.

I’m aware that Intrusive Thoughts are irrational, unfounded, and outright ridiculous, but there is something enchanting about them. They seem more valid than your other, more measured thoughts.

I would liken them to fireworks. They shoot up in my mind’s eye and steal the show. Then it bursts with all the light, color, and spectacle, leaving me in the dark with the ash.

I finished film school without the girlfriend or the jobs. I feel like I’ve driven everyone way. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I know that I injure people either intentionally or unintentionally.

At some point, I just stopped trying. For two years I just stewed in my own little abyss.

Now, I’m trying again.

On Creativity

“The human mind is naturally creative, constantly looking to make associations and connections between things and ideas. It wants to explore, to discover new aspects of the world, and to invent. To express this creative force is our greatest desire, and the stifling of it the source of our misery. What kills the creative force is not age or a lack of talent, but our own spirit, our own attitude. We become too comfortable with the knowledge we have gained in our apprenticeships. We grow afraid of entertaining new ideas and the effort that this requires. to think more flexibly entails a risk-we could fail and be ridiculed. We prefer to live with familiar ideas and habits of thinking, but we pay a steep price for this: our minds go dead from the lack of challenge and novelty; we reach a limit in our field and lose control over our fate because we become replaceable.”

-Robert Greene,

Mastery

I have done a lot thinking lately on what I want to do in my life and the nature of myself as a person. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t view myself as a wholly negative enity and I could see things more clearly. I believe my greatest strengths as a person is my creativity.

I don’t think that creativity is some sort of superpower, I think it is more of a mindset. We tend to stifle our own creative ideas due to our own worries and thoughts. I find that I am most creative when I am in a more inituive, rather than intellectual headspace.

I set out today to take a macro photo of an Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly. It wasn’t going to be anything fancy, I simply wanted to capture the beauty of the subject.

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Eastern Tailed Blue

When I was reviewing my shots in Lightroom I came across this photo:

creativity

It wasn’t what I would call good, but there was something about it that caught my eye. I fiddled with it for a few minutes and I got one my favorite photos that I have ever taken.

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Eatern Tailed Blue

Normally, I would have ignored that photo and moved on, but something in my gut told me to mess with it. Everyone has moments like this, but not everyone acts on their intuition.

Next time try taking a risk on yourself and you might get something awesome!

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