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 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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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?

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.

creativity
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.

creativity
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!

If you like Wildlife Photography and Videos check out The Nerdy Naturalist! 

Sustaining Creativity

I have learned not to wait for inspiration to come to me, but to get up and chase after it! Here are some tips on sustaining your spark of creativity.

Explore Other Mediums of Art

Exploring different mediums of art  help me stay fresh with ideas. I believe that it helps with the creative process to look at something that is unrelated from the work I am doing, but is still artsy. I often get hyper focused on whatever project I am working and it is nice to take a break in an inspiring way.

Rest from Work by Vincent van Gogh

I often look at paintings for inspiration when I am stuck on Film problems. Paintings have some of the most exquisite compositions and use of color in any medium of art.

The best way to keep other mediums in my world has been through social media. If we are constantly going to be checking our phones, we might as well make it useful.

The History of Painting‘s Twitter account is my personal favorite for inspirational art, but there are many others like it for poetry, music, and film.

Express Excess Emotions and Thoughts

I have started journaling before writing anything that is seen by the public. I have found that clears my mind of excess chatter and helps me focus on writing concisely and on topic.

When I don’t express the extraneous thoughts and emotions from my day they show up in all sorts of weird ways in my project and take up editing time.

This principle can be applicable for all manner artists without the use of a journal, such as banging on a drum, doodling, or screaming at your cat.

Make Something Silly

Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. When you spend your time looking through a camera, sometimes you end up with head in your rear end.

chicken man
Unrelated photo of man-child.

When I make something silly, I am able to cast off the shackles of perfectionism and pretension to actually make something. I often feel trapped by my own perception of my work and when I make something unapologetic-ally ridiculous, I feel as though I truly regain objectivity.

Take Care of Yourself

The most important  lesson I have learned is that to be creative you have to be functional as well. My personal vice is staying up late and sleeping in. I’m not as sharp when I haven’t slept and especially when I haven’t slept the correct hours.

Don’t stay up all night being angry at your clock.

To focus on your creative task, it is best to be free from distractions such as hunger, indigestion, or exhaustion. Sometimes this is unavoidable, but avoid it when you can.

Those are the tips I have for sustaining creativity, please let me know what you think!

 

Balancing Act

“As a human being the artist may have many moods and a will and personal aims, but as an artist he is ‘man’ in a higher sense – he is ‘collective man’ – one who carries and shapes the unconscious, psychic life of mankind.”

-Carl G. Jung

I’ve been trying to more flexible with my work. I tend to over prepare for everything I embark on. It is the way I cope with anxiety about uncertainty. Unfortunately, I talk myself out doing things and I remain rigid.

The best things I have ever made, writing, film, or anything else, have come from fluid spontaneity. However, if I become too spontaneous the piece turns into garbage.

I find it very interesting that any good pieces exist and that any artists have any degree of sanity. In order to make something worth while, your consciousness and unconsciousness have to communicate with each other simultaneous and at the right time. It is a sleight of hand maneuver that fools both the audience and yourself at once.

If you are lucky enough to pull this magic trick off, the stiff, shallow feeling starts to appear in your heart. It is doubt, the doubt that you can replicate such a feat a second time. You spent all your time anticipating failure and once thing start going well, you panic. You never considered such an outcome. When someone fails they hang their head and go on their way, but when someone succeeds, that’s basically uncharted territory.

Fear is what ultimately stops me from creating anything. My head spins with millions of ideas for projects, but I just I lay in bed staring at the ceiling. Fear is useful in most respects. It colors my projects both negatively and positively. I’m not one to take irrational risks, but I’m not one to take rational ones either.

I am glad to report that I am getting better. I am creating things more regularly. The dull color of fear has left my vision and merely accents my frames. My consciousness and unconsciousness have been talking and have become friends. I can look myself in the eye and truly see.

 

 

Kaufman Kounselling

Charlie Kaufman is my favorite screenwriter and his lecture at BAFTA is something I like to listen to periodically. I think applies to artists of any medium and contains some of the most potent universal truths about life in general. I highly recommend listening to it.

What did you think of the lecture? Let me know in the comments and stay connected with me on social media!