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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Avoiding Sophistry

The Sophists were the intellectual class in Ancient Athens who educated wealthy young men. 1)http://www.iep.utm.edu/sophists/ Socrates heavily criticized the Sophists ( like everyone else) for there false wisdom.

“There is Gorgias of Leontium, and Prodicus of Ceos, and Hippias of Elis, who go the round of the cities, and are able to persuade the young men to leave their own citizens, by whom they might be taught for nothing, and come to them, whom they not only pay, but are thankful if they may be allowed to pay them. There is actually a Parian philosopher residing in Athens, of whom I have heard; and I came to hear of him in this way: – I met a man who has spent a world of money on the Sophists, Callias the son of Hipponicus, and knowing thathe had sons, I asked him: “Callias,” I said, “if your two sons were foals or calves, there would be no difficulty in finding someone to put over them; we should hire a trainer of horses or a farmer probably who would improve and perfect them in their own proper virtue and excellence; but as they are human beings, whom are you thinking of placing over them? Is there anyone who understands human and political virtue? You must have thought about this as you have sons; is there anyone?” “There is,” he said. “Who is he?” said I, “and of what country? and what does he charge?” “Evenus the Parian,” he replied; “he is the man, and his charge is five minae.” Happy is Evenus, I said to myself, if he really has this wisdom, and teaches at such a modest charge. Had I the same, I should have been very proud and conceited; but the truth is that I have no knowledge of the kind. ”

The Apology by Plato 2) http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html

I believe this is the central battle of philosophy and it constantly echoes throughout history.

“Then Jesus spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples, saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.”

-Matthew 23:1-4 NKJV 3)https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=NKJV

The modern day sophists are the people who hold their paltry knowledge above all else. They look no further than the end of their nose for the truth. They are quick to call other men hypocrites and have a million excuses for their every misdeed. They despise anything that contradicts their worldview even if it would ultimately help them be better people.

However, we are not here today to belittle a group of people, we are here to learn how to avoid that path. We all walk down the path of sophistry at times. If we can recognize the signs of this behavior in ourselves we can start to be virtuous.

Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”

“Evil is the force that believes its knowledge is complete.”

-Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

“I don’t know,” is a magical key that unlocks a door full of possible knowledge. Sophists keep that door firmly shut because they don’t want to appear foolish. Do not place your love of dignity over your love of truth. People will view you as they want to regardless of how it makes you feel, so you might as well gain some knowledge. Not knowing is a forgivable ignorance, but not asking is not one.

Admit when you are wrong.

“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.”

-Marcus Tullius Cicero

Always admit when you are wrong. By designating that action as “wrong”, you quarantine it away from your being and are less likely to repeat it. In my experience, I have found pride to be a stumbling block rather than any sort of  defense. When you make a mistake you are given a bittersweet gift. You are given the opportunity to improve. Take the opportunity rather than stubbornly clinging to what makes you fail.

Do not dismiss sources of truth you don’t like.

I’m for truth, no matter who tells it.”

-Malcolm X

The truth springs often from unlikely places. Do not dismiss the truth because you do not like the source. The idea may be sound even if the person is not. Attacking a person and not their ideas is not a good argument.

References   [ + ]

1. http://www.iep.utm.edu/sophists/
2.  http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/apology.html
3. https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+23&version=NKJV