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Premise

The concept of mastery is about achieving tremendous skill in a given area. This is something that is not purely about natural talent or luck, but a deliberate and patient journey to deep levels of understanding and intuition.

“Mastery— the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves.

Although it might be something we experience for only a short while, for others— Masters of their field— it becomes their way of life, their way of seeing the world.”

Source: Mastery by Robert Greene

Key Principles

  • To follow any career path is difficult, and requires the cultivation of much patience and discipline. We have so many elements to master that it can be intimidating. We must learn to handle the technical aspects, the social and political gamesmanship, the public reactions to our work, and the constantly changing picture in our field;
  • Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confidence in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings;
  • All that should concern you in the early stages of your career is acquiring practical knowledge in the most efficient manner possible;
  • Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge. But there is another element, an X factor that Masters inevitably possess, that seems mystical but that is accessible to us all;
  • The greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash.

Phases of Mastery

I: Find and occupy the perfect career niche

  • This will typically be a combination of your natural talents, interests and whatever is practical.

II: Undertake an apprenticeship

  • Choose places of work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning;
  • Observe the rules and procedures that govern success in this environment, and observe the power relationships in the group;
  • Do not make the mistake of imagining you must get attention, impress people, or prove yourself in this stage;
  • Reduce the skills to something simple and essential—the core of what you need to get good at;
  • It is essential that you begin with one skill that you can master, and that serves as a foundation for acquiring others. You must avoid at all cost the idea that you can manage learning several skills at a time;
  • Accept and embrace the tedium in the initial stages of learning a skill;
  • As you gain skill and confidence, you must make the move to a more active mode of experimentation.

III: Acquire social intelligence

  • Speak through your work—be efficient, detail-oriented, and make what you write or present clear and easy to follow, and this will show your care for the audience or public at large;
  • Craft the appropriate persona—people will judge you based on your outward appearance, be aware of this and plan for it;
  • See yourself as others see you—look at negative events in your past and dissect these occurrences. What patterns can we observe that reveal flaws in our character? Seek opinions from those you trust about your behaviour as well, and begin to cultivate the ability to see yourself as you really are;
  • Suffer fools gladly—they are simply part of life, like rocks or furniture. Smile at their antics, tolerate their presence, and avoid the madness of trying to change them.

IV: Achieve mastery

  • It is not a matter of studying a subject for twenty years, and then emerging as a Master. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus;
  • The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich:
    • We don’t simply absorb information—we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use;
    • We look for connections between the various elements we are learning, hidden laws that we can perceive in the apprenticeship phase;
    • If we experience any failures or setbacks, we do not quickly forget them because they offend our self-esteem. Instead we reflect on them deeply, trying to figure out what went wrong and discern whether there are any patterns to our mistakes;
    • As you accumulate skills and your mind becomes more active, you must avoid becoming conservative and fitting with the group. Instead, become increasingly bold and begin to experiment, reforming the rules of your field.

Application

  • I have been undertaking an apprenticeship phase in my role as a Civil Engineer since graduation from university. This has been an excellent opportunity for learning and has exposed me to a range of problems that I can build my essential skillset around;
  • I am constantly seeking to present work that demonstrates attention-to-detail and improves the current norms—this is a conscious effort to improve existing processes and a chance to showcase my abilities to a greater extent;
  • Each project I complete becomes a part of my personal portfolio of experience but I should put a greater emphasis on learning how similar projects were carried out or presented in the past. This serves as a double-check that my problem-solving process has been correct and assists in building the intuitive sense which is essential to mastery;
  • I feel confident in my ability to learn rapidly from observation but am working on improving my ability to notice when I am confused and ensure that I am filling in the gaps within my knowledge in real-time;
  • This site itself, specifically my knowledge base, is an attempt to connect and internalise key concepts which serve to expand my mental toolkit to better serve me in my career;
  • It can be easy to become fixated on one (usually technical) aspect of a problem. A key weakness I must address is taking the time to step back and assess how I might refactor the problem or understand the context in which the problem exists.

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