In Mastery, Greene debunks our culture’s many myths about genius and distills the wisdom of the ages to reveal the secret to greatness
Throughout history, Masters in all fields have devised for themselves various strategies to help them pursue and complete the Ideal Apprenticeship. The following are four classic strategies:
1. Value learning over money.
It is a simple law of human psychology that your thoughts will tend to revolve around what you value most. If it is money, you will choose a place for your apprenticeship that offers the biggest paycheck. Inevitably, in such a place you will feel greater pressures to prove yourself worthy of such pay, often before you are already ready. You will be focused on yourself, your insecurities, the need to please and impress the right people and not on acquiring skills.
Instead, you must value learning above everything else. This will lead you to all of the right choices. You will opt for the situation that will give you the most opportunities to learn, particularly with hands-on work.
2. Keep expanding your horizons.
When you enter this phase, you generally begin at the lowest position. Your access to knowledge and people is limited by your status.
Instead, you must struggle against any limitations and continually work to expand your horizons. Reading books and materials that go beyond what is required is always a good starting point. Being exposed to ideas in the wide world, you will tend to develop a hunger for more and more knowledge; you will find it harder to remain satisfied in any narrow corner, which is precisely the point.
3. Revert to a feeling of inferiority.
Understand: when you enter a new environment, your task is to learn and absorb as much as possible. For that purpose you must try to revert to a childlike feeling of inferiority–the feeling that others know much more than you and that you are dependent upon them to learn and safely navigate your apprenticeship.
You drop all the preconceptions about an environment or field, any lingering feelings of smugness. You have no fears. You interact with people and participate in the culture as deeply as possible. You are full of curiosity.
4. Trust the process.
What separates Masters from others is often something surprisingly simple. Whenever we learn a skill, we frequently reach a point of frustration–what we are learning seems beyond our capabilities. Giving in to these feelings, we unconsciously quit on ourselves before we actually give up. The difference is not simply a matter of determination, but more of trust and faith.
When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient. The only real impediment to this is yourself and your emotions–boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity. You cannot suppress such emotions–they are normal to the process and are experienced by everyone, including Masters. What you can do is have faith in the process. The boredom will go away once you enter the cycle. The panic disappears after repeated exposure. The frustration is a sign of progress–a signal that your mind is processing complexity and requires more practice. The insecurities will transform into the opposites when you gain mastery.
Complement Mastery with How to achieve excellence through the art of learning.