Mastery by Robert Greene: A Book Review

Although not a training or fitness book per se, I found many useful pointers from Mastery by Robert Greene, which can be applied to optimising physical performance.

Greene breaks down, ‘How to become a master’, segmenting the journey into three phases – the apprenticeship, the creative-active and finally mastery.

The text is easily readable thanks to Greene’s use of master’s past and present. Historical examples include the likes of Einstein and the Wright brother’s, as well as contemporaries such as Temple Grandin.

Knowledge Acquired

Master’s are created not born

It can be easy to use the excuse that someone is genetically gifted as to why their performance exceeds your own. Greene uses the ‘genius’ label, and elaborates that genius is the result of hard work and tenacity, rather than winning the genetic lottery.

When it comes to developing strength or specific skills, like the handstand or the clean and jerk, one must remember the 10,000 hour rule. It takes the brain time to develop the neural pathways to perform movements with efficiency and prowess.

Furthermore, repetition needs to be combined with quality to achieve the desired effect, or mediocrity will result.

Quality + repetition + time = mastery

Discover your calling

Be introspective. Search for patterns. What athletes, physiques or physical feats do you envy? What is it about these attributes? What inspires you?

Long term progress is earmarked by consistency over large stretches of time. Consistency can only be achieved if there is a love of the subject matter. A passion.

If a particular area really interests you, like Olympic Weightlifting, learn all you can about it. Become a student before becoming a master.

Choose places that offer the greatest possibility for learning and progression

Create a conducive environment and be around like-minded individuals.

This could be related to your gym environment, your training partner, or even the online forums you partake in. Ensure your selection is not based solely on proximity, convenience and cost (though such factors need to be considered).

Observe those around you and learn from them (and their mistakes). Bounce ideas of one another. Support each other. Get pushed and strive to be better.

Neglect your ego

‘Leave your ego at the door’

This comes down to self-perception as well as how you believe others perceive you. Don’t think you should be at a certain skill or strength level at a certain time. Progress at your own speed.

Interestingly, progress will actually be hastened by forgetting your ego. Egotistical lifting or training will at some point lead to injury, stopping training in it’s tracks. Also, quality, is likely to be compromised.

Instead, slow and steady progress will create long term progress.

Winding up

Mastery packs in a lot of valuable nuggets and I’ve merely gleaned over a few of them. I would certainly recommend this book, particularly for those interested in self-development.

Greene covers other interesting topics, such as social intelligence, offering a fascinating insight into how working on something that might appear unrelated to mastery, is in fact a vital component.

Have you read Mastery by Robert Greene? Let me know what your thoughts are in the comments section below.


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