Quotes and Summary: Mastery by Robert Greene


Robert Greene teaches us that mastery takes time, it is not an overnight success, but rather a continuous struggle of years that leads to it. People get bored on the path to mastery, and they succumb to distractions and easy shortcuts that become their downfall in the long run when they realize it is too late to follow another path and wish they should have traveled on the path they had left due to persistent labor and hard work. Everyone is unique and has his own qualities and skills, but only a few become masters in their respective fields, and the reason is passion, commitment, and years of patience and struggle. The reason people give up on mastery is they are afraid to wait too long, to go through dark stages, to wait while others earn and enjoy, they tend to follow the easiest path to avoid the path to mastery that guarantees a secured future. To know what you should do in life, you should do some digging and find your inner calling: what is it you love the most? The first step to mastery is the hardest since you are not sure how can you get there, everything looks different and unique. As you get familiar with concepts and ideas in your field, you get engaged, and you keep exploring new ideas and paths. In the end, you become an expert, people wonder how you did it! How did you become such an artist? How did you become such a great writer? Such are the questions they often ask from masters, and the reason is years of struggle and patience. Everyone can become an expert if they fight the dark and boring stages that come on the path to success.


“Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capability to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated.”

“In a new job situation, we are ignorant of the power relationships between people, the psychology of our boss, the rules and procedures that are considered critical for success. We are confused —the knowledge we need in both cases is over our heads.”

“If we keep practicing, we gain fluency; basic skills are mastered, allowing us to take on newer and more exciting challenges.”

“In the process leading to this ultimate form of power, we can identify three distinct phases or levels. The first is the Apprenticeship; the second is the Creative-Active; the third, Mastery. In the first phase, we stand on the outside of our field, learning as much as we can of the basic elements and rules. We have only a partial picture of the field and so our powers are limited. In the second phase, through much practice and immersion, we see into the inside of the machinery, how things connect with one another, and thus gain a more comprehensive understanding of the subject. With this comes a new power—the ability to experiment and creatively play with the elements involved. In the third phase, our degree of knowledge, experience, and focus is so deep that we can now see the whole picture with complete clarity. We have access to the heart of life—to human nature and natural phenomena.”

“For three million years we were hunter-gatherers, and it was through the evolutionary pressures of that way of life that a brain so adaptable and creative eventually emerged. Today we stand with the brains of hunter-gatherers in our heads.”

“Our ancestors’ survival depended on the intensity of their attention. The longer and harder they looked, the more they could distinguish between an opportunity and a danger.”

“The human visual system is not built for scanning, as a cow’s is, but for depth of focus.”

“Through the elaboration of these two traits—the visual and the social—our primitive ancestors were able to invent and develop the complex skill of hunting some two to three million years ago.”

“When we take our time and focus in depth, when we trust that going through a process of months or years will bring us mastery, we work with the grain of this marvelous instrument that developed over so many millions of years.”

“A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the luster of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts; they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.”

“This inclination is a reflection of a person’s uniqueness. This uniqueness is not something merely poetic or philosophical—it is a scientific fact that genetically, every one of us is unique; our exact genetic makeup has never happened before and will never be repeated. This uniqueness is revealed to us through the preferences we innately feel for particular activities or subjects of study.”

“In our culture we tend to equate thinking and intellectual powers with success and achievement. In many ways, however, it is an emotional quality that separates those who master a field from the many who simply work at a job. Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers. Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.”

“We live in a world that seems increasingly beyond our control. Our livelihoods are at the whim of globalized forces. The problems that we face— economic, environmental, and so on—cannot be solved by our individual actions. Our politicians are distant and unresponsive to our desires. A natural response when people feel overwhelmed is to retreat into various forms of passivity. If we don’t try too much in life, if we limit our circle of action, we can give ourselves the illusion of control.”

“This passivity has even assumed a moral stance: “mastery and power are evil; they are the domain of patriarchal elites who oppress us; power is inherently bad; better to opt out of the system altogether,” or at least make it look that way.”

“Conforming to social norms, you will listen more to others than to your own voice. You may choose a career path based on what peers and parents tell you, or on what seems lucrative.”

“Relying on genetics, technology, magic, or being nice and natural will not save us.”

“The passive ironic attitude is not cool or romantic, but pathetic and destructive.”

“Second, you must convince yourself of the following: people get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life.”

“People who are passive create a mental landscape that is rather barren. Because of their limited experiences and action, all kinds of connections in the brain die off from lack of use.”

“As you progress, old ideas and perspectives die off; as new powers are unleashed, you are initiated into higher levels of seeing the world.”

“The power they have achieved is clearly the result of effort and process, not genetics or privilege.”

“Do not talk about giftedness, inborn talents! One can name great men of all kinds who were very little gifted. They acquired greatness, became “geniuses” (as we put it), through qualities the lack of which no one who knew what they were would boast of: they all possessed that seriousness of the efficient workman which first learns to construct the parts properly before it ventures to fashion a great whole; they allowed themselves time for it, because they took more pleasure in making the little, secondary things well than in the effect of a dazzling whole.”

“You possess a kind of inner force that seeks to guide you toward your Life’s Task —what you are meant to accomplish in the time that you have to live. In childhood this force was clear to you. It directed you toward activities and subjects that fit your natural inclinations, that sparked a curiosity that was deep and primal. In the intervening years, the force tends to fade in and out as you listen more to parents and peers, to the daily anxieties that wear away at you. This can be the source of your unhappiness—your lack of connection to who you are and what makes you unique. The first move toward mastery is always inward —learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force. Knowing it with clarity, you will find your way to the proper career path and everything else will fall into place. It is never too late to start this process.”

“Leonardo had always had a strong sense of fate, and for years he had been haunted by one particular question: is there some kind of force from within that makes all living things grow and transform themselves?”

“He made a decision that would change everything in his life: He would establish himself in Milan, and he would devise a new strategy for his livelihood.”

“His mind, he decided, worked best when he had several different projects at hand, allowing him to build all kinds of connections between them.”

“Reflecting on his life in this way, he would have clearly detected the workings of some kind of hidden force within him. As a child this force had drawn him to the wildest part of the landscape, where he could observe the most intense and dramatic variety of life. This same force compelled him to steal paper from his father and devote his time to sketching. It pushed him to experiment while working for Verrocchio. It guided him away from the courts of Florence and the insecure egos that flourished among artists. It compelled him to an extreme of boldness—the gigantic sculptures, the attempt to fly, the dissection of hundreds of corpses for his anatomical studies—all to discover the essence of life itself.”

“Perhaps his own words, written years before in his notebook, would have come back to him in such a moment: “Just as a wellfilled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.” “

“Among his various possible beings each man always finds one which is his genuine and authentic being. The voice which calls him to that authentic being is what we call “vocation.” But the majority of men devote themselves to silencing that voice of the vocation and refusing to hear it. They manage to make a noise within themselves…to distract their own attention in order not to hear it; and they defraud themselves by substituting for their genuine selves a false course of life. “—JOSÉ ORTEGA Y GASSE

“Many of the greatest Masters in history have confessed to experiencing some kind of force or voice or sense of destiny that has guided them forward.”

“All of us are born unique. This uniqueness is marked genetically in our DNA.”

“Let us state it in the following way: At your birth a seed is planted. That seed is your uniqueness. It wants to grow, transform itself, and flower to its full potential.”

“What weakens this force, what makes you not feel it or even doubt its existence, is the degree to which you have succumbed to another force in life— social pressures to conform.”

“You come to see pleasure and fulfillment as something that comes from outside your work. Because you are increasingly less engaged in your career, you fail to pay attention to changes going on in the field—you fall behind the times and pay a price for this.”

“The process of realizing your Life’s Task comes in three stages: First, you must connect or reconnect with your inclinations, that sense of uniqueness.”

“Second, with this connection established, you must look at the career path you are already on or are about to begin.”

“Work is often seen as a means for making money so we can enjoy that second life that we lead.”

“Instead you want to see your work as something more inspiring, as part of your vocation. The word “vocation” comes from the Latin meaning to call or to be called.”

“Finally, you must see your career or vocational path more as a journey with twists and turns rather than a straight line.”

“You don’t want to start with something too lofty, too ambitious—you need to make a living and establish some confidence.”

“Think of it this way: What we lack most in the modern world is a sense of a larger purpose to our lives. In the past, it was organized religion that often supplied this. But most of us now live in a secularized world. We human animals are unique—we must build our own world.”

Some 2,600 years ago the ancient Greek poet Pindar wrote, “Become who you are by learning who you are.”

“The misery that oppresses you lies not in your profession but in yourself! What man in the world would not find his situation intolerable if he chooses a craft, an art, indeed any form of life, without experiencing an inner calling? Whoever is born with a talent, or to a talent, must surely find in that the most pleasing of occupations! Everything on this earth has its difficult sides! Only some inner drive—pleasure, love—can help us overcome obstacles, prepare a path, and lift us out of the narrow circle in which others tread out their anguished, miserable existences!” —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

“You must understand the following: In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.”

“The career world is like an ecological system: People occupy particular fields within which they must compete for resources and survival. The more people there are crowded into a space, the harder it becomes to thrive there. Working in such a field will tend to wear you out as you struggle to get attention, to play the political games, to win scarce resources for yourself.”

“You are seduced into such fields because you see others there making a living, treading the familiar path. You are not aware of how difficult such a life can be.”

“In the beginning you choose a field that roughly corresponds to your interests (medicine, electrical engineering). From there you can go in one of two directions. The first is the Ramachandran path. From within your chosen field, you look for side paths that particularly attract you (in his case the science of perception and optics). When it is possible, you make a move to this narrower field. You continue this process until you eventually hit upon a totally unoccupied niche, the narrower the better. In some ways, this niche corresponds to your uniqueness, much as Ramachandran’s particular form of neurology corresponds to his own primal sense of feeling like an exception.”

“A false path in life is generally something we are attracted to for the wrong reasons—money, fame, attention, and so on. If it is attention we need, we often experience a kind of emptiness inside that we are hoping to fill with the false love of public approval. Because the field we choose does not correspond with our deepest inclinations, we rarely find the fulfillment that we crave.”

“Your strategy must be twofold: first, to realize as early as possible that you have chosen your career for the wrong reasons, before your confidence takes a hit. And second, to actively rebel against those forces that have pushed you away from your true path.”

“In dealing with your career and its inevitable changes, you must think in the following way: You are not tied to a particular position; your loyalty is not to a career or a company. You are committed to your Life’s Task, to giving it full expression.”

“”You do not hold on to past ways of doing things, because that will ensure you will fall behind and suffer for it. You are flexible and always looking to adapt.”

“If change is forced upon you, as it was for Freddie Roach, you must resist the temptation to overreact or feel sorry for yourself.”

“Like Roach, you don’t want to abandon the skills and experience you have gained, but to find a new way to apply them. Your eye is on the future, not the past. Often such creative readjustments lead to a superior path for us—we are shaken out of our complacency and forced to reassess where we are headed. Remember: your Life’s Task is a living, breathing organism. The moment you rigidly follow a plan set in your youth, you lock yourself into a position, and the times will ruthlessly pass you by.”

“It said, “From now on you need never await temporal attestation to your thought. You think the truth. You do not have the right to eliminate yourself.”

“It struck him, as he looked around at row after row of apartment housing on his way back, that people suffered more from sameness, from the inability to think of doing things differently, than from nonconformity.”

“He swore that from that moment on he would listen to nothing except his own experience, his own voice. He would create an alternative way of making things that would open people’s eyes to new possibilities.”

“No good can ever come from deviating from the path that you were destined to follow. You will be assailed by varieties of hidden pain. Most often you deviate because of the lure of money, of more immediate prospects of prosperity. Because this does not comply with something deep within you, your interest will lag and eventually the money will not come so easily.”

“The way back requires a sacrifice. You cannot have everything in the present. The road to mastery requires patience. You will have to keep your focus on five or ten years down the road, when you will reap the rewards of your efforts. The process of getting there, however, is full of challenges and pleasures. Make your return to the path a resolution you set for yourself, and then tell others about it. It becomes a matter of shame and embarrassment to deviate from this path. In the end, the money and success that truly last come not to those who focus on such things as goals, but rather to those who focus on mastery and fulfilling their Life’s Task.”

“When you are faced with deficiencies instead of strengths and inclinations, this is the strategy you must assume: ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others.”

“Instead, like Temple Grandin, direct yourself toward the small things you are good at.”

“Understand: Your Life’s Task does not always appear to you through some grand or promising inclination. It can appear in the guise of your deficiencies, making you focus on the one or two things that you are inevitably good at.”

“Sooner or later something seems to call us onto a particular path. You may remember this “something” as a signal calling in childhood when an urge out of nowhere, a fascination, a peculiar turn of events struck like an annunciation: This is what I must do, this is what I’ve got to have. This is who I am…If not this vivid and sure, the call may have been more like gentle pushings in the stream in which you drifted unknowingly to a particular spot on the bank. Looking back, you sense that fate had a hand in it…. A calling may be postponed, avoided, intermittently missed. It may also possess you completely. Whatever; eventually it will out. It makes its claim…. Extraordinary people display calling most evidently. Perhaps that’s why they fascinate. Perhaps, too, they are extraordinary because their calling comes through so clearly and they are so loyal to it…. Extraordinary people bear the better witness because they show what ordinary mortals simply can’t. We seem to have less motivation and more distraction. Yet our destiny is driven by the same universal engine. Extraordinary people are not a different category; the workings of this engine in them are simply more transparent…. ”—JAMES HILLMAN

One day, his father rebuked him with words Charles would never forget: “You care for nothing but shooting, dogs, and rat-catching, and you will be a disgrace to yourself and all your family.”

“In the stories of the greatest Masters, past and present, we can inevitably detect a phase in their lives in which all of their future powers were in development, like the chrysalis of a butterfly.”

“In fact, a close examination of their lives reveals a pattern that transcends their various fields, indicating a kind of Ideal Apprenticeship for mastery.”

“In childhood we are inculcated in culture through a long period of dependency—far longer than any other animal. During this period we learn language, writing, math, and reasoning skills, along with a few others. Much of this happens under the watchful and loving guidance of parents and teachers. As we get older, greater emphasis is placed on book learning—absorbing as much information as possible about various subjects. Such knowledge of history, science, or literature is abstract, and the process of learning largely involves passive absorption. At the end of this process (usually somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five) we are then thrust into the cold, harsh work world to fend for ourselves.”

“Still uncertain as to our identity, we think that what matters in the work world is gaining attention and making friends. And these misconceptions and naïveté are brutally exposed in the light of the real world.”

“If we adjust over time, we might eventually find our way; but if we make too many mistakes, we create endless problems for ourselves.”

“To follow precisely the lead of others or advice from a book is self-defeating. This is the phase in life in which we finally declare our independence and establish who we are.”

“The principle is simple and must be engraved deeply in your mind: the goal of an apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title, or a diploma, but rather the transformation of your mind and character—the first transformation on the way to mastery.”

“In the process you will transform yourself from someone who is impatient and scattered into someone who is disciplined and focused, with a mind that can handle complexity. In the end, you will master yourself and all of your weaknesses.”

“This has a simple consequence: you must choose places of work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning. Practical knowledge is the ultimate commodity, and is what will pay you dividends for decades to come —far more than the paltry increase in pay you might receive at some seemingly lucrative position that offers fewer learning opportunities.”

“You are finally on your own, on a voyage in which you will craft your own future.”

“He constantly looked for challenges, pushing himself past his comfort zone.”

“With the principle outlined above guiding you in your choices, you must think of three essential steps in your apprenticeship, each one overlapping the other. These steps are: Deep Observation (The Passive Mode), Skills Acquisition (The Practice Mode), and Experimentation (The Active Mode).”

“The greatest mistake you can make in the initial months of your apprenticeship is to imagine that you have to get attention, impress people, and prove yourself.”

“You will be observing two essential realities in this new world. First, you will observe the rules and procedures that govern success in this environment— in other words, “this is how we do things here.” Some of these rules will be communicated to you directly—generally the ones that are superficial and largely a matter of common sense.”

“You are like an anthropologist studying an alien culture, attuned to all of its nuances and conventions. You are not there to change that culture; you will only end up being killed, or in the case of work, fired. Later, when you have attained power and mastery, you will be the one to rewrite or destroy these same rules.”

“You are like a hunter: your knowledge of every detail of the forest and of the ecosystem as a whole will give you many more options for survival and success. Second, the ability to observe any unfamiliar environment will become a critical lifelong skill.”

“At some point, as you progress through these initial months of observation, you will enter the most critical part of the apprenticeship: practice toward the acquisition of skills.”

“What this means is simple: language, oral and written, is a relatively recent invention. Well before that time, our ancestors had to learn various skills— toolmaking, hunting, and so forth. The natural model for learning, largely based on the power of mirror neurons, came from watching and imitating others, then repeating the action over and over. Our brains are highly suited for this form of learning.”

“First, 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. You need to develop your powers of concentration, and understand that trying to multitask will be the death of the process.”

“Second, the initial stages of learning a skill invariably involve tedium. Yet rather than avoiding this inevitable tedium, you must accept and embrace it.”

“Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process.”

“Throughout your life you will encounter tedious situations, and you must cultivate the ability to handle them with discipline.”

“In practicing a skill in the initial stages, something happens neurologically to the brain that is important for you to understand. When you start something new, a large number of neurons in the frontal cortex (the higher, more conscious command area of the brain) are recruited and become active, helping you in the learning process.”

“This process of hardwiring cannot occur if you are constantly distracted, moving from one task to another. In such a case, the neural pathways dedicated to this skill never get established; what you learn is too tenuous to remain rooted in the brain. It is better to dedicate two or three hours of intense focus to a skill than to spend eight hours of diffused concentration on it.”

“People who do not practice and learn new skills never gain a proper sense of proportion or self-criticism.”

“The sensation of flow and of being a part of the instrument is a precursor to the great pleasures that mastery can bring.”

“What offers immediate pleasure comes to seem like a distraction, an empty entertainment to help pass the time. Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confidence in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings. You develop patience. Boredom no longer signals the need for distraction, but rather the need for new challenges to conquer.”

“Although it might seem that the time necessary to master the requisite skills and attain a level of expertise would depend on the field and your own talent level, those who have researched the subject repeatedly come up with the number of 10,000 hours.”

“In other words, concentrated practice over time cannot fail but produce results.”

“The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. And the process of learning skills, no matter how virtual, remains the same.”

“In the future, the great division will be between those who have trained themselves to handle these complexities and those who are overwhelmed by them—those who can acquire skills and discipline their minds and those who are irrevocably distracted by all the media around them and can never focus enough to learn.”

“Finally, we live in a culture that generally values intellect and reasoning with words. We tend to think of working with the hands, of building something physical, as degraded skills for those who are less intelligent.”

“You cannot make anything worthwhile in this world unless you have first developed and transformed yourself.”

“Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach.” —MARCUS AURELIUS

“What is important when you are young, she decided, is to train yourself to get by with little money and make the most of your youthful energy.”

“It is a simple law of human psychology that your thoughts will tend to revolve around what you value most.”

“Instead, you must value learning above everything else. This will lead you to all of the right choices.”

“But the paradox is that the mind is essentially free. It can travel anywhere, across time and space. If she kept it confined to her narrow circumstances, it would be her own fault.”

“It had been her strategy to keep moving, keep expanding—the world could quickly close in on you if you stayed put or stagnated.”

” Zora Neale Hurston’s story reveals in its barest form the reality of the Apprenticeship Phase—no one is really going to help you or give you direction. In fact, the odds are against you. If you desire an apprenticeship, if you want to learn and set yourself up for mastery, you have to do it yourself, and with great energy.”

“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.”

” Mingle with as many different types of people as possible. Those circles will slowly widen. Any kind of outside schooling will add to the dynamic. Be relentless in your pursuit for expansion. Whenever you feel like you are settling into some circle, force yourself to shake things up and look for new challenges, as Hurston did when she left Howard for Harlem.”

“What prevents people from learning, even something as difficult as Pirahã, is not the subject itself—the human mind has limitless capabilities—but rather certain learning disabilities that tend to fester and grow in our minds as we get older. These include a sense of smugness and superiority whenever we encounter something alien to our ways, as well as rigid ideas about what is real or true, often indoctrinated in us by schooling or family.”

“Children are generally free of these handicaps. They are dependent upon adults for their survival and naturally feel inferior. This sense of inferiority gives them a hunger to learn.”

“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.”

“He had discovered, however, that through rigorous training—mental and physical— he could overcome his fear and almost any deficiency in his skill level.”

“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.”

“When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient. Assuming your practice proceeds at a steady level, over days and weeks certain elements of the skill become hardwired.”

“The frustration is a sign of progress—a signal that your mind is processing complexity and requires more practice.”

“By nature, we humans shrink from anything that seems possibly painful or overtly difficult.”

“The principle is simple—you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice. First, you resist the temptation to be nice to yourself. You become your own worst critic; you see your work as if through the eyes of others.”

“In the end, your five hours of intense, focused work are the equivalent of ten for most people. Soon enough you will see the results of such practice, and others will marvel at the apparent ease in which you accomplish your deeds.”

“The same should apply to an entrepreneurial venture. Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education. They tell you about your own inadequacies. It is hard to find out such things from people, as they are often political with their praise and criticisms. Your failures also permit you to see the flaws of your ideas, which are only revealed in the execution of them. You learn what your audience really wants, the discrepancy between your ideas and how they affect the public.”

“Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn.”

“Their outlines would slowly soften as the day progressed. Nothing he drew was ever really static; everything is in a state of change and motion—that is the essence of life.”

“We humans live in two worlds. First, there is the outer world of appearances—all of the forms of things that captivate our eye. But hidden from our view is another world—how these things actually function, their anatomy or composition, the parts working together and forming the whole. This second world is not so immediately captivating.”

“Understand: we live in the world of a sad separation that began some five hundred years ago when art and science split apart. Scientists and technicians live in their own world, focusing mostly on the “how” of things. Others live in the world of appearances, using these things but not really understanding how they function. Just before this split occurred, it was the ideal of the Renaissance to combine these two forms of knowledge. This is why the work of Leonardo da Vinci continues to fascinate us, and why the Renaissance remains an ideal. This more rounded knowledge is in fact the way of the future, especially now that so much more information is available to all of us. As Calatrava intuited, this should be a part of our apprenticeship. We must make ourselves study as deeply as possible the technology we use, the functioning of the group we work in, the economics of our field, its lifeblood. We must constantly ask the questions—how do things work, how do decisions get made, how does the group interact? Rounding our knowledge in this way will give us a deeper feel for reality and the heightened power to alter it.”

“The model goes like this: You want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests. Like a hacker, you value the process of self-discovery and making things that are of the highest quality.”

”At a certain point, when you are ready to settle on something, ideas and opportunities will inevitably present themselves to you. When that happens, all of the skills you have accumulated will prove invaluable. You will be the Master at combining them in ways that are unique and suited to your individuality.”

“In this new age, those who follow a rigid, singular path in their youth often find themselves in a career dead end in their forties, or overwhelmed with boredom. The wide-ranging apprenticeship of your twenties will yield the opposite— expanding possibilities as you get older.”

“Einstein began his serious thought experiments at the age of sixteen. Ten years later he came up with his first revolutionary theory of relativity.”

“There are no shortcuts or ways to bypass the Apprenticeship Phase. It is the nature of the human brain to require such lengthy exposure to a field, which allows for complex skills to become deeply embedded and frees the mind up for real creative activity. The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery.”

“It’s like chopping down a huge tree of immense girth. You won’t accomplish it with one swing of your axe. If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, whether it wants to or not, it will suddenly topple down. When that time comes, you could round up everyone you could find and pay them to hold the tree up, but they wouldn’t be able to do it. It would still come crashing to the ground…. But if the woodcutter stopped after one or two strokes of his axe to ask the third son of Mr. Chang, “Why doesn’t this tree fall?” And after three or four more strokes stopped again to ask the fourth son of Mr. Li, “Why doesn’t this tree fall?” he would never succeed in felling the tree. It is no different for someone who is practicing the Way.” —ZEN MASTER HAKUIN

“Life is short, and your time for learning and creativity is limited. Without any guidance, you can waste valuable years trying to gain knowledge and practice from various sources. Instead, you must follow the example set by Masters throughout the ages and find the proper mentor. The mentor-protégé relationship is the most efficient and productive form of learning. The right mentors know where to focus your attention and how to challenge you. Their knowledge and experience become yours. They provide immediate and realistic feedback on your work, so you can improve more rapidly. Through an intense person-toperson interaction, you absorb a way of thinking that contains great power and can be adapted to your individual spirit. Choose the mentor who best fits your needs and connects to your Life’s Task. Once you have internalized their knowledge, you must move on and never remain in their shadow. Your goal is always to surpass your mentors in mastery and brilliance.”

“It was called Improvement of the Mind—a self-help guide written by Reverend Isaac Watts, first published in 1741. The book revealed a system of learning and improving your lot in life, no matter your social class.”

“But Faraday was now thirty years old, and if he were not allowed soon enough to declare his independence, his most creative years would be wasted as a laboratory assistant.”

“At table, the ladies praised a portrait by a young painter. “What is most surprising,” they added, “he has learned everything by himself.” This could be seen particularly in the hands, which were not correctly and artistically drawn. “We see,” said Goethe, “that the young man has talent; however, you should not praise, but rather blame him, for learning everything by himself. A man of talent is not born to be left to himself, but to devote himself to art and good masters who will make something of him.” —JOHANN PETER ECKERMANN, CONVERSATIONS WITH GOETHE

“In the past, people of power had an aura of authority that was very real. Some of this aura emanated from their accomplishments, and some of it from the position they occupied—being a member of the aristocracy or a religious elite. This aura had a definite effect and could be felt; it caused people to respect and worship those who possessed it. Over the centuries, however, the slow process of democratization has worn away this aura of authority in all of its guises, to the point today of almost nonexistence.”

“We live in a culture that likes to criticize and debunk any form of authority, to point out the weaknesses of those in power. If we feel any aura, it is in the presence of celebrities and their seductive personalities. Some of this skeptical spirit toward authority is healthy, particularly in relation to politics, but when it comes to learning and the Apprenticeship Phase, it presents a problem.”

“To learn requires a sense of humility. We must admit that there are people out there who know our field much more deeply than we do. Their superiority is not a function of natural talent or privilege, but rather of time and experience.”

“Understand: all that should concern you in the early stages of your career is acquiring practical knowledge in the most efficient manner possible.”

“The reason you require a mentor is simple: Life is short; you have only so much time and so much energy to expend. Your most creative years are generally in your late twenties and on into your forties. You can learn what you need through books, your own practice, and occasional advice from others, but the process is hit-and-miss. The information in books is not tailored to your circumstances and individuality; it tends to be somewhat abstract. When you are young and have less experience of the world, this abstract knowledge is hard to put into practice. You can learn from your experiences, but it can often take years to fully understand the meaning of what has happened. It is always possible to practice on your own, but you will not receive enough focused feedback. You can often gain a self-directed apprenticeship in many fields, but this could take ten years, maybe more.”

“There is more to this than just time saved. When we learn something in a concentrated manner it has added value. We experience fewer distractions. What we learn is internalized more deeply because of the intensity of our focus and practice. Our own ideas and development flourish more naturally in this shortened time frame. Having an efficient apprenticeship, we can make the most of our youthful energy and our creative potential.”

“What makes the mentor-protégé dynamic so intense and so productive is the emotional quality of the relationship. By nature, mentors feel emotionally invested in your education. This can be for several reasons: perhaps they like you, or see in you a younger version of themselves, and can relive their own youth through you; perhaps they recognize in you a special talent that will give them pleasure to cultivate; perhaps you have something important to offer them, mostly your youthful energy and willingness to work hard.”

“When you admire people, you become more susceptible to absorbing and imitating everything they do. You pay deeper attention. Your mirror neurons are more engaged, allowing for learning that involves more than the superficial transmission of knowledge, but also includes a style and way of thinking that is often powerful.”

“Think of it this way: the process of learning resembles the medieval practice of alchemy. In alchemy, the goal was to find a way to transform base metals or stones into gold. To effect this, alchemists searched for what was known as the philosopher’s stone—a substance that would make dead stones or metals come alive and organically change their chemical composition into gold. Although the philosopher’s stone was never discovered, it has profound relevance as a metaphor.”

“Certainly religion played an important role in Faraday’s education. Because he believed that everything in the universe was alive with God’s presence, he tended to animate whatever he encountered, including the books he read and the phenomenon of electricity itself.”

“Almost all Masters and people of power suffer from too many demands on their time and too much information to absorb. If you can demonstrate the ability to help them organize themselves on these fronts to a degree that others cannot, it will be much easier to get their attention and interest them in the relationship. Do not shy away from anything menial or secretarial.”

“Try to see the world through their eyes and ask the simple question of what it is they need most.”

“In any event, you should not feel timid in approaching Masters, no matter how elevated their position. You will be frequently surprised at how open they can be to serving as a mentor, if the fit is right and you have something to offer. The ability to transfer their experience and knowledge to someone younger often provides them with a great pleasure, akin to parenting.”

“The best mentors are often those who have wide knowledge and experience, and are not overly specialized in their field—they can train you to think on a higher level, and to make connections between different forms of knowledge.”

“Alexander was able to effectively apply the reasoning skills he had gained from Aristotle to politics and warfare. To the end of his life he maintained an intense curiosity for any field of knowledge, and would always gather about him experts he could learn from. Aristotle had imparted a form of wisdom that played a key role in Alexander’s success.”

“You will want as much personal interaction with the mentor as possible. A virtual relationship is never enough. There are cues and subtle aspects you can only pick up through a person-to-person interaction—such as a way of doing things that has evolved through much experience.”

“If you are clever, you can be a kind of midwife, getting them to analyze their own creativity for you, and mining all kinds of rich ideas in the process. They are often grateful for the opportunity to reveal the inner workings of their power, particularly to someone they do not perceive as a threat.”

“Although one mentor at a time is best, it is not always possible to find the perfect one. In such a case, an alternate strategy is to find several mentors in your immediate environment, each one filling strategic gaps in your knowledge and experience. Having more than one mentor has side benefits, giving you several connections and important allies to rely upon later on. Similarly, if your circumstances limit your contacts, books can serve as temporary mentors, as The Improvement of the Mind did for Faraday.”

“Mentors have their own strengths and weaknesses. The good ones allow you to develop your own style and then to leave them when the time is right. Such types can remain lifelong friends and allies. But often the opposite will occur. They grow dependent on your services and want to keep you indentured. They envy your youth and unconsciously hinder you, or become overcritical. You must be aware of this as it develops. Your goal is to get as much out of them as possible, but at a certain point you may pay a price if you stay too long and let them subvert your confidence. Your submitting to their authority is by no means unconditional, and in fact your goal all along is eventually to find your way to independence, having internalized and adapted their wisdom.”

“As the relationship progresses, you can begin to slightly distance yourself from the mentor, perhaps taking note of some of his weaknesses or character flaws, or even finding fault with his most cherished beliefs. Establishing your differences with the mentor is an important part of your self-development, whether he is of the good or bad parent type.”

“In Spanish they say al maestro cuchillada—to the Master goes the knife. It is a fencing expression, referring to the moment when the young and agile pupil becomes skillful enough to cut his Master. But this also refers to the fate of most mentors who inevitably experience the rebellion of their protégés, like the cut from a sword.”

“In our culture, we tend to venerate those who seem rebellious or at least strike the pose.”

“It is the dynamic of changing generations, and sometimes the father figure has to be killed in order for the sons and daughters to have space to discover themselves.”

“In any event, you will probably have several mentors in your life, like stepping-stones along the way to mastery. At each phase of life you must find the appropriate teachers, getting what you want out of them, moving on, and feeling no shame for this. It is the path your own mentor probably took and it is the way of the world.”

“Although you must submit to the authority of mentors in order to learn from and absorb their power to the highest degree, this does not mean you remain passive in the process. At certain critical points, you can set and determine the dynamic, personalize it to suit your purposes. The following four strategies are designed to help you exploit the relationship to the fullest and transform the knowledge you gain into creative energy.”

“The choice of the right mentor is more important than you might imagine. Because so much of her future influence upon you can be deeper than you are consciously aware of, the wrong choice can have a net negative effect upon your journey to mastery.”

“In selecting a mentor, you will want to keep in mind your inclinations and Life’s Task, the future position you envision for yourself. The mentor you choose should be strategically aligned with this. If your path is in a more revolutionary direction, you will want a mentor who is open, progressive, and not domineering.”

“Remember: the Mentor Dynamic replays something of the parental or father-figure dynamic. It is a cliché that you do not get to choose the family you are born into, but you are happily free to choose your mentors.”

“He was fierce, determined, and hungry for enlightenment. The problem with all students, he said, is that they inevitably stop somewhere. They hear an idea and they hold on to it until it becomes dead; they want to flatter themselves that they know the truth. But true Zen never stops, never congeals into such truths. That is why everyone must constantly be pushed to the abyss, starting over and feeling their utter worthlessness as a student. Without suffering and doubts, the mind will come to rest on clichés and stay there, until the spirit dies as well. Not even enlightenment is enough. You must continually start over and challenge yourself.”

“To reach mastery requires some toughness and a constant connection to reality.”

“Developing discipline through challenging situations and perhaps suffering along the way are no longer values that are promoted in our culture. People are increasingly reluctant to tell each other the truth about themselves—their weaknesses, their inadequacies, flaws in their work. Even the self-help books designed to set us straight tend to be soft and flattering, telling us what we want to hear—that we are basically good and can get what we want by following a few simple steps. It seems abusive or damaging to people’s self-esteem to offer them stern, realistic criticism, to set them tasks that will make them aware of how far they have to go. In fact, this indulgence and fear of hurting people’s feelings is far more abusive in the long run.”

“Masters are those who by nature have suffered to get to where they are. They have experienced endless criticisms of their work, doubts about their progress, setbacks along the way. They know deep in their bones what is required to get to the creative phase and beyond. As mentors, they alone can gauge the extent of our progress, the weaknesses in our character, the ordeals we must go through to advance.”

“Accustom yourself to criticism. Confidence is important, but if it is not based on a realistic appraisal of who you are, it is mere grandiosity and smugness. Through the realistic feedback of your mentor you will eventually develop a confidence that is much more substantial and worth possessing.”

“It is often a curse to learn under someone so brilliant and accomplished—your own confidence becomes crushed as you struggle to follow all of their great ideas. Many pianists become lost in the shadow of their illustrious mentors and never amount to anything.”

“As apprentices, we all share in this dilemma. To learn from mentors, we must be open and completely receptive to their ideas. We must fall under their spell. But if we take this too far, we become so marked by their influence that we have no internal space to incubate and develop our own voice, and we spend our lives tied to ideas that are not our own. The solution, as Gould discovered, is subtle: Even as we listen and incorporate the ideas of our mentors, we must slowly cultivate some distance from them. We begin by gently adapting their ideas to our circumstances, altering them to fit our style and inclinations. As we progress we can become bolder, even focusing on faults or weaknesses in some of their ideas. We slowly mold their knowledge into our own shape. As we grow in confidence and contemplate our independence, we can even grow competitive with the mentor we once worshipped. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Poor is the apprentice who does not surpass his Master.””

“In theory, there should be no limit to what we can learn from mentors who have wide experience. But in practice, this is rarely the case. The reasons are several: at some point the relationship can become flat; it is difficult for us to maintain the same level of attention that we had in the beginning. We might come to resent their authority a little, especially as we gain in skill and the difference between us becomes somewhat less. Also, they come from a different generation, with a different worldview.”

“With your intense focus, you improve in your skill levels, giving you the power to introduce more of yourself and your needs.”

“It is never wise to purposefully do without the benefits of having a mentor in your life. You will waste valuable time in finding and shaping what you need to know. But sometimes you have no choice. There is simply no one around who can fill the role, and you are left to your own devices. In such a case, you must make a virtue of necessity. That was the path taken by perhaps the greatest historical figure to ever attain mastery alone.”—Thomas Alva Edison (1847– 1931)

“He had developed the habit of overcoming his lack of an organized education by sheer determination and persistence. He worked harder than anyone else. Because he was a consummate outsider and his mind had not been indoctrinated in any school of thought, he brought a fresh perspective to every problem he tackled.”

“If you are forced onto this path, you must follow Edison’s example by developing extreme self-reliance. Under these circumstances, you become your own teacher and mentor. You push yourself to learn from every possible source. You read more books than those who have a formal education, developing this into a lifelong habit. As much as possible, you try to apply your knowledge in some form of experiment or practice. You find for yourself second-degree mentors in the form of public figures who can serve as role models. Reading and reflecting on their experiences, you can gain some guidance. You try to make their ideas come to life, internalizing their voice. As someone self-taught, you will maintain a pristine vision, completely distilled through your own experiences—giving you a distinctive power and path to mastery.”

“To learn by example is to submit to authority. You follow your master because you trust his manner of doing things even when you cannot analyze and account in detail for its effectiveness. By watching the master and emulating his efforts…the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art, including those which are not explicitly known to the master himself.” —MICHAEL POLANYI

“Often the greatest obstacle to our pursuit of mastery comes from the emotional drain we experience in dealing with the resistance and manipulations of the people around us. If we are not careful, our minds become absorbed in endless political intrigues and battles. The principal problem we face in the social arena is our naïve tendency to project onto people our emotional needs and desires of the moment. We misread their intentions and react in ways that cause confusion or conflict. Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible. By moving past our usual self-absorption, we can learn to focus deeply on others, reading their behavior in the moment, seeing what motivates them, and discerning any possible manipulative tendencies. Navigating smoothly the social environment, we have more time and energy to focus on learning and acquiring skills. Success attained without this intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.”

“Determined to break this pattern and change his ways, he decided there was only one solution: in all of his future interactions with people, he would force himself to take an initial step backward and not get emotional. From this more detached position, he would focus completely on the people he was dealing with, cutting off his own insecurities and desires from the equation. Exercising his mind this way every time, it would turn into a habit. In imagining how this would work, he had a strange sensation. It reminded him of the process he went through in creating the Dogood letters—thinking inside the character he had created, entering her world, and making her come alive in his mind. In essence, he would be applying this literary skill to everyday life. Gaining position inside people’s minds, he could see how to melt their resistance or thwart their malevolent plans.”

“To make this process foolproof, he decided he would also have to adopt a new philosophy: complete and radical acceptance of human nature. People possess ingrained qualities and characters. Some are frivolous like Keith, or vindictive like his brother, or rigid like the printers. There are people like this everywhere; it has been that way since the dawn of civilization.”

“To get upset or try to alter them is futile—it will only make them bitter and resentful.”

“You must allow everyone the right to exist in accordance with the character he has, whatever it turns out to be: and all you should strive to do is to make use of this character in such a way as its kind of nature permits, rather than to hope for any alteration in it, or to condemn it offhand for what it is. This is the true sense of the maxim—Live and let live…. To become indignant at [people’s] conduct is as foolish as to be angry with a stone because it rolls into your path. And with many people the wisest thing you can do, is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter. ”—ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER

“In theory, all of us today possess the natural tools—empathy, rational thinking—to have a supreme understanding of our fellow humans. In practice, however, these tools remain mostly undeveloped, and the explanation for this can be found in the peculiar nature of our childhood, and our extended period of dependency.”

“During this long period of immaturity, we often transfer these idealizations and distortions to teachers and friends, projecting onto them what we want and need to see. Our view of people becomes saturated with various emotions— worship, admiration, love, need, anger. Then inevitably, often in adolescence, we start to glimpse a less-than-noble side to many people, including our parents, and we cannot help but feel upset at the disparity between what we had imagined and the reality. In our disappointment, we tend to exaggerate their negative qualities, much as we once had exaggerated the positive ones. If we had been forced earlier on in life to make it on our own, practical needs would have come to dominate our thinking, and we would have become more detached and realistic. But as it is, the many years of viewing people through the lens of our emotional needs turns into a habit that we can hardly control.”

“In the work environment the stakes are suddenly raised. People are no longer struggling for good grades or social approval, but for survival. Under such pressure, they reveal qualities of their characters that they normally try to conceal. They manipulate, compete, and think of themselves first. We are blindsided by this behavior and our emotions are churned up even more than before, locking us into the Naïve Perspective.”

“The Naïve Perspective makes us feel sensitive and vulnerable. Looking inward as to how the words and actions of others implicate us in some way, we continually misread their intentions. We project our own feelings onto them. We have no real sense of what they are thinking or what motivates them. With colleagues in the work environment, we fail to see the source of their envy or the reason for their manipulations; our attempts at influencing them are based on the assumptions that they want the same things as ourselves. With mentors and bosses, we project onto them our childhood fantasies, becoming unnecessarily adoring or fearful of authority figures and creating stormy and brittle relationships in the process. We think we understand people, but we are viewing them through a distorted lens. In this state, all of our empathic powers are rendered useless.”

“With the inevitable mistakes we make, we become entangled in battles and dramas that consume our minds and distract us from learning. Our sense of priorities becomes warped—we end up giving far too much importance to social and political issues because we are not handling them well. If we are not careful, we carry these patterns over to the next phase in life, the Creative-Active Phase, in which we are in a more public position. At this level, being socially inept can prove particularly embarrassing, even fatal to our careers. People who retain their childish attitudes will rarely be able to hold on to the success they may achieve through their talent.”

“Social intelligence is nothing more than the process of discarding the Naïve Perspective and approaching something more realistic. It involves focusing our attention outward instead of inward, honing the observational and empathic skills that we naturally possess. It means moving past our tendency to idealize and demonize people, and seeing and accepting them as they are. It is a way of thinking that must be cultivated as early as possible, during the Apprenticeship Phase. But before we can begin to acquire this intelligence we must first come to grips with the Naïve Perspective itself.”

“As he got older he came to believe, as many young people do, that getting along with others is a function of behaving charmingly and winning them over with a friendly manner. But as he engaged with the real world, he began to see his charm as the actual source of his problem. Being charming was a strategy he had developed out of childish need; it was a reflection of his narcissism, of the love he had of his own words and wit. It had no relation to other people and their needs. It did not prevent them from exploiting or attacking him. To be truly charming and socially effective you have to understand people, and to understand them you have to get outside yourself and immerse your mind in their world.”

“It might be deduced from Benjamin Franklin’s story that social intelligence requires a detached, emotionless approach to people, making life rather dull in the process, but this is hardly the case. Franklin himself was by nature a very emotional man. He did not repress this nature, but rather turned his emotions in the opposite direction. Instead of obsessing over himself and what other people were not giving him, he thought deeply of how they were experiencing the world, what they were feeling and missing. Emotions seen inside other people create empathy and bring a deep understanding of what makes them tick. For Franklin, this outward focus gave him a pleasant feeling of lightness and ease; his life was hardly dull, but simply free of unnecessary battles.”

“Understand: you will continue to have problems in attaining social intelligence until you come to the realization that your view of people is dominated by the Naïve Perspective.”

“. The most effective attitude to adopt is one of supreme acceptance. The world is full of people with different characters and temperaments.”

“The most dangerous types are those who repress their desires or deny the existence of them, often acting them out in the most underhanded ways.”

“This intelligence consists of two components, both equally important to master. First, there is what we shall call specific knowledge of human nature—namely the ability to read people, to get a feel for how they see the world, and to understand their individuality. Second, there is the general knowledge of human nature, which means accumulating an understanding of the overall patterns of human behavior that transcend us as individuals, including some of the darker qualities we often disregard.”

“Most of us have had the sensation at some point in our lives of experiencing an uncanny connection with another person. In such moments we have an understanding that is hard to put into words; we even feel that we can anticipate the thoughts of the other person. Such communication generally occurs with close friends and partners, people whom we trust and feel attuned to on many levels. Because we trust them, we open up to their influence and vice versa. In our normal state we are often nervous, defensive, and self-absorbed, and our minds are turned inward. But in these moments of connection, the internal monologue is shut off, and we pick up more cues and signals from the other person than usual.”

“This would be similar to what other social animals possess, but in this case this sensitivity would have been heightened by our ancestor’s ability to place themselves in the minds of others.”

“To begin this process, you need to train yourself to pay less attention to the words that people say and greater attention to their tone of voice, the look in their eye, their body language—all signals that might reveal a nervousness or excitement that is not expressed verbally. If you can get people to become emotional, they will reveal a lot more. Cutting off your interior monologue and paying deep attention, you will pick up cues from them that will register with you as feelings or sensations.”

“Resist the temptation to interpret what they say or do as somehow implicitly involving you—this will cause you to turn your thoughts inward and close off the immediacy of the connection.”

“As an exercise, after you have known people for a while, try to imagine that you are experiencing the world from their point of view, placing yourself in their circumstances and feeling what they feel. Look for any common emotional experiences—a trauma or difficulty you’ve had, for instance, that resembles in some way what they are going through.”

“Your goal is to figure out the hidden motives behind them, which will often revolve around power. People will say all kinds of things about their motives and intentions; they are used to dressing things up with words. Their actions, however, say much more about their character, about what is going on underneath the surface.”

“They are blustery because they are inwardly very insecure; they are overly friendly because they are secretly ambitious and aggressive; or they joke to hide a meanspiritedness.”

“You must avoid the common mistake of making judgments based on your initial impressions of people.”

“In the end, your goal is to identify and pierce through to what makes people unique, to understand the character and values that lie at their cores.”

“You will encounter thousands of various individuals in your life, and the ability to see them as they are will prove invaluable. Keep in mind, however, that people are in a state of continual flux. You must not let your ideas about them harden into a set impression.”

“Most of us have these negative qualities—Envy, Conformism, Rigidity, Self-obsessiveness, Laziness, Flightiness, and Passive Aggression—in relatively mild doses.”

“People who praise you too much or who become overly friendly in the first stages of knowing you are often envious and are getting closer in order to hurt you. You should be wary of such behavior. Also, if you detect unusual levels of insecurity in a person, he or she will certainly be more prone to envy.”

“In general, however, envy is very difficult to discern, and the most prudent course of action is to make sure your own behavior does not inadvertently trigger it. If you have a gift for a certain skill, you should make a point of occasionally displaying some weakness in another area, avoiding the great danger of appearing too perfect, too talented.”

“It is always wise to occasionally reveal your own insecurities, which will humanize you in other people’s eyes.”

“Let your work subtly demonstrate your individual spirit, but when it comes to matters of politics, morals, and values, make a show of adhering to the accepted standards of your environment.”

“Later, as you gain mastery, you will have ample opportunity to let your individuality shine through and to reveal your contempt for people’s correctness.”

“Rigidity: The world has become increasingly complex in many ways, and whenever we humans face a situation that seems complicated our response is to resort to a kind of artificial simplicity, to create habits and routines that give us a sense of control.”

“People follow procedures without really knowing why, simply because these procedures may have worked in the past, and they become highly defensive if their ways are brought into question. They become hooked on a certain idea and they hold on to it, even if that idea has been proven repeatedly to be wrong. Look at the history of science: whenever a new idea or way of looking at the world is introduced, despite all of the proofs behind it, those who are entrenched in the old ways will fight to the death to preserve them. It is often against human nature, particularly as we get older, to consider alternative ways of thinking or doing things.”

“It is useless to fight against people’s rigid ways, or to argue against their irrational concepts.”

“Self-obsessiveness: In the work environment, we almost inevitably think first and foremost of ourselves. The world is a harsh and competitive place, and we must look after our own interests. Even when we act for the greater good, we are often unconsciously motivated by the desire to be liked by others and to have our image enhanced in the process.”

“Often those who are the most self-absorbed will surround their actions with a moral or saintly aura, or will make a show of supporting all of the right causes.”

“You must look at the world through their eyes, getting a sense of their needs. You must give them something valuable in exchange for helping you—a return favor that will save them time, a contact they need, and so on.”

“In general, in your interactions with people, find a way to make the conversations revolve around them and their interests, all of which will go far to winning them to your side.”

“Discouraged by the thought that it might take months or years to get somewhere, they are constantly on the lookout for shortcuts. Their laziness will assume many insidious forms. For example, if you are not careful and talk too much, they will steal your best ideas and make them their own, saving themselves all of the mental effort that went into conceiving them.”

“Your best defense is your prudence. Keep your ideas to yourself, or conceal enough of the details so that it is not possible to steal them.”

“Secure your credit in advance as part of the terms of working together. If people want you to do work for them, then pass it off as a “collaborative” effort, always gauge whether such work will add to your skill base, and examine their past record to measure the intensity of their work ethic. In general, be wary of people who want to collaborate—they are often trying to find someone who will do the heavier lifting for them.”

“Flightiness: We like to make a show of how much our decisions are based on rational considerations, but the truth is that we are largely governed by our emotions, which continually color our perceptions.”

“Yesterday they were in love with your idea; today they seem lukewarm. This will confuse you and if you are not careful, you will waste valuable mental space trying to figure out their real feelings, their mood of the moment, their fleeting motivations.”

“It is best to cultivate both distance and a degree of detachment from other people’s shifting emotions so that you are not caught up in the process.”

“Do not take so seriously people’s promises or their ardor in wanting to help you. If they come through, so much the better, but be prepared for the more frequent change of heart. Rely upon yourself to get things done and you will not be disappointed.”

“Passive Aggression: The root cause of all passive aggression is the human fear of direct confrontation—the emotions that a conflict can churn up and the loss of control that ensues. And so because of this fear some people look for indirect means for getting their way, making their attacks subtle enough so that it is hard to figure out what is going on, while giving them control of the dynamic. We are all passive-aggressive to some extent.”

“Your best defense is to recognize such types before you become embroiled in a battle, and avoid them like the plague.”

“You have one of two options: either get out of their way and leave their presence, or return the attack with something equally indirect, signaling in some subtle way that messing with you will come with a price.”

“Developing social intelligence will not simply help you manage your relations with other people—acquiring it will also have an immensely beneficial effect on your ways of thinking and on your creativity in general.”

“The refinement of mirror neurons for the purpose of better communication with people became equally applied to other forms of reasoning. The ability to think inside objects and phenomena is an integral part of scientific creativity—from Faraday’s feeling for electricity to the thought experiments of Einstein.”

“In general, the greatest Masters in history—Leonardo, Mozart, Darwin, and others—displayed a fluid, sensitive way of thinking that developed along with their expanding social intelligence. Those who are more rigidly intellectual and inward can go far in their fields, but their work often ends up lacking a creativity, an openness, and a sensitivity to detail that becomes more pronounced with time.”

“We must, however, acknowledge…that man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men but to the humblest living creature, with his god-like intellect which has penetrated into the movements and constitution of the solar system—with all these exalted powers—Man still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.” —CHARLES DARWIN

“Understand: your work is the single greatest means at your disposal for expressing your social intelligence. By being efficient and detail oriented in what you do, you demonstrate that you are thinking of the group at large and advancing its cause. By making what you write or present clear and easy to follow, you show your care for the audience or public at large. By involving other people in your projects and gracefully accepting their feedback, you reveal your comfort with the group dynamic. Work that is solid also protects you from the political conniving and malevolence of others—it is hard to argue with the results you produce. If you are experiencing the pressures of political maneuvering within the group, do not lose your head and become consumed with all of the pettiness. By remaining focused and speaking socially through your work, you will both continue to raise your skill level and stand out among all the others who make a lot of noise but produce nothing.”

”The stereotype for artists is that they are disorganized and only interested in what is happening in the art world. She would play against these expectations. She transformed herself into an eloquent lecturer, exposing her work and ideas to the public at large. Audiences would ponder and be intrigued by the discrepancy between her pleasant, composed surface and the complex, challenging content of her discourse. She became versed in many fields outside art, combining these interests in her work, and in the process exposed herself to a wide range of people outside the art world.”

“It is not generally acknowledged or discussed, but the personality we project to the world plays a substantial role in our success and in our ascension to mastery.”

“Understand: people will tend to judge you based on your outward appearance. If you are not careful and simply assume that it is best to be yourself, they will begin to ascribe to you all kinds of qualities that have little to do with who you are but correspond to what they want to see. All of this can confuse you, make you feel insecure, and consume your attention. Internalizing their judgments, you will find it hard to focus on your work. Your only protection is to turn this dynamic around by consciously molding these appearances, creating the image that suits you, and controlling people’s judgments. At times you will find it appropriate to stand back and create some mystery around you, heightening your presence. At other times you will want to be more direct and impose a more specific appearance. In general, you never settle on one image or give people the power to completely figure you out. You are always one step ahead of the public.”

“Almost all of us have social flaws of some sort, ranging from the relatively harmless to those that can get us in trouble. Perhaps it could be that we talk too much, or are too honest in our criticisms of people, or take offense too easily when others do not respond positively to our ideas.”

“To have the power to see ourselves through the eyes of others would be of immense benefit to our social intelligence.”

“What the courtiers did not realize was that they were supplying him with endless material—for characters, bits of dialogue, and stories of folly that would fill the plays and novels he was to write in the future. In this way he transformed his social frustrations into a most productive and pleasant game.”

“He had studied in depth the works of the great MIT linguist Noam Chomsky, who advocated the idea that all languages are essentially related because grammar itself is hardwired into the human brain, and is part of our genetic code.”

“Convinced that Chomsky was correct, Everett worked hard to find these universal features in Pirahã. Over the years of studying it, however, he began to find many exceptions to Chomsky’s theory, and this troubled him.”

“In elaborating this concept, he theorized that the basic features of all languages are not simply genetic in origin and universal, but that each language has elements that reflect the uniqueness of its culture. Culture plays a larger role than we might imagine in how we think and communicate.”

“In the course of your life you will be continually encountering fools. There are simply too many to avoid. We can classify people as fools by the following rubric: when it comes to practical life, what should matter is getting long-term results, and getting the work done in as efficient and creative a manner as possible.”

“That should be the supreme value that guides people’s actions. But fools carry with them a different scale of values. They place more importance on short-term matters—grabbing immediate money, getting attention from the public or media, and looking good. They are ruled by their ego and insecurities. They tend to enjoy drama and political intrigue for their own sake. When they criticize, they always emphasize matters that are irrelevant to the overall picture or argument. They are more interested in their career and position than in the truth. You can distinguish them by how little they get done, or by how hard they make it for others to get results. They lack a certain common sense, getting worked up about things that are not really important while ignoring problems that will spell doom in the long term.”

“The natural tendency with fools is to lower yourself to their level. They annoy you, get under your skin, and draw you into a battle. In the process, you feel petty and confused. You lose a sense of what is really important. You can’t win an argument or get them to see your side or change their behavior, because rationality and results don’t matter to them. You simply waste valuable time and emotional energy.”

“In dealing with fools you must adopt the following philosophy: they are simply a part of life, like rocks or furniture. All of us have foolish sides, moments in which we lose our heads and think more of our ego or short-term goals. It is human nature. Seeing this foolishness within you, you can then accept it in others. This will allow you to smile at their antics, to tolerate their presence as you would a silly child, and to avoid the madness of trying to change them. It is all part of the human comedy, and it is nothing to get upset about or lose sleep over. This attitude—“Suffer Fools Gladly”—should be forged in your Apprenticeship Phase, during which you are almost certainly going to encounter this type. If they are causing you trouble, you must neutralize the harm they do by keeping a steady eye on your goals and what is important, and ignoring them if you can. The height of wisdom, however, is to take this even further and to actually exploit their foolishness—using them for material for your work, as examples of things to avoid, or by looking for ways to turn their actions to your advantage. In this way, their foolishness plays into your hands, helping you achieve the kind of practical results they seem to disdain.”

“If, like Graham, you simply do not have the patience that is required for managing and mastering the more subtle and manipulative sides of human nature, then your best answer is to keep yourself away from those situations as best as possible. This will rule out working in groups larger than a handful of people—above a certain number, political considerations inevitably rise to the surface. This means working for yourself or on very small startups.”

“It is a great folly to hope that other men will harmonize with us; I have never hoped this. I have always regarded each man as an independent individual, whom I endeavored to understand with all his peculiarities, but from whom I desired no further sympathy. In this way have I been enabled to converse with every man, and thus alone is produced the knowledge of various characters and the dexterity necessary for the conduct of life.” —JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE

“As you accumulate more skills and internalize the rules that govern your field, your mind will want to become more active, seeking to use this knowledge in ways that are more suited to your inclinations. What will impede this natural creative dynamic from flourishing is not a lack of talent, but your attitude. Feeling anxious and insecure, you will tend to turn conservative with your knowledge, preferring to fit into the group and sticking to the procedures you have learned. Instead, you must force yourself in the opposite direction. As you emerge from your apprenticeship, you must become increasingly bold. Instead of feeling complacent about what you know, you must expand your knowledge to related fields, giving your mind fuel to make new associations between different ideas. You must experiment and look at problems from all possible angles. As your thinking grows more fluid your mind will become increasingly dimensional, seeing more and more aspects of reality. In the end, you will turn against the very rules you have internalized, shaping and reforming them to suit your spirit. Such originality will bring you to the heights of power.”

“In 1786 he came upon a version of the Don Juan legend that excited him. He immediately identified with the story of the great seducer. He shared Don Juan’s obsessive need and love for women, and he had the same disdain for authority figures.”

“…Several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously— I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason….” —JOHN KEATS

“Let us call this quality the Original Mind. This mind looked at the world more directly—not through words and received ideas. It was flexible and receptive to new information. Retaining a memory of this Original Mind, we cannot help but feel nostalgia for the intensity with which we used to experience the world.”

“Sometimes when we visit a different country where we cannot rely upon everything being familiar, we become childlike again, struck by the oddness and newness of what we are seeing. But because our minds are not completely engaged in these activities, because they last only a short while, they are not rewarding in a deep sense. They are not creative.”

“Masters and those who display a high level of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a sizeable portion of their childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood. This spirit manifests itself in their work and in their ways of thinking. Children are naturally creative. They actively transform everything around them, play with ideas and circumstances, and surprise us with the novel things they say or do. But the natural creativity of children is limited; it never leads to discoveries, inventions, or substantial works of art.”

“Some people maintain their childlike spirit and spontaneity, but their creative energy is dissipated in a thousand directions, and they never have the patience and discipline to endure an extended apprenticeship. Others have the discipline to accumulate vast amounts of knowledge and become experts in their field, but they have no flexibility of spirit, so their ideas never stray beyond the conventional and they never become truly creative. Masters manage to blend the two—discipline and a childlike spirit—together into what we shall call the Dimensional Mind.”

“It is hard to say exactly why Masters are able to retain their childlike spirit while accumulating facts and knowledge, when such a feat has been difficult if not impossible for so many. Perhaps they found it harder to let go of childhood, or perhaps at some point they intuited the powers they could have by keeping their childhood spirit alive and bringing it to bear in their work. In any event, achieving the Dimensional Mind is never easy. Often, the childlike spirit of Masters lies dormant in the Apprenticeship Phase as they patiently absorb all of the details of their field. This spirit then comes back to them as they attain the freedom and opportunity to actively use the knowledge they have gained. Often it is a struggle, and Masters go through a crisis as they deal with the demands of others to conform and be more conventional. Under such pressure, they may try to repress their creative spirit, but often it comes back later with double intensity.”

“Understand: we all possess an inborn creative force that wants to become active. This is the gift of our Original Mind, which reveals such potential. 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.”

“What this means, however, is that we equally possess the potential to spark this innate creative force back to life, no matter how old we are. Experiencing a return of this creative force has an immensely therapeutic effect on our spirits and on our career. By understanding how the Dimensional Mind operates and what helps it flourish, we can consciously revive our mental elasticity and reverse the deadening process. The powers that the Dimensional Mind can bring are nearly limitless, and within the reach of almost all of us.”

“Immersed in and enchanted by music from the very beginning of his life, he brought to his earliest studies a high level of focus and intensity. The mind of a four-year-old is even more open and impressionable than that of a child a few years older.”

“In his adolescence Mozart experienced a typical creative crisis, one that often destroys or derails those who are less tenacious. For close to eight years, under pressure from his father, the archbishop, and the court of Salzburg, and bearing the burden of supporting his family, he had to temper his own powerful creative urges.”

“Instead he rebelled and reconnected with his childlike spirit—that original desire of his to transform the music into his own voice, to realize his dramatic urges in opera.”

“The Dimensional Mind has two essential requirements: one, a high level of knowledge about a field or subject; and two, the openness and flexibility to use this knowledge in new and original ways.”

“To awaken the Dimensional Mind and move through the creative process requires three essential steps: first, choosing the proper Creative Task, the kind of activity that will maximize our skills and knowledge; second, loosening and opening up the mind through certain Creative Strategies; and third, creating the optimal mental conditions for a Breakthrough or Insight. Finally, throughout the process we must also be aware of the Emotional Pitfalls—complacency, boredom, grandiosity, and the like—that continually threaten to derail or block our progress. If we can move through the steps while avoiding these traps, we cannot fail to unleash powerful creative forces from within.”

“You must begin by altering your very concept of creativity and by trying to see it from a new angle. Most often, people associate creativity with something intellectual, a particular way of thinking. The truth is that creative activity is one that involves the entire self—our emotions, our levels of energy, our characters, and our minds.”

“Understand: it is the choice of where to direct his or her creative energy that makes the Master.”

“This is The Primary Law of the Creative Dynamic that you must engrave deeply in your mind and never forget: your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work.”

“If you are doing something primarily for money and without a real emotional commitment, it will translate into something that lacks a soul and that has no connection to you.”

“The sense of having enemies or doubters can serve as a powerful motivating device and fill you with an added creative energy and focus.”

“There are two things to keep in mind: First, the task that you choose must be realistic. The knowledge and skills you have gained must be eminently suited to pulling it off. To reach your goal you may have to learn a few new things, but you must have mastered the basics and possess a solid enough grasp of the field so that your mind can focus on higher matters. On the other hand, it is always best to choose a task that is slightly above you, one that might be considered ambitious on your part. This is a corollary of the Law of the Creative Dynamic —the higher the goal, the more energy you will call up from deep within. You will rise to the challenge because you have to, and will discover creative powers in yourself that you never suspected.”

“Second, you must let go of your need for comfort and security.”

“Think of yourself as an explorer. You cannot find anything new if you are unwilling to leave the shore.”

“Think of the mind as a muscle that naturally tightens up over time unless it is consciously worked upon. What causes this tightening is twofold. First, we generally prefer to entertain the same thoughts and ways of thinking because they provide us with a sense of consistency and familiarity. Sticking with the same methods also saves us a lot of effort. We are creatures of habit. Second, whenever we work hard at a problem or idea, our minds naturally narrow their focus because of the strain and effort involved. This means that the further we progress on our creative task, the fewer alternative possibilities or viewpoints we tend to consider.”

“Simple words and thoughts cannot capture this flux or complexity.”

“To accomplish this, he wrote, we must be capable of negating our ego. We are by nature fearful and insecure creatures. We do not like what is unfamiliar or unknown. To compensate for this, we assert ourselves with opinions and ideas that make us seem strong and certain. Many of these opinions do not come from our own deep reflection, but are instead based on what other people think.”

“Truly creative people in all fields can temporarily suspend their ego and simply experience what they are seeing, without the need to assert a judgment, for as long as possible.”

“To Keats, William Shakespeare was the ideal because he did not judge his characters, but instead opened himself up to their worlds and expressed the reality of even those who were considered evil.”

“To put Negative Capability into practice, you must develop the habit of suspending the need to judge everything that crosses your path. You consider and even momentarily entertain viewpoints opposite to your own, seeing how they feel.”

“The idea or theory that you are currently formulating, that seems so fresh and alive and truthful, will almost certainly be shot down or ridiculed in a few decades or centuries.”

“Many of the most interesting and profound discoveries in science occur when the thinker is not concentrating directly on the problem but is about to drift off to sleep, or get on a bus, or hears a joke—moments of unstrained attention, when something unexpected enters the mental sphere and triggers a new and fertile connection.”

“The first step is to widen your search as far as possible. In the research stage of your project, you look at more than what is generally required. You expand your search into other fields, reading and absorbing any related information.”

As William James expressed it, the mind “transitions from one idea to another…the most unheard of combination of elements, the subtlest associations of analogy; in a word, we seem suddenly introduced into a seething cauldron of ideas, where everything is fizzling and bobbling about in a state of bewildering activity.”

As Pasteur himself commented, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”

“One reason that serendipity plays such a large role in discoveries and inventions is that our minds are limited. We cannot explore all avenues and imagine every possibility.”

“This mix of complete chance and conscious elaboration often creates novel and exciting effects.”

“To help yourself to cultivate serendipity, you should keep a notebook with you at all times. The moment any idea or observation comes, you note it down.”

“The juxtaposition of so many random bits will be enough to spark various associations.”

“Thinking in terms of analogies and metaphors can be extremely helpful to the creative process.”

“We observe something in the world that strikes our attention and makes us wonder what it might mean. In thinking about it, we devise several possible explanations. When we look at the phenomenon again we see it differently as we cycle through the various ideas we had imagined to account for it. Perhaps we conduct experiments to verify or alter our speculations. Now when we look at the phenomenon yet again, weeks or months later, we see more and more aspects of its hidden reality.”

“If we had failed to speculate on the meaning of what we had observed, we simply would have had an observation that led us nowhere. If we had speculated without continuing to observe and verify, then we simply would have had some random idea floating in our heads. But by continually cycling between speculation and observation/experiment, we are able to pierce deeper and deeper into reality, like a drill that penetrates a piece of wood through its motion.”

“Most often in culture we see people who short-circuit the Current. They observe some phenomenon in culture or nature that makes them emotional and they run rampant with speculations, never taking the time to entertain possible explanations that could have been verified by further observation.”

“Sometimes this fear of speculation masquerades as skepticism. We see this in people who delight in shooting down any theory or explanation before it gets anywhere.”

“Consider thinking as an extended form of vision that allows us to see more of the world, and creativity as the ability to expand that vision beyond conventional boundaries.”

“When an event occurs or when we meet a new person, we do not stop to consider all aspects or details, but instead we see an outline or pattern that fits into our expectations and past experiences. We fit the event or person into categories. As with vision, for us to have to think deeply about every new occurrence or perceived object would exhaust the brain.”

“Creative people are those who have the capacity to resist this shorthand. They can look at a phenomenon from several different angles, noticing something we miss because we only look straight on.”

“Looking at the “what” instead of the “how””

“Our minds are always hurrying to generalize about things, often based on the most minimal amounts of information. We form opinions quickly, in conformity with our previous opinions, and we do not pay great attention to the details. To combat this pattern we must sometimes shift our focus from the macro to the micro—placing much greater emphasis on the details, the small picture.”

“In general, try approaching a problem or idea with a much more open mind. Let your study of the details guide your thinking and shape your theories. Think of everything in nature, or in the world, as a kind of hologram—the smallest part reflecting something essential about the whole. Immersing yourself in details will combat the generalizing tendencies of the brain and bring you closer to reality. Make sure, however, that you do not become lost in the details and lose sight of how they reflect the whole and fit into a larger idea. That is simply the other side of the same disease”

“In the Arthur Conan Doyle story “Silver Blaze,” Sherlock Holmes solves a crime by paying attention to what did not happen—the family dog had not barked. This meant that the murderer must have been someone the dog knew. What this story illustrates is how the average person does not generally pay attention to what we shall call negative cues, what should have happened but did not. It is our natural tendency to fixate on positive information, to notice only what we can see and hear. It takes a creative type such as Holmes to think more broadly and rigorously, pondering the missing information in an event, visualizing this absence as easily as we see the presence of something.”

“In the end, the ability to alter our perspective is a function of our imagination. We have to learn how to imagine more possibilities than we generally consider, being as loose and radical with this process as we can.”

“As you work to free up your mind and give it the power to alter its perspective, remember the following: the emotions we experience at any time have an inordinate influence on how we perceive the world. If we feel afraid, we tend to see more of the potential dangers in some action. If we feel particularly bold, we tend to ignore the potential risks. What you must do then is not only alter your mental perspective, but reverse your emotional one as well.”

“In physical exercise, resistance is a way to make the body stronger, and it is the same with the mind.”

As the writer Sidney Hook put it, “When Aristotle drew up his table of categories which to him represented the grammar of existence, he was really projecting the grammar of the Greek language on the cosmos.”

“According to the great mathematician Jacques Hadamard, most mathematicians think in terms of images, creating a visual equivalent of the theorem they are trying to work out. Michael Faraday was a powerful visual thinker.”

“When he came up with the idea of electromagnetic lines of force, anticipating the field theories of the twentieth century, he saw them literally in his mind’s eye before he wrote about them. The structure of the periodic table came to the chemist Dmitry Mendeleyev in a dream, where he literally saw the elements laid out before his eyes in a visual scheme.”

Albert Einstein, who once wrote, “The words of the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought. The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be voluntarily reproduced and combined.”

“The reason for this “regression” to visual forms of thinking is simple. Human working memory is limited. We can only keep in mind several pieces of information at the same time. Through an image we can simultaneously imagine many things at once, at a glance. As opposed to words, which can be impersonal and rigid, a visualization is something we create, something that serves our particular needs of the moment and can represent an idea in a way that is more fluid and real than simply words. The use of images to make sense of the world is perhaps our most primitive form of intelligence, and can help us conjure up ideas that we can later verbalize. Words also are abstract; an image or model makes our idea suddenly more concrete, which satisfies our need to see and feel things with our senses.”

“Early in his career, Michael Faraday took lessons in drawing and painting. He did this so he could recreate the experiments he had witnessed at various lectures. But he discovered that drawing helped him think in many ways. The hand-brain connection is something deeply wired within us; when we attempt to sketch something we must observe it closely, gaining a feel through our fingers of how to bring it to life.”

“When doing his deepest thinking about the theory of relativity, Albert Einstein liked to hold on to a rubber ball that he would periodically squeeze in tandem with the straining of his mind. In order to work, the writer Samuel Johnson required that he had on his desk a cat, which he would periodically stroke to make it purr, and a slice of orange. Supposedly only these various sensual cues could properly stimulate him for his work.”

“These examples are all related to the phenomenon of synesthesia— moments in which the stimulation of one sense provokes another. For instance, we hear a particular sound and it makes us think of a color. Studies have indicated that synesthesia is far more prevalent among artists and high-level thinkers.”

“These stories are so common as to indicate something essential about the brain and how it reaches certain peaks of creativity. We can explain this pattern in the following way: If we remained as excited as we were in the beginning of our project, maintaining that intuitive feel that sparked it all, we would never be able to take the necessary distance to look at our work objectively and improve upon it.”

“When we let go, we are not aware that below the surface of consciousness the ideas and the associations we had built up continue to bubble and incubate.”

“This is a somewhat extreme example, but the story reveals something elemental about the need for tension. The feeling that we have endless time to complete our work has an insidious and debilitating effect on our minds.”

“The connections do not occur. For this purpose you must always try to work with deadlines, whether real or manufactured.”

“Constantly remind yourself of how little you truly know, and of how mysterious the world remains.”

“Creativity is by its nature an act of boldness and rebellion.””

“Dependency: In the Apprenticeship Phase you relied upon mentors and those above you to supply you with the necessary standards of judgment for your field. But if you are not careful, you will carry this need for approval over into the next phase.”

“Impatience: This is perhaps the single greatest pitfall of them all. This quality continually haunts you, no matter how disciplined you might think you are. You will convince yourself that your work is essentially over and well done, when really it is your impatience speaking and coloring your judgment.”

“Praise generally does harm. Ever so slowly, the emphasis shifts from the joy of the creative process to the love of attention and to our ever-inflating ego.”

“Grandiosity: Sometimes greater danger comes from success and praise than from criticism.”

“Inflexibility: Being creative involves certain paradoxes. You must know your field inside and out, and yet be able to question its most entrenched assumptions.”

“In the end, however, the most satisfying and powerful way to feel this connection is through creative activity.”

“Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning. Don’t worry about what you can’t answer, and don’t try to explain what you can’t know. Curiosity is its own reason. Aren’t you in awe when you contemplate the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure behind reality? And this is the miracle of the human mind—to use its constructions, concepts, and formulas as tools to explain what man sees, feels and touches. Try to comprehend a little more each day. Have holy curiosity.” —ALBERT EINSTEIN

“His ballad “Alabama,” written in response to the 1963 bombing by the Ku Klux Klan of a church in Birmingham, Alabama, seemed to capture something essential about the moment and the mood of the time. It seemed to be the incarnation of sadness and despair. A year later, his album A Love Supreme appeared.”

“Musicians are expressing something deep about their nature, their particular psychological makeup, even their unconscious. It comes out in their style, their unique rhythms and phrasings. But this voice does not emerge from just being oneself and letting loose.”

“Understand: the greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash.”

“The principles behind mechanical intelligence can be summarized as follows: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself.”

“In Western culture, a particular myth has evolved that drugs or madness can somehow lead to creative bursts of the highest order. How else to explain the work that John Coltrane did while hooked on heroin, or the great works of the playwright August Strindberg, who seemed clinically insane? Their work is so spontaneous and free, so far beyond the powers of the rational, conscious mind.”

“This is a cliché, however, that is easily debunked. Coltrane himself admitted that he did his worst work during the few years he was addicted to heroin. It was destroying him and his creative powers. He kicked the habit in 1957 and never looked back. Biographers who later examined the letters and journals of Strindberg discovered a man who was quite histrionic in public, but who in private life was extremely disciplined.”

“Understand: to create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great discipline, self-control, and emotional stability. It requires mastering the forms of your field. Drugs and madness only destroy such powers. Do not fall for the romantic myths and clichés that abound in culture about creativity—offering us the excuse or panacea that such powers can come cheaply. When you look at the exceptionally creative work of Masters, you must not ignore the years of practice, the endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured. Creative energy is the fruit of such efforts and nothing else.”

“Our vanity, our passions, our spirit of imitation, our abstract intelligence, our habits have long been at work, and it is the task of art to undo this work of theirs, making us travel back in the direction from which we have come to the depths where what has really existed lies unknown within us.” —MARCEL PROUST

“All of us have access to a higher form of intelligence, one that can allow us to see more of the world, to anticipate trends, to respond with speed and accuracy to any circumstance. This intelligence is cultivated by deeply immersing ourselves in a field of study and staying true to our inclinations, no matter how unconventional our approach might seem to others. Through such intense immersion over many years we come to internalize and gain an intuitive feel for the complicated components of our field. When we fuse this intuitive feel with rational processes, we expand our minds to the outer limits of our potential and are able to see into the secret core of life itself. We then come to have powers that approximate the instinctive force and speed of animals, but with the added reach that our human consciousness brings us. This power is what our brains were designed to attain, and we will be naturally led to this type of intelligence if we follow our inclinations to their ultimate ends.”

“He could not stand to be away from her for more than a day, and in the few hours in which they were separated he would write her endless letters.”

“If he were attracted to a particular woman, he would befriend her fiancé or boyfriend and, gaining his trust, would probe him for the most intimate details about their relationship.”

Cook Ting was cutting up an ox for Lord Wen-hui…. “Ah, this is marvelous!” said Lord Wen-hui. “Imagine skill reaching such heights!” Cook Ting laid down his knife and replied, “What I care about is the Way, which goes beyond skill. When I first began cutting up oxen, all I could see was the ox itself. After three years I no longer saw the whole ox. And now—now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes. Perception and understanding have come to a stop and spirit moves where it wants.” —CHUANG TZU, ANCIENT CHINESE WRITER, FOURTH CENTURY B.C.

“The reason for this overall disregard is simple: we humans have come to recognize only one form of thinking and intelligence—rationality. Rational thinking is sequential by nature. We see a phenomenon A, and we deduce a cause B, and maybe anticipate a reaction C. In all cases of rational thinking, we can reconstruct the various steps that were taken to arrive at some kind of conclusion or answer. This form of thinking is extremely effective and has brought us great powers. We developed it to help make sense of our world and to gain some control over it. The process that people go through when they arrive at an answer through rational analysis can generally be examined and verified, which is why we esteem it so highly.”

“Through intense absorption in a particular field over a long period of time, Masters come to understand all of the parts involved in what they are studying. They reach a point where all of this has become internalized and they are no longer seeing the parts, but gain an intuitive feel for the whole. They literally see or sense the dynamic.”

“Since it has been shown that the brain is literally altered after approximately 10,000 hours of practice, these powers would be the result of a transformation that happens in the brain after some 20,000 hours and beyond. With this much practice and experience, all kinds of connections have been formed in the brain between different forms of knowledge.”

“It would be a misconception, however, to imagine that Masters are simply following their intuitions and moving beyond rational thinking. First, it is through all of their hard work, the depth of their knowledge, and the development of their analytical skills that they reach this higher form of intelligence. Second, when they experience this intuition or insight, they invariably subject it to a high degree of reflection and reasoning. In science, they must spend months or years verifying their intuitions. In the arts, they must work out the ideas that come to them intuitively and rationally shape them into a form. This is hard for us to imagine, because we find intuition and rationality mutually exclusive, but in fact at this high level they operate together in a seamless fashion. The reasoning of Masters is guided by intuition; their intuition springs from intense rational focus. The two are fused.”

“Although time is the critical factor in attaining Mastery and this intuitive feel, the time we are talking about is not neutral or simply quantitative. An hour of Einstein’s thinking at the age of sixteen does not equal an hour spent by an average high school student working on a problem in physics. 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.”

“The person who best exemplifies this usage of time for mastery is Marcel Proust, whose great novel, In Search of Lost Time, concerns this very subject. In French the word for “lost” is perdu, which equally means “wasted.” And to Proust, and to many of those who knew him as a young man, he seemed the least likely person ever to attain mastery, because on the surface he appeared to waste so much valuable time.”

“Proust himself complained endlessly about the time that he had wasted as a young man and how little he had accomplished, but these complaints cannot be taken at face value, because he never gave up.”

“What made those twenty years qualitatively different from those of an ordinary person was the intensity of his attention. He did not simply read books —he took them apart, rigorously analyzed them, and learned valuable lessons to apply to his own life.”

“Like Proust, you must also maintain a sense of destiny, and feel continuously connected to it. You are unique, and there is a purpose to your uniqueness. You must see every setback, failure, or hardship as a trial along the way, as seeds that are being planted for further cultivation, if you know how to grow them. No moment is wasted if you pay attention and learn the lessons contained in every experience. By constantly applying yourself to the subject that suits your inclinations and attacking it from many different angles, you are simply enriching the ground for these seeds to take root. You may not see this process in the present, but it is happening. Never losing your connection to your Life’s Task, you will unconsciously hit upon the right choices in your life. Over time, mastery will come to you.”

“For nearly all animals, speed is the critical factor in survival. A few seconds can spell the difference between avoiding a predator or meeting death.”

“Intuition, primitive or high level, is essentially driven by memory. When we take in information of any kind, we store it in mnemonic networks in the brain. The stability and durability of these networks depends on repetition, intensity of experience, and how deeply we pay attention. If we are half listening to a vocabulary lesson in a foreign language, we are not likely to retain it on any level. But if we are in the country where the language is spoken, we will hear the same words repeated in context; we will tend to pay deeper attention because we need to, and the memory trace will be that much more stable.”

“According to the model developed by the psychologist Kenneth Bowers, whenever we encounter a problem—a face we need to recognize, a word or phrase we need to recall—mnemonic networks within the brain become activated as the search for the answer is guided along certain pathways.”

“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.”

“This desire for what is simple and easy infects all of us, often in ways we are mostly unaware of. The only solution is the following: We must learn how to quiet the anxiety we feel whenever we are confronted with anything that seems complex or chaotic.”

“To go along with this self-control, we must do whatever we can to cultivate a greater memory capacity—one of the most important skills in our technologically oriented environment. The problem that technology presents us is that it increases the amount of information at our disposal, but slowly degrades the power of our memory to retain it. Tasks that used to exercise the brain— remembering phone numbers, doing simple calculations, navigating and remembering streets in a city—are now performed for us, and like any muscle the brain can grow flabby from disuse.”

“What seemed chaotic to us before will now seem to be simply a fluid situation with a particular dynamic that we have a feel for and can handle with relative ease.”

“What is interesting to note is that many Masters who come to possess this high-level intuitive power seem to become younger in mind and spirit with the passing years—something that should be encouraging to us all. They do not need to expend a great deal of energy in order to understand phenomena, and can think creatively with increasing speed.”

“Unless debilitated by disease, they can maintain their spontaneity and mental fluidity well into their seventies and beyond. Among such types are the Zen Master and artist Hakuin, who made paintings in his sixties that are now considered among the greatest works of his time, remarkable for the spontaneity of expression they reveal.”

“As Marcus Aurelius expresses it, “Keep reminding yourself of the way things are connected, of their relatedness. All things are implicated in one another and in sympathy with each other. This event is the consequence of some other one. Things push and pull on each other, and breathe together, and are one.”

“We can define intelligence as moving toward thinking that is more contextual, more sensitive to the relationships between things.”

“Think of it this way: the ultimate distinction you make is between yourself and the world. There is the inside (your subjective experience) and there is the outside. But every time you learn something, your brain is altered as new connections are formed. Your experience of something that occurs in the world physically alters your brain. The boundaries between you and the world are much more fluid than you might imagine. When you move toward mastery, your brain becomes radically altered by the years of practice and active experimentation. It is no longer the simple ecosystem of years gone by. The brain of a Master is so richly interconnected that it comes to resemble the physical world, and becomes a vibrant ecosystem in which all forms of thinking associate and connect. This growing similarity between the brain and complex life itself represents the ultimate return to reality.”

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” —ALBERT EINSTEIN

“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. Whatever field of activity we are involved in, there is generally an accepted path to the top. It is a path that others have followed, and because we are conformist creatures, most of us opt for this conventional route.”

“Understand: the ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us. It applies equally well to the waters of Micronesia as it does to any modern field or office. We gain such power by first transforming ourselves into consummate observers. We see everything in our surroundings as a potential sign to interpret.”

“But for us, in our advanced technological age, such mastery involves making an unconventional choice. To become such sensitive observers, we must not succumb to all of the distractions afforded by technology; we must be a little primitive.”

“This school used a method developed by the Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi, which emphasized the importance of learning through one’s own observations, leading to the development of ideas and intuitions. Even mathematics and physics were taught in this manner. There were no drills or facts to memorize; instead, the method placed supreme importance on visual forms of intelligence, which Pestalozzi saw as the key to creative thinking.”

“In our daily, conscious activity we generally experience a separation between the mind and the body. We think about our bodies and our physical actions. Animals do not experience this division. When we start to learn any skill that has a physical component, this separation becomes even more apparent. We have to think about the various actions involved, the steps we have to follow. We are aware of our slowness and of how our bodies respond in an awkward way. At certain points, as we improve, we have glimpses of how this process could function differently, of how it might feel to practice the skill fluidly, with the mind not getting in the way of the body. With such glimpses, we know what to aim for. If we take our practice far enough the skill becomes automatic, and we have the sensation that the mind and the body are operating as one.”

“If we are learning a complex skill, such as flying a jet in combat, we must master a series of simple skills, one on top of the other. Each time one skill becomes automatic, the mind is freed up to focus on the higher one. At the very end of this process, when there are no more simple skills to learn, the brain has assimilated an incredible amount of information, all of which has become internalized, part of our nervous system. The whole complex skill is now inside us and at our fingertips. We are thinking, but in a different way—with the body and mind completely fused. We are transformed. We possess a form of intelligence that allows us to approximate the instinctual power of animals, but only through a conscious, deliberate, and extended practice.”

“In your own work you must follow the Leonardo path. Most people don’t have the patience to absorb their minds in the fine points and minutiae that are intrinsically part of their work. They are in a hurry to create effects and make a splash; they think in large brush strokes. Their work inevitably reveals their lack of attention to detail—it doesn’t connect deeply with the public, and it feels flimsy. If it gets attention, the attention is momentary.”

“In any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail. The reason is simple: such a person will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing. Most people are perpetually locked in the present. Their decisions are overly influenced by the most immediate event; they easily become emotional and ascribe greater significance to a problem than it should have in reality. Moving toward mastery will naturally bring you a more global outlook, but it is always wise to expedite the process by training yourself early on to continually enlarge your perspective. You can do so by always reminding yourself of the overall purpose of the work you are presently engaged in and how this meshes with your long-term goals. In dealing with any problem, you must train yourself to look at how it inevitably connects to a larger picture. If your work is not having the desired effect, you must look at it from all angles until you find the source of the problem. You must not merely observe the rivals in your field, but dissect and uncover their weaknesses. “Look wider and think further ahead” must be your motto. Through such mental training, you will smooth the path to mastery while separating yourself ever further from the competition.”

“According to Universal Grammar, the most important trait shared by all languages is what is known as recursion, the embedding of phrases within phrases that gives language an almost infinite potential to relate experiences. An example would be, “the food you are eating smells good.” Everett could find absolutely no evidence for recursion in Pirahã.”

“I’m going downhill faster every day,”

“Your false self is the accumulation of all the voices you have internalized from other people—parents and friends who want you to conform to their ideas of what you should be like and what you should do, as well as societal pressures to adhere to certain values that can easily seduce you. It also includes the voice of your own ego, which constantly tries to protect you from unflattering truths. This self talks to you in clear words, and when it comes to mastery, it says things like, “Mastery is for the geniuses, the exceptionally talented, the freaks of nature. I was simply not born that way.” Or it says, “Mastery is ugly and immoral. It is for those who are ambitious and egotistical. Better to accept my lot in life and to work to help other people instead of enriching myself.” Or it might say, “Success is all luck.”

“As you must know by now, these voices do not speak the truth. Mastery is not a question of genetics or luck, but of following your natural inclinations and the deep desire that stirs you from within. Everyone has such inclinations. This desire within you is not motivated by egotism or sheer ambition for power, both of which are emotions that get in the way of mastery.”

“Because we think well of ourselves, but nonetheless never suppose ourselves capable of producing a painting like one of Raphael’s or a dramatic scene like one of Shakespeare’s, we convince ourselves that the capacity to do so is quite extraordinarily marvelous, a wholly uncommon accident, or, if we are still religiously inclined, a mercy from on high. Thus our vanity, our self-love, promotes the cult of the genius: for only if we think of him as being very remote from us, as a miraculum, does he not aggrieve us…. But, aside from these suggestions of our vanity, the activity of the genius seems in no way fundamentally different from the activity of the inventor of machines, the scholar of astronomy or history, the master of tactics. All these activities are explicable if one pictures to oneself people whose thinking is active in one direction, who employ everything as material, who always zealously observe their own inner life and that of others, who perceive everywhere models and incentives, who never tire of combining together the means available to them. Genius too does nothing but learn first how to lay bricks then how to build, and continually seek for material and continually form itself around it. Every activity of man is amazingly complicated, not only that of the genius: but none is a ‘miracle.’ “—FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE

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