Book Reviews

Mastery by Robert Greene -Book Notes, Summary, and Review

25. Mastery - Robert Greene

Get it on Amazon

Rating: 9/10

Date of reading: 17th – 28th of July, 2018

Description: How the Great before us became Great and how we, too, can become like that. The book emphasizes that mastery is an asymptote — you can never touch it, but you can get damn close to it. If you think about mastery as a continuous process of learning and apply that in your life, you will one day become a master, but the process of learning will never be done. The book also debunks a myth that certain people, like Michelangelo, were born as masters of the craft. Mastery is always a product of years and years of hard work, effort, continuous learning, and education. Period. 

 

My notes:

 

INTRODUCTION

 

“Let us call this sensation mastery—the feeling that we have a greater command of reality, other people, and ourselves.” ( :15)

“Intuitive powers at the mastery level are a mix of the instinctive and the rational, the conscious and the unconscious, the human and the animal.” ( :17)

“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.” ( :21)

“The less we attempt, the less chances of failure. If we can make it look like we are not really responsible for our fate, for what happens to us in life, then our apparent powerlessness is more palatable. For this reason we become attracted to certain narratives: it is genetics that determines much of what we do; we are just products of our times; the individual is just a myth; human behavior can be reduced to statistical trends.” ( :23)

“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.” ( :23)

“As you progress, old ideas and perspectives die off; as new powers are unleashed, you are initiated into higher levels of seeing the world.” ( :24)

“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. —FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE” ( :26)

 

I
DISCOVER YOUR CALLING: THE LIFE’S TASK

 

“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.” ( :27)

“Perhaps his own words, written years before in his notebook, would have come back to him in such a moment: “Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.”” ( :30)

“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 GASSET” ( :30)

“All of us are born unique. This uniqueness is marked genetically in our DNA. We are a one-time phenomenon in the universe—our exact genetic makeup has never occurred before nor will it ever be repeated. For all of us, this uniqueness first expresses itself in childhood through certain primal inclinations.” ( :31)

“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. This counterforce can be very powerful. You want to fit into a group.” ( :31)

“Life’s Task comes in three stages: First, you must connect or reconnect with your inclinations, that sense of uniqueness.” ( :32)

“you must look at the career path you are already on or are about to begin.” ( :32)

“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. We do not simply react to events out of biological scripting. But without a sense of direction provided to us, we tend to flounder. We don’t how to fill up and structure our time. There seems to be no defining purpose to our lives. We are perhaps not conscious of this emptiness, but it infects us in all kinds of ways.” ( :33)

“It is in fact connected to something much larger than our individual lives.” ( :33)

“Our times might emphasize equality, which we then mistake for the need for everyone to be the same, but what we really mean by this is the equal chance for people to express their differences, to let a thousand flowers bloom. Your vocation is more than the work that you do. It is intimately connected to the deepest part of your being and is a manifestation of the intense diversity in nature and within human culture. In this sense, you must see your vocation as eminently poetic and inspiring.” ( :33)

“Pindar wrote, “Become who you are by learning who you are.”” ( :33)

“It is who you are to the core. Some people never become who they are; they stop trusting in themselves; they conform to the tastes of others, and they end up wearing a mask that hides their true nature. If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become—an individual, a Master.” ( :33)

“The idea that there was some kind of magnetic force that operated on this needle, invisible to the eyes, touched him to the core.” ( :35)

“into her father’s study and stood transfixed before a glass case that contained all kinds of laboratory instruments for chemistry and physics experiments” ( :35)

“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. For Einstein, it was not physics but a fascination with invisible forces that governed the universe; for Bergman, it was not film but the sensation of creating and animating life; for Coltrane, it was not music but giving voice to powerful emotions.” ( :36)

“She loved solving puzzles, and in doing this homework her mind would become so completely absorbed in the problems that she was barely aware of the time passing. In a strange way, it was similar to the sensation she felt on the tennis court—a deep focus where nothing could distract her.” ( :38)

“He would never realize this if he remained in Salzburg. It was his father who represented more than an obstacle; he was in fact ruining his life, his health, his confidence. It was not just about money; his father was actually jealous of his son’s talents, and whether consciously or not, he was trying to stifle his progress. Wolfgang had to take a step, however painful, before it was too late.” ( :40)

“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. Scoff at the need for attention and approval—they will lead you astray.” ( :41)

“If it is the father figure, the Leopold Mozart, that is blocking your path, you must slay him and clear the way.” ( :41)

“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. It is up to you to find it and guide it correctly. It is not up to others to protect or help you. You are on your own.” ( :43)

“Roach instinctively found his way back to the ring because he understood that what he loved was not boxing per se, but competitive sports and strategizing.” ( :43)

“After five years the company was sold and Fuller was fired as president. Now the situation looked bleaker than ever.” ( :44)

“One evening he walked along Lake Michigan and thought of his life up until then. He had disappointed his wife, and he had lost money for his father-in-law and his friends who had invested in the enterprise. He was useless at business and a burden to everyone. Finally he decided upon suicide as the best option. He would drown himself in the lake. He had a good insurance policy, and his wife’s family would take better care of her than he had been able to. As he walked toward the water, he mentally prepared himself for death.” ( :44)

“Over the years, Fuller kept to this promise. The pursuit of his peculiar ideas led to the design of inexpensive and energy-efficient forms of transportation and shelter (the Dymaxion car and Dymaxion house), and to the invention of the geodesic dome—a whole new form of architectural structure. Fame and money soon followed.” ( :45)

“Her mind functioned in a different way—she thought in terms of images, not words.” ( :46)

“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.” ( :47)

“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. Working at these skills, you learn the value of discipline and see the rewards you get from your efforts. Like a lotus flower, your skills will expand outward from a center of strength and confidence.” ( :47)

 

II
SUBMIT TO REALITY: THE IDEAL APPRENTICESHIP

 

“After your formal education, you enter the most critical phase in your life—a second, practical education known as The Apprenticeship.” ( :48)

“This offer confused Charles. He had never thought of traveling that far, let alone pursuing a career as a naturalist. Before he really had time to consider it, his father weighed in—he was dead set against his accepting the offer. Charles had never been to sea and would not take to it well. He was not a trained scientist, and lacked the discipline. Moreover, taking several years on this voyage would jeopardize the position his father had secured for him in the church.” ( :49)

“How could he endure this cramped existence for months on end, living in close quarters with a captain who seemed halfinsane?” ( :50)

“For instance, he noticed that no one grumbled about the food or the weather or the tasks at hand. They valued stoicism. He would try to adopt such an attitude.” ( :50)

“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. You enter a career as an outsider. You are naïve and full of misconceptions about this new world. Your head is full of dreams and fantasies about the future. Your knowledge of the world is subjective, based on emotions, insecurities, and limited experience. Slowly, you will ground yourself in reality, in the objective world represented by the knowledge and skills that make people successful in it. You will learn how to work with others and handle criticism. 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.” ( :53)

“These steps are: Deep Observation (The Passive Mode), Skills Acquisition (The Practice Mode), and Experimentation (The Active Mode).” ( :55)

“If you impress people in these first months, it should be because of the seriousness of your desire to learn, not because you are trying to rise to the top before you are ready.” ( :56)

“These procedural and political rules may be dysfunctional or counterproductive, but your job is not to moralize about this or complain, but merely to understand them, to get a complete lay of the land. 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.” ( :56)

“Submitting to and absorbing the reality of all aspects of this voyage, he ended up piercing one of the most fundamental realities of all —the evolution of all living forms.” ( :57)

“Because few books or drawings existed at the time, apprentices would learn the trade by watching Masters and imitating them as closely as possible. They learned through endless repetition and hands-on work, with very little verbal instruction (the word “apprentice” itself comes from the Latin prehendere, meaning to grasp with the hand).” ( :58)

“power of this form of tacit knowledge is embodied in the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe— masterpieces of beauty, craftsmanship, and stability, all erected without blueprints or books. These cathedrals represented the accumulated skills of numerous craftsmen and engineers.” ( :58)

“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.” ( :58)

“Once you take this far enough, you enter a cycle of accelerated returns in which the practice becomes easier and more interesting, leading to the ability to practice for longer hours, which increases your skill level, which in turn makes practice even more interesting. Reaching this cycle is the goal you must set for yourself, and to get there you must understand some basic principles about skills themselves.” ( :59)

“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.” ( :59)

“Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process.” ( :59)

“In the end, an entire network of neurons is developed to remember this single task, which accounts for the fact that we can still ride a bicycle years after we first learned how to do so. If we were to take a look at the frontal cortex of those who have mastered something through repetition, it would be remarkably still and inactive as they performed the skill. All of their brain activity is occurring in areas that are lower down and require much less conscious control.” ( :59)

“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.” ( :60)

“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” ( :60)

“Often you must force yourself to initiate such actions or experiments before you think you are ready.” ( :61)

“Later in life, when you are confronted with a career change or the need to learn new skills, having gone through this process before, it will become second nature. You have learned how to learn.” ( :61)

“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” ( :62)

“But that was his choice, his father decided. Let him learn the hard way.” ( :64)

“Then, a year later, another friend mentioned a job opening up in the Swiss Patent Office in Bern. The pay was not great, the position was at the bottom, the hours were long, and the work consisted of the rather mundane task of looking over patent applications, but Einstein leaped at the chance. It was everything he wanted. His task would be to analyze the validity of patent applications, many of which involved aspects of science that interested him. The applications would be like little puzzles or thought experiments; he could try to visualize how the ideas would actually translate into inventions. Working on them would sharpen his reasoning powers. After several months on the job, he became so good at this mental game that he could finish his work in two or three hours, leaving him the rest of the day to engage in his own thought experiments. In 1905 he published his first theory of relativity, much of the work having been done while he was at his desk in the Patent Office.” ( :64)

“But near the end of the term,” ( :64)

“she decided she would never again accept commercial work. It drained her of all of her creative energy and destroyed her desire to work on her own time. It also made her feel dependent on a paycheck.” ( :65)

“It is a simple law of human psychology that your thoughts will tend to revolve around what you value most.” ( :65)

“You will be focused on yourself, your insecurities, the need to please and impress the right people, and not on acquiring skills. It will be too costly for you to make mistakes and learn from them, so you will develop a cautious, conservative approach. As you progress in life, you will become addicted to the fat paycheck and it will determine where you go, how you think, and what you do. Eventually, the time that was not spent on learning skills will catch up with you, and the fall will be painful” ( :65)

“Happy to exploit your cheap and eager spirit, such mentors will often divulge more than the usual trade secrets. In the end, by valuing learning above all else, you will set the stage for your creative expansion, and the money will soon come to you.” ( :65)

“Soon it would be hard to imagine anything besides cleaning houses. 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. No matter how impossible it seemed, she could not let go of her dream to become a writer. To realize this dream, she would have to educate herself and keep her mental horizons expanding by whatever means necessary. A writer needs knowledge of the world. And so, thinking in this way, Zora Neale Hurston proceeded to create for herself one of the most remarkable self-directed apprenticeships in history.” ( :66)

“The clientele included the most powerful politicians of the time, and they would often gossip as if she weren’t even there. For her, this was almost as good as reading any book—it taught her more about human nature, power, and the inner workings of the white world.” ( :67)

“She soon became the most famous black writer of her time, and the first black female writer ever to make a living from her work.” ( :67)

“Whenever he felt frustrated, he would look at the Pirahã children who picked up the language with ease. If they could learn it, so could he, he kept telling himself.” ( :70)

“He also began to discover things that were missing in their language that went against all of the linguistic theories he had been taught. They had no words for numbers, no concept of right and left, no simple words that designated colors. What could this mean?” ( :70)

“Their language could not be separated from their method of hunting, their culture, their daily habits. He had unconsciously internalized a sense of superiority to these people and their way of life—living among them like a scientist studying ants. His inability to pierce the secret of their language, however, revealed the inadequacies of his method. If he wanted to learn Pirahã as the children did, he would have to become like a child— dependent on these people for survival, participating in their daily activities, entering their social circles, feeling in fact inferior and in need of their support. (Losing any sense of superiority would later lead to a personal crisis, in which he would lose faith in his role as a missionary and leave the church for good.)” ( :70)

“You drop all of your preconceptions about an environment or field, any lingering feelings of smugness. You have no fears. You interact with people and participate in the culture as deeply as possible. You are full of curiosity. Assuming this sensation of inferiority, your mind will open up and you will have a hunger to learn. This position is of course only temporary. You are reverting to a feeling of dependence, so that within five to ten years you can learn enough to finally declare your independence and enter full adulthood.” ( :71)

“Among his group were several “golden boys”—young men who had a natural flair for flying. They not only handled the intense pressures, they fed off of them. He was the opposite of a golden boy, but that had been the story of his life. He had succeeded through his determination before, and now it would have to be the same.” ( :73)

“One day, however, as he was flying the T-38, Rodriguez had a strange and wonderful sensation—it seemed like he could feel the plane itself at the edge of his fingertips. This is how it must be for the golden boys, he thought, only for him it had taken nearly ten months of intense training.” ( :73)

“In the end Rodriguez graduated third in his class, and was promoted to fighter-pilot lead-in training. The same process would now repeat itself in an even more competitive environment. He would have to outdo the golden boys through practice and sheer determination. In this manner, he slowly rose through the ranks to become a colonel in the U.S. Air Force. During the 1990s, his three air-to-air kills in active duty brought him closer to the designation of ace than any American pilot since the Vietnam War, and earned him the nickname the Last American Ace.” ( :73)

“Among the dozens of pilots in Rodriguez’s class who never made the cut, almost all of them had the same talent level as he did. The difference is not simply a matter of determination, but more of trust and faith.” ( :73)

“Buried in their minds is the sensation of overcoming their frustrations and entering the cycle of accelerated returns. In moments of doubt in the present, the memory of the past experience rises to the surface. Filled with trust in the process, they trudge on well past the point at which others slow down or mentally quit.” ( :73)

“The only real impediment to this is yourself and your emotions—boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity. You cannot suppress such emotions—they are normal to the process and are experienced by everyone, including Masters. What you can do is have faith in the process. The boredom will go away once you enter the cycle. The panic disappears after repeated exposure. The frustration is a sign of progress—a signal that your mind is processing complexity and requires more practice.” ( :74)

“Managing to get his hands on the keys to the high school gym, he created for himself a schedule —three and a half hours of practice after school and on Sundays, eight hours every Saturday, and three hours a day during the summer. Over the years, he would keep rigidly to this schedule. In the gym, he would put ten-pound weights in his shoes to strengthen his legs and give him more spring to his jump. His greatest weaknesses, he decided, were his dribbling and his overall slowness. He would have to work on these and also transform himself into a superior passer to make up for his lack of speed.” ( :75)

“he devised various exercises. He wore eyeglass frames with pieces of cardboard taped to the bottom, so he could not see the basketball while he practiced dribbling. This would train him to always look around him rather than at the ball—a key skill in passing. He set up chairs on the court to act as opponents. He would dribble around them, back and forth, for hours, until he could glide past them, quickly changing direction. He spent hours at both of these exercises, well past any feelings of boredom or pain.” ( :75)

“One time his family traveled to Europe via transatlantic ship. Finally, they thought, he would give his training regimen a break—there was really no place to practice on board. But below deck and running the length of the ship were two corridors, 900 feet long and quite narrow—just enough room for two passengers. This was the perfect location to practice dribbling at top speed while maintaining perfect ball control. To make it even harder, he decided to wear special eyeglasses that narrowed his vision. For hours every day he dribbled up one side and down the other, until the voyage was done.” ( :75)

“Fans were in awe of his ability to make the most astounding passes, as if he had eyes on the back and sides of his head—not to mention his dribbling prowess, his incredible arsenal of fakes and pivots, and his complete gracefulness on the court. Little did they know that such apparent ease was the result of so many hours of intense practice over so many years.” ( :75)

“Several years into this process, Keats came to a fateful decision—he would devote his life to writing poetry. That was his calling in life and he would find a way to make a living at it. To complete the rigorous apprenticeship he had already put himself through, he decided that what he needed was to write a very long poem, precisely 4,000 lines. The poem would revolve around the ancient Greek myth of Endymion. “Endymion,” he wrote a friend, “will be a test, a trial of my Powers of Imagination and chiefly of my invention…—by which I must make 4000 lines of some circumstances and fill them with Poetry.” He gave himself a rather impossible deadline—seven months—and a task of writing fifty lines a day, until he had a rough draft.” ( :76)

“In the aftermath of writing what he considered to be a mediocre poem, Keats took stock of all of the invaluable lessons he had learned. Never again would he suffer from writer’s block—he had trained himself to write past any obstacle. He had acquired now the habit of writing quickly, with intensity and focus—concentrating his work in a few hours. He could revise with equal speed. He had learned how to criticize himself and his overly romantic tendencies. He could look at his own work with a cold eye. He had learned that it was in the actual writing of the poem that the best ideas would often come to him, and that he had to boldly keep writing or he would miss such discoveries. Most important of all, as a counterexample to Endymion, he had hit upon a style that suited him—language as compact and dense with imagery as possible, with not a single wasted line.” ( :76)

“This added up to perhaps the most productive two years of writing in the history of Western literature—all of it set up by the rigorous self-apprenticeship he had put himself through.” ( :76)

“This is the path of amateurs. To attain mastery, you must adopt what we shall call Resistance Practice. The principle is simple—you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice.” ( :77)

“This is the path of amateurs. To attain mastery, you must adopt what we shall call Resistance Practice. 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. You recognize your weaknesses, precisely the elements you are not good at. Those are the aspects you give precedence to in your practice. You find a kind of perverse pleasure in moving past the pain this might bring. Second, you resist the lure of easing up on your focus. You train yourself to concentrate in practice with double the intensity, as if it were the real thing times two. In devising your own routines, you become as creative as possible. You invent exercises that work upon your weaknesses. You give yourself arbitrary deadlines to meet certain standards, constantly pushing yourself past perceived limits. In this way you develop your own standards for excellence, generally higher than those 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.” ( :77)

“paid attention to every glitch along the way, and like a watch or an engine, he had taken apart these failures in his mind and had identified the root cause: no one was giving him enough time to work out the bugs. The people with money were meddling in mechanical and design affairs. They were” ( :78)

“injecting their mediocre ideas into the process and polluting it. He resented the idea that having money gave them certain rights, when all that mattered was a perfect design.” ( :79)

“Such malfunctions generally show you inherent flaws and means of improvement. You simply keep tinkering until you get it right. The same should apply to an entrepreneurial venture. Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education.” ( :79)

“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” ( :79)

“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.” ( :80)

“In fact, it is a curse to have everything go right on your first attempt. You will fail to question the element of luck, making you think that you have the golden touch. When you do inevitably fail, it will confuse and demoralize you past the point of learning.” ( :80)

“It was like knowing how to draw a beautiful bird but not understanding how it could fly.” ( :81)

“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.” ( :82)

“This division between the “how” and the “what” can be applied to almost everything around us —we see the machine, not how it works; we see a group of people producing something as a business, not how the group is structured or how the products are manufactured and distributed. (In a similar fashion, we tend to be mesmerized by people’s appearances, not the psychology behind what they do or say.)” ( :82)

“This is why the work of Leonardo da Vinci continues to fascinate us, and why the Renaissance remains an ideal.” ( :82)

“They would write the program in Lisp, taking advantage of the speed with which they could make changes to it. They called their business Viaweb, and it would be the first of its kind, the pioneer of online commerce. Just three years later they sold it to Yahoo! for $45 million” ( :84)

“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” ( :85)

 

III
ABSORB THE MASTER’S POWER: THE MENTOR DYNAMIC

 

“Choose the mentor who best fits your needs and connects to your Life’s Task.” ( :86)

“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.” ( :86)

“His options were severely limited by his circumstances. His parents had ten children to feed and support. The father worked sporadically because of illness, and the family needed additional income.” ( :87)

“He went back to the notes he had taken on Davy’s lectures. He worked them into a beautifully organized booklet, carefully handwritten, and full of sketches and diagrams. He sent this off to Davy as a gift. He then wrote to him a few weeks later, reminding Davy about the experiment he had mentioned but had probably forgotten about—Davy was notoriously absentminded. Faraday heard nothing. But then one day, in February 1813, he was suddenly summoned to the Royal Institution.” ( :89)

“It was Davy who had rescued him from the drudgery of the bookbinding business. He owed him everything. 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.” ( :90)

“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. Their authority in the field is not based on politics or trickery. It is very real.” ( :92)

“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 selfdirected apprenticeship in many fields, but this could take ten years, maybe more. Mentors do not give you a shortcut, but they streamline the process.” ( :92)

“The ability to transfer their experience and knowledge to someone younger often provides them with a great pleasure, akin to parenting.” ( :94)

“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.” ( :95)

“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.” ( :96)

“You internalize the important and relevant parts of their knowledge, and you apply the knife to what has no bearing on your life. 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.” ( :96)

“It was only later that she realized how much his ideas had gotten under her skin. Unconsciously following his lead, she would eventually create her own approach to robotics and pioneer a totally new field, known as neurobotics.” ( :99)

“He was not a teacher who told you what to do; he let you find your own way, including your own mistakes, but would lend you support when you needed it. This style suited her need for independence. It was only later that she realized how much his ideas had gotten under her skin. Unconsciously following his lead, she would eventually create her own approach to robotics and pioneer a totally new field, known as neurobotics.” ( :99)

“He entered one Zen school after another, in every corner of Japan, and he began to get a clear idea of the state of Zen instruction at that time. It revolved around simple sessions of seated meditation, with little instruction, until finally a giant bell would sound and the monks would hurry to eat or sleep. In their spare time, they would chant for happiness and peace. Zen had turned into one large soporific, designed to lull students into a state of rest and lethargy. It was deemed too invasive and too overbearing to give students any direction; they were supposed to find their own way to enlightenment” ( :100)

“he began to contemplate one of the thorniest koans Shoju had given him. Deep in thought, he strayed into the garden of a private house. The woman who lived there yelled at him to leave, but Hakuin seemed oblivious. Thinking he was a madman or a bandit she attacked him with a stick, knocking him hard to the ground. When he came to, minutes later, he suddenly felt different—he had finally penetrated to the core of Shoju’s koan! He understood it from the inside out! It was alive within him! Everything fell into place and he was certain that he had finally reached enlightenment, the world appearing to him in a totally new guise. He began clapping his hands and screaming with delight. For the first time he felt the weight of all of his anxieties lifted from him.” ( :101)

“At the age of forty-one, he finally had his ultimate and deepest moment of enlightenment, bringing with it a mind-set that would not leave him for the rest of his life. At this point, all of the ideas and teachings of Shoju came back to him as if he had heard them yesterday, and he realized that Shoju was the only true Master he had ever known. He wanted to return to thank him, but the Master had died some five years earlier. His way to repay him was to become a teacher himself, keeping alive his Master’s teachings. In the end, it was indeed Hakuin who rescued Zen practice from the decay it had fallen into, just as Shoju had predicted.” ( :101)

“The times that we live in make this even harder. 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. It makes it hard for people to gauge where they are or to develop self-discipline. It makes them unsuited for the rigors of the journey to mastery. It weakens people’s will.” ( :102)

“Over the years, however, as Gould slowly established himself as one of the greatest pianists who has ever lived, Guerrero began to realize how deeply his former pupil had absorbed all of his ideas. He would read reviews of Gould’s performances in which the critic would note how he seemed to play Bach as if it were on the harpsichord, something soon echoed by others. His posture, his way of crouching and leaning over the instrument made him look like an uncanny double of the younger Guerrero; his finger work was so unusually powerful, it was clear he had spent years using the exercises Guerrero had taught him. In interviews, Gould would talk about the importance of learning a piece of music on paper before performing it, but he would say it all as if it were his own idea. Strangest of all, Gould played particular pieces of music as Guerrero had always imagined them in his mind, but with a verve and style that he could never have matched. It was as if his former protégé had internalized the essence of his style and transfigured it into something greater.” ( :104)

“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.”” ( :104)

“On one occasion Roach watched Pacquiao improvise a maneuver on the ropes in which he ducked out and attacked a fighter from an angle instead of head-on. To Roach, this was a move that made instant sense.” ( :106)

“Working together in this way, Roach was able to transform this one-dimensional, relatively unknown fighter into perhaps the greatest boxer of his generation.” ( :106)

“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).” ( :107)

“One book that crossed his path played a decisive role in his life: Michael Faraday’s two-volume Experimental Researches in Electricity. This book became for Edison what The Improvement of the Mind had been for Faraday.” ( :107)

 

IV
SEE PEOPLE AS THEY ARE: SOCIAL INTELLIGENCE

 

“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.” ( :109)

“what if he were to create a fictional character who would write letters to The Courant? If he wrote them well enough, James would never suspect they were from Benjamin, and he would print them. In this way, he would have the last laugh. After much thinking, he decided upon the perfect character to create: a young female widow named Silence Dogood who had lots of strong opinions about life in Boston, many of them rather absurd. To make this believable, Benjamin spent long hours imagining a detailed past for her.” ( :110)

“As Franklin took this all in and considered his current predicament, what disturbed him was not that he now found himself in a precarious position—alone and without money, far from home. There was no place more exciting for a young man than London, and he would somehow make his way there. What bothered him was how badly he had misread Keith and how naïve he had been.” ( :111)

“Over the ensuing weeks, however, strange things began to happen: mistakes kept popping up in texts he had already proofread, and almost every day he noticed some new error for which he was blamed. He started to feel like he was losing his mind. If this continued any longer he would be fired. Clearly, somebody was sabotaging his work, and when he complained to his fellow printers, they attributed it all to a mischievous ghost who was known to haunt the room. Finally figuring out what this meant, he let go of his principles and contributed to the beer fund; the mistakes suddenly disappearing along with the ghost.” ( :111)

“He experimented with some new manufacturing methods he had learned in England. When Keimer was away from the shop, he taught himself new skills such as engraving and ink-making. He paid close attention to his pupils, and carefully cultivated one of them to be a first-rate assistant. And just when he suspected that Keimer was about to fire him, he left and set up his own shop—with financial backing, greater knowledge of the business, a solid base of customers who would follow him everywhere, and a first-rate assistant whom he had trained. In executing this strategy, Franklin noticed how free he was from any feelings of bitterness or anger toward Keimer. It was all maneuvers on a chessboard, and by thinking inside Keimer he was able to play the game to perfection, with a clear and level head.” ( :113)

“Knowing all of this, Franklin decided upon the following course of action: he wrote to Norris a very polite note, expressing admiration for his collection. He was an avid book lover himself, and hearing so much about that one rare book in Norris’s collection, he would be excited beyond belief if he could somehow peruse it at his leisure. If Norris would lend it to him for a few days, he would take great care of it and return it promptly. Clearly pleased by this attention, Norris sent the book over right away and Franklin returned it as promised, with another note expressing his gratitude for the favor.” ( :113)

“His popularity was almost universal. But in the last public chapter of his life, he acted in a way that seemed to indicate that he had changed and lost his common touch. In 1776, a year after the outbreak of the War of Independence, Benjamin Franklin—now a distinguished political figure—was dispatched to France as a special commissioner to obtain arms, financing and an alliance. Soon stories spread throughout the colonies of his various intrigues with French women and courtesans, and of his attendance at lavish parties and dinners—much of which was true. Prominent politicians such as John Adams accused him of becoming corrupted by the Parisians. His popularity among Americans plummeted. But what the critics and public did not realize was that wherever he went he assumed the look, the outward morals, and the behavior of the culture at hand, so that he could better make his way. Desperate to win the French over to the American cause and understanding their nature quite well, he had transformed himself into what they had wanted to see in him—the American version of the French spirit and way of life. He was appealing to their notorious narcissism. All of this worked to perfection—” ( :114)

“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.” ( :115)

“Social intelligence is nothing more than the process of discarding the Naïve Perspective and approaching something more realistic.” ( :116)

“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.” ( :116)

“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.” ( :116)

“This new clarity about your perspective should be accompanied by an adjustment of your attitude. You must avoid the temptation to become cynical in your approach as an overreaction to your prior naïveté.” ( :117)

“social intelligence. 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.” ( :117)

“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. Trust these sensations—they are telling you something that you will often tend to ignore because it is not easy to verbalize. Later you can try to find a pattern to these signals and attempt to analyze what they mean.” ( :118)

“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.” ( :119)

“When looking for cues to observe, you should be sensitive to any kind of extreme behavior on their part—for instance, a blustery front, an overly friendly manner, a constant penchant for jokes. You will often notice that they wear this like a mask to hide the opposite, to distract others from the truth. 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 mean-spiritedness.” ( :119)

“What you want is a picture of a person’s character over time, which will give you a far more accurate sense of their true character than any first impression could.” ( :119)

“Most of us have these negative qualities—Envy, Conformism, Rigidity, Self-obsessiveness, Laziness, Flightiness, and Passive Aggression—in relatively mild doses.” ( :121)

“Envy: It is our nature to constantly compare ourselves to others—in terms of money, looks, coolness, intelligence, popularity, or any number of categories.” ( :121)

“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.” ( :121)

“vy 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.” ( :121)

“You must be particularly careful to never make people feel stupid in your presence. Intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy.” ( :121)

“nonthreatening exterior and to blend in well with the group, at least until you are so successful it no longer matters.” ( :121)

“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.” ( :122)

“When it is time to ask for a favor or help, you must think first of appealing to people’s self-interest in some way. (You should apply this to everyone, no matter their level of self-obsessiveness.)” ( :123)

“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. They will swoop in during the middle of your project and put their name on it, gaining partial credit for your work. They will engage you in a “collaboration” in which you do the bulk of the hard work but they share equally in the rewards.” ( :123)

“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.” ( :123)

“Your best defense is to recognize such types before you become embroiled in a battle, and avoid them like the plague.” ( :124)

“This will often discourage them and make them find another victim. At all cost, avoid entangling yourself emotionally in their dramas and battles. They are masters at controlling the dynamic, and you will almost always lose in the end.” ( :124)

“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” ( :125)

“His behavior became increasingly grandiose and erratic, until his employers at the hospital had to dismiss him. Virtually penniless and abandoned by almost everyone, he fell ill and died in 1865 at the age of forty-seven.” ( :127)

“With Harvey, they emphasize his theoretical brilliance as the singular cause of his success. But in both cases, social intelligence played a key role. Semmelweis completely ignored its necessity; such considerations annoyed him; all that mattered was the truth. But in his zeal, he unnecessarily alienated Klein, who had faced other disagreements with students before but never to such a degree.” ( :129)

“Understand: your work is the single greatest means at your disposal for expressing your social intelligence.” ( :129)

“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.” ( :129)

“Sometimes, she reasoned, what you do not reveal to people is all the more eloquent and powerful.” ( :131)

“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.” ( :132)

“In this diverse, multicultural world, it is best that you learn how to mingle and blend into all types of environments, giving yourself maximum flexibility. You must take pleasure in creating these personas—it will make you a better performer on the public stage.” ( :132)

“We sometimes have the experience of doing work that we consider to be quite brilliant, and then are rather shocked when we receive feedback from others who do not see it the same way at all. In such moments we are made aware of the discrepancy between our emotional and subjective relationship to our own work, and the response of others who view it with complete detachment,” ( :134)

“capable of pointing out flaws we could never see.” ( :135)

“Even though he was the author of the most famous novel of the day, The Sorrows of Young Werther, nobody seemed particularly interested in his opinions.” ( :136)

“When for some unknown reason Jannings refused to pass through a doorway and make his entrance into a scene, von Sternberg set up the hottest light available to boil the back of his neck every time Jannings stood there, forcing him to pass through. When Jannings declaimed his first scene in the most ridiculously elevated German, von Sternberg congratulated him for his fine tone and said he would be the only person in the film to talk like that, which would make him stand out and look bad, but so be it. Jannings quickly dropped the haughty accent. Whenever he went into a pout and remained in his room, von Sternberg would get the word passed to him that the director was lavishing attention on Marlene Dietrich, which would promptly make the jealous actor hurry to the set to compete for attention. Scene by scene, von Sternberg maneuvered him into the position he desired, managing to extract out of Jannings perhaps the greatest performance of his career.” ( :137)

“”immediacy of experience”—what was not before their eyes did not exist, and therefore there were almost no words or concepts for things outside immediate experience.” ( :138)

“seemed less interested in the truth and more concerned with making him look bad. Quickly, however, he moved past this emotional stage and began to use these attacks for his own purpose—they forced him to make sure everything he wrote was airtight; they made him rethink and strengthen his arguments.” ( :138)

“In the end, he came to welcome the attacks of his enemies for how much they had improved his work and toughened him up.” ( :138)

“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” ( :138)

“common sense, getting worked up about things that are not really important while ignoring problems that will spell doom in the long term.” ( :139)

“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.” ( :139)

“This attitude—”Suffer Fools Gladly”—should be forged in your Apprenticeship Phase, during which you are almost certainly going to encounter this type.” ( :139)

“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.” ( :139)

 

V
AWAKEN THE DIMENSIONAL MIND: THE CREATIVE-ACTIVE

 

“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.” ( :141)

“This remarkable focus had its roots in something that Leopold saw almost from the beginning— the boy had an intense love of music itself.” ( :142)

“The apprenticeship of the past twenty years had prepared him well for this moment. He had developed a prodigious memory—in his mind he could hold together all of the harmonies and melodies that he had absorbed over the years.” ( :145)

“Don Giovanni, Mozart had gone out drinking. When his friends reminded him that he had not yet written the overture, he hurried home, and while his wife kept him awake by singing to him, he wrote one of his most popular and brilliantly conceived overtures in a matter of hours.” ( :145)

“Continuing to work at a deliriously creative pace, Mozart exhausted himself and died in 1791, two months after the premier of his last opera, The Magic Flute, at the age of thirty-five. Several years after his death audiences caught up with the radical sound he had created in works such as Don Giovanni, which soon became among the five most frequently performed operas in history.” ( :146)

“We had a powerful desire to turn everything around us into a game, to play with circumstances. Let us call this quality the Original Mind.” ( :146)

“Not yet having commanded language, we thought in ways that were preverbal—in images and sensations. When we attended the circus, a sporting event, or a movie, our eyes and ears took in the spectacle with utmost intensity. Colors seemed more vibrant and alive. We had a powerful desire to turn everything around us into a game, to play with circumstances. Let us call this quality the Original Mind.” ( :146)

“As the years pass, this intensity inevitably diminishes. We come to see the world through a screen of words and opinions; our prior experiences, layered over the present, color what we see. We no longer look at things as they are, noticing their details, or wonder why they exist. Our minds gradually tighten up.” ( :146)

“call this way of thinking the Conventional Mind.” ( :146)

“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.” ( :146)

“The Conventional Mind is passive —it consumes information and regurgitates it in familiar forms. The Dimensional Mind is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.” ( :147)

“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.” ( :148)

“The truth is that creative activity is one that involves the entire self—our emotions, our levels of energy, our characters, and our minds. To make a discovery, to invent something that connects with the public, to fashion a work of art that is meaningful, inevitably requires time and effort.” ( :150)

“The task that you choose to work on must have an obsessive element. Like the Life’s Task, it must connect to something deep within you. (For Mozart, it wasn’t simply music, but opera that fully engaged him.) You must be like Captain Ahab in Melville’s Moby-Dick, obsessed with hunting down the Great White Whale. With such a deep-rooted interest, you can withstand the setbacks and failures, the days of drudgery, and the hard work that are always a part of any creative action. You can ignore the doubters and critics. You will then feel personally committed to solving the problem and will not rest until you do so.” ( :150)

“In Search of Lost Time.” ( :150)

“your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work. If you go at your work with half a heart, it will show in the lackluster results and in the laggard way in which you reach the end.” ( :150)

“Law of the Creative Dynamic—the higher the goal, the more energy you will call up from deep within.” ( :151)

“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.” ( :151)

“The only solution for an enlightened person is to let the mind absorb itself in what it experiences, without having to form a judgment on what it all means. The mind must be able to feel doubt and uncertainty for as long as possible. As it remains in this state and probes deeply into the mysteries of the universe, ideas will come that are more dimensional and real than if we had jumped to conclusions and formed judgments early on.” ( :152)

“In the sciences, you will tend to entertain ideas that fit your own preconceptions and that you want to believe in. This unconsciously colors your choices of how to verify these ideas, and is known as confirmation bias.” ( :153)

“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. The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.” ( :153)

“You do anything to break up your normal train of thinking and your sense that you already know the truth.” ( :153)

“Scientific knowledge is constantly progressing. The greatest theories of the time are eventually disproven or altered at some future point. The human mind is simply too weak to have a clear and perfect vision of reality.” ( :153)

“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. Such chance associations and discoveries are known as serendipity—the occurrence of something we are not expecting—” ( :154)

“As Pasteur himself commented, “Chance favors only the prepared mind.”” ( :155)

“Such serendipitous discoveries are extremely common in science and in technological inventions. The list would include, among hundreds of others, the discoveries by Wilhelm Röntgen of X-rays and Alexander Fleming of penicillin, and the invention of the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg.” ( :155)

“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.” ( :155)

“For instance, an argument people used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to prove that the earth does not move was to say that a rock dropped from a tower lands at its base. If the earth were moving, they argued, it would fall elsewhere. Galileo, a man who habitually thought in terms of analogies, saw the earth in his mind as a kind of sailing ship in space. As he explained to doubters of the earth’s movement, a rock dropped from the mast of a moving ship still lands at its base.” ( :156)

“larger ramifications of this information or connect it all into a theory. They are afraid to speculate because it seems unscientific and subjective, failing to understand that speculation is the heart and soul of human rationality, our way of connecting to reality and seeing the invisible. To them, it is better to stick to facts and studies, to keep a micro view, rather than possibly embarrassing themselves with a speculation that could be wrong.” ( :157)

“Fuller noticed that many people have great ideas, but are afraid to put them into action in any form. They prefer to engage in discussions or critiques, writing about their fantasies but never playing them out in the real world.” ( :158)

“To look at the “how” instead of the “what” means focusing on the structure—how the parts relate to the whole.” ( :159)

“With the company, we should look deeply at the organization itself—how well people communicate with one another, how quickly and fluidly information is passed along. If people are not communicating, if they are not on the same page, no amount of changes in the product or marketing will improve performance.” ( :159)

“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.” ( :160)

“In any field there are inevitable paradigms—accepted ways of explaining reality” ( :160)

“Fixating on what is present, ignoring what is absent: 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.” ( :161)

“Then, in the early twentieth century, the biochemist Frederick Gowland Hopkins, studying the effects of scurvy, had the idea to reverse this perspective. What caused the problem in this particular disease, he speculated, was not what was attacking from the outside, but what was missing from within the body itself—in this case what came to be known as vitamin C.” ( :161)

“But the men in his factories would average some twelve and a half hours to manufacture a single automobile, which was far too slow to achieve his goal. One day, trying to think of ways to speed up production, Ford watched his men at work as they scrambled around as fast as they could to assemble an automobile as it stood still on a platform. Ford did not focus on the tools that could be improved, or how to get the men to move faster, or the need to hire more workers—the kinds of small changes that would not have altered the dynamic enough for mass-production. Instead, he imagined something completely different. In his mind, he suddenly saw the cars moving and the men standing still, each worker doing a small portion of the job as the car moved from position to position. Within days he tried this out and realized what he was on to. By the time it was fully instituted in 1914, the Ford factory could now produce a car in ninety minutes. Over the years, he would speed up this miraculous saving of time.” ( :162)

“In physical exercise, resistance is a way to make the body stronger, and it is the same with the mind. Play a similar reversal on good fortune—seeing the potential dangers of becoming soft, addicted to attention, and so forth. These reversals will free up the imagination to see more possibilities, which will affect what you do. If you see setbacks as opportunities, you are more likely to make that a reality.” ( :162)

“”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.”” ( :163)

“This use of images, diagrams, and models can help reveal to you patterns in your thinking and new directions you can take that you would find hard to imagine exclusively in words.” ( :163)

“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 highlevel thinkers.” ( :164)

“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. Losing that initial verve causes us to work and rework the idea. It forces us to not settle too early on an easy solution. The mounting frustration and tightness that comes from single-minded devotion to one problem or idea will naturally lead to a breaking point. We realize we are getting nowhere. Such moments are signals from the brain to let go, for however long a period necessary, and most creative people consciously or unconsciously accept this.” ( :165)

“Among the thousands of stories of great insights and discoveries, perhaps the strangest one of all is that of Evariste Galois, a promising student of mathematics in France who in his teens revealed exceptional brilliance in algebra. In 1831, at the age of twenty, he became embroiled in a quarrel over a woman, which resulted in his being challenged to a duel. The night before the duel, certain he was going to die, Galois sat down and tried to summarize all of the ideas on algebraic equations that had been troubling him for several years. Suddenly, the ideas flowed, and even new ones came to him. He wrote all night at a feverish pitch. The next day, as he had foreseen, he died in the duel, but in the ensuing years his notes were read and published, leading to a complete revolution in higher algebra. Some of his scribbled notes indicated directions in mathematics that were so far ahead of his time, it is hard to fathom where they came from.” ( :166)

“Why risk changing your style in midstream, or adapting a new approach to your work? Better to stick to the tried and true. You also will have a reputation to protect—better to not say or do anything that might rock the boat.” ( :167)

“In any event, you must avoid emotional extremes and find a way to feel optimism and doubt at the same time—a difficult sensation to describe in words, but something all Masters have experienced.” ( :169)

“Coltrane had a way of starting chords in the strangest places. He would alternate fast passages with long tones, giving the impression that several voices were coming through the saxophone at once. No one had ever heard such a sound. His tone was equally peculiar; he had his own way of tightly clenching the mouthpiece, making it seem as if it were his own gravelly voice that was emerging from the instrument. His playing had an undercurrent of anxiety and aggression, which gave his music a sense of urgency.” ( :170)

“As part of the Coltrane phenomenon, every change he introduced into jazz was suddenly adopted as the latest trend—extended songs, larger groups, tambourines and bells, Eastern sounds, and so on. The man who had spent ten long years absorbing the styles of all forms of music and jazz now had become the trendsetter for others. Coltrane’s meteoric career, however, was cut short in 1967, when” ( :171)

“he died at the age of forty of liver cancer.” ( :172)

“But this voice does not emerge from just being oneself and letting loose. A person who would take up an instrument and try to express this quality right away would only produce noise. Jazz or any other musical form is a language, with conventions and vocabulary. And so the extreme paradox is that those who impress the most with their individuality—John Coltrane at the top—are the ones who first completely submerge their character in a long apprenticeship.” ( :172)

“the greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash.” ( :172)

“The best route is to follow Coltrane and to love learning for its own sake. Anyone who would spend ten years absorbing the techniques and conventions of their field, trying them out, mastering them, exploring and personalizing them, would inevitably find their authentic voice and give birth to something unique and expressive.” ( :172)

“Using a mirror that he had in his office, he proceeded to construct his own apparatus. He took a cardboard box with the lid removed, and made two armholes in the front of the box. He then positioned the upright mirror inside of it. Patients were instructed to place their good arm through one hole and their severed arm right up to the other hole. They were to maneuver the mirror until the image of their good arm was seen in the position where their other arm should be. In moving their good arm and seeing it move in the position of the severed one, almost instantly, these patients experienced an alleviation of the feeling of paralysis. Most of the patients who took the box home with them and practiced with it were able to unlearn the paralysis, much to their relief.” ( :174)

“meant that the brain could create a body image in a perfectly healthy person that was highly irrational. It seemed as well that our sense of self is far more subjective and fluid than we had thought. If our experience of our own body is something constructed in the brain and can go haywire, then perhaps our sense of self is also something of a construction or illusion, one that we create to suit our purposes, and one that can malfunction. The implications here go beyond neuroscience, and into the realm of philosophy.” ( :175)

“In 1888 their father needed to quickly print out a pamphlet for his work. To help him, the brothers cobbled together their own small job press, using the hinge from a folding buggy top in the backyard, rusty springs, and other pieces of scrap. The press worked brilliantly. Inspired by their success, they improved the design, using better parts, and opened their own printing shop. Those who knew the business marveled at the peculiar press the brothers had concocted, which managed to spit out 1,000 pages per hour, double the usual rate.” ( :177)

“A bicycle is inherently unstable. It is the rider who learns quickly enough how to keep the bike in a secure position, and to steer it properly by leaning to the side. A pilot of a flying machine, as he imagined it, should be able to safely bank and turn, or tilt up or down, and not be locked into a rigid horizontal line, like a ship.” ( :178)

“On December 17, 1903, Wilbur piloted their flying machine at Kitty Hawk for an impressive fifty-nine seconds—the first manned, controlled, and powered flight in history. Over the years they would improve the design, and the flight times would increase. For the other competitors in the race it was a complete mystery how two men without any engineering or aeronautic experience or financial backing had managed to get there first.” ( :179)

“Imagine yourself years in the future looking back at the work you have done. From that future vantage point, the extra months and years you devoted to the process will not seem painful or laborious at all. It is an illusion of the present that will vanish. Time is your greatest ally” ( :184)

“Martha Graham had indeed single-handedly created a new genre—” ( :186)

“modern dance as we know it today.” ( :187)

“After cashing in on Viaweb, Graham hit upon the idea of writing essays for the Internet—his rather peculiar form of blogging. These essays made him a celebrity among young hackers and programmers everywhere. In 2005 he was invited by undergraduates in the computer science department at Harvard to give a talk. Instead of boring them and himself by analyzing various programming languages, he decided to discuss the idea of technology startups themselves—why some work, why some fail. The talk was so successful, and Graham’s ideas so illuminating, that the students began to besiege him with questions about their own startup ideas. As he listened, he could sense that some of their concepts were not far off the mark, but that they badly needed shaping and guidance.” ( :192)

“As their apprentices learned, they learned as well. Oddly enough, they discovered that what really makes successful entrepreneurs is not the nature of their idea, or the university they went to, but their actual character—their willingness to adapt their idea and take advantage of possibilities they had not first imagined.” ( :193)

“Coptic. After Egypt became a Roman colony in 30 B.C., the old language, demotic, slowly died out, and was replaced by Coptic—a mix of Greek and Egyptian. After the Arabs conquered Egypt and converted it to Islam, making Arabic the official idiom, the remaining Christians in the land retained Coptic as their language. By Champollion’s time only a few Christians remained who still spoke the ancient language, mostly monks and priests.” ( :196)

“Armed with this knowledge, he went on the attack. On the Rosetta stone, he examined the royal cartouche in the demotic that had been previously identified as containing the name of Ptolemy. Knowing now many equivalent signs between hieroglyphs and demotic, he transposed the demotic symbols into what they should look like in the hieroglyphic version, to create what should be the word for Ptolemy. To his surprise and delight, he found such a word—making this the first successful decipherment of a hieroglyph.” ( :197)

“In the aftermath of his discovery, he would continue to translate one word after another and figure out the exact nature of the hieroglyphs. In the process he would completely transform our knowledge and concept of ancient Egypt. His earliest translations revealed that hieroglyphs, as he suspected, were a sophisticated combination of all three forms of symbols, and had the equivalent of an alphabet far before anyone had imagined the invention of an alphabet. This was not a backward civilization of priests dominating a slave culture and keeping secrets through mysterious symbols, but a vibrant society with a complicated and beautiful written language, one that could be considered the equal of ancient Greek.” ( :198)

“Your task as a creative thinker is to actively explore the unconscious and contradictory parts of your personality, and to examine similar contradictions and tensions in the world at large. Expressing these tensions within your work in any medium will create a powerful effect on others, making them sense unconscious truths or feelings that have been obscured or repressed.” ( :201)

“contradictions that are rampant—for instance, the way in which a culture that espouses the ideal of free expression is charged with an oppressive code of political correctness that tamps free expression down.” ( :202)

“By delving into the chaotic and fluid zone below the level of consciousness where opposites meet, you will be surprised at the exciting and fertile ideas that will come bubbling up to the surface.” ( :202)

“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.” ( :202)

 

VI
FUSE THE INTUITIVE WITH THE RATIONAL: MASTERY

 

“One such character was the Count Robert de Montesquiou, a poet, aesthete, and notorious decadent who had a pronounced weakness for handsome young men.” ( :205)

” was an embarrassment and it demoralized him.” ( :206)

“He began to grow increasingly depressed and despondent. He was tired of the salons and mingling with the rich. He had no career, no position to rely upon; nearing thirty years of age, he was still living at home, dependent on his parents for money. He felt constantly anxious about his health, certain he was doomed to die within a few years. He heard endless stories of his friends from school becoming prominent members of society, with growing families of their own. In comparison he felt like a total failure. All that he had accomplished was a few articles in newspapers about high society and a book that had made him the laughingstock of Paris. The only thing he could rely on was the continued devotion of his mother.” ( :206)

“He wrote essays on aesthetics, sketches of characters, childhood memories that he strained to recall. And as he went deep into this process, he felt a change within himself. Something clicked. He did not know where it came from, but a voice emerged, his own voice, which would be that of the narrator himself.” ( :207)

“He had collected over the years thousands of bits of stories, characters, lessons on life, laws of psychology that he slowly pieced together in the novel, like tiles of a mosaic. He could not foresee the end.” ( :207)

“Going through volume after volume, readers would have the sensation that they were actually living and experiencing this world from within, the narrator’s thoughts becoming one’s own thoughts—the boundaries between narrator and reader disappearing. It was a magical effect; it felt like life itself.” ( :208)

“Throughout history we read of Masters in every conceivable form of human endeavor describing a sensation of suddenly possessing heightened intellectual powers after years of immersion in their field. The great chess Master Bobby Fischer spoke of being able to think beyond the various moves of his pieces on the chessboard; after a while he could see “fields of forces” that allowed him to anticipate the entire direction of the match. For the pianist Glenn Gould, he no longer had to focus on” ( :208)

“notes or parts of the music he was playing, but instead saw the entire architecture of the piece and could express it.” ( :209)

“This unseen element that constitutes the animal’s entire experience, and that makes battle a fluid, organic entity, can be called various things.” ( :210)

“In warfare, we can point to the great German general Erwin Rommel, who was said to possess the highest form of the fingertip feel ever chronicled in the history of battle. He could sense exactly where the enemy was thinking of striking and foil their plans; he could launch an offensive at precisely the weak point in their lines of defense.” ( :210)

“Rommel’s power, however, was not occult in nature. He simply had a much deeper knowledge than other generals of all of the aspects of battle. He constantly flew over the desert in his own plane, gaining a bird’s-eye feel for the terrain. He was a trained mechanic, and so had a complete knowledge of his tanks and what he could expect of them. He studied in depth the psychology of the opposing army and its generals. He interacted with almost all of his soldiers, and had a clear sense of how far he could push them. Whatever he studied, he did so with incredible intensity and depth. A point was reached where all of these details became internalized. They fused together in his brain, giving him a feel for the whole picture and a sense of” ( :210)

“this interactive dynamic.” ( :211)

“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.” ( :211)

“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” ( :212)

“you.” ( :213)

“Benjamin Franklin. Franklin had always been an acute observer of natural phenomena, but these powers only increased with the years. In his seventies and on into his eighties he continued with a series of speculations that are now considered uncannily ahead of his time—including advanced ideas on health and medicine, weather, physics, geophysics, evolution, the use of aircraft for military and commercial purposes, and more. As he aged, he applied his renowned inventiveness to his growing physical weaknesses. Trying to improve his eyesight and quality of life, he invented bifocals. Unable to reach books on the tops of his shelves, he invented an extendible mechanical arm. Needing copies of his own work and not wanting to leave his house, he invented a rolling press that could make an accurate copy of a document in less than two minutes. In his last years, he had insights into politics and the future of America that made people think of him as a seer, as someone with magical abilities. William Pierce, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention, met Franklin near the end of his life and wrote: “Dr. Franklin is well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age; all the operations of nature he seems to understand…. He is eighty-two years old, and possesses an activity of mind equal to a youth of twenty-five years of age.”” ( :217)

“On the other hand, there is the opposing tendency of the brain to want to make connections between everything. This generally occurs among individuals who pursue knowledge far enough that these associations come to life. Although this tendency is easier to spot in Masters, we can see in history certain movements and philosophies in which this return to reality becomes widespread in a culture, part of the zeitgeist.” ( :218)

“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.” ( :219)

“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.” ( :219)

“The Islanders would travel in outrigger canoes fitted with a sail with three or four men aboard, one serving as the chief navigator. They had no charts or instruments of any kind, and for the Westerners who accompanied them this could be a disconcerting experience. Taking off at night or day (it didn’t matter to them), there would be apparently nothing to guide them along the way. The islands were so far apart that one could travel for days without spotting land. To go off course only slightly (and storms or weather changes could certainly cause that) would mean never spotting their destination, and probably death—it would take too long to find the next island in the chain, and supplies would run out. And yet they would embark on their sea voyages with a remarkably relaxed spirit.” ( :221)

“When they were supposedly getting closer to their destination, they would become slightly more alert. They would follow the paths of birds in the sky; they would look deeply into the water, which they would sometimes cup in their hands and smell. When they arrived at their destination, it was all with the air of pulling into the train station on time. They seemed to know exactly how long it would take and how many supplies were required for the voyage. Along the way, they would make perfect adjustments to any changes in weather or currents.” ( :221)

“As these Westerners discovered, one of their principal means of navigation was following the paths of stars in the night sky. Over the course of centuries, they had devised a chart comprising the path of fourteen different constellations. These constellations, along with the sun and the moon, described arcs in the sky that could translate into thirty-two different directions around the circle of the horizon. These arcs remained the same, no matter the season. From their own island, they could map out the location of all of the islands in their area by locating what stars they should be under at particular moments at night, and they knew how this position would change to another star as they traveled toward their destination. The Islanders had no writing system. Apprentice navigators simply had to memorize this elaborate map, which was in continual motion.” ( :221)

“They had learned how to read the other navigational signs so well that it all had become second nature. They had a complete feel for this environment, including all of the variables that seemed to make it so chaotic and dangerous. As one Westerner put it, such Masters could travel hundreds of miles from island to island as easily as an experienced cab driver could negotiate the labyrinthine streets of London.” ( :222)

“Aarau, near their home in Zurich. This school used a method developed by the Swiss educational reformer Johann Pestalozzi, which emphasized the importance of learning through one’s own observations,” ( :224)

“Albert Einstein devoured everything he could about Maxwell’s work and the questions it raised. Einstein himself had a basic need to believe in laws, in the existence of an ordered universe, and experiencing doubts on these laws caused him great anxiety.” ( :225)

“There could not be two separate laws. And yet in theory it still could be supposed that one could catch up with and see the wave itself before it appeared as light. It was a paradox, and it made him unbearably anxious as he contemplated it.” ( :225)

“A year later, in 1900, Einstein came to a life-changing decision about himself: He was not an experimental scientist. He was not good at devising experiments and he did not enjoy the process. He had several strengths—he was a marvel at solving abstract puzzles of any kind; he could turn them over in his mind, converting them into images he could manipulate and shape at will. And because of his natural disdain of authority and conventions, he could think in ways that were novel and flexible.” ( :225)

“In the course of his deep thinking, he came up with two important principles that would guide him further. First, he determined that his original intuition had to be correct—the laws of physics had to apply equally to someone at rest as to someone traveling at a uniform speed in a spaceship. Nothing else would make sense. And second, that the speed of light was a constant. Even if a star moving at several thousand miles per hour emitted light, the speed of such light would remain at 186,000 miles per second and not any faster. In this way he would adhere to Maxwell’s law on the invariable speed of electromagnetic waves.” ( :226)

“On a beautiful, sunny day in Bern, he walked with a friend and colleague from the patent office, explaining to him the dead end he had reached, his frustration, and his decision to give up. Just as he said all of this, as Einstein later recalled, “I suddenly understood the key to the problem.” It came to him in a grand, intuitive flash, first with an image and then with words—a split-second insight that would forever alter our own concept of the universe.” ( :226)

“A man stands in the center of the embankment. Just as the train moves by, lightning strikes simultaneously at two equidistant points, A and B, to the right” ( :226)

“and left of the man. Suppose there is a woman seated in the middle of the train, who is passing just in front of the man on the embankment as the lightning strikes. She will be moving closer to point B as the light signal travels. She will see it strike ever so slightly ahead of the lightning at point A. What is simultaneous for the man on the embankment is not so for the woman on the train. No two events can ever be said to be simultaneous, because every moving reference frame has its own relative time, and everything in the universe is moving in relation to something else. As Einstein put it, “There is no audible tick-tock everywhere in the world that can be considered as time.” If time is not absolute, then neither is space or distance. Everything is relative to everything else—speed, time, distance, and so on—except for the speed of light, which never changes.” ( :227)

“theory of Simple Relativity, and in the years to come it would shake the foundations of physics and science. Several years later, Einstein would repeat the exact same process for his discovery of General Relativity and what he called the “curvature of spacetime,” applying relativity to gravitational force.” ( :227)

“To rise to the level of mastery requires many hours of dedicated focus and practice. You cannot get there if your work brings you no joy and you are constantly struggling to overcome your own weaknesses.” ( :228)

“She noticed other similarities between cattle and people with autism, such as the dependence on habit and routine.” ( :230)

“He also noticed a slight gap between himself and the golden boys. They had relied for so long on their natural skills that they had not cultivated the same level of concentration that he now possessed. In many ways, he had surpassed them. After participating in a few of these exercises, Rodriguez had risen to elite status.” ( :232)

“For instance, he had no recollection of deciding to jettison the fuel tanks nor where such an idea came from. It must have been something he had learned, and somehow in the moment it had simply occurred to him, and very easily might have saved his life. The evasive maneuvers he executed with the first MiG astounded his superiors—they were so fast and effective.” ( :233)

“Rodriguez would go on to have one more kill in Desert Storm, and another in the 1999 Kosovo campaign, more than any pilot in recent combat, earning him the nickname the Last American Ace.” ( :234)

“His winning percentage started to climb to a level that was unprecedented in the sport. His success extended beyond the main fighter in his stable, Manny Pacquiao, to include nearly all of his boxers. Since 2003 he has been named Boxing Trainer of the Year five times, no other previous trainer having received the award more than twice. It seems that in modern boxing he is now in a class all by himself.” ( :240)

“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.” ( :241)

“As Nietzsche once wrote, “As soon as you feel yourself against me you have ceased to understand my position and consequently my arguments! You have to be the victim of the same passion.”” ( :246)

“Almost all scientists at the time ridiculed his work, but in the decades to follow it was recognized that he had developed perhaps the first real concept of evolution, and his other work was the precursor to such later sciences as morphology and comparative anatomy.” ( :249)

“Participating on the German side in battles to overturn the French Revolution, and witnessing the victory of the French civilian army at the battle of Valmy, he exclaimed, “Here and now begins a new historical era; and you can all say you have seen it.” He meant the coming era of democracies and civilian armies.” ( :249)

“Now in his seventies, he would tell people that petty nationalism was a dying force and that one day Europe would form a union like the United States, a development he welcomed.” ( :249)

“United States itself, predicting that it would some day be the great power in the world, its borders slowly expanding to fill the continent. He discussed his belief that a new science of telegraphy would connect the globe, and that people would have access to the latest news by the hour. He called this future “the velocipedic age,” one determined by speed. He was concerned that it could lead to a deadening of the human spirit.” ( :250)

“He had been postponing it for years, but now it was time to finally write the ending to Faust itself: the scholar would find a moment of happiness, the devil would take his soul, but divine forces would forgive Faust for his great intellectual ambition, for his relentless quest for knowledge, and would save him from hell—perhaps Goethe’s own judgment on himself. A few months later, he wrote his friend, the great linguist and educator Wilhelm von Humboldt, the following: “The human organs, by means of practice, training, reflection, success or failure, furtherance or resistance…learn to make the necessary connections unconsciously, the acquired and the intuitive working hand-in-hand, so that a unison results which is the world’s wonder…The world is ruled by bewildered theories of bewildering operations; and nothing is to me more important than, so far as is possible, to turn to the best account what is in me and persists in me, and keep a firm hand upon my idiosyncrasies.” These would be the last words he would write. Within a few days he was dead, at the age of eighty-three.” ( :250)

“Today some might see a person such as Goethe as a quaint relic of the eighteenth century, and his” ( :250)

“ideal of unifying knowledge as a Romantic dream, but in fact the opposite is the case, and for one simple reason: the design of the human brain—its inherent need to make connections and associations —gives it a will of its own.” ( :251)

“Or it might also say, “To work for so long at something that requires so much pain and effort, why bother? Better to enjoy my short life and do what I can to get by.” As you must know by now, these voices do not speak the truth.” ( :251)

“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. It” ( :251)

“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. It is instead a deep expression of something natural, something that marked you at birth as unique.” ( :251)

“It is in fact the height of selfishness to merely consume what others create and to retreat into a shell of limited goals and immediate pleasures.” ( :251)

“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….” ( :252)

“Every activity of man is amazingly complicated, not only that of the genius: but none is a ‘miracle.'” ( :252)

 


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