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Sunday, September 20, 2020


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Without resorting to the writer’s tactic of heying, haiing and rigmaroling around the bush, Mastery, the latest book by the author of the much-acclaimed 48 Laws of Power Robert Greene is a masterpiece on becoming a master.

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Greene has over the years devoted quality time to studying the lives and times of powerful people which has accorded him a thorough grasp of the topic. In plain language, he knows what he is talking about. Reading Mastery, one cannot but be amazed  at the depth of insight condensed in this 207 paged book  – especially those with a keen eye on carving a niche in business in this highly competitive world.

This book makes for a riveting read even if you nurture no interest in achieving mastery in your chosen path of career. Having read a huge number of biographies, Greene has distilled the recurring lessons and most interesting stories into the fewest pages possible. Inspiring stories abound in the interesting pages about the Wright Brothers, Einstein, and Paul Graham in the same chapter. 

He presents to the reader hope-inspiring stories about scientists, musicians, inventors, writers, businessmen, and others to display the universality of principles that will help you achieve greatness in your career. 

Greene accentuates the primacy of learning from other masters instead of focusing on book learning. He argues for a shift of focus from book learning to learning from mentors while not under-rating the importance of books as a source of knowledge that can change lives. Books, he argues compellingly, present the same information to everyone while people can tailor information to the current needs for your existence. This isn’t to wrest away from books their role as a primary source of knowledge. Instead, it’s about finding a balance between comprehension of theory and practice while identifying the difference. 

Greene posits that opportunities can be seized to achieve mastery from every situation and setting. Everything has the potential to inspire an improvement for a person in their craft. We have to keep our mind open enough to create connections between different industries. He points out that more often than not, one industry will learn a lesson much earlier than another because the circumstances under which they work coerce them to do so. 

Essential to attaining mastery, Greene postulates, is the need to be more tolerant of other people. Strange as it sounds as a lesson to take away from a book about achieving mastery, when you read Greene’s section on socialising, though, comprehension will inevitably dawn .He contend that without social intelligence it’s difficult to do much in this world as far as getting the things you want done. It’s also near-impossible to form worth-while relationships unless you can learn to accept others. Consider the following quote Greene opens up the “Keys To Mastery” section with from the cerebral Arthur Schopenhauer: “You must allow everyone the right to exist in accordance with the character he has, whatever it turns out to be: and all you should strive to do is to make use of this character in such a way as its kind of nature permits, rather than to hope for any alteration in it, or to condemn it offhand for what it is. This is the true sense of the maxim – Live and let live… To become indignant at [people’s] conduct is as foolish as to be angry with a stone because it rolls into your path. And with many people the wisest thing you can do, is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter”. 

It’s challenging when people don’t behave just as we expect and want them to. So we are tempted by the conditioning of our environment or social milieu to make every effort humanly possible to change them and get frustrated when we can’t. 

In the end the only person we can change is ourselves and so that is where our focus should lie, Greene writes. The bad behavior of others should help us behave better – not frustrate us about human nature. Sometimes this isn’t possible – sometimes the person is too close to us, sometimes the stakes are too high. We can’t help but engage .He makes a spirited argument for focusing on the needs and wants of others instead of our own. We expect others – especially close family and friends – to meet our expectations and act in ways we would have them act. Instead of seeing people as they are we create inaccurate stories about what they are or what they should be. These stories lead to unnecessary frustration, fear, or admiration which has much resonance in The Gambian work force with debilitating fights and vendettas between rival groups. This is true in most offices in The Gambia with the prevalence of factions.

Greene canvasses more respect for rational intuition. Everyone who is better than good at what they do, he writes, utilises the power of a little voice or following their gut or describes some kind of divine connection when doing their work. It’s the wordless-reasoning, the intelligence too quick for words that is helping to drive them where they need to be. 

He added: “There should be more respect for hard practice through which mastery is attainable in a particular field.  Practicing with diligence – straining yourself to get better – is extremely important in leading a fulfilling life. Our work has the potential to be a huge source of meaning in our life. It doesn’t need to be conventional work,   but any work that brings you fulfillment and needs to be done meaningfully. When you push your skills to the limit you feel a creative and sometimes physical exhaustion that makes life worth living”. Hard work has in it great potential for fun and sense of fulfillment but isn’t worth much if you’re not pushing yourself in the direction of your inclinations. When you’ve practiced hard for long enough then you will begin to experience the sensation of “divine” intuition mentioned above.

The book is divided into chapters such as Discover Your Calling: The Life’s Task – in which we discover that thing we should be spending more time and energy on. Chapter two, Submit to Reality: The Ideal Apprenticeship – seeks to teach the reader how to discover the secrets of learning something in the best possible way. Greene goes into apprentice-master relationships and then goes onto to detailing the best way to complete an apprenticeship.

In subsequent chapters such as Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic, See People as They Are: Social Intelligence, Awaken The Dimensional-Creative Mind: The Creative-Active, and Fuse The Intuitive With The Rational: Mastery, Greene seeks to enable the reader discover how to take full advantage of what our mentors have to offer.

He also expands on how to discover how to expand our knowledge once we form a firm foundation. These techniques, he writes, will save us from complacency while discovering the intelligence that is cultivated by immersing ourselves deeply in a field of study.

Mastery is a most read for all seeking to rise to higher positions of influence in their chosen careers.


Available at Tombooktoo Bookshop, Garba Jahumpa Road, Bakau New Town.


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