Robert Greene: Mastery is basically a form of intelligence that people reach after years of working in a field, years of practice, experience, some failure. It could be 10,000 hours. I say it can be 20,000 hours. It’s what happens to a Mozart or an Einstein or a Steve Jobs or anybody who is at something long enough where their mind basically elevates to another level. And they have what I consider high level intuition. They have a feel for what’s coming next in the world. They can sense trends. They can see answers to problems without almost even thinking. Ideas come to them. It’s extremely powerful.
So I interviewed nine contemporary masters to get rid of the notion that these are all people in powdered wigs – masters from the eighteenth century or whatever. And it’s interesting. All of them fit the same pattern that I’m talking about but they’ve managed to use what’s great about our time period. The level of distraction is a negative. Let’s face it. It is a negative. It makes it harder for us to go deeper and deeper into a subject. But the good parts of our era is the incredible explosion of information, how much is accessible to us. How with just a couple of clicks on the Internet we can start investigating some new science or some new discovery
And so these are all people who are taking advantage of all of this and are making connections between ideas, between different fields. That’s where the future of mastery is. Yoky Matsuoka, she goes into electrical engineering and then she goes into robotics and now she’s – and she studied neuroscience. She’s combined five or six different fields into this new field that she calls neurobotics. That’s the future of mastery but you have to master the basics of the whole thing which is building discipline, being able to practice at something over a long period of time and being able to focus.
We have this notion that great geniuses or creative people like an Einstein or a Da Vinci or Steve Jobs – these people are born that way as if it’s a genetic thing that they have some kind of chromosome that makes them more talented. And it’s just a bunch of nonsense. This kind of mastery comes through a process. A process that’s linked to the brain, to how we learn. It’s all based very deeply in neuroscience. And I can show you in the book step by step by step how someone like an Albert Einstein spent those 10,000 hours and was able to come up with the special theory of relativity. And so that’s what mastery basically is. And it’s not intimidating.
If you’re so deeply engrossed in a field that you love whether it’s music or sports or dancing or interviewing people for Big Think, you’re not even aware of the 100 hours, the 500 hours that you’re putting into it because you love, you love what you’re doing. There was a famous book that a lot of people have probably heard about called Flow written in the ‘70s, very famous sociologist/psychologist who demonstrated that people who love their work and get very deeply engaged and enter a state that he calls flow where they’re not even aware of the passage of time. I think, you know, if you think about the 10,000 hours you go, “Oh my God. I could never get there. What a drag. It’s not worth it.” But really if you’re at a job that you hate and the time is going slowly and you’re unhappy, it’s a lot worse than the possible hours you might have to put in to mastering a field. The process itself is actually a very exciting rewarding process.
Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Elizabeth Rodd