This week we have the pleasure of hearing from Robert Green. In his own words:
“Robert Greene is an American author and speaker known for his books on strategy, power and seduction. He has written four international bestsellers: The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, and The 50th Law (with rapper 50 Cent).
Greene grew up in Los Angeles and attended University of California, Berkeley before finishing his degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a B.A. in classical studies. Before becoming an author, Greene estimates that he worked 80 jobs, including as a construction worker, translator, magazine editor, and Hollywood movie writer. In 1995, Greene worked as a writer at Fabrica, an art and media school in Italy, and met a book packager named Joost Elffers. Greene pitched a book about power to Elffers and wrote a treatment which eventually became The 48 Laws of Power. He would note this as the turning point of his life.
The 48 Laws of Power
Greene’s first book, The 48 Laws of Power, is a practical guide for anyone who wants power, observes power, or wants to arm himself against power. The laws are a distillation of 3,000 years in the history of power, drawing on the lives of strategists and historical figures like Niccolò Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, Carl von Clausewitz, Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, and P.T. Barnum. Each law has its own chapter, complete with a “transgression of the law,” “observation of the law,” and a “reversal.”
The 48 Laws of Power was an international bestseller and has sold over 1.2 million copies in the United States alone. It is popular with well-known rappers, entrepreneurs, celebrities, athletesand actors including 50 Cent, Jay-Z, Kanye West, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris, DJ Premier, Dov Charney, Brian Grazer, Andrew Bynum, Chris Bosh, and Will Smith.
The Art of Seduction
Greene’s second book, The Art of Seduction, was published in 2004 and is a handbook on the most subtle and effective form of power, seduction. The book profiles the nine types of seducers (e.g. The Rake, The Siren, and The Charmer) and details aspects of attraction, authenticity, storytelling and negotiation. Greene uses examples from historical figures such as Cleopatra,Giacomo Casanova, Duke Ellington and John F. Kennedy to support the psychology behind seduction.
The 33 Strategies of War
The 33 Strategies of War is the third book by Greene and was published in 2007. The book is divided into five parts: Self-Directed Warfare, Organizational (Team) Warfare, Defensive Warfare, Offensive Warfare and Unconventional (Dirty) Warfare. The book is a guide to the campaign of everyday life and distills military wisdom from historical figures like Napoleon Bonaparte, Sun Tzu,Alfred Hitchcock, Alexander the Great and Margaret Thatcher.
The Sunday Times called the book “an excellent toolkit for dealing with business and relationships,” and The Independent called Greene “a modern-day Machiavelli.” NBA player Chris Boshstated that his favorite book is The 33 Strategies of War. It has sold more than 200,000 copies.
The 50th Law
The 50th Law is the fourth book by Greene—written collaboratively with rapper 50 Cent—and was published in 2009. The book illustrates universal laws about strategy and fearlessness by supplementing anecdotes from 50 Cent’s rise as both a young urban hustler and as an up-and-coming musician with lessons from historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Socrates,Malcolm X, Miles Davis, François de La Rochefoucauld, Machiavelli, Richard Wright, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charlie Parker, and the Baron de Montesquieu. Each of the 10 chapters in the book explains a factor of fearlessness and begins by telling how 50 learned this “Fearless Philosophy” in Southside Queens.
It received considerable international attention, with a major article in London’s Guardian.
Greene’s fifth book, Mastery, was released on November 13, 2012. Mastery examines the lives of both historical and contemporary figures such as Charles Darwin, Paul Graham, the Wright Brothers, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Edison, and Mozart, and distills the traits and universal ingredients that made them masters. The book is divided into six sections, each focusing on essential lessons and strategies on the path to Mastery.
Greene can speak five languages and is a student of Zen Buddhism. He is also an avid swimmer and mountain biker.”
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Jonathan: Hey, everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I’m very, very excited about today’s show. I actually had to call my brother before the show because today’s guest is my brother’s favorite author of all time, one of my favorite authors of all time, and has written three bestselling books. His fourth just came out, certainly destined to be a bestseller as well. I would say he is maybe most well known for his first book, The 48 Laws of Power. His new book is fabulous and will be the focus of today’s show; it’s called Mastery. Folks, we have none other than the Robert Greene with us today. Robert, welcome to the show.
Robert: Thanks for having me, Jonathan. Just one little correction; I actually have five books.
Jonathan: Oh, five, I’m sorry. Yes, and they are, go ahead?
Robert: The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law, which I co-wrote with 50 Cent, the rapper, and then my new book, Mastery.
Jonathan: Well, see, I often get you and 50 Cent confused, Robert.
Robert: We’re very similar. We look quite alike.
Jonathan: Well, that was just a fun way to start the interview. I was always curious, you know, because you’ve got The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, and then you cowrote a book with 50 Cent. Do you mind sharing with us a little bit of the back story there?
Robert: The 48 Laws of Power was a huge hit in the hip-hop world. A lot of famous rappers including Jay-Z and Nas and 50 himself were big fans and would even quote the book in some of their songs. And there are various reasons for that. I think a lot of them were trying to become entrepreneurs and business people in the music industry. It’s a very manipulative, Machiavellian environment, and they hadn’t gone to business school; nothing prepared them for it, so they found The 48 Laws helpful.
Because of that, 50 and I met, he initiated the contact, and we found out that we really had a nice rapport, we liked each other. And I sort of thought I would try maybe, if I were going to write a book with him, I would use him as a case study. Because I had just come off writing The 33 Strategies of War in which the main character was Napoleon Bonaparte, and I figured here is sort of like a real-life Napoleon Bonaparte.
I mean, he’s not dead, I don’t have to read about him in a book. He’s incredibly powerful. He kind of embodies The 48 Laws of Power. And so, here I could study him and figure out what the key to his success was, and then together we would write a book on that. As it came out, I felt like the key to 50’s phenomenal success is his fearless attitude towards life, so The 50th Law is sort of a meditation on the power anyone can have if they adopt that sort of fearless attitude.
Jonathan: I’m so happy to hear you say that, Robert, because I know sometimes on the outside looking in, people see your work and may critique it as being an attempt to… let’s be very clear. Your work is amazingly comprehensive and it is amazingly powerful. Like any powerful tool, a powerful tool can be used for powerful good or for powerful evil. It’s also interesting to know that you are a Buddhist, I believe. So I would hypothesize that your intention with all of this amazing work you’ve done is to empower people for good; is that correct?
Robert: Yes, I have no problem putting it that way. It’s more like I want to treat the reader as an adult. I’m laying out this information for you, and I want you to do with it what you think is best and responsible. I’ve learned that a lot of things that happen in the realm of power, behind the doors in offices, in business, in politics, there’s a lot of ugly stuff that goes on. There’s a lot of manipulation.
People play all kinds of weird games. I’m going to reveal to you what happens behind those doors. I’m going to reveal to you all of that stuff that everybody likes to keep secret so that now you can be aware of what’s probably happening and going on around you and what maybe somebody is trying to do to you right now in the present, so that you can be armed with this knowledge. That was sort of really the main justification for writing that book, or the reason for writing it.
Jonathan: It’s certainly, to your testament, it seems like being ignorant is never helpful. It might make you happy, but it certainly seems like it’s never helpful. So you’re just trying to free us from that ignorance.
Robert: Well, the metaphor I use is when you enter the work world, it’s like you’re entering a boxing arena or a wrestling ring. That’s what the great philosopher Marcus Aurelius sort of compared it to. You can sit there and be nice and good and just sit in the corner and try to not do anything or hurt anybody, but people are going to start hitting you and things are going to start happening.
By the nature of being in that boxing ring, you have to respond to what people are doing. Being ignorant or naïve – I like to put it as naïve, as I was when I entered the work world – is never, never good. No good will ever come from that, because people are going to do things to you. You’re going to make mistakes that are going to cause you years of pain, emotional pain, that some people never get over. Knowing about this, knowing the games that are being played, knowing the right kind of attitude that you have to have when you enter this sometimes brutal environment, I think, can always help you. You don’t have to practice these 48 laws. You certainly don’t want to practice all of them. But being aware of what people might be doing, I think, is essential.
Jonathan: It is absolutely essential, Robert. One of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show, in addition to just being a personal fan of your work – and certainly I do want to talk about Mastery, I think it’s going to be a phenomenal piece to add to your repertoire here. I know this isn’t your area of specialty, necessarily, but we talk about improving our lives through various dietary techniques or various exercise techniques, you want to talk about jumping in a boxing ring and people trying to manipulate you, people trying to trick you, good lord, type “diet pill” into a search engine and you will see. How can we protect ourselves from that?
Robert: A lot of my stories in The 48 Laws of Power deal with con artists. People always ask me why? I mean, maybe a tenth of the stories have to deal with people who are conning you or tricking you. In my research of that, I discovered that con artist and charlatans and quacks, they’ve been around for literally thousands of years. It’s a type of character that you’re going to find in history and that you’re finding around the world right now. You’re never going to get rid of them; there are always going to be people like that.
They are trying to make a quick buck off of your credulity, off of your naïveté. And the only thing you can do is to be aware of the games that they play. In The 48 Laws of Power, I have story after story and law after law saying, This is how you recognize when someone’s playing a con game on you. This is how you recognize when someone is making something up.
They tend to use all sorts of numbers and they use kind of fake science to back it up. They have all kinds of fancy imagery and use really gaudy artwork to sort of blind you to the thinness of their ideas, on and on and on. It’s timeless stuff, and the best thing you can do is, you’re not going to get rid of these people but you should stop being so gullible, and here are the games that they are playing so you can arm yourself with that foreknowledge.
Jonathan: Robert, what you were just talking about made me think – I’m curious to see if you’ve heard anyone describe your work this way before, because I think it fits, and that’s intellectual self-defense.
Robert: Wow, I never heard that before. That’s pretty awesome. Yeah, I like that.
Jonathan: The more I think about it, that was my interpretation of The 48 Laws of Power, was basically like a warning. For example, I’ll use my wife. My wife is so nice. Robert, she’s so nice, she’s almost too nice. And this is like, you know, You have to – I don’t want to paint this bleak picture of the world. But like when we have children someday, I’m probably going to be the one to be like, You need to watch out because some people are going to try to take advantage of you and you need to learn intellectual self-defense. It seems like you have a career, basically, of teaching people that.
Robert: Yes. I mean, there’s a fine line between being aware and being paranoid. So I don’t want you to be paranoid, I want you to not have to mistrust your friend or whomever and go around your life thinking that everybody around you is up to something. That’s a problem in and of itself, that’s irrational, and that’s going to make you not have any friends and it’s going to severely limit your career. But being aware that something could happen… for instance, a common mistake that I highlight, law number two of The 48 Laws of Power is hiring your friend when you need somebody to work with you, or as a partner, as opposed to the most competent person that you could hire.
Frequently what happens when you work with a friend or you hire a friend is that all kinds of emotional things become involved. It’s not just strictly a work relationship. They feel a little bit of envy, or they feel like perhaps you’re giving them some charity, that you hired them just because you’re a friend. All kinds of things enter the picture that could make it a very dangerous dynamic.
If you happen to fall into that – and it happens to all of us, it’s happened to me – it’s not that you are sitting there worrying about everything that your friend is doing that might signal these kinds of problems. It’s just that if the visible signs start showing up that you’re having a power problem with them, signs that I go over, it’s better to be able to recognize that in advance rather than two years later when you go through this incredibly nasty divorce of your partnership.
If you can see beforehand – and I’ve had many, many, many people call me and say, My God, you saved me, and now I realize that this is what was happening and I got out of it before it turned into a nightmare. That’s what I’m talking about. You are able to see something, to see the signs of a problem, and you can forestall it or you can avoid it.
Jonathan: It’s almost like a physician. You’re almost diagnosing the condition, but before you can diagnose it to avoid it becoming horrible or chronic or fatal, you have to be aware of it in the first place.
Robert: Yes. And then the self-defense element comes in play where sometimes, almost in a Ju-Jitsu way, a lot of my laws and strategies have to do with not ever directly confronting people, not ever directly taking them on, but letting them kind of fall into their own traps. Give them enough rope to hang themselves; kind of use their aggression to undo them. So there’s a lot of that in these laws and in the strategies where I’m trying to help you avoid nasty, unnecessary, bloody conflicts.
Jonathan: It’s very much the difference I’ve always seen in your work between power and force where power is… I mean you can look at Gandhi, he was extremely powerful, but no one is like, Oh, that diabolical man.
Robert: Right, right.
Jonathan: So that’s what you’re talking about.
Robert: Yes. Every time you bring two or three human beings together, you’re going to have ego and you’re going to have politics. It’s inevitable. When that happens, there’s a power dynamic. Some people tend to be more aggressive than others, and those aggressive people tend to set a tempo in your office or whatever. They tend to have an inordinate influence on what goes on. You can’t divorce yourself from that. Being able to counter them in some way or being aware of, Okay, this is what I need to ignore; I don’t want to get caught up in their emotional games… If you don’t get caught up in their games and you’re able to keep your calmness, that is power, that is real power. The ability to not react to someone, to not get emotional, to not do something silly or stupid, is really the ultimate form of power. So I agree 100% with your assessment about power versus force.
Jonathan: Robert, the thing that so excited to me about your newest book, Mastery, and you actually say this in one of your trailers, that it was like 20,000 hours of work. Folks, if you are not familiar with Robert’s work, just go to the bookstore and pick up any of his books.
The amount of wisdom – I’m not doing this just to kiss your butt. But the amount of material that you must have read to create these books, and then it seems like Mastery is the culmination. You’ve said, Across these other four books, I have read so much stuff.
I want to know about your process. People think I have done a lot of research… you have done a lot of research. You then pull it all together to say, From everything I’ve seen, this is what you need to master yourself and master your plans. Two questions: One, can you tell me a bit about your process; and two, let’s start talking about Mastery.
Robert: Well, the process is really something I developed since The 48 Laws of Power and is based on a simple idea. The more research you do, the more you’re grounded in something real, the better your ideas are going to be as opposed to just imagining that this is what is going on in the world. The problem that happens with people is they don’t know how to organize research. They become overwhelmed by it. So I have discovered the key to my process is knowing how to organize. I read hundreds of books, literally 300 to 400 books, to write one book. And I take copious notes on these books.
The key to it is how to organize it all so I’m not overwhelmed by the information. I have a very elaborate system I’ve evolved with taking note cards. It seems very 19th century like. It’s extremely effective and I’ve had other people who now use that same system and said it absolutely works amazing. I take every book I read and I put it on the note cards that are color coordinated that have all sorts of organizing principles, and then I’m able to basically structure my book around all of this material.
I never have the feeling, even though there might be 2,000 note cards, which is what there will be at the end of the process, I never feel like I’m confused or overwhelmed. I’m master of the material and I can structure it into a book. The reader is not supposed to feel like I’ve done all this research or to feel like, Oh, there’s all this incredible organizing going on. It’s invisible behind the scenes, but it’s intense labor, I can tell you.
Jonathan: Well, I can certainly imagine. And Mastery, if I’m understanding correctly, the point of this book is in many ways to say, I – meaning you, Robert Greene – have done just all of this, literally read thousands of books and all about human success and human failure. It seems like there are these six keys to ultimate power and success over yourself and your craft. Are you able to share those with us today?
Robert: Well, yes. I want to tell you that really the highest form of power you can have in life is to be creative. If you have a mind that is active, fluid, creative, in the moment, able to see things from fresh angles, my god, there’s nothing in the world that’s going to stop you. I don’t care what business you’re in, if you’re in the arts, the sciences, or in business itself.
That is the ultimate point to be, because when you’re there, you’re always going to be hired by people, you’re always going to be in demand. How do you get there? You get there through a process. It’s not like you’re born a genius. It’s not like you’re born a master or a Di Vinci or a Mozart. It comes through a very definite process that I lay out. As you mention, there are six steps.
The first and absolutely most important is what I call your life’s task, or your calling in life, where you are highly aware of what makes you different, unique. Those inclinations, those fields, those subjects that you find yourself naturally inclined to from when you were a child and upward. I know for me, it was writing and history, but it’s different for everybody.
Based on knowing who you are, you choose a career path that somehow aligns with this calling in life. And the reason is very simple. You don’t learn fast enough and with enough intensity and focus if you’re not personally and emotionally engaged in your work. If you want to be a writer and you go into law, you might be able to fake it for a couple of years because you’re young, but when you’re 30, 35, it catches up with you. You start tuning out. You’re not engaged. You’re not listening. And you’re going to get in real trouble.
You have to have that personal connection to what you’re doing. Based on that knowledge, you then enter the next phase, which is an apprenticeship phase. I go into great detail about the proper way to look at those five to ten years, often corresponding to your 20s. What’s the best way to go through that apprenticeship phase; how to learn, observe; how to work with mentors; how to navigate the political stuff and have social intelligence.
And then finally, if you take this far enough, as I show you step by step, I say that creative energy is going to start awakening naturally in your brain. As you’ve exposed yourself to so much knowledge, you’ve gained so many skills, ideas are going to start connecting themselves on their own by a dynamic that the brain naturally has. You’ve got to feed that dynamic, and I explain how. Ultimately, if you get to that 15,000 or 20,000 hour mark, you’re going to have this sort of high-level intuition that the great masters of this world have. They don’t have to think anymore, they act in a second. They know exactly what to do. They have a feel for what should come next. They have a nose for trends. That’s the ultimate place to be in. And if you follow this process, you’ll get close to it, or maybe you’ll get all the way.
Jonathan: Robert, I so appreciate what you just said. I personally, in my limited amount of research and limited amount of life experience, have experienced this. I’m curious, what are your thoughts – it seems for a while, there was definitely this momentum around 10,000 hours, 15,000 hours, 20,000 hours to mastery. Now, there seems to be a bit of a push for, let’s call it the anti-10,000 hours, that there’s always a way to hack or there’s always a way to shortcut. Do you have thoughts on this?
Robert: I have thoughts on it, and my thoughts are it’s nonsense. It’s a con game. It’s the charlatans that we’ve been seeing for thousands of years. Look, the brain evolved since we started evolving five or six million years ago, wherever you want to start it, in a particular way. And the brain is made for learning things over time through focus. If you start looking at something and studying it for 10 hours, what you know about it after 100 hours is far superior to what you knew at 10 hours. That’s how the brain works.
There’s no shortcuts. To think because we are in the 21st century we now can rewire, we can reconfigure what millions of years of evolution have put together is just the most ridiculous illusion. The reason why we have this illusion is because all of our technology, our smart phones, et cetera, give us the belief that things should happen quickly and fast, like we’re just superhuman. But we’re not. We can easily be overwhelmed by too much information.
We have to go through this process. There are elements of the modern world that actually facilitate the mastery process. There are great things that are available now. The amount of information at our disposal is phenomenal. There are ways that can, in some way, not streamline it but can help us and make connections between fields that nobody could do before. But there are no shortcuts. There are no magic pills. There is no hacking. There is no suddenly 2,000 hours. And if you think that, if you’re looking for that, you already have a problem.
Jonathan: I think that’s really the key, Robert. There’s very few maybe absolutes in the world, especially with like if there is a lot of context. It seems a bit like a universal principle that if someone is saying you have this natural process, like growing a vegetable, or learning a skill, or overcoming a disease, healing a broken bone, or losing weight, or improving your fitness, and they just say like this natural process can somehow be short-circuited in duration, run, just run the other direction!
Robert: I have a personal story on that score. I don’t know, I hope it’s interesting. I had a really bad health issue; it wasn’t terminal, but it was bad enough, a digestive issue that came from all of my worrying and writing these books, the stress. And it was very debilitating. I couldn’t eat this, I couldn’t eat that. The doctors were trying to give me antibiotics.
It was all geared around a quick fix. Finally, after six or seven years of this, I got on this radical diet – not radical but a very different diet, and it took six months of, I can tell you, a restrictive diet, and I cured the problem. I cured it in a way that’s like going to hopefully last the rest of my life.
That’s the kind of thing… now that’s six months, but there are other things that are going to take years. We know personally, if we exercise, that if we want to become – I happen to swim a lot. There’s no shortcuts to suddenly becoming an Olympic swimmer, to suddenly becoming better at it. We all know that, it’s common sense.
The more you do it, the more practice, the more hours you get, you slowly build up strength and you reach a new level. To think that we don’t apply that common sense to other things like learning a language or mastering a musical instrument, that’s where I have a serious problem.
Jonathan: Robert, a good example is with your note cards. There is a smart, efficient way to get to 10,000 hours. There’s a smart, efficient way to put in the work. But it’s not – you can get more out of the time, but the time is a required element.
Robert: Yes. I will say, for instance, I have a chapter on working with a mentor. And I say in the book that working with a mentor is the one thing that I will agree can streamline the process. If you find the right person who can give you really excellent feedback in realtime and say, Jonathan, this is where you’re bad at, you need to improve this, improve that. And they can say, These are the mistakes that I made, and you look like you’re about to make it, avoid that.
They can cut a year or two sometimes off of the trajectory because of directing you so well. The main thing to understand is, you have to enjoy the process itself. You can’t be impatient. You have to love learning for itself. Those 10,000 hours are not 10,000 hours of drudgery, they’re pleasure. It’s an incredible thing to feel like you’re getting slowly better and better and better at something, and you can see tangible results. If it’s something as obvious as sports or a musical instrument, after a couple of years, you know you’re getting better and it’s a great feeling.
It builds up your confidence, your self-esteem. It becomes more interesting as you proceed. If you’re feeling already impatient, bored, then that’s the problem. You’re not in the right field. If you are looking for shortcuts, you’re not doing that life’s task that I’m talking about, because if you’re following your passion, your calling in life, you’re not feeling that continual boredom and restlessness.
Jonathan: It seems that paradigm applies everywhere, Robert. If we’re, for example, doing this terrible deprivation-style diet or this exercise routine that makes us just want to smash our head against the wall, that can’t work because you will not keep it up. If you stop doing something, you will stop getting the results. You have to have something you enjoy. It seems so simple but it’s so hard, seemingly.
Robert: I think what happens to a lot of people in the exercise world is that maybe they take up running or something, and after four or five years, it seems tedious to them, they want something new. So they take up Zumba or some other new fancy new thing. They are always looking for that new exercise gimmick or whatever.
I guess it’s okay if you’ve built up a good, solid aerobic foundation; you can translate your skills. And it can get a little tedious. So not everything in life has to be 100% pleasurable. That can be another problem.
There is going to be pain involved. I talk in the apprenticeship phase that actually learning in a perverse way to sort of embrace the pain, to sort of say, If I’m feeling pain, it’s a good thing. You can actually almost enjoy some of the drudgery and the repetitiveness. If you can get to that point, you’re in really good shape. It can’t all be pleasurable; you’ve got to go through a routine. Ultimately – I agree with you 100%. Ultimately, the process itself and getting better at it and the actual activity is something that you enjoy, and you enjoy improving at it.
Jonathan: Robert, I’m so glad that you draw out the distinction of what we mean when we say pleasure, because often once people hear the word pleasure, they think I’m eating a piece of chocolate, pleasure like these body-animalistic pleasures. There’s a much different meaning of the word pleasure. Like if you were to do something that was extremely challenging and it was a struggle, but then when you finish it, like you said, there’s almost this warped sense of that sacrifice, that accomplishment, that wiping the dirt off your face. That is a form of pleasure, which especially in western culture, it seems like we’ve lost sight of a little bit.
Robert: Returning to my diet example, in the midst of that, eating like a chocolate éclair might give me an immediate rush and pleasure. But in the end, taking that six months of a very restrictive, spartan diet and fixing the problem, do you know the pleasure that that gave me? First of all it, it gave me like incredible confidence that I can overcome any other health issue through diet, et cetera.
Also, it made it so that now I can eat anything I want, and I’m eating spicy food again. It’s perfectly right what you said; there is that immediate pleasure that you get from eating this piece of pastry that tastes so good, or there’s that six-month hard work that leads to something that is in the end a thousand times more pleasurable. So yeah, I agree.
Jonathan: It’s so important to our listeners to make that distinction, because certainly some of these things, in the short-term, they are not pleasurable. We all know that ability to delay gratification and basically postpone ephemeral pleasure now for meaningful, lasting pleasure in the future seems to… Robert, I’m curious what you think about this. But it seems in some cases that the inability to delay gratification lies at the heart of just so many struggles.
Robert: Definitely. I think people ask me who are parents who have read Mastery and they say, What should I do for my children so that they can lay the foundation for the things that I talk about in the book. One thing I say is let them discover what those inclinations are. Don’t try and get them into math when they seem to be drawn to the arts, et cetera. The other thing is you have to lay that pattern down when someone is 11, 12, 13, 14 years old. I know for me, that came through sports. I loved sports and I played a lot when I was a kid.
I was not good at basketball, I never will be, but I got better at it through incredible work. Or swimming, things like that. When a child learns that pattern, that they can delay – you know, children want immediate gratification. When they learn from an early age that by practicing something, by delaying that gratification, you’re going to get something better in the end, later on in your life you now know that that’s going to happen. You trust the process.
I have a great story, I think it’s great at mastery. A fighter pilot became one of the great aces in the United States Air Force. And he was feeling like he was way in over his head. He was just really mediocre at it. There were these golden boys who could fly, and they had a natural gift and he didn’t have it. Then he remembered when he was a kid when he played football that it was the same thing. He wasn’t naturally gifted, but he became really good through sheer practice. Feeling that, knowing that, having that faith, he was now able to resume that kind of pattern and that process when he was 21, 22 and turn himself into an incredible pilot.
Jonathan: It is really empowering, Robert. Even hearing you say that, I get like a little bit of chills, that sentiment of just honorable work, just putting in the work, trusting the process. Don’t do dumb work. Obviously, it’s important to have it rooted, to have mentors, science, something to guide you. If you can get yourself to enjoy the process, enjoy in the broadest sense, to get pleasure in the broad sense from doing the work, that seems like one of those…
You mentioned creativity. Just having that ability to derive pleasure from that which is beneficial rather than only being able to derive pleasure from that which is like animalistically pleasurable seems like maybe another key characteristic.
Robert: It’s what I show in the book as the dividing line between people who are highly successful and who master their field and those who don’t. I have the quote in there where Henry Ford, the man who established Ford Motor Company, he spent hours, days, trying to design the first combustible engine way back in the 1890s before he established Ford Motor Company. It took endless hours of work. And somebody said, How did you put up with all of that drudgery? And he said, Well, it wasn’t drudgery, it wasn’t work, I enjoyed every single moment of it; the challenge was there, alive for me at every second, and it didn’t feel like work.
Thomas Edison would say the same thing, and Charles Darwin, and on and on and on, you can go down the line. They actually enjoy the detail, the detailed process involved. You can even talk about Steve Jobs, who was a bit of a control freak, a micromanager. He loved that insane detail work when it came to designing the iPod or whatever. If you can feel that, that means you’ve chosen the right field for you; in essence, that’s exactly what it means. If you’re experiencing that, then you’re in the field that’s exactly right for you.
Jonathan: That’s brilliant, Robert. And folks, if you’re enjoying this, which I know I am and I could just keep Robert on the phone all night. If you haven’t checked out his many books, do so, the most recent of which is called Mastery. My personal favorite is 48 Laws of Power. Mastery is also way up there. You can also check out his blog at PowerSeductionAndWar.com. Not necessarily the most inviting of titles, but does relate to – don’t send your six-year-old. No, I’m just kidding.
Robert: Although there’s nothing there that a six-year old couldn’t see. It’s mostly about strategy and strategic thinking. There’s nothing else really going on.
Jonathan: I know, I’m just kidding. Certainly a wonderful resource, a wonderful man, and a wonderful book again, called Mastery. Robert, what’s next for you?
Robert: I’m going to take a chapter, Chapter 4 in Mastery, and extend that into a book. It’s a chapter on social intelligence. The idea behind it, the reason I included it in Mastery is I didn’t want the reader to think that just being technically brilliant at their field or subject was enough. You could know absolutely everything you need to know about computers or business, but if you’re terrible in dealing with people, it’s not going to lead to anything.
You’re just going to neutralize all of that talent. You’re going to make mistakes and get sucked into all kinds of political games that can ruin you in the end. You need to have social intelligence as well as intellectual intelligence. Many readers said that that chapter was very helpful for them, so I want to expand it into a full book. Basically, I’m going to give the reader sort of this ultimate way to decode the behavior of the people around them. I am doing massive research into human behavior patterns, into psychology, into how we evolved, into early history, into all kinds of very interesting fields. I’m sort of going to reveal to you these 24, whatever number it is, timeless patterns, elements in human nature. Once you know this, once you’re armed with this knowledge, you’ll be able to read the people around you and understand, Well, this person is doing this, but I don’t understand why or where it’s coming from.
This is the book that will help you understand some of that strange, inexplicable behavior that people go through. It will also maybe help you understand a little bit about yourself and why you’re motivated in certain ways. That’s basically the book that I’m working on now.
Jonathan: Robert, I think I might have to start a fan page for your work which is something like The 99 Reasons Robert Greene’s Work Will Help You Live A Better Life, or some kind of number in there.
Robert: That’s a good number. I like that.
Jonathan: You’re like, only 99? What? Come on.
Robert: Well, it sounds good, 99.
Jonathan: Robert, I so appreciate your work, your book. Personally and professionally, I appreciate you sharing your time with us today. Folks, as I said, his newest book is called Mastery. He has four other great ones; think of them in many ways, not only as helping you to live better but also this intellectual self-defense, which is certainly good. Robert, thank you again for sharing your time with us. I really appreciate it.
Robert: Thank you so much for having me on your show, Jonathan. I really enjoyed it.
Jonathan: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s show as much as I did. And remember, this week and every week after, eat smarter, exercise smarter and live better. Talk with you soon.
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