- A must read. Robert Greene details masters of the past and present – people who are exceptional at what they do, what their processes are and what they have in common
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Mozart who was forced to play certain types of music by his father because the music would sell and they could make money. Mozart was very frustrated with this and eventually split from his father. When he did this it was as if all those years of tinkering and making every song he played “his” seeped into him and within a couple years wrote some of the classical songs that are still popular today. He had an explosion of creativity.
- Benjamin Franklin – Very interesting to learn about. I think Green described him sort of like a chameleon. Ben Franklin was so good at reading people and knowing what they were like and expected out of him that he would change how he acted around different people. I think I do this quite well too. For example, when Franklin went to France in order to gain support and funding for the American Revolution, he pissed off a lot of Americans because he was partying a lot and drinking a lot of wine, sort of being a playboy and living the high life. However, he did this with a purpose. He was loved by the French and he ended up getting huge support from France which otherwise the US would never have gotten. He played his audience! “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, become them, to see things from their point of view and what their intentions may be.” – Ben Franklin
- Albert Einstein – Worked at the patent office so that he could get paid a decent amount but still have sufficient time to work on his theories. He was speaking to a friend about giving up on what later became known as his Theory of Relativity and it suddenly clicked. Einstein always thought in terms of images and came up with many different thought experiments which helped him answer questions that changed the face of physics forever.
- Charles Darwin – Exceptional in his attention to detail and dedication. He spent 8 years studying barnacles to prove evolution. He went against what his dad wanted him to do and found his own path doing a combination of things he was very good and passionate about.
- Paul Graham – Founder of Y Combinator, hadn’t achieved much until his early 30’s and then created a company that he sold to Yahoo for tens of millions of dollars. He then though about a new concept to help startups acquire capital and this led to the birth of Y Combinator.
- Freddie Roach – Was a good boxer in his own right who worked with legendary boxing coach Eddie Futch. Futch’s style was a little impersonal and Roach improved on that by actually stepping into the ring and sparring with his boxers. This way he was able to feel his boxers, how hard they punched, their speed, etc. and could work on things in real time. Through this technique he took on Manny Pacquaio when many wouldn’t
- Santiago Calatrava – An architect who also went to engineering school and has designed some of the most famous buildings to date. Many of his buildings resemble animals
- Temple Grandin – Was born with autism but found a way to overcome it enough to go to school and graduate. She always felt a connection with animals and ended up designing more humane feed lots and slaughterhouses which make the cattle more comfortable and relaxed. She always enjoyed being squeezed and a she ended up designing a similar technique for cattle. She improved on this design and adjusted lighting and everything the cows saw so they would not get spooked. Her design is used in the majority of slaughterhouses today.
- Yoky Matsuoka – A Japanese engineer who created the industry standard for robotic hands. She trained for a while to be a professional tennis player. She specialized in creating more realistic prosthetics.
- VS Ramachandran – A neurobiologist who uses relatively simple experiments to measure and learn about the brain. He was able to help people with phantom limb syndrome, found mirror neurons and much else.
- Teresita Fernandez – A sculptor who became famous for her art made of metal (which when she started was not ever someone thought a woman could do) and now sits on the board of the Commission of Fine Arts). She worked through the night so that others would not distract her and people thought that her art just came so easily because they would show up the next day and this masterpiece would just appear. She first went with it but then thought that this carefree attitude could hurt her, especially because she is a woman. So, she took a much more intellectual and serious tone with her art and people realized how talented and dedicated she is.
- Cesar Rodriguez – Considered one of the best US Air Force pilots and came closer to becoming an ace than any other pilot since the Vietnam War. He was never as talented as the “Golden Boys” of the Air Force but he was so passionate and dedicated that he spent hours in the simulation machine and studying all he could that he eventually surpassed the Golden Boys. At one point he was able to watch a film of some maneuvers he had done to avoid being shot down and killed and had no idea where those thoughts came to him from. He dumped some fuel and flew high and barrel rolled and did all these thing subconsciously, but only because of the thousands of hours of training and thoughtful mastery.
- Daniel Everett – A missionary who went to Brazil to try to convert the Piraha people. Many others had tried but the Piraha’s language seemed incomprehensible. It did not follow typical language patterns and they thought it could not be cracked. Everett was quite close to giving up as well, feeling that they did not want him or his wife in their tribe anymore and one day the tribe actually looking for him to try to kill him. But, things turned when he actually went with the men on a hunt one day. The men communicated with each other through a series of whistles and clicks and other noises so that they could communicate seemlessly without scaring off animals or making other humans aware of their presence. Life for the Piraha was so fleeting, so dangerous, that their language did not incorporate any words for past or future events. Everything was in the now.
What I got out of it:
- A must read for anybody who is interested in reaching mastery in any given field. Greene uses such diverse examples that there is something to be gained regardless of your talents or goals. A good takeaway is that while there are certain steps that must be taken to reach mastery, each person can mold it to fit their talents, temperament and goals.
Buy the book here