Release year: 2012

Author: Robert Greene

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Link to my handwritten notes


Reading this was an almost religious experience. As I was taking my notes, I could feel myself going through some of the mental steps and blockages outlined in the book. This was probably my most challenging read yet, as it truly tested my reading system. Now that I made it through, I feel stronger than ever. What a ride! (Thanks Marcel Cristocea for this recommendation!)

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⭐ Star quotes

  1. (p. 16) Everything that happens to you is a form of inhstruction if you pay attention.
  2. (p. 25) Just as a well-filled day brings blessed sleep, so a well-employed life brings a blessed death.
  3. (p. 38) Realize as early as possible that you have chosen your career for the wrong reasons, before your confidence takes a hit.
  4. (p. 45) Do not envy those who seem to be naturally gifted; it is often a curse, as such types rarely learn the value of diligence and focus, and they pay for this later in life.
  5. (p. 57) Procedural and political rules may be dysfunctional or counterproductive, but your job is not to moralize about this or complain. Understand them to get a complete lay of the land, like studying an alien culture. You are not there to change that culture; you will only end up being killed (fired). Later, when you have attained power and mastery, you will be the one to rewrite or destroy these same rules.
  6. (p. 59) Tacit knowledge is a felling for what you are doing that is hard to put into words but easy to demonstrate in action.
  7. (p. 60) The initial stages of learning a skill inevitably involve tedium. You must accept it and embrace it. Much as with physical exercise, you can even get a kind of perverse pleasure out of this pain, knowing the benefits it will bring you.
  8. (p. 62) When you develop patience, boredom no longer signals the need for distraction, but rather the need for new challenges to conquer.
  9. (p. 63) The future in science does not lie in increased specialization, but rather in the combining and cross-fertilization of knowledge in various fields. The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.
  10. (p. 77) The only real impediment to mastering a skill is yourself and your emotions – boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity. You cannot suppress such emotions. They are normal to the process and experienced by everyone, including Masters. What you can do is have faith in the process.
  11. (p. 84) 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 you have the golden touch. When you do inevitably fail, it will confuse and demoralize you past the point of learning.
  12. (p. 103) Mentors do not give you a shortcut, but they streamline the process. They can direct you away from unnecessary side paths or errors. Their advice is tailored to your circumstances and your needs.
  13. (p. 106) The best mentors are often those who have wide knowledge and experience, and are not overly specialized in their field – they can train you to think on a higher level, and to make connections between different forms of knowledge.
  14. (p. 107) Books can serve as temporary mentors. You will want to convert such books and writers into living mentors by:
    • personalizing their voice,
    • interacting with the material,
    • taking notes or writing in the margins
  15. (p. 115) The problem with all students is that they inevitably stop somewhere. They hear an idea and they hold on to it until it becomes dead; they want to flatter themeslves that they know the truth.
  16. (p. 125) Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible. Success attained without this intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.
  17. (p. 134) To become indignant at people’s conduct is as foolish as to be angry with a stone because it rolls into your path. With many people the wisest thing you can do is to resolve to make use of those whom you cannot alter.
  18. (p. 135) People who retain their childish attitudes will rarely be able to hold on to the success they may achieve through their talent.
  19. (p. 137) The most effective attitude to adopt is one of supreme acceptance.
  20. (p. 137) Some people have dark qualities that are especially pronounced. You cannot change such people at their core, but must merely avoid becoming their victim. You are an observer of the human comedy, and by being as tolerant as possible, you gain a much greater ability to understand people and to influence their behavior when necessary.
  21. (p. 138) 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. These are all signals that might reveal a nervousness or excitement that is not expressed verbally. You will pick up cues from them that will register with you as feelings or sensations. Trust these sensations. Later, you can try to find a pattern to these signals and attempt to analyze what they mean.
  22. (p. 143) People follow procedures without really knowing why, simply because these procedures may have worked in the past. These people become highly defensive if their ways are brought into question.
  23. (p. 144) If you are doing work for a superior, be prepared for them to take full credit and leave your name our, but do not let this happen with colleagues.
  24. (p. 145) The root cause of all passive aggressiveness is that human fear of direct confrontation.
  25. (p. 159) Suffer fools gladly.
  26. (p. 163) In the end, he came to welcome the attacks of his enemies for how much they had improved his work and toughened him up.
  27. (p. 164) Avoid the madness of trying to change fools. It is all part of the human comedy, and it is nothing to get upset or lose sleep over. The height of wisdom is to actually exploit their foolishness – using them for material for your work, as examples of things to avoid, or by looking for ways to turn their actions to your advantage.
  28. (p. 181) You must let go of your need for comfort and security. Creative endeavors are by their nature uncertain.
  29. (p. 185) Chance only favors the prepared mind.
  30. (p. 231) Whenever your work begins to feel stale, you must return to the larger purpose and goal that impelled you in the first place.
  31. (p. 245) Those who think in dualities – believing that there is such a thing as “real” and “unreal”, and that those are distinct entities that can never become blended into a third – are creatively limited, and their work can quickly become dead and predictable. To maintain a dualistic approach to life requires that we repress many observable truths.
  32. (p. 245) Contradictions contain a rich mine of information about a reality that is deeper and more complex than the one immediately perceived.
  33. (p. 261) No moment is wasted if you pay attention and learn the lessons contained in every experience.
  34. (p. 310) 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.