Mastery by Robert Greene Summary

Mastery gives you the strategy and tactics to create great work and succeed in your career.

One sentence summary

Mastery gives you the strategy and tactics to create great work and succeed in your career.


  1. Read broadly. Read 100 books per year.
  2. Talk to a wide variety of people.
  3. Find your passion (Life's Task).
  4. Don’t rigidly follow a path. Your Life’s Task is a living, breathing organism.
  5. Develop one skill at a time. Keep training whenever you get time. Put in more hours than the competition to win. Time is the magic ingredient when mastering a skill.
  6. Practice deliberately. It takes 10k hours to master a skill. 10k hours can become 5k if you challenge yourself.
  7. The only real impediment is your emotions — boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity.
  8. We need to consume motivation and growth mindset content to overcome our emotions.
  9. Over time, what seems like pleasure comes to seem like a distraction. Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confidence in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings.
  10. Know yourself. Study philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience. Read The School of Life by Alain de Botton. Do meditation, philosophical meditation, and therapy. Write an autobiography.
  11. Know others. Study human nature, power, and persuasion. Read The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene, Influence by Robert Cialdini, and Pre-Suasion by Robert Cialdini.
  12. Put yourself out there ASAP. Start a blog. Start YouTube. Start a business.
  13. Become a lifelong learner.
  14. Whenever you feel like you are settling in some circle, shake things up and look for new challenges.

Chapter 1

Discover Your Calling

Remember: your life’s task is a living, breathing organism. The moment you rigidly follow a plan set in your youth, you lock yourself into a position, and the times will ruthlessly pass you by.

If you do not follow your true path, even if you get a lot of money, you will feel an emptiness inside that you will need to fill with a belief system, drugs, or diversions.

If you choose to follow your Life’s Task (which you must), it will take 5 or 10 years before you reap the rewards of your efforts.

Learn multiple disciplines and make something with the connections between them.

Chapter 2

Submit to Reality: The Apprenticeship Phase

After your formal education, you enter the most critical phase of your life – a second, practical education known as the Apprenticeship.

  • If you are not careful, you will succumb to insecurities. Fall in love with learning, reading, and taking action.

Master yourself to master the world. — Psychology, neuroscience, and mindset are critical for success.

The goal of an apprenticeship is not money, a good position, a title, or a diploma, but rather the transformation of your mind and character - the first transformation on the way to mastery.

  • You must choose places of work and positions that offer the greatest possibilities for learning.
  • You must move toward challenges that will toughen and improve you, where you will get the most objective feedback on your performance and progress.
  • Leave the subjective world of emotions, insecurity and limited experience. Ground yourself in reality — the knowledge and skills that make people successful.
  • Do not choose apprenticeships that seem easy and comfortable.

The Three Steps of Apprenticeship

Step 1: Deep Observation - The Passive Mode

  • Your main task is to observe the place (company, etc.) where your apprenticeship is and absorb the reality as deeply as possible.
  • There are two main things you must observe:
    • 1. The rules and procedures that govern success in this environment – “This is how we do things here.” Pay closest attention to the unwritten, unspoken rules – the style and values that are considered important.
    • 2. The power relationships that exist within the group: who has real control; through whom do all communications flow; who is on the rise and who is on the decline.
  • No detail about the people is too trivial.
  • After months of careful attention, you can move from observation to analysis
  • The greatest mistake you can make in the initial months of your apprenticeship is to imagine that you have to get attention, impress people, and prove yourself.

Step 2: Skills Acquisition - The Practice Mode

  • Every human activity, endeavor, or career path involves the mastering of skills.
  • Some skills are straightforward (like operating a tool or machine) and some are not (like Charles Darwin observing and collecting specimens, or handling people, or researching and organizing information).
  • As much as possible, you want to reduce these skills to something simple and essential - the core of what you need to get good at, skills that can be practiced.
  • Tacit knowledge is something that is hard to put into words but is easy to demonstrate in action - like the apprenticeship system of the Middle Ages
  • Watch and imitate others, then repeat the action over and over.
  • Do not try to learn multiple skills at once, focus on one at a time.
  • You will get to a point where it becomes tedious, keep going.
  • Too many people believe that everything must be pleasurable in life, which makes them constantly search for distractions and short-circuits the learning process.
  • Once you practice and “unlock” a task, it is more or less unlocked for life, like riding a bike.
  • You want to minimize distractions. When distracted, you will not retain the information the same.
  • Better to dedicate 2-3 hours of intense focus than 8 hours of diffused concentration.
  • A little later, you will become skillful enough that you can observe yourself as you practice and analyze your weaknesses and flaws. This is a good time to get feedback from others.
  • Over time, you reveal to yourself new capabilities that were previously latent, that are exposed as you progress.
  • Over time, what seems like pleasure comes to seem like a distraction. Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confidence in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings.
  • Boredom no longer signals the need for distraction, but rather the need for new challenges to conquer.
  • It takes 10,000 hours of practice to get a high skill level ~ 7-10 years of solid practice.
  • Concentrated practice over time cannot fail to produce results.

Step 3: Experimentation - The Active Mode

  • Take on more responsibility, initiate a project, do something that exposes you to the criticisms of peers or even the public.
  • The point of this is to gauge your progress and whether there are still gaps in your knowledge.
  • Can you take criticism and use it constructively?
  • Most people wait too long to take this step, generally out of fear.
  • It is best to take this step BEFORE you think you are ready.
  • Develop a sense of detachment from your work. Your work is not you, it just came out of you.
  • The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways.
  • Even if only as a side activity, you should find a way to work with your hands, or to learn more about the inner workings of the machines and pieces of technology around you.
  • "Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible; and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach." – Marcus Aurelius

Apprenticeship Phase tips:

Tip 1: Value learning over money.

  • Einstein got a job that was not mentally demanding and just paid the bills so that he could spend his time thinking about physics theory.
  • Learning to get by with less (money) is a valuable life skill.
  • It can be beneficial to find the perfect mentor for the skill you want to learn and then offer your services as an assistant for free.
  • If you have an online business that makes money, you can easily do this - or have a part-time job in the same city.
  • The mentor will accept because they get a worker for free.
  • You need to value learning (rather than money) above all else. Value learning and the money will come.

Tip 2: Keep expanding your horizons

  • Read a wide variety of books
  • Mingle with as many different types of people as possible.
  • Whenever you feel like you are settling into some circle, force yourself to shake things up and look for new challenges.
  • With your mind expanding, you will redefine the limits of your apparent world.
  • Soon, ideas and opportunities will come to you and your apprenticeship will naturally complete itself.

Tip 3: Revert to a feeling of inferiority.

  • Don’t think you’re too good to start with the basics. The basics are the most important part. They are foundational.
  • A sense of inferiority can give you a hunger to learn. Don’t be too smug when you encounter something alien to your set ways. Don’t have preconceived notions about what is real and true, you have likely been indoctrinated by your schooling or family. Drop your preconceptions about a field.

Tip 4: Trust the process.

  • Keep training whenever you get a chance to get more hours in. Put in more hours to beat the competition.
  • Hone in on weaknesses and practice those the most.
  • Whenever we learn a skill, we frequently reach a point of frustration — what we are learning seems beyond our capabilities. Giving in to these feelings, we unconsciously quit on ourselves before we actually give up.
  • Time is the magic ingredient when mastering a skill.
  • Your talent level is irrelevant, only the amount of time you put in matters and the quality of your practice.
  • The only real impediment is your emotions — boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity.
  • You cannot suppress these emotions - they are normal and experienced by everyone (even Masters). The only thing you can do is have faith in the process.

Tip 5: Move toward resistance and pain.

  • Writing advice: Start by copying the authors you like. Then give yourself a deadline and push past writers block. Pushing past writers block is a skill that you develop over time. Writing quickly is a skill you practice. Have a detachment from your work and review it with a cold, distant eye. Wait until you forget about the work to review it.
  • By nature, we humans shrink from anything that seems possibly painful or overtly difficult.
  • We generally follow what others have done, performing the accepted exercises to acquire skills. This is the path of amateurs. To attain mastery, you must adopt what we call Resistance Practice. Resistance Practice: you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice.

Resistance Practice

1. Resist the temptation to be kind to yourself.

  • Make your practice more difficult than the event.
  • Attack your weaknesses.

2. Resist the lure of easing up on your focus.

  • You train yourself to practice and concentrate with double the intensity.
  • Create your own routines and your own way of practicing the skills. Deconstruct the discipline down to skills that you can do over and over again and refine. Then put them together and refine the refined.
  • Give yourself arbitrary deadlines to meet certain standards.
  • In the end, your 5 hours of intense focused work is the equivalent of 10 for most people. — You can become a master in half the time of normal people.

3. Apprentice yourself in failure.

  • You can either fail by inaction or fail by action. Failing by inaction means you do nothing because you were too scared or waiting for the “perfect time.” This gives you no benefits. Failing by action shows you your shortcomings and you learn a lesson that makes future success more probable. Always fail by action – let the market reject you. Don’t pre-reject yourself.

4. Combine the “how” and the “what.”

  • Constantly ask questions - how do things work, how do decisions get made, how does the group interact?
  • Rounding our knowledge in their way will give us a deeper feel for reality and the heightened power to alter it.

5. Advance through trial and error.

  • Do the Paul Graham/Hacker life model: you learn as many skills as you can that interest you and you follow the circumstances that these interests lead. You value the process of self discovery and making high-quality products. You figure out what kind of work suits you and what you want to avoid at all costs. You move by trial and error. This is how you pass your 20s.
  • At a certain point, you will have so many skills and such a unique perspective and the ability to tie disciplines and ideas together that when you are ready to settle on something, opportunities will inevitably present themselves to you. You may settle on this for years and develop more skills, then move to a slightly different direction when appropriate. In this new age, those who follow a rigid, singular path in their youth often find themselves in a career dead end in their forties, or overwhelmed with boredom.

Note: There are no shortcuts to the apprenticeship phase – even for 'geniuses' and 'naturals'. Mozart and Einstein both took 10 years of practice before they made a masterpiece. The only things close to shortcuts are things that keep you on your path, like a great mentor or books.

Chapter 3

Absorb the Master’s Power: The Mentor Dynamic

You need expert guidance. The master-protege relationship is the most effective way to get good quickly. Once you have internalized their knowledge you must move on and never remain in their shadow. The goal is always to surpass your mentors in mastery and brilliance.

By nature, mentors feel emotionally invested in your education

  • This is good, it will make them invested in your progress and they will give you more secrets to make you progress faster.
  • You want to make your mentor like you. Do hard work for them and be charismatic.

To get a mentor, you want to have something tangible. Show them the benefits you can bring them, in addition to your youth and energy.

  • Considering this, you may not want to go in search of mentors until you have acquired some elementary skills and discipline that you can rely upon to interest them.
  • Mentors want to see teachability from a mentee and they want a tangible benefit. Then you use charisma to make them really like you and want to help you.
  • You need a strong work ethic and organizational skills.

The best mentors have wide knowledge and are not overly specialized in their field.

You want an in-person relationship. A virtual relationship is never enough.

Ask them about the underlying principles of their ideas a little later in the apprenticeship.

You can have multiple mentors if you cannot find the perfect one.

Books can serve as temporary mentors.

  • Be an active reader and think about concepts and then take notes.
  • Watch interviews on YouTube from the author to understand more about what they are getting at.
  • Once you get the essence of what they are saying and are getting diminishing returns from reading their books and interviews, it is time to move on. There are some authors who are evergreen.
  • You must read more than everyone else.
  • As much as possible, you try to apply your knowledge in some form of experiment or practice.
  • Find second-degree mentors in the form of public figures who can serve as role models.
  • The books-only Edison route will give you a completely unique experience - not influenced by a mentor.

Choose the perfect mentor - not just the first one you find. Don't simply pick the most knowledgeable or famous or charming.

  • The mentor dynamic is like a parental dynamic.

Force your mentor to give you harsh criticism.

In order to differentiate yourself and make yourself unique, slightly alter the advice they give you so that you get a product that is subtly different and better once you develop and cultivate your own style.

  • Over time, notice the faults and weaknesses of your mentor’s style and avoid those. This will make you even better than them.

Have a back and forth relationship where some of your ideas are incorporated into the lessons.

  • You must do this or the relationship will grow stale and you may grow resentful of their dogma. Have your own input to get rid of that dogma. This can make the relationship last much longer.

Chapter 4

See People as They Are: Social Intelligence and Human Nature

Without social intelligence (understanding human nature, power, and seduction) your success is not true mastery and it will not last.

Work environments are so competitive and reveal true human nature because people are competing for their survival.

Think about what people were feeling or missing. You need to be more than just a charmer. You need to understand people and give them what they are missing.

We tend to have a victim mentality. Instead, we should flip this around and think “What did I miss? How was this person this “evil” and I didn’t know?”

  • Recognize other people’s motives and intentions. Everyone is working for personal incentives (either for their or their family’s own good).
  • We all have a dark side, a tendency to manipulate, and aggressive desires. If someone sees a weak person, they will act on these tendencies. Don't show weakness.
  • You cannot change people’s dark tendencies, you can only avoid becoming their victim.

Reading people:

Pay less attention to the words people say.

Pay more attention to:

  • Tone of voice
  • Their eyes
  • Body language

Take note of their decisions:

  • This shows you their motives and how they try to gain power.
  • How do they respond to stressful situations. Their public mask will be removed during these events.
  • Take note of an overly friendly manner or a nervous laugh.

Take note of contrasts in personality:

  • It generally shows what people are hiding.
  • People may be cocky but actually insecure; overly friendly but hiding ambition and aggressiveness; or they joke to hide a mean-spiritedness.
  • Notice what clothes they wear (expensive or inexpensive; flashy or muted; stylish or outdated) and how organized their room, house, office is.
  • Take note of seemingly small issues: chronically being late, insufficient attention to detail, not returning any favors or belongings. These are signs of something deeper about their character. Being late is low-level passive aggression. You really need to notice this, it means they don’t value you. If they do this to everyone, it means they either don’t value anyone or they don’t value themselves.
  • First impressions are misleading. Gather an accurate representation of someone over the course of a few months. Pay close attention to how they act in casual situations, when their guard is down.

General Knowledge. The seven deadly realities:

  • Envy. Intelligence is the most sensitive trigger point for envy
  • Conformism. People want to signal their values to show they are part of the group. When it comes to politics, morals, and values, make a show of adhering to the accepted standards of your environment. Work is a place to always wear a mask, blend into the culture, and subscribe to their politics, morals, and values.
  • Rigidity. People are dogmatic and like the status quo or the way things have always been done.
  • Self-obsessiveness. Often those who are the most self-absorbed will surround their actions with a moral or saintly aura, or will make a show of supporting all of the right causes. When you ask these types for a favor, they will decline or put it off indefinitely because there was nothing in it for them. When you ask for help, you must appeal to people’s self-interest in some way. Make it beneficial for them.
  • Laziness. These people are always looking for shortcuts. They will try to take credit or take your ideas. In general, be wary of people who want to collaborate, they generally want someone to do the heavy lifting for them.
  • Flightiness. Never assume that what people say or do in a particular moment is a statement of their permanent desires. Rely on yourself to get things done and you will not be disappointed.
  • Passive Aggression. The root cause of all passive aggression is the fear of direct confrontation. Because of this fear, some people look for indirect means for getting their way. Very low-level passive aggression can be called out and sometimes fixed. But there are people out there filled with insecurities who are veritable passive-aggressive warriors and can literally ruin your life. Stay away from these people at all costs. The best and easiest way to figure them out is look at their track record and reputation. Can they keep a job? Do they move from town to town? Can they keep friends? Can they keep a relationship? Always fully cut ties. You have nothing to gain being around someone like this.

Strategies for Acquiring Social Intelligence

Strategy 1: Speak through your work.

  • Let your work do the talking, make great, easy-to-understand work. Be efficient, be clear and easy to follow, involve other people and accept their feedback.

Strategy 2: Craft the appropriate persona.

  • It is not generally acknowledged or discussed, but the personality we project to the world plays a substantial role in our success and in our ascension to mastery.
  • Understand: people will tend to judge you based on your outward appearance.
  • Think of yourself as an actor, you can switch the persona to match the event or era.

Strategy 3: See yourself as others see you.

  • See yourself through the eyes of others to easily see your own faults
  • Look at bad events in the past (that you blamed on others) and then see what you did to cause that or worsen the situation

Strategy 4: Suffer fools gladly.

  • Fools place importance on short-term matters - getting immediate attention, getting immediate money, getting attention from the media or social media, and looking good. They are ruled by their ego and insecurities. They enjoy drama. When they criticize they emphasize matters that are irrelevant to the overall picture or argument. They are more interested in their career or option than the truth. They lack a certain common sense - getting worked up about things that are not really important while ignoring problems that will speed doom in the long term.
  • Fools will drag you down to their level and waste valuable time and emotional energy. They will try to pull you from the path of mastery.
  • Exploit their foolishness by 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.

Chapter 5

Awaken the Dimensional Mind: The Creative-Active

When you finish your apprenticeship phase, you will want to fit in and follow the conventions of your field. You must not do this. You must be bold and connect the science field with the arts in some way to create something new and amazing.

Masters and those who display high levels of creative energy are simply people who manage to retain a good amount of childhood spirit despite the pressures and demands of adulthood.

Masters need to combine the creative energy from the childhood spirit and the practical skill gained in apprenticeship.

  • Often, the childlike spirit lies of Masters lies dormant in the Apprenticeship phase as they patently absorb all of the details of their field. This spirit then comes back to them as they attain the freedom and opportunity to actively use the knowledge they have gained.
  • What kills the creative spirit is getting too comfortable with what we learned in the apprenticeship phase. We need to always keep learning, and see connections between concepts and disciplines. We are scared of failing and being ridiculed.
  • If we stop learning, our brains go dead from the lack of challenge and novelty. At this point, we stagnate and are replaced by the “next person.”
  • Once the mind is freed from having to learn these basics, it can focus on higher, more creative matters.
  • The problem is the knowledge we gain in the apprenticeship phase - including numerous rules and procedures - can slowly become a prison. It locks us into certain methods and forms of thinking that are one-dimensional and block creativity.

Step One: The Creative Task

  • You need to be completely into it and put your emotions into the product.

Step Two: Creative Strategies

1. Negative capability. The ability to endure mystery and uncertainty and use it creatively.

  • Don’t become dogmatic or certain and have confirmation bias. You need to want to be wrong and uncover the mystery. Darwin could be wrong. Einstein could be wrong. Don’t take the consensus for 100% certainty.
  • Faraday one said: scientific knowledge is constantly progressing. The greatest theories of the time are eventually disproven or altered at some future point.
  • The human mind is simply too weak to have a clear and perfect vision of reality
  • People in the future will be laughing at how little we know (as we laugh at people from the past who didn’t know about Darwin’s evolution).
  • Seek out opposing viewpoints, and read books from opposing viewpoints and different fields. Be humble and remember you can’t know everything, even though you know more than most.
  • Negative capability is not a constant state of mind, it is a tool that you use sometimes to get creative inspiration.

2. Allow for serendipity.

  • Let crazy ideas come to you
  • a. In the research stage, research a lot of different stuff - other fields, etc. Look into your theories, look for connections to your work.
  • b. Maintain an openness and looseness of spirit. Take walks, do other activities (play music), or think about something else. When an idea - no matter how trivial or tangential - pops into your head you think about it and explore where it leads you.
  • Keep a notebook on you at all times or write down ideas on your phone as they come to you. Take notes in the shower, just before falling asleep, just as you wake up.
  • Think of analogies and metaphors
  • c. Alternate the mind through “the current”
  • constantly switch between speculation, observation and experiment this makes you verify your speculations and brings you closer to reality
  • The current is a constant dialogue between our thoughts and reality
  • this allows you to develop a theory that explains something far beyond the capability of our limited senses
  • this is how evolution and relativity were thought of
  • Always create a prototype of an invention idea you have. This will allow you to realize if it can be real or if it is foolish
  • d. Alter your perspective
  • Consider thinking as an extended form of vision that allows us to see more of the world, and creativity as the ability to expand that vision beyond conventional boundaries.
  • Focus on the “how” rather than the “what”
  • most things are related and it was a collection of things that caused an event rather than one isolated thing.
  • Don’t rush to generalities and ignore details
  • Don’t ignore anomalies in order to confirm your paradigm (don’t ignore black swans)
  • Look into anomalies. They tell you a lot and keep you from being too dogmatic
  • Don’t focus on what is present (right in-front of you) and ignore what is absent. Visualize the absence of something as easily as we see the presence of something. Ex) Sherlock Holmes realized that the murderer must have known the family because the dog did NOT bark when the murderer entered the home.
  • Business tip: focus on some need that is not currently being met, on what is absent. Look at new and available technology in the world and imagine how it could be applied in a much different way, meeting a need that we sense exists but that is not overly apparent. If the need is too obvious, others will already be working on it.
  • e. Return to primal forms of intelligence
  • Use signs, smell, touch rather than words
  • An image or model or diagram makes our idea suddenly more concrete (than if we used words alone)
  • Drawing and diagrams can help you conceptualize ideas - writing structured essays is like this but less creative (or at least less visual)
  • Stimulate the senses - smells, sounds, sights to be more creative. The senses are linked. For instance, we hear a particular sound and it makes us think of a color

Step Three: The Creative Breakthrough

  • When you are a master and begin working on a new project, you will undoubtedly face frustration or the feeling of being blocked. This has a purpose. You must take a break, go to sleep, etc. - the perfect idea for completing the work will come to you.
  • Einstein thought about general relativity for ten years and one day gave up, went to bed early, and when he woke up the solution suddenly came to him.
  • Having your back against the wall or realizing your mortality gives you an edge. You have to succeed and do it fast. Always give yourself deadlines.

Don’t fall into these 6 pitfalls:

  • 1. Complacency - remind yourself that there is always something you don’t know and things you can never know. Don’t get too cocky and think you know everything because you have mastered one field.
  • 2. Conservatism - If you gain success, you begin to fall in love with the ideas and strategies that worked for you in the past. Why risk changing your style or adopting a new approach? you have a reputation to protect. You become addicted to the comforts and scared to ruin your reputation by trying something different and creative
  • 3. Dependency - Do not become dependent on the approval of your mentor or others.
  • 4. Impatience - don’t repeat the same patterns or ideas. You need to attack each project with the same vigor and creativity
  • 5. Grandiosity - Praise is dangerous. We will slowly begin to emphasize the joy of the create process in favor of the love of attention and go boost we get from praise. We will begin to alter our work in order to get the most praise possible. Keep perspective - there are always greater geniuses out there. Public attention is actually a nuisance and a distraction
  • 6. Inflexibility - know your field inside and out but be able to question it

Strategies for the Creative-Active Phase

1. The Authentic Voice

  • The paradox is that those who impress the most with their individuality - the sax player John Coltrane at the top - are the ones who first completely submerge their character in a long apprenticeship.
  • Know everything, every different style, so that you can perfectly express your personality in that field.
  • The worst thing you can do is be impatient. Try to make something before you master the basics and end up not being authentic or unique because of a lack of a complete understanding. What you mistake for being creative and distinctive is more likely an imitation of other people’s style.
  • You need to love learning for its own sake. In time, you will have your own personal style.

2. The Fact of Great Yield

  • Instead of beginning with some brag goal, they go in search of the fact of great yield - a bit of empirical evidence that is strange and does not fit the paradigm, and yet is intriguing.
  • These anomalies have the potential to change the status quo, and if you capitalize on it you can become very successful.
  • Better to look into 10 anomalies, with only one yielding a great discovery, than to look into 20 ideas that bring success but have trivial impacts.

3. Mechanical Intelligence

  • The principles of mechanical intelligence are: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself. You will feel the flaws of the design and be able to fix them
  • Create many iterations rather than one break-through masterpiece
  • In the end, you win through superior craftsmanship (a much better product), not marketing.
  • Management and product are the 2 most important aspects of a business.
  • Always be cost-effective and have the consumer in mind.
  • Mechanical intelligence can be better than abstract reasoning.

4. Natural Powers

  • First, you have an open-ended period. You have a bunch of wild ideas. Don’t think about practicality - no budget, competition, the opinion of others.
  • Second, deeply understand your field and other fields.
  • Third, never settle for complacency, as if your original vision represents the endpoint. Constantly improve your ideas. Create many iterations. You want uncertainty of what you will do next - this makes it more creative and interesting.
  • Finally, come to embrace slowness as a virtue in itself.
  • Imagine yourself years in the future looking back at the work you have done. From that future vantage point, the extra months and years you devoted to the process will not seem painful or laborious at all.

5. The Open Field

  • You want to look into yourself and look for what is missing in the world. Is there a kind of book that doesn’t exist but matters a lot to you? Make it.
  • Take your conventions and turn them upside down. Do you really need to follow the rules or what got you success in the past?

6. The High End

  • Think about things on a high level. Do not always rely on the micro ideas that your field teaches you. Connect it to the larger ideas from other fields.
  • Constantly remind yourself of your bigger purpose.

7. The Evolutionary Hijack

  • Look for new applications of existing technology and needs that are not being met
  • Maintain a close relationship with customers
  • Keep the idea simple and realistic
  • Create a superior product
  • Have great leadership
  • Focus on the above rather than making money
  • What matters most is the character of the founder - the ability to adapt their idea and take advantage of possibilities they had not first imagined
  • Fluidity of mind and determination are key to a successful startup
  • You will accidentally stumble upon something - something on the radio or an audience question after a lecture - that sparks an idea in your mind. Ex) Paul Graham when he heard on the radio that a website that can sell products would be huge.
  • When we see or experience something, we must be able to look at it from several angles, to see other possibilities beyond the obvious ones.
  • The objects and ideas around us can be co-opted for different purposes.

8. Dimensional Thinking

  • Don’t oversimplify and rush the process. Look into the deep complexities of the study. This will unveil great mysteries that you can unravel.

9. Alchemical Creativity and the Unconscious

  • The creative process is alchemy. It can turn nothing into something; dust into gold.
  • Take ideas from The Art of Seduction and put it into your work. Make people feel soothed and seduced by your work.
  • Combine contrasts - intellectual and sensual; pleasurable and painful; good and evil; masculine and feminine; real and unreal. Bring fantasy into real life.
  • In science, you look for ideas that go against the existing paradigm, or that seem inexplicable because they are so contradictory.


  • Understand that to create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.
  • Drugs do not make creativity. They inhibit it.

Ian Greer © . All rights reserved.