Notes Psychology

Chapter 2: Submit to Reality (Mastery)

Darwin had a domineering father who pressured him into professions he didn’t have an interest in, such as the clergy. After spending most of his time hunting and collecting biological specimens, his father scolded him, and told him that he would be a disgrace to himself and his family.

One day, he defied his father and went on a journey to different islands, where he discovered patterns in nature that were unknown.

Darwin never cared about theoretical knowledge, he thought that whatever was contained in books was too vague. He was fascinated by life and by different animals. His curiosity led him to go down a road that didn’t appeal to others. After arriving at a forest that was rich with life, he had to organize a large amount of information about the changes that occurred in the environment, the different species that migrated and left a certain area, and the dynamics between predators and prey. This led to a breakthrough in scientific knowledge.

What gave Darwin an advantage was that he spent an extraordinary amount of time, against the wishes of his father and perhaps of society, to engage in something that seemed ridiculous. And, of course, this is the risk you must be willing to take. You will not achieve mastery without obstacles, this is impossible, but like Darwin, you must be prepared to fight for what you want and to follow your instincts.

Greene thinks that the apprenticeship phase that cannot be avoided on route to mastery can be divided into three parts.


This is the beginning of your career, after graduating from high school or university, and deciding to join the work force. Up to this point, the knowledge you have been taught is not directly relevant to the real world, which calls on more dynamism and flexibility. This is when you realize that there are no simple answers to any question, and that the way things really work is very subtle. You will be tempted to try to impress others and prove yourself, but this is a mistake. It is better to deeply observe what is happening around you and to learn from others.

Tacit Skill Development

The next phase is when you choose a certain skill to develop. After enough practice, you gain a form of mastery that puts you in a state of flow. This is a difficult stage because anything that is worthwhile is difficult to master, especially at the beginning when you have no idea what you are doing.

Many people feel frustrated and give up, but this is where you must persevere. There is a false and dangerous belief that life is meant to be easy. People who subscribe to this philosophy spend their time doing frivolous things and never master anything. They are constantly distracted and eventually, no matter what they manage to accomplish, they will feel that something important is missing in their lives.

Instead, make learning your highest priority. If you do so, then you will embrace pain and build yourself. It is like exercise. If you refuse to do it, it will always seem like an enormous task that you cannot do. But once you cross the first stage, you will learn to accept and even look forward to the pain you get from exercise. The same can be said about writing or music or anything that is difficult to master.

Once you become engaged in this activity, it becomes second nature to you. It becomes something you can do without thinking, even if you cannot explain why you can do it so well. It becomes a tacit skill. If you manage to build these kinds of skills, then you will enter into flow states that will make work far more pleasurable, which will make you more productive, which will lead to more success.


This is the shortest phase, but it requires patience and courage. After you have mastered your skill, it is time to subject it to criticism. This is when you should display your work and seek feedback, and most importantly, have the right attitude. If you expect that your work will instantly be received well, you will be disappointed with the truth, and this will stand in the way of your progress. Instead, be prepared for harsh criticism and build on it. Most progress comes from trial and error, so it is much more important for you to understand how to fail quickly and try new solutions than to dwell on how you can ensure success.

Read Mastery

"A gilded No is more satisfactory than a dry yes" - Gracian

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