Audio Transcript: Mastery by Robert Greene



It is Audiobook of the Month time! It has been a while I know but this bad boy is back with a vengeance now that I again have time to listen to said audiobooks regularly.

To kick things off I went with Robert Greene’s Mastery. Reading the blurb, I was drawn to the case studies of historical figures such as Darwin, Mozart and Di Vinci who Greene profiles in order to illustrate the various positive characteristics necessary in order to gain mastery. ‘Well’ I thought ‘that sounds a bit Bill Brysony, I did like a Short History of Nearly Everything after all so I might as well give this a go’. However, I rather underestimated the self-help and business strategist element of the work, which is very stupid considering Greene’s previous titles, especially the 48 Laws of Power and the Art of Seduction. Much of Greene’s work has previously been adopted by successful business types, largely male and largely in the entertainment industry. The Art of Seduction has in part filtered into the ‘Seduction Community’ and is referenced by Neil Strauss in The Game *shudders*.

Whilst the titbits of historical biography are interesting to a point the heavy overlay of strategic guidance sits rather awkwardly and not entirely coherently on top. The rules that Greene advocates seem often overlapping and not altogether logical – ‘have a mentor you trust, look up to and are inspired by, but wait, don’t like them too much, have tense and sometimes stressful relationship and eventually leave them’. Similarly, to short hand another message – ‘go your own way, break all the rules, but also follow rules’. It’s all a bit jumbled and hard to follow. At one point, I had to leave the room with the audio still playing and when I came back and tried to find my place I literally had no idea where I was or if I had heard this stuff before. I’m still not sure. All in all I guess it’s just a bit dull and incredibly repetitive. All of the advice is so laboured that to follow the guidance accurately you would probably need to sit in a white room and just constantly think about your actions, reactions, demeanour and practices 24/7 leaving little time to actually achieve anything.

To be honest this book left me feeling a bit ick. I’ve generally stuck to the principle of know your stuff and be nice to people to get along in life and that’s served me pretty well up until now. All of the tactical game playing in this book feels contrived, manipulative and pseudo-Machiavellian. I don’t want every interaction I have with another person to be prescribed by certain rules and ultimately geared towards further self-promotion. But maybe that’s why I’m going to die alone covered in cats rather than from head injuries after driving into swimming pool of gold coins Duck Tales style.

Overall, it’s worth a listen/read if only for the historical bits as well as profiles of contemporary ‘masters’ such as Teresita Fernandez. Also some of the Zen Buddhist teachings about acceptance of others gelled with my own outlook (well I try) and perhaps I’ve let the more manipulative nature of the advice overshadow some actually quite sound pointers on life. If you happen to live in a particularly cutthroat environment then maybe the tactical aspects of this work may serve you as well. However for me, being as I am a resolutely British death before discourtesy type, it’s all just a touch to self-affected.

Next Month I’m going to dive into:

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime written by Judith Flanders. Sounds jolly doesn’t it?