Robert Greene lecture on Mastery at Oxford Union (Oxford University)

Robert Greene gives his address on his new book ‘Mastery’ to the Oxford Union Society.

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Robert Greene tells us about the masters of history and states that he is baffled that there are no books on being a master, the highest state of intelligence that humans can achieve.
Upon researching for his book on mastery he made 3 discoveries. The Source of mastery, the process on how to get to that mastery and the high level creative intuition that comes from achieving the end goal of mastery.
He then goes on to tell of the story of Leonardo Di Vinci; his life, obsessions and amazing attention to detail on a scientific level that lead to him being one of, if not the greatest master that ever lived.
He then says that in life there are 3 stages of learning, you learn from your parents, then school and then the real world. What the real world has to teach is completely contradictory to the other two learning stages. In the real world you can be whatever you want to be.
Secondly he goes on to talk about the story of Charles Darwin as an example of an iconic apprenticeship and how at 26 years old during his visit to the Galapagos Islands the theory of evolution and natural selection dawned on him after being exposed to this intense variety of life and learning so much.
The point of an apprenticeship is to immerse yourself in an environment where you have the maximum opportunities to learn. He mentions that ‘Social Intelligence’ is one of the most important things because you could be the most knowledgeable person in your field but if you don’t know how to deal with people then forget it. The Apprenticeship stage is in your 20 where instead of perusing money and fame you should be acquiring the skillset that’s going to serve you well through life.
Finally, as an example of how even music can conform to this path to mastery, he tells the story of John Coltrane, the greatest Jazz artist who ever lived. To truly develop his own style he studied and mastered all other genres and techniques of Jazz so that he could combine that knowledge and express himself in a way that connected with so many people.
We have a romantic notion that creativity is free, spontaneous and natural but it requires knowledge. He talks of his notion of the ‘Creative Active’ where the brain reaches a point when it’s absorbed so much information that the it awakens naturally with creative energy and it starts associating and connecting things that have never been connected before. He concludes by saying your uniqueness is your gift to the world and if you don’t keep developing who you are and mastering your field you basically just end up imitating those that came before you.
Filmed on Wednesday 21st November 2012

Robert Greene is author of ‘The 48 Laws of Power’, ‘The 33 Strategies of War’, ‘The Art of Seduction’ and, with 50 Cent, ‘The 50th Law’. He has a degree in Classical Studies and has been an editor at Esquire and other magazines. He is also a playwright. He current lives in Los Angeles…

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