012: Learning the Secret to Mastery: An Interview with Robert Greene [Podcast]

Do you sometimes look at your life and wonder how you got to where you are, why you’re doing what you’re doing? Do you wonder what you’re meant to do?

We were all born to do something important. That's what Robert Greene believes, anyway. In fact, he's written a whole book on the subject called Mastery.

Mastery book
Mastery by Robert Greene

Awhile back, I had a chance to sit down (virtually speaking) with Robert and interview him. We talked about the concept of calling, apprenticeship, and how to master your craft.

Greene believes we all have something we intuitively know we were meant to do, and the path to that work — what he calls your “life's task” — is less glamorous than we've been told.

In this episode of the podcast, we talk about finding this life’s task of yours, how to undergo the ideal apprenticeship, and how organization frees us to be more creative.

I also ask Robert, who happens to be an internationally-bestselling author to share a little more of his story about how he became a writer.

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To listen to the show, click the player below (if viewing this in email click here).

You can also download it at iTunes or on Stitcher.

Opportunity knocks

Robert always knew he wanted to write. He just didn’t know what he wanted to write about. He tried journalism and then Hollywood, but both the news and the movies left him dissatisfied.

By chance, in his mid-30s, he met a man who worked in the book packaging business. The man asked if Robert had any ideas for books.

After that meeting, Robert instinctively knew that writing nonfiction was his life’s task. In fact, his answer, an improvisation, eventually became The 48 Laws of Power, his first best-seller.

The ideal apprenticeship

There’s a lesson in Robert’s story: You don’t have to know exactly where you are going when you start. It can be a journey, as long as you have general sense of the direction you want to move.

For Robert, his direction was writing. Before he ever wrote a book, he spent time developing the skills he’d need to write one. He didn’t waste his time waiting to be famous.

He did the work he loved because he loved the work. (Tweet that)

Organization frees us to finish

One of the things Robert learned was the importance of organization.

You’ve got to get over the idea that structure is boring. It’s actually incredibly sexy. Part of Napoleon’s genius was knowing how to organize the greatest army on the planet at the time. – Robert Greene

Many projects fail because people run out of energy. Someone has a great idea, but not enough energy to finish it.

Robert argues that we can avert this by doing the hard work of structuring our thoughts and taking that idea all the way to the end.

In this episode of The Portfolio Life, we also covered:

  • Greene’s writing process
  • Why mastery isn’t something you’re born with
  • Why the secret to doing what you love is in your childhood

Listen to the whole episode to get the scoop.

You can find out more about Robert Greene and his writings on his website. His book, Mastery, is available on Amazon (affiliate link).

Download the full transcript of this interview here.

Memorable quotes

  • “It’s not the fact that you’re born a genius, or that you have a larger brain. It’s the level of dedication and persistence and patience.”
  • “The more you learn in this apprenticeship phase, the more you’re prepared for those moments that will eventually come to you.”
  • “You don’t have to find exactly what you want early on in life. It can be a voyage, a journey that takes a few years, as long as you have a general sense of the direction you need to be headed.”
  • “What people don’t realize is that the greatest jazz artist ever, John Coltrane, in a medium known for its spontaneity, was a practice freak.”
  • “The effort and years of practice you put in will let you become much more creative and intuitive.”

Have you started your journey?

Robert’s advice can apply to any calling. Whether you’re passionate about writing or teaching or making the best guacamole ever, mastering it is a journey.

I hope you enjoy the interview. Feel free to download it and share with friends. And I would love for you to take a moment and leave an honest review. And if you’re enjoying the podcast, please tweet about it or share it with your friends on Facebook.

You can also copy and paste this URL into the podcast player of your choice: https://feeds.feedburner.com/ThePortfolioLifeJeffGoins

Also, if you have any questions for future episodes like this one, let me know (just shoot an email to jeff at goinswriter dot com).

See me in Portland next week!

Next week, I'm traveling to Portland for the World Domination Summit, and if you're going to be one of the thousands attending (or you're in the area), I'd love to meet you.

I’ll be hosting a meetup with my friend and expert book marketer Tim Grahl in Portland, OR on Friday, July 11, and I’d love to see you there!

Click here to register for this free event.

What would mastery look like for you? Share in the comments.