Author: Robert Greene
In the book Mastery, Robert Greene pointed out that every single one of us has the ability to become a master in our own respective fields. In the process leading to this ultimate form of power, we can identify three distinct phases or levels. The first is the Apprenticeship; the second is the Creative-Active; the third, Mastery.
Each phase or level has its own challenges. Greene then dives deeper into strategies to overcoming them in great details with numerous stories of the many masters before us.
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Other books by Robert Greene
Other mentions of the book and/or the author
- The Good Decision Maker Manifesto: Getting More Done is Never the Answer
- The 10 Best Books for Better Decision Making
- How to Live Well: The 3 Fundamentals of A Good Life
My Reading Notes
Everyone holds his fortune in his own hands, like a sculptor the raw material he will fashion into a figure. But it’s the same with that type of artistic activity as with all others: We are merely born with the capability to do it. The skill to mold the material into what we want must be learned and attentively cultivated. —Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
The great danger is that we give in to feelings of boredom, impatience, fear, and confusion. We stop observing and learning. The process comes to a halt.
The human that depended on focused attention for its survival now becomes the distracted scanning animal, unable to think in depth, yet unable to depend on instincts.
Our levels of desire, patience, persistence, and confidence end up playing a much larger role in success than sheer reasoning powers. Feeling motivated and energized, we can overcome almost anything. Feeling bored and restless, our minds shut off and we become increasingly passive.
First, you must see your attempt at attaining mastery as something extremely necessary and positive. Second, you must convince yourself of the following: people get the mind and quality of brain that they deserve through their actions in life.
The first move toward mastery is always inward—learning who you really are and reconnecting with that innate force. Knowing it with clarity, you will find your way to the proper career path and everything else will fall into place. It is never too late to start this process.
We are entering a world in which we can rely less and less upon the state, the corporation, or family or friends to help and protect us. It is a globalized, harshly competitive environment. We must learn to develop ourselves. At the same time, it is a world teeming with critical problems and opportunities, best solved and seized by entrepreneurs—individuals or small groups who think independently, adapt quickly, and possess unique perspectives. Your individualized, creative skills will be at a premium.
You are born with a particular makeup and tendencies that mark you as a piece of fate. It is who you are to the core. Some people never become who they are; they stop trusting in themselves; they conform to the tastes of others, and they end up wearing a mask that hides their true nature. If you allow yourself to learn who you really are by paying attention to that voice and force within you, then you can become what you were fated to become—an individual, a Master.
You must understand the following: In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.
The career world is like an ecological system: People occupy particular fields within which they must compete for resources and survival. The more people there are crowded into a space, the harder it becomes to thrive there.
Working in such a field will tend to wear you out as you struggle to get attention, to play the political games, to win scarce resources for yourself. You spend so much time at these games that you have little time left over for true mastery. You are seduced into such fields because you see others there making a living, treading the familiar path. You are not aware of how difficult such a life can be.
The game you want to play is different: to instead find a niche in the ecology that you can dominate.
First, realize as early as possible that you have chosen your career for the wrong reasons, before your confidence takes a hit. And second, to actively rebel against those forces that have pushed you away from your true path. Scoff at the need for attention and approval—they will lead you astray.
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.
The way back requires a sacrifice. You cannot have everything in the present. The road to mastery requires patience. You will have to keep your focus on five or ten years down the road, when you will reap the rewards of your efforts. The process of getting there, however, is full of challenges and pleasures.
When you are faced with deficiencies instead of strengths and inclinations, this is the strategy you must assume: ignore your weaknesses and resist the temptation to be more like others. Instead, direct yourself toward the small things you are good at. Do not dream or make grand plans for the future, but instead concentrate on becoming proficient at these simple and immediate skills. This will bring you confidence and become a base from which you can expand to other pursuits. Proceeding in this way, step by step, you will hit upon your Life’s Task.
In the stories of the greatest Masters, past and present, we can inevitably detect a phase in their lives in which all of their future powers were in development, like the chrysalis of a butterfly. This part of their lives—a largely self-directed apprenticeship that lasts some five to ten years—receives little attention because it does not contain stories of great achievement or discovery.
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. Practical knowledge is the ultimate commodity, and is what will pay you dividends for decades to come—far more than the paltry increase in pay you might receive at some seemingly lucrative position that offers fewer learning opportunities.
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.
First, it is essential that you begin with one skill that you can master, and that serves as a foundation for acquiring others. You must avoid at all cost the idea that you can manage learning several skills at a time. You need to develop your powers of concentration and understand that trying to multitask will be the death of the process.
Once an action becomes automatic, you now have the mental space to observe yourself as you practice. You must use this distance to take note of your weaknesses or flaws that need correction—to analyze yourself. It helps also to gain as much feedback as possible from others, to have standards against which you can measure your progress so that you are aware of how far you have to go.
Real pleasure comes from overcoming challenges, feeling confident in your abilities, gaining fluency in skills, and experiencing the power this brings. You develop patience. Boredom no longer signals the need for distraction, but rather the need for new challenges to conquer.
As you gain skill and confidence, you must make the move to a more active mode of experimentation.
Often you must force yourself to initiate such actions or experiments before you think you are ready. You are testing your character, moving past your fears, and developing a sense of detachment to your work—looking at it through the eyes of others. You are getting a taste for the next phase in which what you produce will be under constant scrutiny.
The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways. And the process of learning skills, no matter how virtual, remains the same.
Instead, you must value learning above everything else. This will lead you to all of the right choices. You will opt for the situation that will give you the most opportunities to learn, particularly with hands-on work. You will choose a place that has people and mentors who can inspire and teach you. A job with mediocre pay has the added benefit of training you to get by with less—a valuable life skill.
You must struggle against any limitations and continually work to expand your horizons. (In each learning situation you will submit to reality, but that reality does not mean you must stay in one place.) Reading books and materials that go beyond what is required is always a good starting point. Being exposed to ideas in the wide world, you will tend to develop a hunger for more and more knowledge; you will find it harder to remain satisfied in any narrow corner, which is precisely the point.
We see reflections of the truth we have already assumed. Such feelings of superiority are often unconscious and stem from a fear of what is different or unknown. We are rarely aware of this, and often imagine ourselves to be paragons of impartiality.
Children are generally free of these handicaps. They are dependent upon adults for their survival and naturally feel inferior. This sense of inferiority gives them a hunger to learn. Through learning, they can bridge the gap and not feel so helpless. Their minds are completely open; they pay greater attention. This is why children can learn so quickly and so deeply.
Unlike other animals, we humans retain what is known as neoteny—mental and physical traits of immaturity—well into our adult years. We have the remarkable capability of returning to a childlike spirit, especially in moments in which we must learn something. Well into our fifties and beyond, we can return to that sense of wonder and curiosity, reviving our youth and apprenticeships.
When it comes to mastering a skill, time is the magic ingredient. Assuming your practice proceeds at a steady level, over days and weeks certain elements of the skill become hardwired. Slowly, the entire skill becomes internalized, part of your nervous system. The mind is no longer mired in the details but can see the larger picture. It is a miraculous sensation and practice will lead you to that point, no matter the talent level you are born with. The only real impediment to this is yourself and your emotions—boredom, panic, frustration, insecurity. You cannot suppress such emotions—they are normal to the process and are experienced by everyone, including Masters. What you can do is have faith in the process. The boredom will go away once you enter the cycle. The panic disappears after repeated exposure. The frustration is a sign of progress—a signal that your mind is processing complexity and requires more practice. The insecurities will transform into their opposites when you gain mastery. Trusting this will all happen, you will allow the natural learning process to move forward, and everything else will fall into place.
To attain mastery, you must adopt what we shall call Resistance Practice. The principle is simple—you go in the opposite direction of all of your natural tendencies when it comes to practice.
Mistakes and failures are precisely your means of education. They tell you about your own inadequacies. It is hard to find out such things from people, as they are often political with their praise and criticisms. Your failures also permit you to see the flaws of your ideas, which are only revealed in the execution of them. You learn what your audience really wants, the discrepancy between your ideas and how they affect the public.
We must make ourselves study as deeply as possible the technology we use, the functioning of the group we work in, the economics of our field, its lifeblood. We must constantly ask the questions—how do things work, how do decisions get made, how does the group interact? Rounding our knowledge in this way will give us a deeper feel for reality and the heightened power to alter it.
You want to learn as many skills as possible, following the direction that circumstances lead you to, but only if they are related to your deepest interests. Like a hacker, you value the process of self-discovery and making things that are of the highest quality. You avoid the trap of following one set career path. You are not sure where this will all lead, but you are taking full advantage of the openness of information, all of the knowledge about skills now at our disposal. You see what kind of work suits you and what you want to avoid at all cost. You move by trial and error.
The Naïve Perspective makes us feel sensitive and vulnerable. Looking inward as to how the words and actions of others implicate us in some way, we continually misread their intentions. We project our own feelings onto them. We have no real sense of what they are thinking or what motivates them.
Social intelligence is nothing more than the process of discarding the Naïve Perspective and approaching something more realistic. It involves focusing our attention outward instead of inward, honing the observational and empathic skills that we naturally possess. It means moving past our tendency to idealize and demonize people, and seeing and accepting them as they are. It is a way of thinking that must be cultivated as early as possible,
Most of us have these negative qualities—Envy, Conformism, Rigidity, Self-obsessiveness, Laziness, Flightiness, and Passive Aggression—in relatively mild doses. But in a group setting, there will inevitably be people who have one or more of these qualities to a high enough degree that they can become very destructive. We shall call these negative qualities the Seven Deadly Realities.
In dealing with people, you will often encounter particular problems that will tend to make you emotional and lock you into the Naïve Perspective. Such problems include unexpected political battles, superficial judgments of your character based on appearances, or petty-minded criticisms of your work. The following four essential strategies, developed by Masters past and present, will help you to meet these inevitable challenges and maintain the rational mindset necessary for social intelligence.
Speak through your work. Your work is the single greatest means at your disposal for expressing your social intelligence. By being efficient and detail-oriented in what you do, you demonstrate that you are thinking of the group at large and advancing its cause. By making what you write or present clear and easy to follow, you show your care for the audience or public at large. By involving other people in your projects and gracefully accepting their feedback, you reveal your comfort with the group dynamic.
Work that is solid also protects you from the political conniving and malevolence of others—it is hard to argue with the results you produce. If you are experiencing the pressures of political maneuvering within the group, do not lose your head and become consumed with all of the pettiness. By remaining focused and speaking socially through your work, you will both continue to raise your skill level and stand out among all the others who make a lot of noise but produce nothing.
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. If you are not careful and simply assume that it is best to be yourself, they will begin to ascribe to you all kinds of qualities that have little to do with who you are but correspond to what they want to see. All of this can confuse you, make you feel insecure, and consume your attention. Internalizing their judgments, you will find it hard to focus on your work.
You must see the creation of a persona as a key element in social intelligence, not something evil or demonic. We all wear masks in the social arena, playing different roles to suit the different environments we pass through. You are simply becoming more conscious of the process.
People see our behavior from the outside, and their view of us is never what we imagine it to be. To have the power to see ourselves through the eyes of others would be of immense benefit to our social intelligence. We could begin to correct the flaws that offend, to see the role that we play in creating any kind of negative dynamic, and to have a more realistic assessment of who we are.
Masters not only retain the spirit of the Original Mind, but they add to it their years of apprenticeship and an ability to focus deeply on problems or ideas. This leads to high-level creativity.
Masters manage to blend the two—discipline and a childlike spirit—together into what we shall call the Dimensional Mind. Such a mind is not constricted by limited experience or habits. It can branch out into all directions and make deep contact with reality. It can explore more dimensions of the world. The Conventional Mind is passive—it consumes information and regurgitates it in familiar forms. The Dimensional Mind is active, transforming everything it digests into something new and original, creating instead of consuming.
The Dimensional Mind has two essential requirements: one, a high level of knowledge about a field or subject; and two, the openness and flexibility to use this knowledge in new and original ways. The knowledge that prepares the ground for creative activity largely comes from a rigorous apprenticeship in which we have mastered all of the basics. Once the mind is freed from having to learn these basics, it can focus on higher, more creative matters.
To awaken the Dimensional Mind and move through the creative process requires three essential steps: first, choosing the proper Creative Task, the kind of activity that will maximize our skills and knowledge; second, loosening and opening up the mind through certain Creative Strategies; and third, creating the optimal mental conditions for a Breakthrough or Insight. Finally, throughout the process we must also be aware of the Emotional Pitfalls—complacency, boredom, grandiosity, and the like—that continually threaten to derail or block our progress. If we can move through the steps while avoiding these traps, we cannot fail to unleash powerful creative forces from within.
Your emotional commitment to what you are doing will be translated directly into your work. If you go at your work with half a heart, it will show in the lackluster results and in the laggard way in which you reach the end. If you are doing something primarily for money and without a real emotional commitment, it will translate into something that lacks a soul and that has no connection to you.
In the sciences, you will tend to entertain ideas that fit your own preconceptions and that you want to believe in. This unconsciously colors your choices of how to verify these ideas, and is known as confirmation bias.
The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.
To put Negative Capability into practice, you must develop the habit of suspending the need to judge everything that crosses your path. You consider and even momentarily entertain viewpoints opposite to your own, seeing how they feel. You observe a person or event for a length of time, deliberately holding yourself back from forming an opinion. You seek out what is unfamiliar—for instance, reading books from unfamiliar writers in unrelated fields or from different schools of thought. You do anything to break up your normal train of thinking and your sense that you already know the truth.
Many of the most interesting and profound discoveries in science occur when the thinker is not concentrating directly on the problem but is about to drift off to sleep, or get on a bus, or hears a joke—moments of unstrained attention, when something unexpected enters the mental sphere and triggers a new and fertile connection. Such chance associations and discoveries are known as serendipity—the occurrence of something we are not expecting—and although by their nature you cannot force them to happen, you can invite serendipity into the creative process.
With the invention of language, the intellectual powers of our ancestors were vastly enhanced. Thinking in words, they could imagine more possibilities in the world around them, which they could then communicate and act on. The human brain thus developed along these evolutionary lines as a multiuse, immensely flexible instrument that is able to think on various levels, combining many forms of intelligence with all of the senses. But somewhere along the way a problem developed. We slowly lost our previous flexibility and became largely dependent on words for our thinking. In the process, we lost our connection to the senses—sight, smell, touch—that once played such a vital role in our intelligence. Language is a system largely designed for social communication. It is based on conventions that everyone can agree upon. It is somewhat rigid and stable, so that it allows us to communicate with minimum friction. But when it comes to the incredible complexity and fluidity of life, it can often fail us.
Creative people do not simply think in words, but use all of their senses, their entire bodies in the process. They find sense cues that stimulate their thoughts on many levels—whether it be the smell of something strong, or the tactile feel of a rubber ball. What this means is that they are more open to alternative ways of thinking, creating, and sensing the world. They allow themselves a broader range of sense experience. You must expand as well your notion of thinking and creativity beyond the confines of words and intellectualizations. Stimulating your brain and senses from all directions will help unlock your natural creativity and help revive your original mind.
If we remained as excited as we were at the beginning of our project, maintaining that intuitive feel that sparked it all, we would never be able to take the necessary distance to look at our work objectively and improve upon it. Losing that initial verve causes us to work and rework the idea. It forces us to not settle too early on an easy solution. The mounting frustration and tightness that comes from single-minded devotion to one problem or idea will naturally lead to a breaking point. We realize we are getting nowhere. Such moments are signals from the brain to let go, for however long a period necessary, and most creative people consciously or unconsciously accept this. When we let go, we are not aware that below the surface of consciousness the ideas and the associations we had built up continue to bubble and incubate. With the feeling of tightness gone, the brain can momentarily return to that initial feeling of excitement and aliveness, which by now has been greatly enhanced by all of our hard work. The brain can now find the proper synthesis to the work, the one that was eluding us because we had become too tight in our approach.
The feeling that we have endless time to complete our work has an insidious and debilitating effect on our minds. Our attention and thoughts become diffused. Our lack of intensity makes it hard for the brain to jolt into a higher gear. The connections do not occur. For this purpose, you must always try to work with deadlines, whether real or manufactured.
The greatest impediment to creativity is your impatience, the almost inevitable desire to hurry up the process, express something, and make a splash. What happens in such a case is that you do not master the basics; you have no real vocabulary at your disposal. What you mistake for being creative and distinctive is more likely an imitation of other people’s style, or personal rantings that do not really express anything. Audiences, however, are hard to fool. They feel the lack of rigor, the imitative quality, the urge to get attention, and they turn their backs, or give the mildest praise that quickly passes.
Mechanical intelligence is not a degraded form of thinking, as compared to abstract reasoning. It is, in fact, the source of many of our reasoning skills and creative powers.
The principles behind mechanical intelligence can be summarized as follows: whatever you are creating or designing, you must test and use it yourself. Separating out the work will make you lose touch with its functionality. Through intense labor on your part, you gain a feel for what you are creating. In doing this work, you see and feel the flaws in the design. You do not look at the parts separately but at how they interact, experiencing what you produce as a whole. What you are trying to create will not magically take off after a few creative bursts of inspiration, but must be slowly evolved through a step-by-step process as you correct the flaws. In the end, you win through superior craftsmanship, not marketing. This craftsmanship involves creating something with an elegant, simple structure, getting the most out of your materials—a high form of creativity. These principles work with the natural bent of your brain, and are to be violated at your own peril.
When it comes to creative endeavors, time is always relative. Whether your project takes months or years to complete, you will always experience a sense of impatience and a desire to get to the end. The single greatest action you can take for acquiring creative power is to reverse this natural impatience. You take pleasure in the laborious research process; you enjoy the slow cooking of the idea, the organic growth that naturally takes shape over time.
You must not mistake newness with wild spontaneity. There is nothing that becomes repetitive and boring more quickly than free expression that is not rooted in reality and discipline.
In many fields, we can see and diagnose the same mental disease, which we shall call technical lock. What this means is the following: in order to learn a subject or skill, particularly one that is complex, we must immerse ourselves in many details, techniques, and procedures that are standard for solving problems. If we are not careful, however, we become locked into seeing every problem in the same way, using the same techniques and strategies that became so imprinted in us. It is always simpler to follow such a route. In the process, we lose sight of the bigger picture, the purpose of what we are doing, how each problem we face is different and requires a different approach. We adopt a kind of tunnel vision.
This technical lock afflicts people in all fields as they lose a sense of the overall purpose of their work, of the larger question at hand, of what impels them to do their work in the first place.
What constitutes true creativity is the openness and adaptability of our spirit. 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. We imagine that the objects around us can be used and co-opted for different purposes. We do not hold on to our original idea out of sheer stubbornness, or because our ego is tied up with its rightness. Instead, we move with what presents itself to us at the moment, exploring and exploiting different branches and contingencies.
The difference then is not in some initial creative power of the brain, but in how we look at the world and the fluidity with which we can reframe what we see. Creativity and adaptability are inseparable.
Your task as a creative thinker is to actively explore the unconscious and contradictory parts of your personality and to examine similar contradictions and tensions in the world at large. Expressing these tensions within your work in any medium will create a powerful effect on others, making them sense unconscious truths or feelings that have been obscured or repressed.
To create a meaningful work of art or to make a discovery or invention requires great discipline, self-control, and emotional stability. It requires mastering the forms of your field. Drugs and madness only destroy such powers. Do not fall for the romantic myths and clichés that abound in culture about creativity—offering us the excuse or panacea that such powers can come cheaply. When you look at the exceptionally creative work of Masters, you must not ignore the years of practice, the endless routines, the hours of doubt, and the tenacious overcoming of obstacles these people endured. Creative energy is the fruit of such efforts and nothing else.
The process that people go through when they arrive at an answer through rational analysis can generally be examined and verified, which is why we esteem it so highly. We prefer things that can be reduced to a formula and described in precise words. But the types of intuitions discussed by various Masters cannot be reduced to a formula, and the steps they took to arrive at them cannot be reconstructed.
Through intense absorption in a particular field over a long period of time, Masters come to understand all of the parts involved in what they are studying. They reach a point where all of this has become internalized and they are no longer seeing the parts, but gain an intuitive feel for the whole. They literally see or sense the dynamic.
This is hard for us to imagine because we find intuition and rationality mutually exclusive, but in fact, at this high level, they operate together in a seamless fashion. The reasoning of Masters is guided by intuition; their intuition springs from intense rational focus. The two are fused.
Although time is the critical factor in attaining Mastery and this intuitive feel, the time we are talking about is not neutral or simply quantitative. It is not a matter of studying a subject for twenty years and then emerging as a Master. The time that leads to mastery is dependent on the intensity of our focus. The key, then, to attaining this higher level of intelligence is to make our years of study qualitatively rich. We don’t simply absorb information—we internalize it and make it our own by finding some way to put this knowledge to practical use.
This high-level intuition, like any skill, requires practice and experience. At first, our intuitions might be so faint that we do not pay attention to them or trust them. But over time they learn to notice these rapid ideas that come to them. They learn to act on them and verify their validity. Some lead nowhere, but others lead to tremendous insights. Over time, Masters find that they can call up more and more of these high-level intuitions, which are now sparking all over the brain. Accessing this level of thinking on a more regular basis, they can fuse it even more deeply with their rational forms of thinking. This intuitive form of intelligence was developed to help us process complex layers of information and gain a sense of the whole.
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift. —Albert Einstein
Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge. But there is another element, an X factor that Masters inevitably possess, that seems mystical but that is accessible to us all.
These Masters, as they progress on their career paths, make a choice at a key moment in their lives: they decide to forge their own route, one that others will see as unconventional, but that suits their own spirit and rhythms and leads them closer to discovering the hidden truths of their objects of study. This key choice takes self-confidence and self-awareness—the X factor that is necessary for attaining mastery.
The ability to connect deeply to your environment is the most primal and in many ways the most powerful form of mastery the brain can bring us. We gain such power by first transforming ourselves into consummate observers. We see everything in our surroundings as a potential sign to interpret. Nothing is taken at face value.
Over the years, as we progress on this path, we begin to merge our knowledge of these various components into an overall feel for the environment itself. Instead of exerting and overtaxing ourselves to keep up with a complex, changing environment, we know it from the inside and can sense the changes before they happen.
There are many paths to mastery, and if you are persistent you will certainly find one that suits you. But a key component in the process is determining your mental and psychological strengths and working with them.
Achieving mastery in life often depends on those first steps that we take. It is not simply a question of knowing deeply our Life’s Task, but also of having a feel for our own ways of thinking and for perspectives that are unique to us.
Mastery is like swimming—it is too difficult to move forward when we are creating our own resistance or swimming against the current. Know your strengths and move with them.
In any competitive environment in which there are winners or losers, the person who has the wider, more global perspective will inevitably prevail. The reason is simple: such a person will be able to think beyond the moment and control the overall dynamic through careful strategizing. Most people are perpetually locked in the present. Their decisions are overly influenced by the most immediate event; they easily become emotional and ascribe greater significance to a problem than it should have in reality.
The primal source of human intelligence comes from the development of mirror neurons (see here), which gives us the ability to place ourselves in the skin of another and imagine their experience. Through continual exposure to people and by attempting to think inside them we can gain an increasing sense of their perspective, but this requires effort on our part.
Our natural tendency is to project onto other people our own beliefs and value systems, in ways in which we are not even aware. When it comes to studying another culture, it is only through the use of our empathic powers and by participating in their lives that we can begin to overcome these natural projections and arrive at the reality of their experience.
The problem with most people, he felt, is that they build artificial walls around subjects and ideas. The real thinker sees the connections, grasps the essence of the life force operating in every individual instance. Why should any individual stop at poetry, or find art unrelated to science, or narrow his or her intellectual interests? The mind was designed to connect things, like a loom that knits together all of the threads of a fabric. If life exists as an organic whole and cannot be separated into parts without losing a sense of the whole, then thinking should make itself equal to the whole.
The reversal to mastery is to deny its existence or its importance, and therefore the need to strive for it in any way. But such a reversal can only lead to feelings of powerlessness and disappointment. This reversal leads to enslavement to what we shall call the false self.
Your false self is the accumulation of all the voices you have internalized from other people—parents and friends who want you to conform to their ideas of what you should be like and what you should do, as well as societal pressures to adhere to certain values that can easily seduce you. It also includes the voice of your own ego, which constantly tries to protect you from unflattering truths.
Your true self does not speak in words or banal phrases. Its voice comes from deep within you, from the substrata of your psyche, from something embedded physically within you. It emanates from your uniqueness, and it communicates through sensations and powerful desires that seem to transcend you. You cannot ultimately understand why you are drawn to certain activities or forms of knowledge. This cannot really be verbalized or explained. It is simply a fact of nature. In following this voice you realize your own potential, and satisfy your deepest longings to create and express your uniqueness. It exists for a purpose, and it is your Life’s Task to bring it to fruition.