Although I don’t remember where I saw Robert Greene’s book Mastery recommended, I’m glad I read it. I found it much more useful than his book The 48 Laws of Power. You can think of the book as a sort of extension to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers or Cal Newport’s So Good They Can’t Ignore You. Greene tries to answer what practices make some people so much more successful than others. His answer is that many hours of practice, feedback, and reflection are more important than innate talent.

The best parts of the book are the stories about the various masters he profiles from a variety of fields—programming, architecture, dance, and more. I liked the emphasis he placed on apprenticeships and learning from existing experts. I’ve found I’ve been able to learn more deeply by working closely with people with many years of software engineering experience. Through them, I’ve learned new design patterns, security vulnerabilities to watch out for, and other lessons I would not have learned easily building smaller projects on my own.

My most important takeaways from the book are:

  • Work with others who have already become experts in the field you care about.
  • Practice regularly.
  • Iterate and get feedback on your work. His story about how the Wright Brothers, relative amateurs, were able to able to build a successful airplane before their wealthier and better-credentialed competitors illuminates this point.
  • Create daily habits surrounding your practice so that you have set blocks of time to work deeply.