Customer Review

40 of 49 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contains much useful material, despite its occasional self-help babble and patronizing tone, 22 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Mastery (Paperback)
"Mastery" is the word Greene uses to describe the state of being characterized by stepping beyond mere understanding of a topic, instead obtaining superior command over it, yielding intuitive understanding, integration of manifold ideas and resulting in a major increase in creative output. In his book, Greene sets out to understand the nature of mastery, in particularly seeking to provide a practical guide for how to attain mastery.

Greene's topic is inherently interesting, in the sense that mastery obviously is desirable for many people. Also, to a large degree, Greene achieves the goal he has set for himself. The book is divided into six main chapters, and particularly the later chapters on social intelligence, creativity and intuition are well written and contains useful insights. Furthermore, throughout the book, Greene relates stories from the lives of a series of people having attained mastery in very varied fields such as robotics, painting, piloting and dancing. These stories are among the best parts of the book.

There are multiple aspects of the book, however, which I found seriously aggravating. First, in several of the chapters of the book, in particular in the introduction and in the first two chapters, Greene presents a very simplistic view of human nature, coming up with endless self-help clichés of the type "People get the mind that they deserve through their actions" (p. 14), "You possess a kind of inner force that seeks to guide you toward your Life's Task" (p. 19), "At your birth a seed is planted. That seed is your uniqueness," et cetera. Greene also comes up with some very generalizing and quite unfounded statements about the world such as "We are entering a world in which we can rely less and less upon the state" (p. 28). And finally, with scientific veneer, Greene proposes some very oversimplified and unfounded ideas about human history and biology, for example claiming that mirror neurons are the major component giving humans their superior visual and social skills and expounding in unrealistic detail the behaviour of our distant ancestors (p. 7-8). To top it all off, Greene occasionally also displays a rather condescending attitude, opening his paragraph with imperatives such as "Understand:" and the like, and has an annoying habit of capitalizing all kinds of words ("Mastery", "Life's Task", "The Apprenticeship", et cetera). Taken as a whole, I found the hyperbolic lack of objectivity and rigor so irritating that during the introduction and the first chapter, I really wanted to put the book down, and only pressed on because of the recommendation of a friend.

If you can look past all this, however, the book actually starts to shine. Once Greene is done with his simplified ideas about human history and is done extolling the attaining of mastery as the ultimate goal of life, he commences to seriously consider how to attain mastery. The tone of the book shifts to something more factual, and at this point, it's good reading. Greene's attitude is that in order to attain mastery, you should keep your eyes on the prize and be practical about your planning instead of grumbling about the unfairness of the world. For example, in chapter four, when discussing social intelligence, he observes that people who are difficult to work with is a part of life, and instead of passing around blame, he simply discusses how to get along with these people anyway and get the most out of the situation. In this part of the book, Greene's analyses are generally useful and sound, making these chapters the best of the book.

Summing up, the quality of Greene's book is diminished by the flaws in its initial chapters. However, if you can look past this, there is a solid amount of good material in the latter half of the book, and this might well be worth your time.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No

[Add comment]
Post a comment
To insert a product link use the format: [[ASIN:ASIN product-title]] (What's this?)
Amazon will display this name with all your submissions, including reviews and discussion posts. (Learn more)
This badge will be assigned to you and will appear along with your name.
There was an error. Please try again.
Please see the full guidelines ">here.

Official Comment

As a representative of this product you can post one Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
The following name and badge will be shown with this comment:
 (edit name)
After clicking on the Post button you will be asked to create your public name, which will be shown with all your contributions.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.  Learn more
Otherwise, you can still post a regular comment on this review.

Is this your product?

If you are the author, artist, manufacturer or an official representative of this product, you can post an Official Comment on this review. It will appear immediately below the review wherever it is displayed.   Learn more
System timed out

We were unable to verify whether you represent the product. Please try again later, or retry now. Otherwise you can post a regular comment.

Since you previously posted an Official Comment, this comment will appear in the comment section below. You also have the option to edit your Official Comment.   Learn more
The maximum number of Official Comments have been posted. This comment will appear in the comment section below.   Learn more
Prompts for sign-in


Tracked by 1 customer

Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 11 Jul 2013 18:33:16 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Jul 2013 18:41:01 BDT
Skinchanger2 says:
condescending and patronizing tone? That's really beyond me. I didn't notice anything of the kind, I think that all of Greene's books are actually written in a very polite and respectful tone. You must be very sensitive. Then again you are from Denmark, the country of extreme political correctness and Jante law. Not a personal attack, just an observation.

Posted on 26 Dec 2013 14:19:39 GMT
I'm reading the 49 Laws of Power and he uses words such as "understand" etc in that book but it does not strike me as condescending. It's a style of writing that is not used much these days. In fact the author's style of writing is a joy to read, very concise and he does not pussyfoot - the true mark of a man who's not concerned with political correctness.

I look forward to reading "Mastery".
‹ Previous 1 Next ›

Review Details


4.5 out of 5 stars (42 customer reviews)
5 star:
4 star:
3 star:
2 star:    (0)
1 star:
14.99 10.49
Add to basket Add to wishlist

Location: Copenhagen, Denmark

Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,313