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HS 160 – Mastery with Robert Greene

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Robert Greene


Robert Greene is probably the most famous author on power and strategy. His new book is titled Mastery.

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Greene explains what can we learn from the lives and philosophies of historical figures like Sun Tzu and Napoleon. He also explains the best way to manipulate someone. Through a mastery of subject, Greene believes everyone is capable of professional transcendence.

He also wrote a book with the rapper 50 Cent and thinks there is a lot to learn from the hood life.


Narrator: Welcome to the Holistic Survival Show with Jason Hartman. The economic storm brewing around the world is set to spill into all aspects of our lives. Are you prepared? Where are you going to turn for the critical life skills necessary for you to survive and prosper? The Holistic Survival Show is your family’s insurance for a better life. Jason will teach you to think independently, to understand threats and how to create the ultimate action plan. Sudden change or worst case scenario, you’ll be ready. Welcome to Holistic Survival, your key resource for protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Ladies and gentlemen, your host, Jason Hartman.

Jason Hartman: Welcome to today’s show. This is Jason Hartman, your host. And as you may or may not know, every tenth show we kind of do a special tradition here that originated with my Creating Wealth show where we do a topic that is kind of off topic on purpose. Something just to do with general life and more successful living. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do today with our special guest. Again, tenth show is off topic and it is very much intentional just for personal enrichment and I hope you enjoy today’s show. And we will be back with our guest in just a moment.

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Start of Interview with Robert Greene

Jason Hartman: It’s my pleasure to welcome Robert Greene to the show. He’s a famous author on power and strategy. He’s the author of several books including his latest book entitles Mastery. The 48 Laws of Power is another great one, The Art of Seduction, The 50th Law, 33 Strategies of War, and he’s just got a prolific amount of work on the subject on the subject, and covers a lot of controversial areas that a lot of other authors just don’t really touch. It’s great to have him here. Robert, welcome. How are you?

Robert Greene: I’m fine. Thank you so much for having me on your show.

Jason Hartman: Well, the pleasure is all mine. I like to give my listeners a sense of geography. Are you located by any chance in Los Angeles today?

Robert Greene: Good guess. Yes I am. That’s where I was born and raised and that’s where I live right now.

Jason Hartman: Well, that’s where I grew up too, so we’re both Angelinos.

Robert Greene: Oh. Cool.

Jason Hartman: So tell us a little bit about your latest book Mastery and then I want to touch on some of the other books as well.

Robert Greene: Mastery is basically a book about what I consider to be the ultimate form of power that a person can have in this world. I think we’re in an environment that’s incredibly competitive and difficult. Very few people have any sort of job security anymore. The competition out there is globalized, it’s intense, it’s every day – you can’t let up your guard ever. And I noticed that in all my years of researching powerful people, they reach this level of intelligence. It’s not an intellectual intelligence, it’s a practical intelligence. They reach this high level where they’ve mastered their field. You can visualize it in a way where, let’s say your profession was chess, it’s just a metaphor, that after 10-15 years of playing chess you’re a grand master, and you’re no longer thinking about the chess board, it’s like internalized. You have a feel for it.

Jason Hartman: Right.

Robert Greene: Being something in larger dimensions is what they call chunks. And I believe that happens in any profession. And once you reach that point, you’re on a whole other plan. You’re so creative that nobody is going to replace you. You’re able to see trends and answers to problems that just aren’t visible to others, and so you’re going to be continually in demand. You’re like the Steve Jobs, or whoever it is. It’s not that you have to ignore being good at politics and being a social person, which is a component of Mastery, but once you get to that point you’ve got a command and you’re in demand.

And I wanted to show the reader that it’s not a matter of your brain size, or what college you went to. It’s a matter of going through a process with a lot of effort and intensity, and you will get there and it’s an incredible feeling. And it’s in all professions. The book covers everything from science to sports to working with your hands to the arts. So it encompasses everything.

Jason Hartman: Well, I think you lay out a few steps. Maybe there are four major steps, if I’m remembering correctly, in the book: Find the thing that is your passion, your great area of interest… what are those, if you’d go over them?

Robert Greene: Well the first step is the most important. If you don’t follow the first step you’re never going to get there. And it’s not me just saying that. It’s the pattern of all highly successful people. And for this book I researched a lot of very powerful figures in history, and also I interviewed nine contemporary masters to show that it’s a very modern thing. But in all of these stories, everybody starts out with a step on. And it’s in all professions. The book covers everything from science to sports to working with your hands to the arts. So it encompasses everything.

Jason Hartman: Well I think you lay out a few steps. Maybe there are four major steps, if I’m remembering correctly, in the book: Find the thing that is your passion, your great area of interest… what are those, if you’d go over them?

Robert Greene: Well the first step is the most important. If you don’t follow the first step you’re never going to get there. And it’s not me just saying that – it’s the pattern of all highly successful people. And for this book I researched a lot of very powerful figures in history, and also I interviewed nine contemporary masters to show that it’s a very modern thing. But in all of these stories, everybody starts out with a step one. And what I call it is, discover your calling or your life’s task.

And the idea is simple. You’re born with a unique set of DNA. Your brain is wired in a totally different way. There’s something unique about you, and what separates very powerful, successful people from others is that they’re very clear early on in their life about that quality in them that makes them unique. It could be a subject that fascinates them, a problem, an activity, or whatever it is. And that clarity carries on until they’re into their adolescence and then when it comes time to choosing a profession, a career, they have much more clarity. They might be exploring, where they’re trying to figure out exactly how to apply their interests, but there’s a higher degree of clarity than what most people have. And because they’re so clear about it and they focus so intensely on something that is emotionally engaging to them, they learn much faster and more intensely than other people. That’s the key to everything in life.

Jason Hartman: Sure.

Robert Greene: So you need to be following that path, and I show you very clearly in this chapter that you can discover what these inclinations are that you have and carve out a career path that will set you more in that direction than you might be going. A lot of people choose careers because there’s money involved or because their parents said this is what you should do. And they do alright in their 20s because they’re young, etc. But then they hit a wall in their 30s because they’re not engaged emotionally, personally with what they’re doing. And disaster ensues. And you’re not aware of where the disaster comes from, and it’s because you’re tuning out. You’re not fully engaged. So this is such a critical step, I can’t emphasize it enough. And I show you how at any point in your life, you can take this step, you can review and figure out and head in that direction.

Jason Hartman: Okay, so Robert I’ve got to ask you because I’m sure there are people listening who are thinking, that’s just never been clear to me. Some people, they knew as a kid what they wanted to do, certainly what you say makes absolute sense. We all know that the subjects we liked in school, we did well at those usually. Whether it’s liking the subject or even liking the teacher or professor because you relate to them better, or relate to the subject matter better. So you just pick it up naturally because it’s your area on interest. But just maybe one tip on how someone can discover what their main area is.

Robert Greene: The point of mastery is slow yourself down. There’s no short cut. There’s no one week or one year plan. This takes time. And so discovering your life task also takes time. And a lot of people are not very in tune with themselves. They’ve been listening for too long to what other people have to say. They’re not aware of what their actual interests are, of who they are. So it’s going to take a couple of months for people like that.

But I’d say a simple banal example will be, when you open a newspaper or you check something out online, you’re surfing a site that you like, what is that subject that when you see it on the headline, you go god, I have to read that. That just fascinates the hell out of me. Now, I know for myself, if I crack open the New York Times and there’s an article about some discovery of our early ancestors, I can’t explain to you why but I’m so excited by that, I will read every single article on that subject. Well there’s something like that for you. There’s always something that lights up your eyes like when you were a kid and you want to read about it.

These are signs. I give you in the book many other signs. But this is a sign of something that excites you in a primal way that probably dates back to your childhood, and you should follow these indications. You should also follow things that you hate in your career path, and you hate working for other people, you hate the politicking and all of the gamesmanship involved. Look at that sign. It’s a sign that you are probably an entrepreneur. You’re probably meant to be working for yourself. You probably have that individual risk-taking cavalier spirit that is not comfortable working for other people. These are signs and you’ve got to start becoming aware of them.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, makes sense, makes sense. Talk to us a little bit more about the Mastery subject. I love how in your books you tie in so much history, and so many historical figures, every person in business likes to quote and talk about power and talk about the art of war. Some like to relate to Napoleon. Thoughts there on some of the historical tie-ins, maybe have some examples?

Robert Greene: Well, the icon of this book is Leonardo Da Vinci. My War book was Napoleon, the Power book was Louis XIV, Seduction Cleopatra, 50th Law was 50 Cent. But here Da Vinci is sort of the icon in that he’s not as mythical as people make him out to be. He’s somebody that came from a rather disadvantaged background. He was an illegitimate son, he was kept out of all of the noble professions. And so the only real avenue for him was to pursue art, which actually was something that he deeply, deeply loved.

And I show clearly in the book that what makes Da Vinci so absolutely astounding was that an unbelievable work ethic. His motto was “Ostinato rigore” which means obstinate rigor, persistent rigor. He said I’ll figure something out just by sheer persistence and work, plus a lot of love. And I have all sorts of examples of all these other icons in our history that we look up to as being almost super human, like Mozart, like Einstein, Henry Ford, and Thomas Edison. And I show clearly that what separates these people is an incredible level of persistence and work ethic. And they’ve put in their proverbial ten thousand hours to the point of maybe twenty thousand hours. And that’s exactly the foundation that makes them so incredibly brilliant.

One of my favorite stories in the book, I know your audience is business people, but this book relates to anybody in any field. It’s about Charles Darwin because what’s such a good story about there is he’s a young man that doesn’t really know exactly where he sits in this world. He’s not good at school, his father thinks that he’s kind of a loser, he just likes to go hunting and observing things in nature and collecting specimens. And finally he gets this chance to go on a voyage around the globe on this ship, the HMS Beagle, his father says you’re a fool to go on that. Why would you think of something like that? You have no money, you have no training in it, and there’s something inside of him that tells him this is it. And in the process of going on this voyage, he transforms himself from this sort of naïve, inexperienced young man to someone who becomes the greatest observer of nature that we’ve ever had in history. He transforms himself into a scientist.

And I take this as a metaphor for the transformation that could happen to any person who goes through what I call a rigorous apprenticeship phase like Darwin went through. So these are some of the historical figures that I have in the book from all different fields. And as I said, I have nine contemporary figures like the great architect Santiago Calatrava or the scientist Temple Grandin, or the great entrepreneur Paul Graham who started the company Y Combinator. So there are lots of stories.

Jason Hartman: So, how did you get into it? What’s your background? Were you a history professor or just a student of it?

Robert Greene: No, part of the reason why I’m able to do what I do is I don’t have any traditional background. So if I were a history professor, I couldn’t write the kind of books that I write because academia kind of forces you into a certain mold.

Jason Hartman: Puts you in a box, yeah.

Robert Greene: Yeah, and my background was I studied in college Greek and Latin classics, very interested in history and literature. And then I went out in the work world and I worked in journalism, I worked in film and Hollywood, and I had many different jobs but I was always reading a lot of history and observing people very closely. So I like to write books that are incredibly practical, because I’m a very practical person. I don’t like reading academic books on a subject that have no relationship to my life. But on the other hand, I like to relate it to history, and I like to make the reader think very deeply about their lives. So because I don’t fit into these categories I’m able to kind of be my own self, so to speak.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, very interesting. So, manipulation – it’s a very controversial subject but there are many books and writing on how people can manipulate others to get the result they want out of them. How to change people, how to get your kids to do what you want, how to get your dog to do what you want, how to get your spouse or significant other… can people be manipulated? I think you’re going to say yes to that from knowing your work, but tell us if so, how?

Robert Greene: Well, you’re referring to my earlier books and this is sort of a subject or theme in all of them. It’s not so much a question… manipulation is a loaded word. You can also use the word influence, persuasion, can we convince other people, can we get them to do what we want them to do or can we get them to do something that won’t hurt us? And of course we can. If not, we would be miserable, powerless creatures.

Jason Hartman: And not only that, I know it’s a loaded word and that’s why I used it to instill some controversy into the discussion, but the old saying is nothing happens until somebody sells something. And whether it’s selling an idea or a product, that’s where a lot of progress comes from.

Robert Greene: Yeah, and so I’m trying to make you focus very deeply on the other person that you’re dealing with. The greatest problem that everybody faces in this realm of persuasion or manipulation is that they’re self-centered so the focus of their attention is inward. So I need to sell this product, I need to make money for my family, this is what I like, the other person must like that as well, etc. You’re projecting onto them something from inside yourself. And you’re not focused on the social environment and what people are thinking, on their needs, etc. All of my books are simply a way to twist you like a yoga pose out of that constant self-centeredness and get you to focus so that you really understand where that other person is coming from. Once you have that understanding, you can begin to lower their defenses. You can begin to make them move in your direction, whatever that might be, at the furthest extreme you can manipulate them.

And I show in the 48 Laws of Power that extreme – I go into it and I show you that very powerful people can often be very manipulative, and here are some of the laws that they use in that realm. And you can either take that knowledge to help defend yourself, or if you really need to you can use it. And that would be sort of the extreme. But the tie that connects all of this stuff together is your ability to get out of yourself and focus deeply on the other person. Once you do that, a weird kind of magic can start happening.

You can start figuring out other people. You’re never going to totally understand that person you’re trying to sell to, there’s always an element of mystery. It’s a margin game. If you’re able to increase your margin of intelligence and knowing about them from 5% to 20%, suddenly a kind of magic happens where you’re able to align your interests and figure out what it is that’s going to seal the deal and whatever it is you need. And that’s really what my books are about.

Jason Hartman: Robert, when you wrote the book about the 50th law, you talked about 50 Cent, the rapper. What could 50 cent teach us?

Robert Greene: Well actually it’s a book that’s co-written with 50 Cent. And basically that was an interesting process in which we spent about 5-6 months together and I interviewed him intensely and together we kind of shaped a book. And so it was more or less a collaborative process. And, it’s an amazing story. I’m not a celebrity person. I could really care less about Leonardo DiCaprio. I’m more interested in everyday people and how they get by in their lives. But 50 is an amazing story. He’s a very real person. He doesn’t have all this celebrity crap around him.

And there’s a couple of things that we can learn from him. First, it’s a total American rags to riches story of someone who comes from the absolute worst environment, and how he’s been able to raise himself up from this bottom to be a very wealthy, very powerful individual. It’s an amazing story and it has incredible lessons. And the other element of it is, I determine, that there’s a quality about him that is the source of this power. And that is what we call fearlessness. But it’s not a fearlessness of beating people up or being aggressive with guns are anything, it’s a kind of philosophical fearlessness in front of anything that happens in life. He’s not afraid of failing, he’s not afraid of what other people think of him, he’s not afraid of being alone, he’s not afraid of being different.

When you have that kind of a fearless attitude, you’re going to get somewhere in this world in whatever you do. And so in this book we have ten chapters. Each chapter is about a kind of fear that you have that’s very primal and very human. And here’s how you confront that fear and how you overcome it. It’s all of course illustrated. Each chapter begins with a story from his life to illustrated. And then we go into history about other great Americans and people around the world who have used a similar idea.

And one of the chapters for instance, just to give you an example, is a fear that a person might have in business is a fear of other people. I know that sounds a little bit counter intuitive, but a lot of people in business don’t really want to know too much about their customers, about their audience. They think they do, but they’re afraid of having their own ideas overwhelmed. They want to go in with a preconceived notion because it’s simpler that way, it’s easier that way and people are always more comfortable with themselves than with what other people are thinking.

And this is actually a fear and we demonstrate it very quickly. What made 50 so successful was he broke down all those barriers and he became incredibly close to his audience to the point of having a deep understanding. He was one of the first people in music to create a website that has unbelievable access to his own audience and information from them. He’s very close to whomever he’s trying to sell whatever he’s trying to sell. It’s a fear that he has overcome and we go very deeply into it in that chapter. So that’s sort of what that book is about.

Jason Hartman: Very interesting. With all of your books, it begs the question, do you have a favorite?

Robert Greene: Well, you know they’re like children. And it’s sort of hard to…

Jason Hartman: You can’t pick a favorite.

Robert Greene: Well, you can. The 48 Laws of Power was my first one and it transformed me from an unhappy person writing in Hollywood to having this great life, so there’s always a love of that. The Art of Seduction was the most fun to write, as you can probably imagine by the title. And then Mastery is the newest one, so it’s closest to me. So maybe right now that’s my favorite child. But the 50th Law was a lot of fun to write. I can’t say that the book on warfare was not fun, because it was a very tough subject, but even that book has some closeness to my heart. So it’s hard really to say.

Jason Hartman: I knew that would be impossible to pick like asking a parent to pick their favorite child.

Robert Greene: Yeah.

Jason Hartman: Interesting. Well, you mentioned the seduction book. Wow. What an amazing compilation in The Art of Seduction of these different personas that people can exhibit, and you give examples of people throughout history that have done this. How about if you take a few of those. And then I would be remiss to not mention, this isn’t just about seduction in a romantic or a sexual sense, but at the end you talk about soft seduction and how to sell anything to the masses.

Robert Greene: Yeah, I’m trying to write a book about the psychology of seduction, which I say permeates us as human beings. We are continually vulnerable to being seduced. So certainly we think of sexual seduction, and there’s a lot of that in the book, but also its social seduction and how you can charm and get people around you to like you. It’s also political seduction, how John F Kennedy seduced the Americans in 1960 and won an election. It’s clearly marketing, and I go into as you say, the soft sell.

So I’m interested in what ties all of that together, what ties Cleopatra to John F Kennedy or whomever. And there are ties to it. And all is involving the same seduction, the same psychology which is how do you lower people’s resistance so they do more or less what you would like them to do? And in seduction, you’re creating a kind of pleasurable environment where it’s not about overt manipulation. It’s about what you’re getting people to do is something that they actually want to do or would like. And I’m going to show you how you can have that power.

The beginning of the book, the first half, I identify 9 types of seducers. And you’re probably going to be, hopefully, one of these types and maybe a combination of two, possibly three. And the idea is to be a seducer, you can’t just be reading a book and following certain strategies. You’re going to seem cold hearted, particularly a woman will see right through you. And you won’t get very far. And it’s not fun. So the trick is to discover what is naturally seductive about yourself as an individual. And so I identified these types and I make you more aware of what makes you a crocket or a rake or if you’re a woman, a siren or a dandy, or the charismatic, etc.

The second half of the book I go into various strategies that people typically use in the seduction, and all of these chapters have applications to marketing, to politics, to selling anything as well, and it’s clear when you read them. But the second half of the book I kind of show you starting from the beginning with knowing who it is that you’re trying to seduce to the last strategy which is sort of consummating the deal, whatever that might be. And along the way I give you stories from the greatest seducers who have ever lived in all of these different fields.

Jason Hartman: What book took you the longest to write?

Robert Greene: Well, the war book is sort of my version of Sunsu’s Art of War. And for business people I’ve heard it’s maybe in some ways the most applicable. But it was a very difficult subject because first, there’s so many books written on warfare. The subject is so vast. And what I wanted to do was I wanted to take all of the most classic strategies that exist in the history of warfare, identify these and then show you the psychology behind them and how they’re applicable to everyday situations, to business, to dealing with people. And that is not easy. It’s not really been done before to show you how Napoleon’s use of the flanking maneuver is actually a strategy that has incredible applications to running a business or to persuasion or influence. So it took a lot of thinking on my part and a lot of hard work. So that book was the longest and hardest to produce.

Jason Hartman: I would agree that when you read the art of war and try to relate it to modern times, I don’t think that’s very easy to do. People talk about it maybe in an attempt to sound intellectual or something, but if you ask me I didn’t find that much relation to business, maybe I’m missing something or my attention span is too short.

Robert Greene: The Sunsu’s is an amazing book. I used it very much in my book on war, but you’re right. I understand exactly what you’re saying. But let’s say a theme in Sunsu is all about not going to war unless you have to, and using your resources, marshalling them to the best possible usage so that you’re not wasting lives and you’re not just ruining your country in the process. Well I create a chapter out of that which I call Perfect Economy, and that means using your resources, who you are, your business, your army, to the absolute maximum economic usage so you’re not wasting anything.

And basically the idea is your reliance on money or technology is making you probably less creative than you want to be. You can be incredibly creative with less actual material resources and do better in your business than you are if you’re so addicted to spending a lot of money and buying things that you think are going to improve your productivity, etc. That’s an idea of Sunsu that you can take as a metaphor and apply to sports, to business, to life in general, and that’s sort of what my approach was.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, very interesting. Well, of course your books are available at bookstores and at Amazon.com. And the website is PowerSeductionAndWar.com. Anything else you’d like people to know in closing, Robert?

Robert Greene: No. As you say, PowerSeductionAndWar.com. There’ll be links there to Mastery, etc. No, I guess it’s just that these are books that are meant, they’re longer, they’re not simple reads like a lot of self-help books. But if you take the time they’re all very practically oriented. And reading them, you don’t have to read them linearly. You can skip to chapters that seem more relevant. But it kind of gets under your skin. I’m trying to alter your way of thinking, your life and about success. We discussed a little earlier about making you less self-centered. It’s a process and I’m trying to change how you think. And I think reading the books in that spirit, it has incredible practical value if you give it the time. So that’s sort of the last thing.

Jason Hartman: Yeah, what I love about your work is all of the historical tie-ins. I feel like I learn so much about history reading a book about power or seduction, which I would never think that would come out in that way, but it sure does. Your work is just very interesting and very well thought out. And I’ve got to ask you, do you have another book in your sights? The recent release of Mastery, but what’s next?

Robert Greene: Well a lot of my books kind of come out of an idea in another book that was written. So in Mastery, I have a chapter on what I call social intelligence. And the idea I have a chapter on what I call social intelligence. And the idea in that chapter is to say it’s not just enough to master your field and be brilliant at it. You also have to be good with people. And intelligence, intellectual intelligence actually goes hand in hand with social intelligence.

I’m going to write a book that expands that idea into something much larger. I’m going to give you what I call a deep understanding of the elements of human nature that go back thousands of years that are embedded in each person. So that when you read this book you’re going to have a much better sense of what is motivating the people around you. You’re going to be able to read them a lot better than just kind of going and operating blindly. And I’m going to show you how you can develop this kind of reading ability, and I’m going to give you, as I said, this kind of encyclopedia about human nature. So you’ll have a much better knowledge of what motivates people.

Jason Hartman: That sounds fascinating and I really, really look forward to that book. We will definitely have you back on to talk about social intelligence. And Robert Greene, thank you so much for joining us today.

Robert Greene: Oh well thank you so much for having me. It was fun.

Narrator: Thank you for joining us today for the Holistic Survival Show. Protecting the people, places and profits you care about in uncertain times. Be sure to listen to our Creating Wealth Show, which focuses on exploiting the financial and wealth creation opportunities in today’s economy. Learn more at www.JasonHartman.com or search “Jason Hartman” on iTunes. This show is produced by the Hartman Media Company, offering very general guidelines and information. Opinions of guests are their own, and none of the content should be considered individual advice. If you require personalized advice, please consult an appropriate professional. Information deemed reliable, but not guaranteed.

Transcribed by Ralph

The Holistic Survival Team

Episode: 160

Guest: Robert Greene

iTunes: Stream Episode

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