A Lesson From Mastery

After reading the latest book from Robert Greene, a small part spoke to me as the most important lesson that I can personally put into effect immediately.

Mastery by Robert Greene

Before I go into that lesson, I want to say that I enjoyed this book. There was nothing I would consider to be groundbreaking information, but the history lessons were educational and entertaining. I preferred his early books such as The 48 Laws of Power, The 50th Law, and Art of Seduction more than this book. I felt his earlier works did a better job pulling out the philosophical gems from the historical research.

The lesson I found interesting was a mention about how important it is to use our hands when learning a new skill. Learning by hands had long pre-dated language. Humans have evolved to be excellent at learning when their hands are engaged. However, the modern world is becoming increasingly hands-free. Today we push pixels with our computers and mobile devices. We are becoming more and more disconnected from using our hands in dexterous movements. By getting our hands involved with learning as if we were still craftsmen, we could become more efficient and creative learners, which will help us on our paths to Mastery.

How can we re-engage our hands if all our work is digital? Some tech friends of mine have become skilled at drawing. Here are some examples.

  • Joe Crawford, who is an excellent programmer, continues to create very good sketches.
  • INeedCoffee contributor Paul Muller of Caffination has also been creating better and better sketches over the past few years.
  • Another INeedCoffee contributor Mike Rohde started sketching images during office meetings and got so into it that he shared what he learned in a recently published book titled The Sketchnote Handbook.

The Sketchnote Handbook Video Edition: the illustrated guide to visual note taking (includes The Sketchnote Handbook book and access to The Sketchnote Handbook Video)
The Sketchnote Handbook by Mike Rohde

I haven’t been drawing, although those three examples are quite inspiring. My hands-on skill for the past few years has been learning how to cook and making ferments. Today when I make kimchi, my hands move as effortlessly as when I’m driving a stick shift. Although it may appear complicated to the observer and especially when you read the steps involved, it does seem as if the hands have an intelligence of their own. The more times you repeat the action, the smarter the hands get.

Thinking about ways we can engage our hands in learning is the important lesson I got from Mastery. What methods of active hands learning are you currently doing?


Add yours

  1. J. Scott Shipman

    Jan 7, 2013 — 12:43 pm

    Good post, MAS, thanks for sharing. If you enjoyed this, you may enjoy Shop Class as Soulcraft. A very good book I read last year.

  2. Mastery has been my first read by Robert Greene – found it very inspiring.

    Hand skills such as pen-spinning or writing on paper with your other hand definitely are some of my favourites and I hope to activate some untapped neurons by doing that.

    I also love to build road bikes from scratch. So rewarding to ride yet another finished ‘baby’.

  3. @J Scott – Thanks for the tip. I added to my reading list.

    @Stephan – If you liked Mastery, you are going to love 48 Laws, Art of Seduction and the 50th Law.

  4. Mike,

    You are a “master” of computers, right?

    I was wondering if you could recommend a full-build computer store either b&m or online that I can buy a new computer through that is also a good value. I have a computer that is about 4 years old so I’m ready for an upgrade as I heard that the best time to buy a computer is after the CES show and in February.


  5. @Thomas – My computer knowledge is mostly web development and database queries. I do not know very much about hardware.

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