Reflections On Mastery Through Resistance Practice

Recently I read Robert Greene’s book, Mastery. The book puts forth the argument that everyone can master a skill which they love if you follow the outline that has been present throughout history. Greene draws from famous figures and links them to his principles and steps in order to showcase that no matter the discipline, whether it be sciences or art or sports, the underlying facts are the same. Simply put, in order to become a master at your craft, one needs to practice, with intent and focus, for hours on end coupled with discipline, self-control, and emotional stability.

Hence, there are no magic tricks. No short cuts. No Genie granting your wishes.

The reality is that in order to mastery something it will take years if not decades to get good at so you have to be in it for the long haul.

Now in the book, there are many different practices and principles one needs to understand in order to fully grasp the idea Greene has put forth. However, I will just be concentrating on one particular practice.

Robert Greene refers to it as Resistance practice. I previously discussed Steven Pressfield‘s notion of Resistance and Greene’s beliefs are similar to Pressfield. In whatever you do, there will be resistance, whether that comes in the form of external obstacles or whether it manifests itself through self-doubt or other psychological barriers. Knowing this, one must essentially strengthen their will and focus towards resistance through practice.

So, instead of waiting for some barrier or obstacle to come your way and then seeing if you can withstand it, you must create your own. That is just one part of it, the other being the constant practice of actually overcoming those barriers or obstacles. In this way, you build up your ability to combat resistance which allows you to achieve a higher level of proficiency in your craft.

An example of resistance practice would be to give yourself deadlines. Such self-imposed difficulty was what the great poet John Keats often practiced as Robert Greene mentioned in his book. Keats would give himself goals to write 50 lines each day and would commit to finishing long poems, up to 4,000 words, within 7  months. Through such deadlines, he would have to force himself to overcome laziness and self-doubt, to become more time efficient, to be more disciplined and essentially, to improve his character in order to meet his demands.

And so, we need to change our mindset when it comes to resistance.

Resistance is an ally. We need it to get to the next level in our craft. The lack of resistance or the lack of intensity allows us to remain comfortable and safe. Growth comes when you are uncomfortable. Resistance is uncomfortable which is why we must practice it in order to grow. The pressure of resistance aids us in creating what we dream of, making that dream a reality.