What obstacles stand in the way of greatness?
Being someone that is on the path of Mastery, I’m in tune with the obstacles that can impede me from achieving Mastery. So, anyone who’s overcome obstacles on the path to Mastery is interesting to me. It’s also one the reasons why I’m a HUGE fan of Robert Greene, the author of The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, The 50th Law and Mastery.
He studies power and mastery in all his books through the lives of people from past and present.
In his latest book, Mastery, he explores the idea of reaching Mastery and how in order to reach it he lays out how social intelligence matters, because you can be brilliant in your field, but if you’re bad with people you neutralize your talent and expertise:
Often the greatest obstacle to our pursuit of mastery comes from the emotional drain we experience in dealing with the resistance and manipulation of the people around us. We misread their intentions and react in ways that cause confusion or conflict.
Social intelligence is the ability to see people in the most realistic light possible. The first step in acquiring social intelligence is to realize that you tend to project your own emotions on to other people, to see into them qualities that you want or need to see. It is only by being aware of how deeply you distort these perceptions that you can correct this naïve tendency.
Social intelligence is a twofold process.
First, you must learn to read people in the moment, seeing them as individuals and trying to gain an understanding of them from the inside out. Such empathy will prove invaluable in being able to persuade or seduce them. You gain this intuitive feel by cutting off your ego, the voice inside your head, and listening and observing more deeply.
At the same time, you must accumulate knowledge on human nature, on the common traits and weaknesses that we all possess — such as envy, insecurity, laziness, passive aggression. With such knowledge you can avoid becoming the victim of the sharks in the water.
Secondly, you must also learn how to see yourself as others see you, using them as a mirror to help correct your own social flaws. In the end, you must also be able to suffer fools gladly, to deal with the many incompetent and foolish people who will cross your path. Getting angry at people’s foolishness will needlessly drain you of energy and desire.
Understand: navigating the social environment is a prerequisite — success attained without this intelligence is not true mastery, and will not last.
These obstacles are emotional, the ones within us and from other people. At the end of the day, everything makes contact with human nature; which is the biggest impediment to any kind of progress.
To navigate the social environment and be better with people, we should understand what those components of human nature are. According to Greene, the Seven Deadly Realities of Human Nature are:
- Envy. We have natural tendencies to compare ourselves to others, whether its with regards to how much money we make, how popular we are, how smart we are, and a number of other things that I’m sure you might be able to come up.
- Conformism. Organized groups of any kind generally develop a certain dominant cultural mindset, complete with unwritten standards of correctness, that, of course, may shift with the times. Often times members will, perhaps subconsciously, adopt the views and ideals of the person heading the organization.
- Rigidity. Humans are generally creatures of habit and routine, which is what we look for in order to maintain some semblance, however artificial, of control. People hold on to these norms, simply because they’ve become accustomed to them, even if a new way, a better way, has been proven. It’s human nature, especially as we age, to want to adhere to these customs and resist new ways of thinking or doing things.
- Self-obsessiveness. It is human nature, especially in today’s work environments to think first and foremost of ourselves and our own self interests. Since it isn’t a very noble trait to display, most folks, especially the most self absorbed will surround their actions with a veil of moral or saintly righteousness.
- Laziness. Most people want to take the quickest, easiest path of least resistance in order to reach our goals. This is more true than ever, especially in today’s day and age of instant gratification, and instant feedback. Most lazy folks are always looking for shortcuts, and the most insidious will try to attain those shortcuts by any means possible, even if it means by theft, dishonesty or another form of cheating.
- Flightiness. Most people’s decisions are largely governed by our emotions, even though most would not like to admit it. Since this is the case most decisions can change by the day, hour or minute depending on the mood we’re in.
- Passive Aggression. Most passive aggression stems from the fear or unpleasantry associated with direct confrontation, which generally implies the possible loss of control. Passive aggressive tactics involve indirect means for people to get their way, which is usually subtle,hard to detect, and a subversive way to control the dynamic.
Bottom line: To learn how to deal with people we should see people as they are, not as you want them to be. If we do so, we’ll become a more rational and empathetic person.
Product Hunt recently interviewed Robert Greene, where they talk about Power, Seduction and Mastery.