We live in a world that seems increasingly beyond our control. Our livelihoods are at the whim of globalized forces. The problems that we face — economic, environmental, and so on — cannot be solved by our individual actions. Our politicians are distant and unresponsive to our desires. A natural response when people feel overwhelmed is to retreat into various forms of passivity. If we don’t try too much in life, if we limit our circle of action, we can give ourselves the illusion of control. The less we attempt, the less chances of failure. If we can make it look like we are not really responsible for our fate, for what happens to us in life, then our apparent powerlessness is more palatable. For this reason we become attracted to certain narratives: it is genetics that determines much of what we do; we are just products of our times; the individual is just a myth; human behavior can be reduced to statistical trends.
From Robert Greene’s new book, Mastery.
I had pre-ordered the book when I read about it on Ryan Holiday’s blog, but subsequently forgot all about it. It was a very nice surprise to receive it last week, and I expect it to be very, very formative — a thinking person’s inquiry into Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours rule.”