5 Great books to improve your skills and achieve mastery

Mastery Giveaway

We covered “how to read more and remember what you read” in the past few articles, now it’s time to put your new skills to use. Here are 5 of my favorite books on learning skills and achieving Mastery.
Note: The links in this post are NOT affiliate links, and the authors of the books mentioned are NOT associated in any form with this article or with UnlimitedMastery.com

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Mastery by Robert Greene

The best book I’ve read on the subject. Thoroughly researched, Robert Greene wrote a masterpiece. He’s my favorite non-fiction writer with other amazing work such as “The 48 laws of power” “The art of seduction” and “The 33 Strategies of war”

In Mastery, Robert takes us through the lives of past and present masters to deconstruct the process that lead to their fascinating development. With engaging stories and clear steps Mastery offers the path to greatness for anyone who is willing to follow it.

I strongly recommend this book. I don’t think there is any other work on learning skills and achieving mastery that compiles such complex subjects in a way that’s organized, properly researched, and delightful to read.

A few quotes to get you interested:
“In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.”

“Do not envy those who seem to be naturally gifted; it is often a curse, as such types rarely learn the value of diligence and focus, and they pay for this later in life.”

“To learn requires a sense of humility. We must admit that there are people out there who know our field much more deeply than we do. Their superiority is not a function of natural talent or privilege, but rather of time and experience.”

You can find Robert on twitter @RobertGreene

Mindset by Carol Dweck

One of the most referenced books in skill acquisition and mastery. Carol’s book revolves around a powerful concept, the attitude you have towards your capabilities deeply affect your capacity to learn and improve.

There are two types of mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. The fixed mindset is the belief that you were born with certain traits and strengths that remain fixed throughout your life. On the other side, the growth mindset is the belief that you can improve your skills and develop new strengths through perseverance and diligent practice.

People who develop the growth mindset show greater and faster improvement. Her research revolutionized the field because it shattered the perceived notion that geniuses and talent were born not made. 

A few quotes to get you interested:
“We like to think of our champions and idols as superheroes who were born different from us. We don’t like to think of them as relatively ordinary people who made themselves extraordinary.”

“IF, like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you’re open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if it’s unflattering. What’s more, if you’re oriented toward learning, as they are, you need accurate information about your current abilities in order to learn effectively”

“studies show that people are terrible at estimating their abilities. Recently, we set out to see who is most likely to do this. Sure, we found that people greatly misestimated their performance and their ability. But it was those with the fixed mindset who accounted for almost all the inaccuracy. The people with the growth mindset were amazingly accurate. When you think about it, this makes sense. If, like those with the growth mindset, you believe you can develop yourself, then you’re open to accurate information about your current abilities, even if it’s unflattering.”

The power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

Learning and mastery requires practice. Most people have the motivation and desire to develop themselves, but they avoid what really makes a difference, consistent work. Understanding habits and learning how to use them in our favor is one of the best ways to make sure we stick to a practice routine and move closer towards mastery.

In his book, Charles explores in great depth the structure of habits, the effect they have in our neurology, and how to use them to our advantage.  This is an essential book for anyone determined to learn and master any skill.

A few quotes to get you interested:
“Habits are powerful, but delicate. They can emerge outside our consciousness, or can be deliberately designed. They often occur without our permission, but can be reshaped by fiddling with their parts. They shape our lives far more than we realize—they are so strong, in fact, that they cause our brains to cling to them at the exclusion of all else, including common sense.”

“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped.”

“This process within our brains is a three-step loop. First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future: THE HABIT LOOP”

You can find Charles on twitter @cduhigg

The talent code by Daniel Coyle

From the frontiers of neuroscience to the analysis of top performance athletes, Daniel takes us to the world of Myelin, the essential neural circuit insulator for developing any skill.

Here, we find the research and discoveries behind what happens in our neurology when we practice. But just as important, Daniel also shows us what the right kind of practice looks like and how to follow it ourselves to grow our talent.

The book revolves around the neuroscience side of learning, but the language is easy to understand and the principles are well explain. Definitely a great read to learn the elements of proper practice and how they affect our brain.

A few quotes to get you interested:
“Although talent feels and looks predestined, in fact we have a good deal of control over what skills we develop, and we have more potential than we might ever presume to guess.”

“Deep practice feels a bit like exploring a dark and unfamiliar room. You start slowly, you bump into furniture, stop, think, and start again. Slowly, and a little painfully, you explore the space over and over, attending to errors, extending your reach into the room a bit farther each time, building a mental map until you can move through it quickly and intuitively.”

“Struggle is not optional—it’s neurologically required: in order to get your skill circuit to fire optimally, you must by definition fire the circuit sub-optimally; you must make mistakes and pay attention to those mistakes; you must slowly teach your circuit. You must also keep firing that circuit—i.e., practicing—in order to keep myelin functioning properly. After all, myelin is living tissue.”

You can find Daniel on twitter @DanielCoyle


Bounce by Matthew Syed

More of a casual read than the other books I’ve mentioned but just as insightful. Bounce is an entertaining and fascinating look at top performers, what made them great, and the science behind it all.

Matthew challenges the notion of natural talent and good genetics as a requirement for greatness, instead he shows us how dedication, proper training, and the right environment can shape everyday individuals into champions.

A few quotes to get you interested:
“In many jobs, and in most sports, it is possible to clock up endless hours without improving at all. I play tennis every Sunday. An amiable game with a friend before heading over to the club canteen for a hot sandwich. It is fun and sociable, but it has nothing to do with the kind of practice undertaken by aspiring Grand Slam champions. I have not improved in five years. Why? Because I have been cruising along on autopilot.”

“Child prodigies amaze us because we compare them not with other performers who have practiced for the same length of time, but with children of the same age who have not dedicated their lives in the same way. We delude ourselves into thinking they posses miraculous talents because we assess their skills in a context that misses the point.”

“The talent theory of expertise is not merely flawed in theory; it is insidious in practice, robbing individuals and institutions of the motivation to change themselves and society.”

You can find Matthew on twitter @matthewsyed

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“Books to improve your life”

Books to improve your life

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