Robert Greene: "Hone Your Craft Without Shining Your Master"

Whether you're an apprentice, understudy or protégé, you're taking in knowledge from someone who you want to learn from, but also, most likely, someone whom you one day want to surpass. Now, the question remains, how do you go about that?

Well, best-selling author Robert Greene has got your back, again.

“When you're first working with a mentor or master and you're learning from them, you're very respectful,” Greene says, with a reply that may shoot down the plans of a few cocky apprentices.

The road to one-upping your role model doesn't begin with brashness, but with humility, a point that Greene outlines as he continues to provide a news flash for the more arrogant of students.

“They know things that you don't know,” said the author. And for those who needed a reminder, he adds: “You're the student, their master.”

If you're going to outshine the one who's coaching you through your upbringing, there's little profit to be made in blatantly acting like it.

Instead, he prescribes a silent killer approach, a method that requires a student's reverence toward his master and attention to detail, which he suggests is too much to ask of some understudies.

“The problem that a lot of people have is that they don't know how to observe,” he said. “They don't know how to learn. They're in a hurry to impress people with their own knowledge.

As Greene says, it's the ego and arrogance that usually serve as the main stumbling blocks on a person's path to a patiently carried out success. It's for that exact reason that he implores the apprentices to sacrifice their own desires to show their skill, even if they strongly believe in said skill, in favor of years of listening.

“You want to close your mind off, and the ego,” he says. “You want to absorb as much as possible. You want to absorb everything that master or mentor can bring you in the world.”

Not much of what Greene advises comes as a guarantee, but the author comes as close to making a promise as he ever will when he ponders the result of years of humble discipleship.

“After two, three years, you'll get there,” he said. “You want to outshine the master, you do. But it has to come at the right time.”