Home » Excerpts » Just Work Harder

Should you desire
the great tranquility,
prepare to sweat white beads.

– Zen Master Hakuin

There are no shortcuts or ways to bypass the Apprenticeship Phase. It is the nature of the human brain to require such lengthy exposure to a field, which allows for complex skills to become deeply embedded and frees the mind for real creative activity. The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery. There is no possible reversal to this process.

[From] Zen Master Hakuin: ‘It’s like chopping down a huge tree of immense growth. You won’t accomplish it with one swing of your axe. If you keep chopping away at it, though, and do not let up, eventually, whether it wants or not, it will suddenly topple down. When that time comes, you could round up everyone you could find and pay them to hold the tree up, but they wouldn’t be able to do it. It would still come crashing to the ground…

But if the woodcutter stopped after one or two strokes of his axe to ask the third son of Mr. Chang, ‘Why doesn’t this tree fall?’ And after three or four more strokes stopped again to ask the fourth son of Mr. Li, ‘Why doesn’t this tree fall?’ he would never succeed in felling the tree. It is no different for someone who is practicing the Way.’

Mastery
Robert Greene

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