True masters learn all the parts of their field of study until they know how everything interacts and their brains rewire
With warfare, we would go through a similar process, breaking it up into parts—field maneuvers, weaponry, logistics, strategy. Having deep knowledge of these subjects, we could analyze the results of a battle and come to some interesting conclusions; or, with some field experience, we could lead an army into battle and do an effective job.
Also with warfare, once battle is engaged, we become susceptible to what is known as the fog of war—the highly unpredictable element that comes into play when two opposing forces square up and nothing can be precisely anticipated. The situation is continuously fluid, as one side reacts to the other and the unexpected intervenes. This battle in real time has an interactive, changing element that cannot be reduced to its parts or to simple analysis, and is not something we can see and measure.
We shall call it the dynamic, the living force that inevitably operates in anything we study or do.
Through intense absorption in a particular field over a long period of time, Masters come to understand all of the parts involved in what they are studying. They reach a point where all of this has become internalized and they are no longer seeing the parts, but gain an intuitive feel for the whole.
In warfare, we can point to the great German general Erwin Rommel, who was said to possess the highest form of the fingertip feel ever chronicled in the history of battle. He could sense exactly where the enemy was thinking of striking and foil their plans; he could launch an offensive at precisely the weak point in their lines of defense. He seemed to have eyes in the back of his head, and oracular powers for reading the future. He did all of this in the deserts of North Africa where it was nearly impossible to get any clear sense of the terrain. Rommel’s power, however, was not occult in nature. He simply had a much deeper knowledge than other generals of all of the aspects of battle. He constantly flew over the desert in his own plane, gaining a bird’s-eye feel for the terrain. He was a trained mechanic, and so had a complete knowledge of his tanks and what he could expect of them. He studied in depth the psychology of the opposing army and its generals. He interacted with almost all of his soldiers, and had a clear sense of how far he could push them. Whatever he studied, he did so with incredible intensity and depth. A point was reached where all of these details became internalized. They fused together in his brain, giving him a feel for the whole picture and a sense of this interactive dynamic.
The ability to have this intuitive grasp of the whole and feel this dynamic is simply a function of time. Since it has been shown that the brain is literally altered after approximately 10,000 hours of practice, these powers would be the result of a transformation that happens in the brain after some 20,000 hours and beyond. With this much practice and experience, all kinds of connections have been formed in the brain between different forms of knowledge. Masters thus have a sense of how everything interacts organically, and they can intuit patterns or solutions in an instant. This fluid form of thinking does not occur through a step-by-step process, but rather comes in flashes and insights as the brain makes sudden connections between disparate forms of knowledge, causing us to sense the dynamic in real time.
Mastery by Robert Greene
“We all are learning, modifying, or destroying ideas all the time. Rapid destruction of your ideas when the time is right is one of the most valuable qualities you can acquire. You must force yourself to consider arguments on the other side.
— Charles T. Munger”
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