After writing the 48 Laws of Power and its sequels, Robert Greene had an ephiphany about hidden powers & mastery:
For the previous eleven years I had immersed myself in a study of the most powerful people in history. I had read one biography after another about great political figures, strategists, scientists, artists, and inventors. And on that particular day, as I was reviewing some old material, it finally struck me: all of these people — no matter their field, culture, or moment in history — followed more or less the same pattern or pathway to power. At first, I could see only the broad outlines of this, but as I thought about it more, in the days to come this pattern came into focus.
It goes like this: in childhood these high–achieving types experience a powerful attraction towards a particular subject or activity — math, music, games and sports. As they get older, this interest gets stronger, to the point of becoming an obsession. They end up following a career path that corresponds to this primal interest. Because the subject or activity stimulates their natural curiosity, they learn at a faster rate than others. They pay deeper attention and absorb lessons more thoroughly. While often still quite young they acquire a high skill level in this field, which makes them find more pleasure in the practice or training period, which leads them to practice harder. They tend to gain attention early on for their proficiency, which leads them to be given responsibilities or chances to practice what they have learned on a public stage. At this point, they enter a cycle of accelerated returns — more practice and experience leads to higher skill levels and more chances to prove themselves, more valuable feedback, and so on.
Inevitably a point is reached where they begin to experiment with what they have learned and become creative with their knowledge. Since they are often still young, they retain a freshness, and a somewhat rebellious attitude towards authority. They are not afraid to go against conventions. In the process of experimenting, they hit upon new ways of doing things or seeing the world. They become the ones who rewrite the rules they had learned so diligently in their apprenticeships.
At the endpoint of this process, these types reveal signs of a qualitatively higher intelligence. I call this intelligence high-level intuition. As opposed to mere hunches or anything mystical, this intuition is based on years of intense experience. They have internalized so much knowledge that they have a feel for their field. It has become hardwired into their nervous system. They can spot solutions or trends with great speed and fluidity, and this brings them tremendous practical power.
An excellent example of this would be Napoleon Bonaparte:
As a child he found himself drawn to games of strategy, and to books that presented examples of leadership in action. Entering a military academy, he was not focused on a military career and fitting into the system. Instead, he had an obsessive need to learn as much as he could about all aspects of the military arts. He read voraciously. The extent of his knowledge impressed his superiors. At a very early age he was give an unusual amount of responsibility. He learned quickly how to keep his cool, derive the right lessons from his experiences, and recover from mistakes. By the time he was given greater responsibilities on the battlefield, he had gone through an apprenticeship that was double or triple the intensity of his peers. Being so young, ambitious and disdainful of authority, when he was given leadership positions, he proceeded to effect the greatest revolution in military history, changing the size and shape of armies, singlehandedly introducing maneuver into battle, and so on.
At the endpoint of his development, he came to possess a remarkable feel for battle and the overall shape of a campaign. In his case, this became known as his infamous coup d’oeil, his ability to assess a situation with a glance of his eye. This made his lieutenants and rivals imagine that he possessed mystical powers.