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Book: The 48 Laws Of Power

May 25, 2018

This is a part of the list of read books which I maintain. See all of them. You can only find here a blob of notes from the book itself and some thoghts on them. More often than not the actual book is more useful than what you can see here.


Title: The 48 Laws of Power
Author: Robert Greene

Society craves larger-than-life figures, people who stand above the general mediocrity.

Pablo Picasso never allowed himself to fade into the background; if his name became too attached to a particular style, he would deliberately upset the public with a new series of paintings that went against all expectations.

People feel superior to the person whose actions they can predict. If you show them who is in control by playing against their expectations, you both gain their respect and tighten your hold on their fleeting attention.

What is not seen is as though it did not exist…

In a world growing increasingly banal and familiar, what seems enigmatic instantly draws attention.

The mysterious cannot be grasped. And what cannot be seized and consumed creates power.

Most people are upfront, can be read like an open book, take little care to control their words or image, and are hopelessly predictable. By simply holding back, keeping silent, occasionally uttering ambiguous phrases, deliberately appearing inconsistent, and acting odd in the subtlest of ways, you will emanate an aura of mystery. The people around you will then magnify that aura by constantly trying to interpret you.

Never appear overly greedy for attention, then, for it signals insecurity, and insecurity drives power away.

slaving away on some project, there are vultures circling above trying to figure out a way to survive and even thrive off your creativity

You can slog through life, making endless mistakes, wasting time and energy trying to do things from your own experience. Or you can use the armies of the past.

Bismarck once said Fools say that they learn by experience. I prefer to profit by others’ experience

He can run, but he can’t hide.

A heckler once interrupted Nikita Khrushchev in the middle of a speech in which he was denouncing the crimes of Stalin. “You were a colleague of Stalin’s, ” the heckler yelled, “why didn’t you stop him then?” Khrushchev apparently could not see the heckler and barket out, “Who said that?” No hand went up. No one moved a muscle. After a few seconds of tense silence, Khrushchev finally said in a quiet voice, “Now you know why I didn’t stop him.”

When aiming for power, or trying to conserve it, always look for the indirect route. And also choose your battles carefully. If it does not matter in the long run whether the other person agrees with you — or if time and their own experience will make them understand what you mean — then it is best not even to bother with a demonstration. Save your energy and walk away.

Never argue. In society nothing must be discussed; give only results. Benjamin Disraeli

gobbledygook — language that is meaningless or is made unintelligible by excessive use of technical terms.

You can die from someone else’s misery — emotional states are as infectious as diseases.

There, hopelessly drunk, he insulted an influential drama critic, Jean-Baptiste Rosemond be Beauvallon, perhaps because of something the critic had said about Lola. The following morning Beauvallon challenged him to a duel. Beauvallon was one of the best pistol shots in France. Dujarier tried to apologize, but the duel took place, and he was shot and killed. Thus ended the life of one of the most promising young men of Paris society.

At the age of forty-one, Lola gave away her clothes and finery and turned to God. She toured America, lecturing on religious topics, dressed in white and wearing a halolike white headgear. She died two years later, in 1861.

When you suspect you are in the presence of an infector, don’t argue, don’t try to help, don’t pass the person on to your friends, or you will become enmeshed. Flee the infector’s presence or suffer the consequences.

The reason is simple — humans are extremely susceptible to the moods, emotions, and even the ways of thinking of those with whom they spend their time.

The other side of infection is equally valid, and perhaps more readily understood: There are people who attract happiness to themselves by their good cheer, natural buoyancy, and intelligence. They are a source of pleasure, and you must associate with them to share in the prosperity they draw upon themselves.

Use the positive side of this emotional osmosis to advantage. If, for example, you are miserly by nature, you will never go beyond a certain limit; only generous souls attain greatness. Associate with the generous, then, and they will infect you, opening up everything that is tight and restricted in you. If you are gloomy, gravitate to the cheerful. If you are prone to isolation, force yourself to befriend the gregarious. Never associate with those who share your defects — they will reinforce everything that holds you back. Only create associations with positive affinities. Make this a rule of life and you will benefit more than from all the therapy in the world.

To maintain your independence you must alwaysbe needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

The more you try, the more you have to suffer.

Do not be one of the many who mistakenly believe that the ultimate form of power is independence.

You should create a situation in which you can always latch on to another master or patron but your master cannot easily find another servant with your particular talent.

And what good is power if it brings you no peace?

But, as Machiavelly said, it is better to be feared than loved. Fear you can control; love, never. Depending on an emotion as subtle and changeable as love or friendship will only make you insecure.

keep hope alive but never satisfied

With a well-timed gesture of honesty or generosity, you will have the most brutal and cynical beast in the kingdom eating out of your hand.

Everything turns gray when I don’t have at least one mark on the horizon. Life then seems empty and depressing. I cannot understand honest men. They lead desperate lives, full of boredom. Count Victor Lustig

When people choose between talk about the past and talk about the future, a pragmatic person will always opt for the future and forget the past.

If you have a reason to suspect that a person is telling you a lie, look as though you believed every word he said. This will give him courage to go on; he will becom more vehement in his assertions, and in the end betray himself. Arthur Schopenhauer

Truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. (Simetimes they have learned this the hard way.)

Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

Only one side can win, and it must win totally.

To have ultimate victory, you must be ruthless. Napoleon Bonaparte

Those who seek to achieve things should show no mercy. Kautilya

Ultimately the only peace and security you can hope for from your enemies is their disappearance.

The goal of total victory is an axiom of modern warfare, and was codified as such by Carl von Clausewitz, the premier philosopher of war.

You cannot afford to go halfway.

Negotiation is the insidious viper that will eat away at your victory, so give your enemies nothing to negotiate, no hope, no room to maneuver. They are crushed and that is that.

Never go halfway.

The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear.

You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

While you are away, the lover’s imagination takes flight, and a stimulated imagination cannot help but make love grow stronger.

Absence diminishes minor passions and inflames great ones, as the wind douses a candle and fans a fire. La Rochefoucauld

A man said to a Dervish: “Why do I not see you more often?” The Dervish replied, “Because the words ‘Why have you not been to see me?’ are sweeter to my ear than the words ‘Why have you come again?’ Mulla Jami

Everything in the world depends on absence and presence. A strong presence will draw power and attention to you — you shine more brightly than those around you.

The moment you allow yourself to be treated like anyone else, it is too late — you are swallowed and digested.

In seventeenth-century Holland, the upper classes wanted to make the tulip mor ethan just a beautiful flower — they wanted it to be a kind of status symbol. Making the flower scarce, indeed almost impossible to obtain, they sparked what was later called tulipomania. A single flower was now worth more than its weight in gold.

Only man has the capacity to conciously alter his behavior, to improvise and overcome the weight of routine and habit. Yet most men do not realize this power. They prefer the comforts of routine, of giving in to the animal nature that has them repeating the same compulsive actions time and time again. They do this because it requires no effort, and because they mistakenly believe that if they do not unsettle others, they will be left alone.

Never enclose yourself so far from the streets that you cannot hear what is happening around you, including the plots against you.

In moments of uncertainty and danger, you need to fight this desire to turn inward. Instead, make yourself more accessible, seek out old allies and make new ones, force yourself into more and more different circles.

Always on the move, you mix and mingle in the rooms of the palace, never sitting or settling in one place.

If you need time to think, then, choose isolation only as a last resort, and only in small doses. Be careful to keep your way back into society open.

If at any point in your dealings with a person you sense a oversensitive and overactive pride, flee. Whatever you are hoping for from him isn’t worth it.

The hopelessly insecure man. This man is related to the proud and arrogant type, but is less violent and harder to spot. His ego is fragile, his sense of self insecure, and if he feels himself deceived or attacked, the hurt will simmer. He will attack you in bites that will take forever to get big enough for you to notice. If you find you have deceived or harmed such a man, disappear for a long time. Do not stay around him or he will nibble you to death.

Never assume that the person you are dealing with is weaker or less important than you are.

Never reject them with an insult until you know them better; you may be dealing with a Genghis Khan.

there is no such thing as free lunch

We forget a lot in our lives, but we rarely forget an insult.

DO NOT COMMIT TO ANYONE

She had two goals as a ruler: to avoid marriage and to avoid war

I would rather be a beggar and single than a queen and married. Queen Elizabeth I

The moment you commit, the magic is gone. You become like everyone else.

You canot inadvertently allow yourself to feel obligated to anyone.

People who rush to the support of others tend to gain little respect in the process, for their help is so easily obtained, while those who stand back find themselves besieged with supplicants. Their aloofness is powerful, and everyone wants them on their side.

When you want to seduce a woman, Stendhal advises, court her sister first.

you will remain a magnet of attention and desire.

Do not commit yourself to anybody or anything, for that is to be a slave, a slave to every man…

carte blanche

the combatants, then step back as they collide. With every battle they grow weaker, while you grow stronger with every battle you avoid.

To play the game properly, you must seem interested in other people’s problems, even sometimes appear to take their side.

Your moves stay matters of your own choosing, not defensive reactions to the push-and-pull of those around you.

People also respect you less: Perhaps tomorrow, they think, you will commit to another, different cause, since you gave yourself so easily to this one. Good fortune is a fickle god and will often pass from one side to the other.

don’t rush in, don’t lose your head

SEEM DUMBER THAN YOUR MARK

it is a real recommendation to be stupid

When you are weaker, there is nothing to be gained by fighting a useless fight.

intensity defeats extensity every time

What is bloated beyond its proportions inevitably collapses.

that when a man gets it into his head to do something, and when he exclusively occupies himself in that design, he must succeed, whatever the difficulties. That man will become Grand Vizier or Pope.

The fool flits from one person to another, believing that he will survive by spreading himself out.

Prize intensity more than extensity. Perfection resides in quality, not quantity.

Never seem to be working too hard. Your talent must appear to flow naturally, with an ease that makes people take you for a genius rather than a workaholic. Even when something demands a lot of sweat, make it look effortless—people prefer to not see your blood and toil, which is another form of ostentation. It is better for them to marvel at how gracefully you have achieved your accomplishment than to wonder why it took so much work.

The pseudo-belief in equality—the idea that talking and acting the same way with everyone, no matter what their rank, makes you somehow a paragon of civilization—is a terrible mistake.

Are you acting too obsequious? Are you trying too hard to please? Do you seem desperate for attention, giving the impression that you are on the decline? Be observant about yourself and you will avoid a mountain of blunders.

You must be the master of your own face. Call it lying if you like; but if you prefer to not play the game and to always be honest and upfront, do not complain when others call you obnoxious and arrogant.

A man who knows the court is master of his gestures, of his eyes and of his face; he is profound, impenetrable; he dissimulates bad offices, smiles at his enemies, controls his irritation, disguises his passions, belies his heart, speaks and acts against his feelings. Jean de La Bruyère

Do not overstep your bounds. Do what you are assigned to do, to the best of your abilities, and never do more.

as cold as ice when any other man would be all fire;

Soon after Dudevant arrived in the capital, however, she had to confront certain harsh realities. To have any degree of freedom in Paris you had to have money. For a woman, money could only come through marriage or prostitution. No woman had ever come close to making a living by writing. Women wrote as a hobby, supported by their husbands, or by an inheritance. In fact when Dudevant first showed her writing to an editor, he told her, “You should make babies, Madame, not literature.”

She did not attain her power, however, by being herself; instead she created a persona that she could constantly adapt to her own desires, a persona that attracted attention and gave her presence.

Understand this: The world wants to assign you a role in life.

The character you seem to have been born with is not necessarily who you are;

Working on yourself like clay should be one of your greatest and most pleasurable life tasks.

He could not be grasped, and what cannot be grasped cannot be consumed.

Bad theater is bad theater. Even appearing natural requires art—in other words, acting.

People of power, however, are undone not by the mistakes they make, but by the way they deal with them.

Excuses and apologies are much too blunt tools for this delicate operation; the powerful avoid them.

By apologizing you open up all sorts of doubts about your competence, your intentions, any other mistakes you may not have confessed.

never impose your favors

most people want to hear that a simple solution will cure their problems

People are not interested in the truth about change. They do not want to hear that it has come from hard work, or from anything as banal as exhaustion, boredom, or depression; they are dying to believe in something romantic, otherworldly.

When you take time to think, to hem and haw, you create a gap that allows others time to think as well.

Although we may disguise our timidity as a concern for others, a desire not to hurt or offend them, in fact it is the opposite—we are really self-absorbed, worried about ourselves and how others perceive us.

“A reasonable man in love may act like a madman, but he should not and cannot act like an idiot.”

The moment the seducer hesitates, the charm is broken, because we become aware of the process, of their deliberate effort to seduce us, of their self-consciousness.

Look to the end, no matter what it is you are considering. Often enough, God gives a man a glimpse of happiness, and then utterly ruins him.

There is a simple reason why most men never know when to come off the attack: They form no concrete idea of their goal. Once they achieve victory they only hunger for more.

Nothing would spoil the beauty of his creation, certainly not a false euphoria that pushed those around him to attempt to go past the end that he had so carefully planned.

What they are really doing is succumbing to their desires, to what they want the future to be. Their plans are vague, based on their imaginations rather than their reality. They may believe they are thinking all the way to the end, but they are really only focusing on the happy ending, and deluding themselves by the strength of their desire.

Once he had reached his stated goal, he withdrew into his shell like a turtle. This kind of self-control is godlike.

You see the ending and you tolerate no deviation.

It is a cliché among strategists that your plan must include alternatives and have a degree of flexibility.

Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work—it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.

sprezzatura, the capacity to make the difficult seem easy.

When you reveal the inner workings of your creation, you become just one more mortal among others.

We tend to want the world to know what we have done—we want our vanity gratified by having our hard work and cleverness applauded, and we may even want sympathy for the hours it has taken to reach our point of artistry.

because you achieve your accomplishments with grace and ease, people believe that you could always do more if you tried harder. This elicits not only admiration but a touch of fear.

Never show your work until it is finished,

You give people a sense of how things will fall apart without you, and you offer them a “choice”: I stay away and you suffer the consequences, or I return under circumstances that I dictate.

Whenever people feel they have a choice, they walk into your trap that much more easily.

Those who did not want to be what Ninon called a payeur could join the large and growing group of men she called her martyrs—men who visited her apartment principally for her friendship, her biting wit, her lute-playing, and the company of the most vibrant minds of the period, including Molière, La Rochefoucauld, and Saint-Évremond.

the illusion of being desired is important to men

We “choose” to believe that the game is fair, and that we have our freedom. We prefer not to think too much about the depth of our liberty to choose.

If you can get the bird to walk into the cage on its own, it will sing that much more prettily.

If you want to tell lies that will be believed, don’t tell the truth that won’t.

Change is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, a fair amount of self-sacrifice, and a lot of patience.

Promise a great and total change—from poor to rich, sickness to health, misery to ecstasy—and you will have followers.

Instead of offering amputations, leeches, and foul-tasting purgatives (the medicaments of the time), Thurneisser offered sweet-tasting elixirs and promised instant recovery.

People’s need for validation and recognition, their need to feel important, is the best kind of weakness to exploit.

Thus success depends on … rhythm.

Space we can recover, time never.

when your mind is uncluttered by constant emergencies you will see further into the future.

keep yourself from becoming another impatient sucker

Do not be a flash in the pan—success that is built up slowly and surely is the only kind that lasts.

Close off the vistas of indecision and force people to make up their damn minds or get to the point—never let them make you play on their excruciating terms. Never give them time.

The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him;

It is sometimes best to leave things alone.

Just think—it cost your government $130 million to try to get me. I took them over rough, hilly country. Sometimes for fifty miles at a stretch they had no water. They had nothing but the sun and mosquitoes…. And nothing was gained. Pancho Villa,

MAN: Kick him—he’ll forgive you. Flatter him—he may or may not see through you. But ignore him and he’ll hate you.

“This is the beginning of the end.”

Angry people usually end up looking ridiculous, for their response seems out of proportion to what occasioned it. They have taken things too seriously, exaggerating the hurt or insult that has been done to them.

Make power your goal and money will find its way to you. Leave El Dorado for suckers and fools.

strategic generosity in a nutshell—the ability to be flexible with your wealth, putting it to work, not to buy objects, but to win people’s hearts.

A man who had once vowed to do anything to stop the king would find he had lost the desire to fight.

Friends who offer favors without asking for payment will later want something far dearer than the money you would have paid them.

People are essentially lazy, and want wealth to fall in their lap rather than to work for it.

Greed does not pay.

to psychologically begin from nothing, to denigrate the past and his inheritance, and to move in a totally new direction, creating his own world.

Assuming you have the choice, it would be better to avoid the situation altogether, to place yourself where there is a vacuum of power, where you can be the one to bring order out of chaos without having to compete with another star in the sky. Power depends on appearing larger than other people, and when you are lost in the shadow of the father, the king, the great predecessor, you cannot possibly project such a presence.

The father most often manages to amass his fortune, his kingdom, because he begins with little or nothing. A desperate urge impels him to succeed—he has nothing to lose by cunning and impetuousness, and has no famous father of his own to compete against. This kind of man has reason to believe in himself—to believe that his way of doing things is the best, because, after all, it worked for him.

He would not be a king like his father or earlier ancestors, he would not wear a crown or carry a scepter or sit on a throne, he would establish a new kind of imposing authority with symbols and rituals of its own.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, similarly, whenever he wrote a successful novel, would feel that the financial security he had gained made the act of creation unnecessary. He would take his entire savings to the casino and would not leave until he had gambled away his last penny. Once reduced to poverty he could write again.

Marie-Antoinette became the focus of an entire country’s dissatisfaction because it is so infuriating to meet with a person who makes no effort to seduce you or attempt to persuade you, even if only for the purpose of deception. And do not imagine that she represents a bygone era, or that she is even rare. Her type is today more common than ever. Such types live in their own bubble—they seem to feel they are born kings and queens, and that attention is owed them. They do not consider anyone else’s nature, but bulldoze over people with the self-righteous arrogance of a Marie-Antoinette. Pampered and indulged as children, as adults they still believe that everything must come to them; convinced of their own charm, they make no effort to charm, seduce, or gently persuade.

Tea is by no means mere obsequiousness, but there is no tea where the host and guest are not in harmony with one another.”

Because the world is and always has been full of insecurity and threat, we latch on to familiar faces and create habits and rituals to make the world more comfortable.

It is the reality that matters.

either destroy a man or leave him alone entirely.

Belief in momentum will only make you emotional, less prone to act strategically, and more apt to repeat the same methods. Leave momentum for those who have nothing better to rely upon.

“When we fight you, we make sure you can’t get away.”


Andrei Glingeanu

Andrei Glingeanu's notes and thoughts. You should follow him on Twitter, Instagram or contact via email. The stuff he loves to read can be found here on this site or on goodreads.