This is a comprehensive summary of the book The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene. Covering the key ideas and proposing practical ways for achieving what’s mentioned in the text. Written by book fanatic and online librarian Ivaylo Durmonski.
Worksheet: Download the interactive sheet for taking notes.
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
In today’s society, there are numerous laws, regulations, rules that are meant to protect us, but at the same time, these restrictions are limiting us. If we strictly obey these rules we won’t excel and move forward in the world. Thankfully, we have The 48 Laws of Power (check other summaries here, here, here, and here). In this book, Robert Greene teaches us how to bypass the laws, use them in our favor, mess with other people’s minds, and still look decent and charming in the eyes of others. The 48 laws described in length in this book will show us unique ways to handle situations of any kind. Each individual law is well-argued with examples, interpretations, quotes, tales, and historical events.
The Core Idea:
Few will admit it but we all ask ourselves the following question daily: “How to look innocent while I aim for more power?” We pursue money, fame, and power but at the same time, we can’t really admit that to the world. We pretend that we’re noble and that we care but deep down the only thing we want is more of everything.
Through historical events and well-structured data, Robert Greene wants to help us win in the silent war happening around us – the battle for more power. The laws in the book are designed to help you manipulate and deceive while others still think that you’re a good soul.
5 Key Lessons from The 48 Laws of Power:
Lesson #1: Protect Your Reputation At All Costs
Reputation, in general, means the following: the opinion people have about someone or something. Or, how much respect and admiration someone or something receives, based on past behavior or character. Put simply, your everyday behavior is acknowledged by the people around you. This helps them form an opinion about you. And when forming their opinion, people more often take into consideration these few things:
- The way you talk, walk, and do certain things.
- What you talk about, what words you use.
- Your intonation, voice, timbre.
- The moments you remain silent.
- The way you dress, the stuff you own and buy.
As you can imagine, the available behavior combinations are hundreds. You can dress in tailored suits but if you remain quiet and unengaged in times of distress, people will think that you’re a coward or a prick. In contrast, you can prefer wearing t-shirts and jeans but if you’re the first to act when there is a major crisis you’ll be perceived as a leader, a hero.
Wearing suits can give you a couple of extra points in regards to what people might think about you initially. However, if this is not backed by appropriate actions, you will eventually lose points in the eyes of others. The bottom line, looks will give you initial leverage in certain situations, but if you don’t further endorse it with your IQ it won’t mean much.
Why talk about this?
Because your reputation is your life. Your name is like a brand – like Apple, SONY, Volkswagen, etc.
So, based on the above, are you more like a Tesla (shiny and cool) or more like a Volvo kind of guy (conservative and safe)?
You might actually think you’re like Tesla, but the people around you might associate you with Ford – boring and outdated.
Your persona is not something formed in a day, though. Like the brands I mentioned, your appearance is something formed after years of work. In our case, after years of living. Your reputation is the cornerstone of your life. If flawless, you will do much better in life with fewer efforts. On the contrary, compromised or tainted reputation will prompt you to work harder to obtain certain things.
So, if you haven’t thought about it yet, consider thinking about it now: What type of guy/girl you want to be, for yourself, and in the eyes of others? Once you know the answer to the question, start acting and looking like the guy you want to become. Soon, you will not only convince the people around you, but you will also convince yourself – which is actually more important.
Remember though, one wrong step can ruin everything you worked for so hard. Your reputation is a sensitive matter and you should protect it at all costs.
“Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life’s artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist.” Robert Greene
Lesson #2: Focus Your Efforts
Which one of the two will be more quickly done: Building one 10 story building? Or, building 3 separate, three-story buildings with the same amount of resources? Even though the 3 story buildings will be with fewer floors, it will take you much longer to build 3 separate buildings in three different locations than building one bigger structure. Simply, your efforts are channeled towards creating one thing, thus the faster turnaround time.
If we examine one day of our lives, we will see at least 20 obvious different things requiring our attention: getting out of bed, dressing up, making coffee, going to the bathroom, pouring water, talking to other people, driving, showering, making dinner, shopping, writing texts, emails, walking, talking to the phone, reading, resting, getting up to grab the remote control, sleeping, thinking. Our thoughts are the biggest source of assignments, though. The thought of a juicy hamburger appears in your mind and voila, you’re hungry. The assignment? To find what to eat? From where? How much will it cost? Will I do it myself or I will order?
The reason we have so many things on our plate and so few tasks actually complete it’s because we’re constantly making more assignments on our own. In our own minds. Daily, our brain generates more than 50,000 thoughts. That’s around 34 thoughts per minute.
What I want to say is that there is constant traffic in our heads and pretty much all vehicles have their own separate final destination. This ultimately resolves into few or zero real accomplishments each day.
Focusing our efforts should start by first focusing on your thoughts. It’s no secret that if you pursue a certain goal, a certain dream, for long enough, you will eventually reach it. The problem is that there are thoughts coming each minute about things that aren’t really related to our final destination: “Go to the bathroom, check your Facebook, talk to your colleague, check your email, order food, watch the funny video you saw the other day again, check your Twitter, respond to an email…”
Even though stopping these thoughts to appear in our minds is kind of impossible, you can do the following: While working on a particular task, acknowledge each sabotaging thought that appears. Say, “OK, I will check my Facebook later” or, “I will respond to the email at exactly 16:00 o’clock”. Don’t try to fight these thoughts, rather, accept them and move on.
You have to learn to preserve your power and energy by concentrating only on the most important things. Better to have one good source of income than to do 100 little things that don’t have any future potential.
Lesson #3: Consider That You Are A King – The Strategy of the Crown
The way you behave in front of others will determine the way they treat you. If you treat others with respect, you will inspire the same behavior towards yourself. No one likes to talk to a dumbass who doesn’t appreciate the people around him. Moreover, such behavior is not appropriate for a king. I’m not talking about acting like a selfish bastard. I am talking about behaving with gratitude, honesty, building a character who is destined for great things.
Even though the idea of acting like a king might sound absurd and overly egoistic, you need this in your life.
As we age, we start to realize that there are certain limits blocking us from achieving what we desired when we were younger. Over time we start to feed our mind with limiting beliefs: “You can’t do that”; “That’s impossible”; “You will never become a writer”; “You’re too old for this shit…”
Eventually, we start to expect less from life. We settle down for an average job, mediocre salary, and an ordinary lifestyle. The dreams and the hopes we once had, get replaced for Netflix-and-chill kind of lifestyle. This, as you can imagine, leads to depression. There is only one way to get rid of all this negativity: By forgetting your natural restrictions and by getting more persistent in your demands from life. How can you do this?
Start believing that you’re destined for amazing things. This inner confidence, when it’s pure and real enough, will show you the way, give you strength, and inspire you to pursue your goals once again.
There are three main tactics mentioned in the book (called the Strategy of the Crown) that will help you achieve any ambitious goal:
- First, always want a lot – from life, from others, form yourself. Raise the bar high enough and don’t settle with less.
- Second, follow the footsteps of the people who have achieved success in the field you’re trying to grow. Research what they did and how they did it.
- Third, build a lasting and mutually respectful relationship with the people in your field and in your surroundings. It’s always best to have influential people on your side. You never know at what point you will need assistance from them.
Imagine that your life is a kingdom and that you’re the main player – the king. It depends on you whether your kingdom will thrive or will perish.
“The Strategy of the Crown is based on a simple chain of cause and effect: If we believe we are destined for great things, our belief will radiate outward, just as a crown creates an aura around a king.” Robert Greene
Lesson #4: Aim To Influence The Minds And The Hearts Of Others
The easiest way to win someone on your side is by paying enough attention to his individual needs. Respect his feelings, focus on what’s dearest to him, talk only about his interest and act like you’re really interested in what they are saying. If you don’t pay attention to the aspirations, feelings, and opinions of the people who are surrounding you, they will sooner or later hate you.
That’s what big brands like Amazon, Google, Apple are doing, and that’s why they are so successful.
Why should all of this concern you?
If you’re planning to start your own online business, or any kind of business for that matter, your main concern should be the needs of others, not yours. Explore their needs and adapt to what interests and entertains them. The most powerful human motive is the “what’s in it for me” motive. Remember that.
On a personal level, the main reason you need to understand what the people surrounding you really need is very simple: People, in general, are not interested in you. They have their own desires and motives, usually different than yours.
You get the conflict: people are selfish and aren’t interested in you, but you need their help to acquire power.
So, what you can do?
Reveal your true identity – your fears, troubles, weaknesses. Add to this your strengths but don’t forget to show that you’re human first. People connect faster with others who have weaknesses. Why? Because they have flaws too. They simply try to hide them. So, by revealing your disadvantage first, you will give them a false belief of superiority over you. Then, they will open up and share with you their secrets, giving you valuable information that you can use against them.
It might sound cruel, but life ain’t easy.
Lesson #5: Act Brave, Be Brave
Fear is not just a feeling. It’s an emotional sensation that causes a change in our metabolism and in our organ functions. Ultimately, a change in behavior. When we feel fear, both our body and mind work in synch to get rid of this nasty sensation and feel safe again. However, life without fear is not possible.
That’s why the author advises the following: When feeling fear, act courageously.
While fear adds an extra set of hurdles in our life, bravery finds a way to overcome all of them. Courage (also called bravery) is a choice, a willingness to confront agony, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation. It’s a completely different human reaction and helps the host to gain incredible strength in time of need.
Courage makes you feel more powerful, authoritative, even better looking. It adds an extra layer of confidence in your voice, thus making your stories sound even more authentic. In desperate moments, when acting brave, you will scare your opponent and gain an advantage over the situation.
We all know brave people. People who seemingly have no fear of anything. This, of course, is not even close to the truth. We’re all afraid of something. Whether this will be from dark places, spiders, narrow spaces, clowns, bugs, it doesn’t matter. Even people who seem tough are afraid of something.
The next obvious question is: How the hell do they seem so brave? Their secret is actually really simple: They act courageously regardless of whether they are afraid or not. That’s why it’s called bravery, you forget for a moment your fears and do what’s necessary.
So, The next time you’re afraid of something, act immediately, don’t hesitate for even a second. Hesitation can only slow your progress.
- Be flexible: If you stick to a certain type of behavior people will perceive you as a boring person. It’s worse if you can’t control your emotions in a crisis situation. Be flexible and learn to adapt to different situations and for different people. You should be like water and become whatever the situation requires. This way you’ll confuse your enemies and engage with the people around you – making you more real and more desirable by others.
- Be fearless: We all have our own fears. That’s inevitable. Still, to move forward and to become better, you must act regardless of how afraid you are. List all of your fears and commit to act the next time you encounter a horror-like situation. The more you act despite your fears the better you’ll become.
- Control your emotions: “Leaders” in an organization think that the louder they shout, the more others will respect them. It’s quite the opposite. Mad behavior is a sign of weakness. Not as something that gives authority. Do everything possible to control your emotions and keep your mind sharp. If you gave in to your emotions you let go of your rational thinking. Thus, things go bad.
- Put on a mask: Don’t assume that people will like you for yourself. They’ll like you only if you have something to offer. Put your “cool” mask and give them a show. When you meet people, you need to put a mask. The one that’s best suited for the group of people you’re meeting.
- Set a high goal: Though we all roll our eyes when we read the following quote: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.” It’s totally true. Follow the Strategy of The Crown: Only when we believe we are destined for great things we can achieve them.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
After I’ve read The 48 Laws of Power, I’ve purchased all other books written by Robert Greene and I’m happy to say that I’m a big fan of his work till this very day.
You rarely read books like this one. You can tell that Robert Greene did a hell of research to create this masterpiece. Each fact mentioned inside is perfectly balanced and it’s adding up amazingly well to the point the author is trying to prove. Besides learning how to influence people, you will also learn a lot of interesting historical facts about world-famous people that will broaden your perspective.
The main thing I got from the book is the importance of controlling your emotions. Staying calm in difficult situations. Sounding confident when in doubt. Smiling when you want to cry.
A true influencer will be in total control when facing difficult situations and will hide his true feelings behind a mask.
“Do not leave your reputation to chance or gossip; it is your life’s artwork, and you must craft it, hone it, and display it with the care of an artist.” Robert Greene
“When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity… you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others.” Robert Greene
“When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.” Robert Greene
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