Actionable Book Summary: The Laws Of Human Nature By Robert Greene
The Book In Three Or More Sentences:
People are rarely sincere and they surely don’t care about you and your own desires. The Laws of Human Nature is a detailed guide for helping us read people and their true emotions. It’s a brutally realistic dissection of our species, unveiling who we really are, so we can operate with more awareness. The author stays true to himself by including stories of world-famous people to prove his point and help us decode people’s behavior.
The Core Idea:
We’ll inevitably encounter individuals who will make our lives difficult and unpleasant. The general idea of Robert Green is to assist you with spotting who those guys are and swiftly disarming them.
The core idea of the book is to help you understand what drives people so you can avoid and defend yourself from the life-sucking bastards who want to hurt you or use you as a stepping-stone for their careers.
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Accept People As They Are
Nothing hurts like interacting with another fellow human. We’re the best when it comes down to traumatizing others. Not only, we’re also continually judging them and wishing they’ll become something they’re not, especially when you’re managing a team or when you’re raising a child. You’ll often want your child to stop playing with his food and remain still when you’re grocery shopping, for example. You’ll also want your team to work as hard as possible if you’re their manager.
Changing others is everyone’s fetish. We want people to think and act in a certain way. A lot of times wanting to adjust their behavior so it can be directly beneficial for us. To our disappointment, this is not possible. Or to be 100% correct, not something that will have a long-lasting effect. You can threaten your child with punishment to make him comply with your direct order but this won’t make the young troublemaker obedient in the future. He’ll only learn how better to cover up his deeds.
Everyone s different and if we continuously get upset and frustrated when people are not following our advice we’ll soon become mentally unstable. I mean, you can go nuts if you’re managing a team of people, no matter the size of the team, and you’re constantly wanting to review their work.
Work with what they give you. Don’t try to change them, rather, try to understand them. To see what are their true motives. Listen to what they have to say and observe their behavior. Ask questions and focus on what they have to say, without mentioning your desires. People love to talk about themselves so it won’t be hard to gather as much as possible as information. After that, use the acquired details and analyze. This way you’ll build your own case for a specific person and you’ll know what buttons to press in order to point his act towards where you want in the future.
Play A Role
Do think that only Hollywood superstars get the chance to be someone they’re not. The world is like a big theater, and we’re all involved in this play.
From a very early age, we learn how to get what we want from our parents by putting a certain look. Later, we understand that we need to present the best possible front to the world. This includes repressing our true feelings towards specific people.
To our disappointment, life is less real than ever. We live in a society that promotes teamwork and kindness. We’re all about human rights and world peace. Yet, we all have strong negative emotions towards specific people and even towards certain institutions. And since the society will reject us if we show our true ugly feelings publicly, we cover them with smiles and kind words.
Nowadays you have the power to create the persona that suits you best: A caring father; Inspirational leader; Creative video producer… you name it. Thanks to social media you can craft an individual that’s better than yourself.
Here are the main benefits for putting a mask directly from the book: “The word personality comes from the Latin persona, which means “mask.” In the public we all wear masks, and this has a positive function. If we display exactly who we are and spoke our minds truthfully, we would offend almost everyone and reveal qualities that are best concealed. Having a persona, playing a role well, actually protects us from people looking closely at us, with all of the insecurities that would churn up. In fact, the better you play your role, the more power you will accrue, and with power you will have the freedom to express more of your peculiarities.”
Yeah, I get it. It’s not something you can easily digest. Even though being yourself it’s a good direction, there is a lot of facts that are opposed to being the individual you’re currently.
The most notable is that if you’re, yourself, and you’re not happy with what you do and how you feel, then, obviously, something is wrong. That’s when role-playing comes to the rescue. Display the proper emotions to the world and soon you’ll become that person. Better than the previous version. You 2.0.
Toxic People You Should Avoid
It might seem that we’re unique and exceptional, but by carefully observing the social animals we can find some recurring deeds in the masses. Some of these performances in people are rather toxic. Evil and manipulative. Such that you should avoid – the people I mean.
Here are some of the toxic types of people mentioned in the book and how you can spot them:
The Hyperperfectionist: You will be easily drawn to their ability to handle a tremendous amount of work. These people put in long hours and seemingly have a high standard. Even though their unhuman effort might be inspiring to a lot of people, you can’t easily cope with them. They have intolerance towards mediocre work and will often explode in your face if you’re not doing the job according to their standards. These people have issues with delegating tasks. They want to supervise everything mainly because they want to be in control.
The Relentless Rebel: At first, they seem fun and exciting mostly because they don’t obey any rules. They don’t like being told what to do and always act according to their view. It’s fun to be around such rebels but it’s impossible to manage and actually work with them. They will always do what they fell like it’s the best, ignoring what you have to say. They secretly crave for power and will defend their idea with a great passion.
The Personalizer: Such people are sensitive and nice. They’re usually quite intelligent and good to work with. However, they can’t take a critique. They take everything personally and remember old events so vividly that it can change their mood once they see you. If you did something bad to them in the past, they’ll want to get even. Since you can’t really please such type of people, they will make you feel guilty at some point in your life.
The Drama Magnet: They always have a story to tell. Even if it’s something old they have their ways to make it sound exciting and animated. It’s fun to listen to their stories but at some point, things get really ugly. They are always the victim and others are always to blame. If you get too involved in their life you will eventually be the one to blame.
The Big Talker: It seems like they are always doing something big and exciting. These type of people talk a lot about what’s going to happen. About new and exciting project. Everything they do is unique, according to them. In reality, though, they are full of crap. They announce their big idea with a desire to lure you into the project and make you do all the work for them. If you’re weak, you’ll comply and later they take all the credit for the hard work you’ve done.
The Sexualizer: They seem enhanced with sexual energy and have a tendency to mix work with pleasure. Most of these people suffered sexual abuse when little. They see every relationship as potentially sexual and the act itself is a way for self-validation. After a while, when they get older and when the frequency of sexual relationship decreases, they get depressed and lose hope. These people cheat, get addicted to pornography and tend to sexually abuse others.
The Pampered Prince/Princess: They are confident and instill a feeling of superiority. It’s like they are destined to wear a crown. However, we all know that these types are not easy to deal with. If they don’t get what they want, they will pout, and can even explode in uncontrollable anger. Everything should be on their terms. All of this usually comes from an early life where their parents have always pleased them.
The Pleaser: The one who is always happy to help, no matter the circumstances. You will rarely see them angry or not willing to assist. Yet, behind the smiles and the niceness, there is another persona. Someone who is either trying to survive or such who is trying to take your position. Always be alert when dealing with such people.
The Savior: Most of the people in the self-help industry, basically. You will hear them talking about “how they can help you achieve success” and “assist you on your way up.” However, there is something they are not displaying. Their desire to control you and use you is greater than their official statement, to help you. There’s a lot you can learn from them but don’t get too involved in their always-trying-to-help pattern.
Don’t Constantly Wait For Something Better
Life is inherently chaotic and unpredictable until it becomes boring and monotonous.
We settle with a certain job. Get married. Have kids. And at some point, our day-to-day life feels like colorless, paintful existence deprived of any form of joy. We must work in order to provide for our family and our needs are no longer important.
A lot of times, in order to install some excitement in our rather dull life, a lot of us consider changing jobs. Other go a step further and decide that their partner is a life-sucking bastard who shouldn’t be entitled to sit with them on the same table and they ask for a divorce.
In some occasions, the above two actions are required, but in most of the cases, we’re simply fantasizing. Desperate in our desire for something new to happen, we engage in a drama-type situation worthy of a soap opera.
Our chronic displeasure prompts us to act stupid: quitting a good job, leaving someone who loves us, abandoning our home. As mentioned, sometimes the above things should be pursued but in most of the cases, our mind simply wants entertainment.
A new job will require learning new skills and acquiring new contacts. In essence, this might be good but it can also waste a lot of our precious time. The same applies when considering another partner. At first, the new relationship will feel exciting. You’ll cuddle and have sex all the time but as times go by you might see flaws in the new person that you can’t tolerate.
Running after the latest trends won’t lead to anything productive. Life will get boring at some point, whether we like it or not. It’s best to focus on strengthening your relationship with the people around you than seeking for creating other shallow ones. The same applies to our work. It’s best to be the best at doing one thing rather than being mediocre at executing several.
We’re Emotional Creatures With A Tendency To Slack Off
The reason we cheat, steal, lie, is the same exact reason we get angry at our spouse when we’re standing on top of the toilet seat and we acknowledge that there is no paper – emotions.
No matter how strong we are, physically, most of us are weak emotionally. Often led by our emotions, which change by the day, we tend to do stupid things.
On top of that, we desire things to be rather easy in life and gravitate towards taking the path of least resistance.
The inner weakness in most of the people is caused by the combination of the two: laziness and the inability to control our emotions.
If this pattern is present for some time we’ll become vulnerable and each event will cause us pain, weakening our persona. And weak people don’t have the stomach for protracted battles. Don’t possess the ability to continue hustling despite the initial setbacks. They want money and pleasures but loathe the work involved in the process.
If you become such a person you’re in great danger because you won’t be able to overcome all the troubles involved in the overall process of living: The required hard work; The ability to resist temporary pleasures for greater such that will come in the future; You’ll most probably get addicted to something that will slowly destroy your life.
The solution: persistence. Become relentless in your desire to be better. Train your body and mind to endure pain. Almost nothing in the world can resist persistent human energy. Things will crack open if we strike enough blows with enough force.
Actionable Book Notes:
On become a leader: If you want to lead people but you’re not sure how to do it, here’s a couple of notes from the book: “The fundamental task of any leader is to provide far-reaching vision, to see the global picture, to work for the greatest good of the group and maintain its unity.” Once the future is determined, set practical goals for the people.
On influencing others: Instead of focusing on what you want and desire in the world, train yourself to focus on others. Let other people talk. Make them think that they are the star of the party. This friendly behavior will help you gain the trust of others, increase your knowledge in different fields along with their strategies and later have leverage over them.
On staying up-to-date: The only thing constant in life is change. There is nothing ever static. As we age, we get disconnected from the new trends and some new practices. This leads to loopholes in our knowledge. Staying informed should be something on your to-do list, no matter your age. It might be a good idea to talk to your kids more often about what’s trending.
Commentary And My Personal Takeaway
Our social skills are suffering because we spend more time interacting with others on social media. Unfortunately, the younger generation is becoming less empathetic and more self-absorbed.
In The Laws Of Human Nature, Robert Greene masterfully describes a handful of the emotions we feel as humans. Giving us tools to communicated and understand the others better. On top of that, the information inside will help us find ourselves and hopefully see our grand mission clearer.
The book is full of wisdom and I can’t recommend it enough. It was really hard for me to mention only 5 key lessons. It was even harder to choose one personal takeaway. Still, I chose the following: There is more to life than sitting on your couch and scrolling through social media. Life is movement, and only by acting you’re actually living.
If you come across any special trait of meanness or stupidity… you must be careful not to let it annoy or distress you, but to look upon it merely as an addition to your knowledge – a new fact to be considered in studying the character of humanity. Your attitude towards it will be that of the mineralogist who stumbles upon a very characteristic specimen of a mineral.” Arthur Schopenhauer
Death is absolute stillness, without movement or change except decay. In death we have separated from others and completely alone. Life on the other hand is movement, connection to other living things, and diversity of life forms.”
Sometimes the best action is nonaction – let the dynamic play itself out to understand it better; let the enemy hang itself by its aggressive actions.”
Keep in mind that your life is short, that it could end any day. You must have a sense of urgency to make the most of this limited time. You don’t need deadlines or people telling you what to do and when to finish. Any motivation you need comes from within.”