robert greene google talk

Actionable Talk Summary: The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene

About: Robert Greene, the author of the bestsellers The 33 Strategies of War and The 48 Laws of Power, shares the key ideas from his latest book: The Laws of Human Nature at Talks at Google. The length of the full talk is 01:23:22 but you can understand key ideas in around 5 minutes.

The Core Idea

Our primitive mind is the reason we often behave like wild animals. This part of the brain is making us do things, irrational things, foolish things, and no one is protected. That’s why even intelligent people are often caught doing ridiculously foolish acts. The only way to take full control over your mind and body? Understand your emotions. Be aware of them. Our emotions are the guiding force behind all of our actions.

5 Key Lessons

Lesson #1: You Can’t Succeed In This World If You Don’t Understand People

Regardless of how technical advance you are, how good you are with code, your job title or your location – or the lack of it if you’re a freelancer and a free spirit – you need to understand people to succeed in the world.

A good way to start getting more familiar with the people around you is to write stuff about them. Takes notes about their favorite meals, activities, what they like and dislike. This stalker-like habit will help you notice the tiny details. Later, you can use your notes as leverage to achieve what you want.

Lesson #2: Emotions Send Signals To The Brain That Are Much Stronger Than Any Of The Other Signals

Only neuroscience can explain the madness that exists in all of us. The emotional breakdowns we regularly have. Here’s the explanation:

The bottom part of the human brain stores emotions. At the very top, we have the part of the brain that governs reasoning. What does this mean?

Well, apparently these two: emotions and reasoning, are far from each other. Emotions and reasoning are situated in different parts of the brain, separated from each other, making it impossible for them to communicate. But there is more to that: Emotions send really strong signals to the brain. These signals consume a large part of our current attention, blocking all of the other thoughts we have. That’s why you continue buying stuff even when your balance is zero.

Lesson #3: Human Nature Is Like A Puppet Master

Our human nature is making us do all kind of different things – often not so rational or practical. That’s why you frequently check social media and you buy things you don’t really need. That’s why you overeat and you constantly talk about yourself when among others. Basically, our human nature is leaning towards keeping the body and the mind in a good shape, i.e. well feed and emotionally satisfied.

But nowadays this type of behavior is not practical. Since we’re living in abundance – we can practically have everything we want in a matter of seconds, or just a few hours – we’re abusing this easy access by overconsuming. But we are not the ones turning the wheel, it’s our human nature controlling our actions. Acting like an evil puppet master making us do things we don’t really want.

The only way to escape this devious grasp is to understand your characteristics and your personal behavioral traits. Understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Observe your behavior when making decisions and later reflect so you can find the real reason behind your actions.

Lesson #4: Our Brains Operate By Simplifying Information

We are exposed to so much stimuli in a course of a day that we can’t consciously process everything happening around. That’s why the brain summarizes, subconsciously, the info and presents a short recap. Or a version that “feels better.” For instance, a lot of people donate to charity organizations thinking, they’re doing it for others. While in reality, they are doing this for themselves. They donate money to feed their ego, mainly, to see their name printed on the newspaper or on the website, not so much for the cause.

But the brain won’t expose this information. It will camouflage the act of pure egoism and present it as something noble.

The same applies when we share photos online. We say (and think) we do it to express ourselves while what we really want is external validation.

Lesson #5: To Become Rational You Need To Become Aware

When you’re angry or depressed, don’t just act on these emotions, stop and ask yourself, “Why I feel this way?”; “What is going on?”

It’s fairly easy to start cursing and blaming others. Yes, some people might deserve a remark, but in 99% of the cases, there is always something deeper going on. Something that’s troubling you from the inside. You might not get the answer right away but after a series of internal monologs with yourself, you’ll spot what triggers you. The real reason you burst into anger frenzy.

Additionally, you’ll stop purchasing stuff you don’t really need because you’ll start questioning things. You’ll start sensing manipulative ads and refuse lucrative offers because you’ll become more reasonable when making decisions. You’ll stop acting impulsively and start thinking before doing something.

Love taking notes? Download the worksheet:

Actionable Notes:

  • Practice empathy: Empathy is the ability to get inside the perspective and the points of view of the people around you. This way you can literally see how other people imagine the world. Helping you to better understand others and also strengthen your relationship with them.
  • Admit that you’re a narcissist: We’re more interested in our own ideas and in our own problems by default. But this type of behavior won’t get you far in life. Next time you’re chatting with someone, don’t cannibalize the conversation by talking only about yourself. Listen to what others are saying and make them feel special by responding and asking them questions about themselves.
  • Uncover your shadow: Every human being has a dark side, a shadow. When we’re young, we can love our parents at one moment and then hate them the next. But slowly over time, we get better at covering our tracks, thus making the shadow not so obvious to spot. However, the shadow is still there, and we feel a tremendous amount of pressure in keeping it well covered. So, to feel better about yourself, and to actually start caring more about others, you need to come clean. To find your shadow and be aware of it. Once you find it, you can cleanse it.

Notable Quotes

What determines people’s decisions to buy something or to invest in something is not rational, but it’s actually based on emotions.”

95% of your decisions are infected with emotions. You’re always imagining the best case that will emerge from this, but you’re not seeing all the potential pitfalls.”

We, humans, have what I call a self-opinion. And people who have done studies have shown that opinion is generally more elevated than the reality.”

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