The 48 Laws of Power

Robert Greene Also available in audiobook: Download our app for free listening.

Remember Machiavelli's story that the ends justify the means? Robert Greene is more evil, yet he brings some very powerful ideas ... If there are any authors that the 12' team would say is more Machiavellian than Machiavelli himself, this is the guy. Just kidding! In his words, he considers himself a realist and not a bad guy. Still, the reading is fantastic and will give you some insights that will help you understand how that guy you consider a loser became successful. Greene's premise is that trying to be fair all the time can destroy the chances of you becoming a successful guy. In this book, he decided to investigate the history of power to learn how to conquer it, use it, and protect it. Let’s read on Greene's Laws?

Law #1: Never Shine More Than Your Master

You need to make your superiors feel superior, and you can achieve this by not showing off in ways that could make them unsafe. To gain power, you need them to look better and brighter than they are.

Law #2: Never Trust Too Much on Friends, Learn to Use Your Enemies

Eventually, your friends will betray you. For Greene, this is a fact, and you should never trust too much. Instead of leaning on your friends, he suggests that you hire your ex-enemies as they tend to be more loyal.

Law #3: Hide Your Intentions

To have true power, you need to be able to leave people lost and uninformed. The easiest way to do this is by never showing your true intentions. They will never be able to prepare to go against you if you let them be lost. Also, you can always give wrong directions to maximize the effect of this law.

Law #4: SpeakLess Than Necessary

When you try to impress, the more you talk, the more common you seem and the less in control you get. It is important that you be vacant and speak as little as possible. Those who speak little seem more powerful and intimidate people with their discretion.

Law #5: Everything Depends On Your Reputation. Protect It With Your Life

Your reputation is the foundation of your power. The more recognized and respected you are, the more powerful you become. A good reputation alone already helps you win, but if you want to destroy your enemies, do so by attacking their reputations. Once the attack is made, get out close and let the public finish demoralizing your opponents.

Law #6: Attract Attention at All Costs

People are judged by their appearance, and if you want to have power, then not being seen or not catching people's attention can lead you to fail. You should always seek the attention of people and never be invisible in the crowd. Be mysterious, but differentiate yourself from the crowd to be noticed.

Law #7: Let Others Work For Your, But Take The Credit

If you want to become powerful, you need to be able to capture the credit for the work of others. Use the people who work for you and, where possible, appropriate the merits of the activities they do. Never let people take credit for your work. That will make people think that you are a master of efficiency.

Law #8: Make Them Come to You

You need to get people to look for you because it gives you power and control. It is far better that your opponents come to you and that you never go to them. When they come to you, they abandon their own plans and follow yours. Offer baits and promises of great gains and, when you attract them, attack.

Law #9: Win With Action, Never With Arguments

You never gain anything through a discussion because discussions generate resentment on the losing side, which impairs your ability to influence. To win you need to take actions that communicate what you want. Instead of explaining something to people, demonstrate it and tell how it should be done.

Law #10: Avoid Sad and Unlucky People

Being around unhappy and unlucky people drains your mental and emotional capacity. These people contaminate you and cause you to fail by contamination. Only associate with happy and lucky people.

Law #11: Make Others Rely on You

To keep in control, you need people to depend on you. The more people depend on you, the more freedom you have. Make people need you and want to be close to your happiness. Never let them learn what you know to not need you anymore.

Law #12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victims

A sincere move is capable of hiding your dishonest moves. When you are honest, you initially lower people's custody and they begin to trust you. Be honest at first, gain the confidence of the person before deceiving.

Law #13: When Seeking Help, Appeal to Their Own Self Interest, Never to Theis Compassion

If you need help, you can not humble yourself and depend on others’ compassion. You should find something that will benefit that person to help you and emphasize it to the fullest. So you do not expose yourself, and you achieve your goal.

Law #14: Position as a Friend, Be a Spy

Get close to people to capture valuable information and ask indiscreet questions. Take every opportunity you have to get more information and make a note. It deludes people to appear close and earn their trust, and learn as much as you can.

Law #15: Completely Destroy Your Enemy

Harming your enemy is not enough. The important thing is to destroy it so that it is not able to rise again. Attack him/her in mind and spirit and never pity to stop before ending him/her.

Law #16: Use Your Absence to Increase Your Respect and Honor

The more you make yourself present, the greater your circulation, the less your value. If you are part of a group, move away and let people notice that you are distant. That increases your value by generating scarcity of your presence.

Law #17: Keep Others Into a Suspended Terror. Create an Air of Unpredictability

Being predictable gives power to others. If you behave unpredictably and inconsistently, people stop trying to predict your movements. The more unpredictable you are, the more people will become intimidated and terrified about what your next step will be.

Law #18: Do Not Build Forts to Protect Yourself. Isolation Is Dangerous

If you want to be powerful, you cannot isolate yourself. Isolation leaves you out of the most valuable information, and you get lost. It's best if you disguise yourself inside the group. You are protected from your enemies when you are in the crowd.

Law #19: Know With Who You Are Dealing. Never Offend the Wrong Person

Never assume that all people will react the same way to your offenses. Know who you want to attack and choose your victims carefully. Never let your offenses be misunderstood and reach an unplanned target.

Law #20: Never Commit to Anyone

If there is any conflict, idiots rush to take sides. You must remain independent and never compromise with others, only with yourself. Get people to chase you and toss them against each other.

Law #21: Play Dummy to Mislead

People like to feel smarter. Make your victims think they're smarter than you. If they find this, they will never think that you can have ulterior motives for them to mistrust you.

Law #22: Know When to Surrender: Transform Your Weakness Into Power

If you are weaker than your opponent, do not keep fighting, surrender yourself. When you surrender, you have more time to recover and time to wait for his power to diminish. Do not let the opponent have the satisfaction of defeating you. Surrender first, recompose yourself, expect him to weaken and take revenge.

Law #23: Gather Your Strengths

Save your energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. Focus and do not attack multiple targets at once. The intensity always beats dispersion.

Law #24: Be A Court Jester

The jester feels at home in a world where everything revolves around political power and ability. He flatters, submits to his superiors and imposes his power on others in an invisible way. If you flatter the king, there is no limit to where you can ascend within the court.

Law #25: Reinvent Yourself

Recreate yourself by forging a new identity that catches the attention and interest of your audience. Be the architect of your image and never let others define it for you. Learn to use the theater in your actions and speeches, make it dramatic. That creates an interesting character beloved by people.

Law #26: Keep Your Hands Clean

Create an exemplary facade and never get caught up in dubious activities. If you must do something wicked, let them do it for you. Your aura should communicate perfection, and your hands can never be involved in dubious activities. If you curl up, find someone to blame and get out with clean hands.

Law #27: Play With Others' Need to Believe in Something

People need to believe in something, always. Use this to your advantage and give them a common cause to follow you as a leader. Communicate vaguely, make promises, demonstrate your superiority, and do not talk on the rational plane. Take advantage of others’ faith. Create rituals for your disciples and ask them to make sacrifices for the cause.

Law #28: Be Emphatic When Acting

If you are unsure about a particular attitude, do not do it. Your doubts and hesitations will hinder your execution. Take action with faith and draw attention. Everyone admires the brave and audacious; No one honors the fearful.

Law #29: Plan Every Movement Until The End

The end is everything, and you should plan every step up to it, taking into account the possible consequences and obstacles that can nullify your efforts and ruin your plan. Do not be surprised by the circumstances and know when to stop.

Law #30: Make Your Achievements Look Easy

Your deeds should look natural and easy. Ignore your efforts and never mention that something has given you too much trouble. Always make it seem natural and simple and always seem to be able to do even more. However, do not teach anyone how you did it or your tactics will be used against you.

Law #31: Control the Opinions: Make Them Play With Your Cards

Shuffle your victims and let them feel they are in control. Give options for them to choose, but make sure all options offered match your goals. When they have to make a choice, make it a choice of the "least of evils" type.

Law #32: Play With Their Fantasies

Never appeal to the truth unless you are prepared for the indignation generated by disillusionment. People want to romanticize their lives, and if you manage to deceive them in this direction, you will become powerful.

Law #33: Find The Weaknesses In Each

Each person has weaknesses, and it is up to you to explore it. A weakness can be a fear, an addiction or a secret. If you know people's weaknesses, you can direct them to do what suits you.

Law #34: Act as Royalty To Be Treated as a King

The way you behave normally determines how you are treated. Sooner or later, appearing plebeian will lead to being ignored. Demonstrate your superiority and people will bow before your majesty.

Law #35: Understand How to Act at The Right Time

Do not be in a hurry, for it denounces a lack of control over yourself. Be patient, as if you are sure that things will work out on your own. Know the right time to act and be quiet when the moment is not right.

Law #36: Disdain What You Cannot Have

The more attention you give to your enemy, the more powerful you make it, and a small mistake becomes more serious and more visible when you try to fix it. If there is anything you want and cannot have, show contempt for it, pretend it has no value. The less interest you show the clearer your superiority.

Law #37: Create Spectacles and Entertain

Great symbolic gestures with a dramatic air to an audience generate an aura of power. Mount spectacles for the people around you, full of images and symbols that reinforce your presence.

Law #38: Think as You Like, But Behave Like The Others

It is not worth showing people that you go against the status quo. They will only think that you want attention and that you are superior. It is safer to blend into the crowd and embrace common sense. Keep your originality to yourself and the people closest to you who admire eccentricity.

Law #39: Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish

Anger and emotion hurt your performance, so you need to always be calm. Your goal is to annoy your enemy by keeping your cool and so take control. Manipulate them, so they lose their temper, destabilize them to attack assertively.

Law #40: Despise the Free Lunch

If something comes for free, you should be aware. This something usually comes with a favor that will be charged in the future. Pay for what you want and get rid of gratitude, favors, and guilt. It is wise to pay the price without discount. Keep your money flowing, for generosity is a sign of power.

Law #41: Avoid Taking The Place That Was Occupied By a Great Man

If you have to replace a great man, you will have to do twice as much as he accomplished to be able to overcome him in his glory. Do not stand in someone's shadow, create your own space.

Law #42: Strike the Sheperd, and The Sheep Will Disperse

Neutralize the influence of a pack leader to disperse the crowd. Do this by isolating and banishing him. If you can reach the source of the problem, the flock will disperse, and you will be free to take over.

Law #43: Work the Hearts and Minds of Others

To make others serve your purpose, it will be necessary to seduce and influence them. The person you seduce becomes loyal, and to seduce a person you have to act on your weaknesses and your mind. Manipulate your emotions and be loved or feared. If you ignore people's minds and hearts, they will hate you.

Law #44: Disarm and Infuriate With The Mirror Effect

The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the cause of illusions. When you mirror your enemies, doing what they do, they become confused with your strategy. The mirror effect mocks them and causes them to react in an unplanned way, opening up their weaknesses. Few resist the confusion and chaos caused by the power of the mirror effect.

Law #45: Preach The Need for Change, But Never Reform Too Much at Once

Everyone understands the need for change, but in everyday life, people are creatures of habit. Too much change causes a revolt. If you assume a position of authority, you must maintain your respect for tradition, and if a change is necessary, make it appear to be a mere improvement of a tradition.

Law #46: Never Appear Too Perfect

Looking better than others is dangerous, and giving the impression of being perfect is even more so. If you cause envy, you create silent enemies. Occasionally exhibit some defect and confess harmless vices, to divert envy and appear more human and less divine.

Law #47: Do Not Go Beyond The Pre-Established Victory

Victory is the most dangerous moment of all. When you win, arrogance and overconfidence can get you past the target you set, and by going too far, you create more enemies than necessary. Do not let success take over and come to mind. Set a goal and, when you reach it, stop immediately.

Law #48: Assume Formlessness

By taking on a physical form, clear and visible, you become vulnerable to attack. Instead of taking on a form that your enemy can assimilate, keep yourself adaptable and fluid as water. Never bet on stability and a lasting order, but on chaos.

Final Notes:

Many people find it difficult to understand Greene's laws and apply them in their conduct because the book is based primarily on historical events where today's ethics is not exactly honored. Still, this is a book worth reading as Greene brings us unusual techniques to become more powerful. You probably will not want to use most of them (yeah, he's a bad guy) but it's essential to know them to protect yourself from people who are incessantly looking for power at any cost.

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