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48 laws of Power: Robert Greene

Act like a king, and others will treat you like one

Thinking of power, what images come into your head? Is it a heavy-weight lifter in a gym or a wealthy man in his late 70s? Or is it a young female leader protesting the patriarchy?

Whatever image pops up in your head, it tells us that we always associate power with people who are able to channel it. You can be one of those people as you read through and start practicing the laws of power put forward by Robert Greene.

In short and precise formulations, this summary can teach you to acquire more authority, manipulate people in the least harmful ways, and become successful with others helping you on your way to the top. You will also learn to gain respect from others effortlessly and develop a sense of moderation in everything you do.

Law 1: Never outperform the master

Make those above you feel comfortable and special always. In your wish to please or impress them, do not go too far in exhibiting your capabilities, or you might end up inspiring fear and insecurity.

Those who achieve high status in life are like kings and queens: They want to feel comfortable in their roles and superior to everyone around them in intellect, humor, and elegance. It is a fatal but common misconception to think that by revealing and flaunting your talents, you are winning the master’s affection.

Make your masters appear a lot more powerful than they are, and you will achieve the stature of power.

Law 2: Never lay too much trust in friends, know how to manipulate enemies

Be skeptical of friends; they will betray you more hastily, for they are easily moved to be envious. They also become bad and autocratic. But employ a former enemy, and they will be more loyal than a friend because they need your validation.

Law 3: Hide your intentions

Keep people out of the know by never disclosing the motive behind your actions. If you do not indicate what you are up to, they cannot organize a defense.

Law 4: Always say less than you could

When you try to impress people with words, the more you say, the more ordinary you appear, and the less power you have. Even if you are saying something flat, it will seem unique if you make it vague and open-ended.

Law 5: Guard your reputation with life

Reputation is the core of power. Through reputation alone, you can coerce and win; once you make a mistake, you are susceptible and will be attacked on all sides.

Law 6: By all means, attract attention

We judge by appearances. Never lose yourself in the crowd or concealed in oblivion. You need to be seen because what is hidden counts for nothing.

Law 7: Delegate the work, but always take credit for it

Use the wisdom, insight, and ideas of other people to further your cause. Not only will such relief save you valuable time and energy, but it will also give you a sacred aura of efficiency and tempo. In the end, your helpers will be neglected, and you will be recognized.

Law 8: Have other people come to you; lure them if you have to

When you make the other person act, never forget you are the one in control. It is always better to make your foe come to you, abandoning their plans as they do. Lure them with fabulous gains, then attack. You should know you hold the cards.

Law 9: Win through your actions; never try to win through argument

Any temporary victory you think you’ve gained through argument is a costly victory: the hostility and ill you will provoke is powerful and extends longer than any temporary change of opinion.

Law 10: Avoid unhappy and unlucky people

Being around miserable people can make you want to end your life. Emotions are contagious. You might feel like you are helping someone in their misery but in fact they will just drag you down with them.

Associate with the happy and blessed instead. The reason is simple, humans are extremely vulnerable to the attitudes, beliefs, and even the personalities they spend their time with.

Law 11: Learn to make people depend on you

If you want to be independent, others must crave and want you. Remarkably, you will have more freedom if still more people depend on you. Have them think they do this for their success and achievement, and you have nothing to be afraid of. Keep some of the valuable information to yourself so that they never leave you wishing to get it.

Law 12: Be selective with your honesty and generosity to disarm your victim

One sincere and honest move will cover numerous tricky ones. Open-hearted indications of honesty and generosity make even the most suspicious people take down their guard. The essence of deception is a distraction. Distracting the people you plan to mislead gives you the opening to do something they won’t notice. It turns them into children, eagerly lapping up any kind of affectionate gesture.

Law 13: When you want to ask for help, appeal to the person’s self-interest

If you need to turn to a friend for help, do not irritate them with tales of your past assistance and good deeds. They will find a way to avoid you. Instead, uncover something in your bid, or your partnership with them, and blow it out of all proportion.

The majority of people never succeed at this because they are imprisoned in their desires and ambitions. They talk as if their needs made a difference to these people who possibly couldn’t care less.

Law 14: Disguise as a friend, work as a spy

Use spies to gather useful information that will keep you ahead of the game. Better still: be the spy yourself. In a civil social gathering, learn to observe people. Ask suggestive questions to get them to disclose their flaws and motives. In the extent of power, your goal is a level of control over future events. You can gain the edge by learning about their plans, motives, and hidden desires that may surface unawares.

Law 15: Completely crush your enemy

All wonderful rulers since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed totally. Sometimes they realized this the hard way. You will lose much more if you stop in the middle than when you work up a nerve to destroy: the enemy will heal and come seeking vengeance. Crush them both in the body and spirit.

Law 16: Gain respect and honor with your absence

The more people see and hear you, the more ordinary you appear. If you are already solidified in a group, withdraw from it for a while. This way, others will talk more about you, and you might be even held in awe. You must know when to evacuate.

Establish importance through absence. What withdraws, what comes to be rare, suddenly seems to be entitled to our respect and honor.

Law 17: Create suspense and be unpredictable

Humans naturally like to do something repeatedly, with a greedy need to see understanding in other people’s actions. Nothing is more terrifying than the unexpected and unpredictable. That is why we are so terrified of earthquakes and tornadoes: we don’t know when they will hit. To a lesser degree, this is the impact that erratic human behavior has on us.

Law 18: Withdraw for a while, but don’t isolate yourself

The world is a dangerous place, and our enemies are everywhere. Everyone has to defend themselves. A fortress seems to be the idea of ultimate self-defense. However, Machiavelli argued that in a military sense, a fortress is always a blunder. With their small and confined areas, fortresses are also extremely vulnerable to the scourge and contagious diseases. In a strategic point, the isolation of a fortress makes no provision for protection and only generates more difficulties.

Law 19: Don’t offend the wrong person; have an idea of who you’re dealing with

No two people will respond the same way to your techniques. Cheat or outsmart some people, and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking retaliation. Choose your prey and enemies carefully. Don’t put your trust in appearances. Anyone with the heart of a snake can use a show of sympathy to cloak it; a person who is gusty on the exterior is often really a wimp. In evaluating and assessing your opponent, never rely on your impulses.

Law 20: Do not commit to anyone

Taking sides in the argument makes you foolish. Do not dedicate to any standpoint, cause, or person but yourself. By maintaining your autonomy, others treat you as their master. Play people against one another; make them follow you.

Law 21: Play a sucker to nab a sucker — appear dumber than your enemy

The hoax is to make your victims feel smarter than you are. Once confident of this, they will never assume that you may have hidden intentions.

Law 22: Change weakness into power by using the surrendering trick

When you are weaker, never fight for the sake of respect; give up instead. The concession gives you time to recoup, haunt, and upset your rival; time to wait for their strength to diminish. The next time someone tries to get you riled up, and you find yourself wishing to react, do this: do not resist or fight back. You will see how this often neutralizes their manner.

Law 23: Concentrate your forces

The world is divided by a growing barrier. We all find ourselves in a state of total distraction and dispersion, unable to keep our sense focused in one direction before we are snatched by a thousand others.

Focus your energy on the toughest point. Intensity defeats indifference every time. When seeking the basis of power to heighten you, find the one key supporter.

Law 24: Play the perfect courtier

The perfect courtier survives in a nation where everything revolves around authority and political deftness. He who has understood the art of deviation yields to seniors and wields power over others in the most tilting and elegant manner

Did you know? Jules Mansart was a French architect who designed several Versailles premises for King Louis XIV. Mansart would intentionally leave obvious imperfections about the garden planning so that the King could point them out right away. Upon that, Mansart would praise the King for his masterful solution to the problem in front of other courtiers.

Law 25: Recreate yourself48 laws of Power

Do not accept the roles that society passes on to you. Recreate yourself by making a new personality, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. The personality you appear to have been born with is not inevitably who you are.

Beyond the traits you have inherited, your parents, your friends, and even your surroundings have helped to shape it. Include impressive devices into your public gesticulation. Your power will be strengthened, and your identity will seem larger than life.

“Be the champion of your character rather than letting others interpret it for you. “

Law 26: Keep your hands clean

You must seem a pinnacle of formality and competency. Your hands are never stained by errors and terrible deeds. Maintain such a flawless character by using others as scapegoats and cat’s paws to mask your interest. The main notion behind this is the shifting of guilt and wrong to an external figure, which is then evicted or wrecked.

Law 27: Play on people’s desire to accept a cult-like following

People have an irresistible inclination to accept something. Become the focal point of such longing by offering them a purpose, a new cause to follow. Keep your words vague but full of guarantee; emphasize confidence over reasoning and clear thinking. Give your new disciples routines to perform, ask them to make repudiations on your behalf.

Law 28: Enter action with boldness

If you are not sure of a course of action, do not try it. Your suspicions and uncertainties will taint your performance. Cowardice is dangerous: better to come into play with boldness. Most of us are nervous. We want to avoid anxiety and confrontation, and we want to be appreciated by all. We may ponder a bold action, but we hardly bring it to life. We are frightened of the outcomes, of what others might assume of us, of the resentment we will agitate if we dare go beyond our usual place. Courage, on the other hand, is outer-directed and often makes people feel more at peace since it is less self-conscious and less subdued.

Law 29: Plan to the end

The conclusion is everything. Plan to the end, taking into account all the possible outcomes, barriers, and twists of success that might undo your hard work and give recognition to others. By planning to the end, you will not be overpowered by occurrences, and you will know when to halt. Gently guide fortune and help discern the future by imagining far ahead.

Law 30: Make your accomplishments seem effortless48 laws of Power

Your actions must appear normal and executed with comfort. All the toil and process that go into them, and also all the smart gimmicks, must be hidden. When you act, act easily, as if you could do much more. Avoid the trick of disclosing how hard you work. It only puts up problems. Teach no one your games, or they will be used against you.

Law 31: Take control of the possibilities: get others to play with the cards you deal

Give people options that will come out in your favor whatever one they choose. Force them to make a choice between the lesser of the two evils, both of which should serve your purpose.

Law 32: Play to people’s fantasies

People often avoid the truth because it is ugly and unpleasant. Do not appeal to truth and reality unless you are ready for the anger that comes for disenchantment.

Law 33: Discover each person’s thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness. That weakness is usually insecurity, or need. Whatever it is, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can use to your advantage. Don’t hurt people; just appear to know something very personal about them. That will make them see you as the powerful one.

Law 34: Act like a king, and others will treat you like one

48 laws of Power

People will treat you the way you behave around them. If you behave like a king, they will respond accordingly. Most importantly, you need to respect yourself to inspire the same feeling in others.

Law 35: Master the art of timing

Hurrying shows a lack of control over yourself and time. Always be patient, as if you know that you will get everything coming eventually.

Law 36: Disdain things you cannot have: ignoring them is the best revenge

When you acknowledge a petty problem, you give it credibility and existence. When you pay attention to an enemy, you make them stronger. Leave things the way they are. Do you like something and can’t have it? Show contempt for it: the less interest, the more superior you seem.

“When you meet a swordsman, draw your sword: Do not recite poetry to one who is not a poet.”~ Robert Green

Law 37: Create compelling spectacles

Striking imagery and symbolic gestures will create an aura of power — everyone loves and responds to them. Do stage spectacles for people around you, and no one will notice what you are really doing.

Law 38: Think what you want, but behave like others 

48 laws of Power

Do not flaunt your unconventional ideas. People will think you are only seeking their attention and look over the actual ideas. Rather, blend in, and nurture your touch. Only share your originality with true friends, and acquaintances who will appreciate your talent.

Law 39: Stir up waters, force fish to the surface

48 laws of Power

Emotion and anger are strategically counterproductive. As much as possible, stay calm and objective. If you can make your enemy angry while you are calm, you will gain an advantage.

Law 40: Despise the free lunch

Be wary of what is offered for free; it is dangerous. It usually entails either a hoax or an unknown commitment. What has worth is worth spending on. By paying in your way, you stay clear of indebtedness, remorse, and deception. It is also smart to pay the full price. There are no cutting corners with greatness.

Law 41: Don’t follow your great predecessors, become great in your own way

What happens first always seems adequately and more original than what follows it. If you replace a great man or have a prominent parent, you will have to achieve double their accomplishments to transcend them. Do not lose yourself in their shadow, or get stuck in the past, not of your own making: establish your name and identity by altering strategy. Destroy the overbearing father, ridicule his heritage, and attain power by glowing in your way.

Law 42: Eliminate the man in charge

You can always trace trouble to a single dominant individual. Offset their significance by separating or eliminating them.

Law 43: Work on the hearts and emotions of others

Intimidation produces an outcome that will eventually work against you. You must tempt others into wanting to shift in your direction. A person you have seduced comes to be your faithful pawn. You seduce others by utilizing their psychologies and weaknesses. Soften them up by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear, and what they worry about.

Law 44: Disarm and enrage with the mirror effect

Do not flaunt your unconventional ideas. People will think you are only seeking their attention and look over the actual ideas. Rather, blend in, and nurture your touch. Only share your originality with true friends, and acquaintances who will appreciate your talent.

The mirror indicates actuality, but it is also the perfect tool for trickery: when you mirror your enemies, taking the same steps they take, they cannot figure out your method. The Mirror Effect deceives and ridicules them. They are forced to overreact. Few can withstand the authority of the Mirror Effect.

Law 45: Advocate the need for change, but never too much at once

Everyone appreciates the necessity for change in the abstract, but on a daily basis, people are creatures of habit. Too much invention will cause distress and will lead to rebellion. If you are new to a place of power or an outsider trying to build a power base, make a show of honoring the old way of perpetrating things.

Law 46: Never appear too perfect48 laws of PowerWhen you appear better than those around, it is dangerous. It is even more dangerous when you appear faultless or without weakness. Envy generates silent enemies. On the safe side, it is smart to occasionally admit to harmless vices. This will help you to deflect envy, appear more approachable and human.

Law 47: Succeed in moderation, don’t go beyond the result you aimed for

48 laws of Power

The moment you are savoring victory is often one of great peril. In this mood, you can become overcome by overconfidence and arrogance, which may push you beyond what you aim for. You will therefore make enemies. Strategy and planning are irreplaceable. Set a goal for yourself, and when you reach it, stop.

“There is nothing more intoxicating than victory, and nothing more dangerous.”~ Robert Green

Law 48: Adopt formlessness as a strategy

As soon as you take shape, you make it easier for others to define you. They know what to expect and how to attack you in the most harmful way. Instead of being shapely, and thus, predictable, stay adaptable and flexible. To help you, accept the fact that nothing is final. In your behavior, use the logic of water – it is formless and fluid, and stop betting on stability or lasting order. Things change; you should, too.[1]

Where is your power?

48 laws of Power

Being powerful is thus about developing your self-confidence and projecting it onto others. You don’t need to share it; you just display it proudly and make others want to be more like you. Also, you don’t teach but let others marvel at your success.

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