The 48 Laws of Power — By Robert Greene

What did I get from ’48 Laws of Power’?

48-laws-of-powerThe only thing certain about life is that life is uncertain. Circumstances, people and opportunities keep changing around you. This makes you feel helpless and confused. In my opinion, power is the ability to face this destitute vagueness with confidence, determination and optimism. It is the ability to keep steady, in a rocking boat, as you row towards your destination.

Robert Greene’s book, The 48 laws of Power is a piercing work focused on various cunning, ruthless and immoral strategies to gain power. This is a bold book and I wonder whether we require such strategies in today’s world. I like power; who doesn’t? However, I don’t think any of us would want to trample and crush the people around us to gain that power and control. So, I have never felt comfortable to pick up this book. My opinion of the book changed when I had a conversation with a management student recently. She told me the book was recommended reading in her college. She urged me to pick it up as she said ‘it deals with a lot more than just power’.

The book is an enjoyable read though it is huge and 450 pages long (there is a concise edition too.) I love reading about obscure and little-known incidents in history and this book is peppered with them. The chapters flow smoothly and it is a book that is tough to put down. That said, you cannot get much out of the book in a single read. As the author states, this is a handbook and he advises you to come back to chapters whenever life pushes you into helpless situations.

The book provides one with lots of strategies to handle the everyday uncertainties of life. For instance, anyone who works hard, has talent and is on the pathway to success is sure to encounter jealousy. Envy finds a place in the Old Testament itself when the other children of Israel hated Joseph—the most loved son of Israel—and decide to slay their own brother. Envy has lasted centuries and has found its way into corporates, artists and families. The book shows you how to identify jealousy, prevent it and handle it.

Approach the book with an open and positive mind. Take whatever suits your personality and ignore things you find unappealing. Some of the takeaways that I found in the book are listed below:

  1. Make others (especially superiors) feel comfortable. Do not show off your brilliance.
  2. Do not trust your friends because they get envious, faster than the others.
  3. Use your enemies wisely. They will work for you as they have to prove to you their superiority.
  4. Do not reveal your motives and intentions to others.
  5. Speak less. When you blabber a lot, you tend to appear foolish.
  6. Guard your reputation and do not allow others to damage it. While Robert Greene says you need to open holes in other’s reputation, in my opinion, if you are not looking for power just live and let live.
  7. Don’t blend in with the crowd. Stand out and be conspicuous.
  8. Avoid unhappy and unlucky people. Negative emotions are infectious.
  9. Don’t be a predictable person.
  10. It is good to be absent. It increases your respect and honour and does not make you common.
  11. Some of them carry their hurt for too long. Do not offend such people.
  12. While Robert Greene states do not take sides, I would like to interpret it this way: there are always different perspectives to an issue; therefore, have a broader outlook.
  13. Avoid the truth and don’t speak it, if it is ugly. A few pleasant fantastic lies can go a long way.
  14. People will treat you the way you treat yourself. Act like a king and you will be treated like one.
  15. Never hurry. Appear to be in control of your time.
  16. The more attention you give to a problem, the bigger it becomes. Ignore it and you will seem superior.
  17. You may have unique thoughts—different from the times—but you don’t need to share them with everyone. Most of them will not like it.
  18. Do not accept anything free. It always has a hidden obligation. If something is worthy, you should pay for it.
  19. You may be superior to others but you don’t need to show it off to them.
  20. You can gain victory only if you change and adapt yourself to suit the circumstances.

The book lists 48 laws and I have spoken about just 20 of them. Even these 20 have been reinterpreted in the way I chose to perceive them. You may not agree with some of the points I have listed above. Also, you may find many more new concepts and strategies that might help you on your journey. On a lighter sign-off note, as Niccolo Machiavelli states in The Prince, (quoted from the book)

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.”

Author: Robert Greene
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release: September 2000
Genre:Non Fiction / Philosophy
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Archana Sarat is a freelance writer and author since the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities. Her works are published in various popular newspapers and magazines like The Times of India, The Economic Times, The SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, The CA Newsletter, Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the Vengeance Anthology, among others. A Chartered Accountant by qualification, Archana has decided that she would keep cooking up tales as long as she can get away with it. Her debut novel, Birds of Prey, is a psychological crime thriller and has been gathering acclaim for being a gritty and gripping read.

One thought on “The 48 Laws of Power — By Robert Greene

  1. Greene initially formulated some of the ideas in The 48 Laws of Power while working as a writer in Hollywood and concluding that today’s power elite shared similar traits with powerful figures throughout history.[5] In 1995, Greene worked as a writer at Fabrica, an art and media school, and met a book packager named Joost Elffers.[4][8] Greene pitched a book about power to Elffers and six months later, Elffers requested that Greene write a treatment.[4]
    Although Greene was unhappy in his current job, he was comfortable and saw the time needed to write a proper book proposal as too risky.[10] However, at the time Greene was rereading his favorite biography about Julius Caesar and took inspiration from Caesar’s decision to cross the Rubicon River and fight Pompey, thus inciting the Great Roman Civil War.[10] Greene would follow Caesar’s example and write the treatment, which later became The 48 Laws of Power.[10] He would note this as the turning point of his life.

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