Review: The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene – Part 2

As promised, this is the second installment of the 48 Laws of Power review. In this post we will be covering Laws 25-48. If you haven’t read the first part, it can be found below:

Law 25: Re-create Yourself

“Do not accept the roles that society foists on you. Re-create yourself by forging a new identity, one that commands attention and never bores the audience. Be the master of your own image rather than let other define it for you”

A lesson that is quickly learned is that the world will try to put you in your place. It will categorize who you are based on the opinions of other people. The moment you allow them to define who you are, you have lost the game. Define yourself. Define your reality.

In addition, you must learn how to wear many masks. To win you must be able to be whatever fits the situation. Like attracts like.

“Know how to be all things to all men. A scholar among scholars. A saint among saints.”

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

As discussed in Law 5, your reputation will either open doors for you or slam them shut. Therefore it is imperative to be conscious how your actions may bite you later. Much is discussed about concealing actions, but some things must be made public. An exception being mistakes. You must make an effort to downplay them when the inevitable occurs. Blame others if you must.

“People of power, however, are undone not by the mistakes they make but by the way they deal with them”

Robert takes a cynic view in the lengths to go when disguising your mistakes. In reference to using a friend as a scapegoat, he has this advice to offer:

“You may lose a friend or aide, but in the long-term scheme of things, it is more important to hide your mistakes than to hold on to someone who one day will probably turn against you.”

When you do use a scapegoat, there is the possibility that it blows back against you. It is recommended to use a “Cat’s Paw” when possible. 

“Let someone else be the executioner, or the bearer of bad news, while you only bring joy and glad tidings.”

This hits on an important theme in this chapter. Use others to do the necessary dirty work, the blood will be on their hands. The truly powerful know how to utilize people to put in the work while they reap the rewards.

Law 27: Play On People’s Need To Believe To Create A Cult-Like Following 

“People have an overwhelming desire to believe in something. Become the focal point of such desire by offering them a cause, a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise; emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking.”

If you ever wanted to start a cult, this is the chapter for you. Here are the 5 steps to help make this happen. 

Step 1: Keep it Vague; Keep it Simple

Step 2: Emphasize the Visual and the Sensual over the Intellectual

Step 3: Borrow the Forms of Organized Religion to Structure the Group

Step 4: Disguise Your Source of Income

Step 5: Set Up an Us-vs-Them Dynamic

Historically speaking, the larger the follower group, the easier it was to deceive. Social proof is a powerful tool.

Law 28: Enter Action With Boldness

“If you are unsure of a course of action, do not attempt it. Your doubts and hesitations will infect o\your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admire the bold; no one honors the timid.”

The Bolder the Lie the Better

“When putting together a con or any type of negotiation, go further than you planned. Ask for the moon and you will be surprised how often you get it.”

Lions Circle the Hesitant Prey

“Everything depends on perception, and once you are seen as the kind of person who quick goes into defensive, who is willing to negotiable and be amendable, you will be pushed around without mercy.”

Boldness Strikes Fear; Fear Creates Authority

“If it comes suddenly, with the stealth and swiftness or a sake, it inspires that much more fear.”

Going Halfway with Half a Heart Digs the Deeper Grave

“If you enter an action with less than total confidence, you set up obstacles in your own path.”

Hesitation Creates Gaps, Boldness Obliterates Them

“Your timidity infects people with awkward energy, elicits embarrassment. Doubt springs up on all sides. Boldness destroys such gaps. The swiftness of the move and the energy of the action leave others no space to doubt and worry” 

Audacity Separates You from the Herd

“Boldness gives you presence and makes you seem larger than life. The timid fade into the wallpaper, the bold draw attention, and what draws attention draws power”

Law 29: Plan All The Way To The End

“The ending is everything. Plan all the way to it, taking into account all the possible consequences, obstacles, and twists of future that might reverse your hard work and give glory to others. By planning to the end you will not be overwhelmed by circumstances and you will know when to stop. Gently guide fortune and help determine the future by thinking far ahead.”

Have a plan. Anticipate obstacles so you are never taken by surprise. It is often not what you do that gets you into trouble, but what you don’t do.

Law 30: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

“Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises question. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.”

We respect those who are able to achieve greatness with ease. People who are able to accomplish great things with little effort seem larger than life.

Law 31: Control The Options: Get Others To Play With The Cards You Deal

“The best deceptions are the ones that seem to give the other person a choice: Your victims feel they are in control but are actually your puppets. Give people options that come out in your favor whichever one they choose. Force them to make choices between the lesser of the two evils, both of which serve your purpose. Put them one the horns of dilemma: The are gored wherever they turn.”

Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasy

“The truth is often avoided because it is ugly and unpleasant.Never appeal to truth and reality unless you are prepared for the anger that comes from disenchantment. Life is so harsh and distressing that people who can manufacture romance or conjure up fantasy are the oases in the desert: Everyone flock to them. There is great power in tapping into the fantasy of the masses.”

Reality: Change is slow and gradual. It requires hard work, a bit of luck, a fair amount of self-sacrifice, and a lot of patience.

Fantasy: A sudden transformation will bring a total change in one/s fortunes, bypassing work, luck, self-sacrifice, and time in one fantastic stroke.

The truth hurts and people don’t like to feel pain. Promise them an easy way to get what they want and you are likely to win their trust.

Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

We all have an Achilles Heel: that one weakness where we are most vulnerable. It would be in your best interest to analyze your target, and find their Achilles Heel. Their weakness will give you the upper hand. 

To do this is simple, let them talk. People love to talk, especially about themselves. Whether they realize it or not, they often expose themselves through conversation. Once you have a lead on their weakness, prod indirectly to confirm your suspicion. 

Look for those things people are passionate about. The same passion that drives them forward, can also make them susceptible to manipulation. Passion is one of the strongest emotions, and emotions tend to blind us.

Law 34: Be Royal In Your Own Fashion: Act Like A King To Be Treated Like One

“The way you carry yourself will often determine how you are treated: In the long run, appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you. For a king respects himself and inspires the same sentiment in others. By acting regally and confident of your powers, you make yourself seem destined to wear a crown”

Whether you want to believe it, how you feel internally is expressed externally through your movements and the way you talk. Fake it til you make it if you must. For others to believe you are great you must believe it first.

Law 35: Master The Art Of Timing 

“Never seem to be in a hurry – hurrying betrays a lack of control over yourself, and over time. Always, seem patient, as you know that everything will come to you eventually. “

Rarely is the winner of a conflict the one that starts it, usually it is the one who finishes it. 

“Time is an artificial concept that we ourselves have created to make the limitlessness of eternity and universe more bearable, more human.” 

With that being said, the concept of time itself exists only in our mind. If we learn to control our mind, we gain power over how we are able to grasps time. This frees us from haste and allows us to plan our moves in advance and execute when appropriate. 

Law 36: Disdain Things You Cannot Have: Ignoring Them is the Best Revenge

“By acknowledging a petty problem you give it existence and credibility. The more attention you pay an enemy, the stronger you make him; and a small mistake is often made worse and visible when you try to fix it. It is sometimes best to leave things alone. If there is something you want but cannot have, show contempt for it. The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.”

It ultimately our choice to let the petty things bother us. In that same vein, we have the choice to not let those things be of concern. It all comes down to perception. 

The irony if this is that we tend to desire what we cannot have. Whether that be through attraction or coworker wanting to stir the pot, indifference is the best revenge. 

Do not react. Reaction gives the problem an existence. Indifference sends it to oblivion. 

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

Contrary to what your brain may tell you, words are not the best way to persuade someone. Emotions are the key. Emotions is a much more powerful tool than logic. Use this knowledge wisely and you can safe yourself a lot of time and effort. 

“The truth is generally seen, rarely heard” – Gracian 

Think about the memories that have stuck with you your entire life. I guarantee those memories are accompanied by a strong emotion – positive or negative. 

Law 38: Think As You Like But Behave Like Others

“If you make a show of going against the times, flaunting your unconventional ideas and unorthodox ways, people will think that you only want attention and that you look down upon them. They will find a way to punish you for making them feel inferior. It is far safer to blend in and nurture the common touch. Share your originality only with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.”

Obviously you will not agree with everyone. However, one must be cognizant of who they are disagreeing with. If it is with someone who has power to make your life difficult, it is wise to be selective in what you say publicly. For once something is said it can never be taken back.

“There is no point in making a show of your dangerous ideas if they only bring you suffering. Martyrdom serves no purpose – better to live on in an oppressive world, even to thrive in it.”

“Wise and clever people learn early on that they can display conventional behavior and mouth conventional ideas without having to believe in them. Once they have established themselves in a position of power, they can try to convince a wider circle of the correctness of their ideas.”

Law 39: Stir Up Waters To Catch Fish

“Anger and emotion are strategically counterproductive. You must always stay calm and objective. But if you can make your enemies angry while staying calm yourself, you gain a decided advantage. Put your enemies off-balance. Find the chink in their vanity though which you can rattle them and you hold the strings.”

Strong emotions will always cloud judgement. By losing your cool in the moment, you show others just how little control you have over yourself. People do not respect those that cannot control themselves. 

“Nothing is as infuriating as a man who keeps his cool while others are losing theirs.”

Law 40: Despise The Free Lunch

“What is offered for free is dangerous.- it usually involves either a trick or a hidden obligation. What has worth is worth paying for. By paying your own way you stay clear of gratitude, guilt, and deceit . It is also often wise to pay the full price- there is no cutting corners with excellence, Be lavish with your money and keep it circulating, for generosity is a sign and magnet for power.”

Unless you are the Pope, you act in your best interest 99.9% of the time. It’s in our nature. You can recall a time where an act of kindness was a favor you intended to cash in later. Do not be on the wrong end of the bargain. 

On the other side of the coin, acting generously can work in your favor. People receive generosity well, and will perceive you favorable. Money buys power over people.

Law 41: Avoid Stepping Into A Great Man’s Shoes

“What happens first always appears better and more original than what comes after, If you succeed a great man or famous parent, you will have to accomplish double their achievements to outshine them. Do not get lost in their shadow, or stuck in a past not of your own making. Establish your own name and identity by changing course. Slay the overbearing father, disparage his legacy, and gain power by shining in your own way.”

Have you ever noticed that those who follow the greats tend to fall short? Look at the son of a famous celebrity. 9/10 he won’t come close to matching his father’s accomplishments.

“The pampered, indulged sons almost always squanders his inheritance, for he does not start with the father’s need to fill a void. Necessity is what impels men into action, and once the necessity is gone, only rot and decay are left.”

“Power depends on appearing larger than other people, and when you are lost in the shadow of the father, the king, the great predecessor, you cannot possibly project such a presence.”

With that being said, you must forge a new path different from the one whose shadow you live in. You will have much more success in differentiating yourself from what is expected through your predecessor. 

Law 42: Strike The Shepherd And The Sheep Will Scatter

Much like removing the head from the snake, trouble in groups is likely led by an individual. If you are able to identify and neutralize their efforts, the trouble will cease to exist. That one individual will infect those around them with their ill will towards your cause. 

You can usually identify the head of the snake through their strong overbearing personality. People tend to congregate around this entity much like our planet around the sun. 

Law 43: Work On The Hearts And Minds Of Others

“Coercion creates a reaction that will eventually work against you. You must seduce others into wanting to move in your direction. A person you babe decided becomes your loyal pawn. And the way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions, playing on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others and they will grow to hate you.”

A cold truth we must all face is that people owe us nothing. The corollary is that we often need other people to accomplish great things. Therefore it is imperative that we are able to persuade and seduce others into furthering our cause. People tend to act out of self interest, so it is wise to figure out how you can help them help you.

Law 44: Disarm and Infuriate with the Mirror Effect

“The mirror reflects reality, but it is also the perfect tool for deception: When you mirror your enemies, doing exactly as they do, they cannot figure out your strategy. The Mirror Effect mocks and humiliates the,, making them overreact. By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values; by holding up a mirror to their actions, you teach them a lesson. Few can resist the power of the Mirror Effect.”

There are 4 subcategories of the Mirror Effect:

  • The Neutralizing Effect: Do as your enemy does. Mimic their actions and they cannot figure your strategy out. All they see is the mirror.
  • The Narcissus Effect: We humans are narcissistic creatures, some much more than others. This category focuses on what the target believes themself to be. You then reflect the qualities they find so important in themselves. Note that this can be done both physically and psychologically. 
  • The Moral Effect: This category plays on the classic taste of your own medicine strategy. By mimicking their behavior towards you, they are forced to deal with the same emotional response that was dealt to you. Often this forces them to be introspective on their behavior and can lead them to feeling ashamed of their actions.
  • The Hallucinatory Effect: This relates to creating a copy of a person, thing, or place. People will assume it to be the real thing. Con artist thrive with this. 

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

“Everyone understands the need for change in the abstract, but on the day-to-day level people are creatures of habit. Too much innovation is traumatic, and will lead to revolt. If you are new to a position of power, or an outside trying to build a power base, make s show of respecting the old way of doing things. If change is necessary, make it feel like a gentle improvement on the past.”

It is natural to resist change. Mostly because it rattles our comfort zone. Change in itself if scary because it is new and unknown. People hate to leave what they know to be comfortable. So to change people you must have a methodic approach. Change too quickly and they will make you pay for it. 

Law 46: Never Appear Too Perfect

“Appearing better than others is always dangerous, but most dangerous of all is to appear to have no faults or weaknesses. Envy creates silent enemies. It is smart to occasionally display defects, and admits to harmless vices, in order to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.”

Don’t be ignorant in thinking that others will admire you for your successes. For at the root of your success is their inferiority. Those who envy will do their best to bring you down to their level. We tend to be overconfident in how we evaluate ourselves, so to see someone clearly better than us spawns resentment. There are 2 rules when it comes to handling those situations:

  1. Accept that there are those who are better than you. Learn to channel your jealously into motivations to surpass them in what you lack.
  2. As you move up in the world, those who were once your equals will resent you for it. Do not believe what they show on the outside, for their truly feelings are not reflected in their smile.

Stay humble. 

Law 47: Do Not Go Past The Mark You Aimed For; In Victory, Learn When to Stop

“The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril. In the heat of victory, arrogance, and overconfidence can push you past the goal you had aimed for, and by going too far, you make more enemies than you defeat. Do not allow success to go to your head. There is no substitute for strategy and careful planning. Set a goal, and when you reach it, stop.”

History is littered with the name of those who did not know when enough was enough. Victory is a drug. A drug that inflates us with a false sense of self. It is easy to fall victim to it, and pay dearly. 

Everything you do must be from a strategic perspective. When you achieve success, take a step back and analyze the situation. Form a plan of how best to proceed. If you do so in haste, it will be a mistake, 

Law 48: Assume Formlessness 

“By taking a shape, by having a visible plan, you open yourself to attack. Instead of taking a form for your enemy to grasp, keep yourself adaptable and on the move. Accept the fact that nothing s certain and no law is fixed. The best way to protect yourself is to be as fluid and formless as water; never bet on stability or lasting order. Everything changes.”

A key element is to never take anything personal. When you do, it is obvious. Those who inflicted it upon you will know that they have found your weakness, and will be sure to exploit it in the future. The ability to adapt to the changes life will throw at you is the key to winning the game. Never assume how things are today will be how they are tomorrow. Hope for the best but always plan for the worst.

That concludes Part 2 of this review of the 48 Laws of Power. It is a book that is a must read for anyone who is serious about changing their life for the better. I did my best to summarize my key takeaways from this, but it is always recommended to read it for yourself so you can extract your own lessons.

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