I am Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, and others -- AMA
Hey Reddit, I’m Robert Greene, author of The 48 Laws of Power, The Art of Seduction, The 33 Strategies of War, and The 50th Law (with 50 Cent).
My new book called Mastery. You can check out the trailer here. In it I examine the lives of past and present masters from Darwin, to Paul Graham, to Mozart and distill what traits they all shared on their path to success.
I did this a few months ago and had a great time, so thought I would come back! I've been keeping up with some threads around here and excited to field your questions. I’ll be around to chat as long as I can.
Ask Me Anything
Edit: Thank you again reddit. I have had another great time and look forward to coming back again. I will do my best to check back later for unanswered questions.
I'm going to be taking chapter 4 in Mastery, the chapter on Social Intelligence and fleshing it out into an entire book. Basically I am going to be identifying the essential elements of human nature so that you will be better armed with knowledge in figuring out the moves and motivations of the people around you.
Hi Robert, it's Ryan. Question: You've turned me and a lot of people onto some very obscure books and historical figures. What's your favorite source for discovering these hidden gems? I know you used to spend a lot of time at the UCLA library.
Hello Ryan. I used to scour UCLA. You're right. A great library. Now, in the era of Amazon, I can find those obscure books by using the UCLA library databank, online, and then ordering them from Amazon. It costs more, but it is a tax write off and I can accumulate an amazing library in my house. (I'm running out of bookshelves.) I am a big believer in cross referencing. In other words, I will come across the name of an historical figure or an idea that is intriguing, somewhat mysterious and obscure, and then using the footnotes or the Internet, I hunt down more information. In Mastery, for instance, I would read a book about the 10,000 hour study, and the book would reference another study that inspired it in the 60s. I would find the obscure book on that previous study, which would include a reference to some really intriguing book written in the 1950s on how the brain functions. That's my method in a nutshell.
I have read your book, The Art of Seduction. Okay, it's a bit manipulative in nature for me but in many ways completely inspiring because now I am aware of people and people's techniques for getting other people to do what he/she wants another to do in an "unobvious" way. Mr. Greene, is there a "happy end" to this manipulative seduction? It seemed that the American actress and the Arabian prince in the book may have enjoyed such -- but on the grand scale? Is there a happy, successful end?
The happy successful end? Why does there have to be a happy successful end? I could say it is marriage, but marriages do not always have happy endings. Life is endless struggle and the best way to approach it is to love the struggle and conflict, the game itself and not get caught up in dreams or illusions of some endless happiness. As I write in the Preface, it all depends on your spirit and attitude. If you take it lightly and not personally, you will find a higher level of fulfillment. If a seduction goes awry or someone manipulates you, as best as possible, a few weeks later you find a way to smile about it and realize you learned a good lesson.
Hello Mr. Greene. I am a young recent graduate who joined a fortune 500 engineering company post college.I was an idealist and pretty gullible.What followed was an year of social ostracism, female manipulation and back stabbing by friends and colleges.Learned my lesson the hard way.Now I am going to start a fresh in either grad school or a new department at my co.I learned a lot from your books.My ques. 1)How do you make yourself indispensable in a large organization? 2)How to enforce boundaries without being confrontational? 3)General guidelines to "immunize" against people who speak ill behind your back to the boss? Thanks.
Thanks everyone for participating in this. To answer the first question here. #1. In your first years at any place, you want to slowly build a rep for someone who gets results, who quietly goes his or her way and does the job efficiently, while observing the power dynamic and the rules of the game. That will secure your position and make you indispensable. Attaching yourself to the right person and making yourself indispensable to him or her is also a good idea. Stop worrying about the immediate political battles, and getting all enmeshed in them. Read chapter two in Mastery about the apprenticeship phase and how to really protect yourself.
Of the contemporary masters, I loved working with them all. They all had their particular positives. Perhaps Paul Graham was my favorite because he's so damned smart and I felt like I was a half step behind his answers.
Art of War, anything by Nietzsche and Gracian, Machiavelli, obviously. Reading a lot right now about psychology and our primitive ancestors to deepen my knowledge of human nature. I'll get back to you in two years when the book is over, on that subject. Personal philosophy? Just hardcore realism, the beauty of what is, and how things are, as opposed to the "how they ought to be." Gender relations in the West—it's complicated.
i like the sound of mastery. what major trends have you noticed between all of them (besides hard work)?
I take it you between the various masters. You need to read the book. The one clear connection is the choice of a field or career to pursue. These are not people who choose fields because their parents say so, or because they can make a lot of money. They feel drawn to particular problems to solve, to some art form, to some puzzle, whatever it is. And because they are deeply personally engaged, they work harder and more intensely. That is the difference between a master and a workaholic—the degree of actual love and desire that goes into the work as opposed to avoiding personal problems through work. I make this chapter one of mastery because it is so important. We now live in a time when you can choose a career that has this kind of personal connection to you. That is the path you want to take.
Yeah but then the world would never have accountants.
There will always be accountants. Don't worry.
How awesome would you be as a cold-caller for a sales department? Does a lot of what you do come face-to-face or can you still do it over the phone?
/cold-caller in a sales department
As am I, would love to hear what Robert has to say to us Inside Sales guys.
I had a fair amount of experience in that kind of job, and the main lesson I learned is to absorb yourself in other people. That means cut off the interior monologue, and the script you've been given. Be alive in the moment and really listen and use your imaginative powers to put yourself in their place—what would seal the deal if you were in their shoes. I got pretty good at that, after much experience.
Need more details here.
Hey Mr. Greene, thanks for taking the time to answer questions. I have read both the 48 Laws and the 50th Law. I was particularly inspired by the final chapter of the latter. Do you think that Seneca's method of visualising different methods of dying is essential to fully realising this truth? I found Kenko's metaphor for the fading grave maker extremely powerful for this purpose, but i'm interested nevertheless to hear of any methods you may have used that proved effective in your capacity. Many thanks, great bard!
The main point is to confront your mortality, however that suits you and your temperament. For most people it is a constant source of avoidance. It is always someone else's death that they think about. I meditate every morning, and often I make myself think of my final day here on the planet, to really visualize it. I visualize it as occurring in the middle of an afternoon, in bright sun. I am saying goodbye to the things I love—people, trees, sounds of birds. This is not out of any morbidity—it makes me focus more intensely on the here and now and to not take for granted a single second.
What advice do you have for a high functioning autistic who is like the real life equivalent of the socially awkward penguin when trying to seduce someone?
Approach it first as a problem to solve. People are like riddles. You need to solve these riddles. So your task is to expose yourself to as many people as possible and try to answer the question, what are they thinking? Be very sensitive to whatever you do that might offend or potentially charm them. Sometimes your awkwardness can work to your advantage if it is natural. The main thing is to go out in the world as much as possible and observe people and your effect on them.
Mr. Greene, I'm a HUMUNGO fan. I've got all books except for 33 Strategies of War. I enjoyed reading things like 50th Law and Mastery. I am about to graduate from college and while I know what I'd like to be doing, I still feel like there's a ton more work that I need to do in other fields to be able to tie them together.
My question for you, and forgive me if it's a redundant question: what of your research was done on neuroplasticity?
A lot of research on neuroplasticity for Mastery. I am not a neuroscientist but as much as possible, I delved into this phenomenon. I think it's key. As I maintain in Mastery, you end up getting the brain you deserve. The brain of a Mozart or Steve Jobs ends up being one that is like a rich ecosystem, full of all kinds of amazing connections. The brain of a druggie slacker is like a desert. It is up to you. The more disciplines you master, the richer the connections you can foster. The art is not spreading yourself too thin, so that nothing profound takes root. But having several degrees in fields that are not necessarily related can be a brilliant strategy. See Yoky Matsuoka in Mastery.
Hi Robert. Thx for writing Mastery. The chapter about social intelligence makes all of the rest come to life. If people hate you, they won't acknowledge your work. How would you deal with being misunderstood?
I'm not sure of the particulars here, but in overall philosophical sense I would have the following approach, one that you should use for almost any social difficulty: what could I possibly be doing that is causing the problem? It is always better to focus first on yourself because that is something you can control and you can bet on the fact that in some way you are responsible for what is happening. Certainly not 100%, or even 50. Maybe only ten, but that ten is a margin to work on. I know that if I write something that becomes misunderstood, it is probably because I did not communicate it well enough. It is probably the same for you. Make your work, your ideas, your brilliance more apparent and clear to others and don't get too caught up in feeling sorry for yourself or blaming others.
Hello mr green what's a good way to transition from being a introvert to becoming more of a extrovert ?? Thanks
The first thing is to not try to be someone you're not. If you're an introvert, come to love that about yourself. There are more extraverts in this world, so you are filling an important role. Second, to make yourself more socially fluid, more extravertish, you want to expose yourself to as many social events as possible. It's really all about practice and habits. Force yourself to go to parties and events that might be a little out of your normal range. People who are alone a lot make themselves awkward. Interact as much as possible.
Read 48 Laws 10 years ago and it was a major paradigm shift in my life. Thank you.
(I know you're very busy, I don't expect you to answer them all, any one you choose to answer would be great)
Are you familiar with Myers-Briggs personality tests and if so do you know your type?
How do you define "hustle"?
Do you believe in God?
If you hadn't collaborated with 50 Cent on 50th Law, what rapper would you have chosen to collaborate with today?
Familiar with the test but not done it. I know that in Jung's typology I would probably fall under the category of the intuitive introvert. Hustle is finding a way to achieve your goals by using the full gamut of possible maneuvers and resources at your disposal, leaving as little to chance. Using everything. I am agnostic. I have deep respect for religions, for their positive aspects. My attitude to religion is very similar to Machiavelli's. Jay–Z, if he would have had me.
We live in an era of Tucker Maxes, Kanye Wests and Machiavelli Moms. Since you have a background in the Classics do you think there will be a big push against egoism, narcissism, and self-aggrandizing behaviour? Do you think there will be a trend towards stoicism, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness? A Kantian push the treats people not as an ends possibly?
I have gone on record for predicting we are heading out of the phase of reality shows and soaking our heads in mindless entertainment. I could be wrong. I am looking twenty years ahead. I think we are moving towards a time in which people are more practical minded and that we celebrate those who get things done, who actually solve problems instead of showboat. I have my reasons for believing this, but I am not Cassandra and I could be wrong.
Hi Robert, nice to see you doing another AMA! I've always been curious about your role as a consultant or personal coach. I'd heard when I first started following your work that you were hired on as a consultant for American Apparel at one point, and yet in the past couple years I've heard that they have been having some difficulties staying afloat. Have you had clients where your advice was overlooked or improperly executed, or are some organizations and people in positions where they can't or won't improve themselves?
American Apparel is doing just fine right now, and not because of my consulting work. I've discovered, after years of working at this, that you can divide people between two types: those who essentially want to hear from you a confirmation of their own ideas, and those who are truly interested in an outsider's perspective. I would say over 75% fit into the first category, with obvious gradations. And so with those types, you have to always phrase your advice in a way that seems to be something they already believe, but that gently diverts them in a possible new direction. It is like giving a cat a pill. You have to think long and hard how to disguise it.
Huge fan here and greatly admire your work! I'm always amazed by your unmatched ability to organize thoughts on paper. What is the #1 tip you can give for "finding your focus"?
Well, I think it has been pretty well established by all kinds of writers, books, studies that we excel at something we like. Many people (most?) don't like the organizational part of a book or project or business. And so they focus more on the affect, the end result, etc. I actually am fascinated by structure and organization, how ideas are connected in a logical pattern. I love patterns. And so because this fascinates me I spend a lot of time on organizing my material. If an idea doesn't seem to fit into the scheme, or my structure seems to not reflect reality, it will drive me crazy. I have to figure it out. But I try to tell people, if they don't share this fascination, to at least see that structure is strategy, and that how you organize a book is worthy of all your creative juices. It can actually be fun.
Hello Mr. Greene ! I am so glad to have this opportunity of interaction with you. I have enjoyed and learned a lot from your books.. I am currently finishing the Mastery book. When I started reading it, I realized that what I really wanted to do was to start my own internet company, not to work for a big corporation. I already made some efforts to get the funding, they were not very successful but for some strange reason I do not feel sad about it. I could say that I feel the equally, if not more, motivated to pursue my dream of creating my company and changing the world with it. Any suggestion or opinion will be greatly appreciated. Will be waiting for your next book on Social Intelligence / Social Engineering. Thanks.
I deal with a lot of people in these circumstances. First, realize that the funding is out there, but you are somehow not positioned to capture it. Why? You could go the route of working with a company, if you have the money, to help build a working model and give funders a better sense of what you are doing. Second, look at it from the funders p.o.v. Are you the best person for realizing this idea? Why you? What's in it for me? It probably needs to be more concrete and thought through. And you have to be more creative with who you approach for the funding and not be a small fish in a big pond. In any event, focus on their perspective and how they might see this. And don't be discouraged. Could you possibly try a beta version on a smaller scale? Can you borrow smaller sums from family? So many things to talk about and not enough time.
Hello Mr Greene, in interviews I’ve found 50 cent to be one of the most intelligent businessmen in hip-hop and music. I really enjoyed reading the book you wrote with him, the 50th Law. As a biologist I look forward to reading about Darwin in Mastery. My questions are:
- How did you come to work with 50 and what was your first meeting like?
- How much input did 50 have in the 50th Law?
50 sought out me, back in 2006. He's a big fan of The 48 Laws and Seduction. We really hit it off, had a minor bromance and decided to write a book together. We are obviously different but had a lot of mutual respect. The first meeting was weird: he was expecting Henry Kissinger and I was expecting Mike Tyson. Neither of us were what the other expected. He is a very nice person who listens and does not feel at all threatening. I loved working with him. His input on the 50th Law was huge. I obviously did most of the writing of the actual words, but many of the ideas, the content, the shape of the book came through a collaborative process. He also gave a lot of important input on the writing itself.
Hi Robert, Thanks for doing this AMA.
One law I always struggle with is Always Say Less Than Necessary. I feel that people like Will Smith are perfect examples of the reversal of this law. Does talking 'lots' and being very social have it's merit? I'm always deliberating on how best to apply this law. Any tips?
For some people, talking a lot can be the right approach. If you're a talk show host speaking less than necessary is not smart. It depends. But you might be confusing persona and mask with power situations. You can bet that in his power moves or in meetings, Will Smith knows how to shut it down when he needs to. I know, because I've been around him in such situations. When he's out in public he can talk like a jaybird because that is part of his seductive persona. It depends on the situation. It's not that you shut up or become suddenly this mute character, but that you get control of the dynamic. When you have to, you talk, but you know when to tone it down if necessary.
Can you recommend a book that talks about deconstruction/analysis? How to read people (beyond body language), break down literature/films, how to think critically??? I don't see this out there much and was wondering if you had any insight! Thank you! Big Fan!!!
I hope you will find my next book to be the ultimate primer on that subject. It's all about deciphering the signs that people emit, or the same for any work of art. How sensitive you are to these signs, and your depth of knowledge to analyze them correctly. I have yet to find the great source book on this, so I will try to write it. I do have some interviews coming up with great poker players, and I want to mine their knowledge for reading people.
Hey Robert, I have read The Art of Seduction, The 50th Law, and have listened to the 48 Laws of Power. Your books have proved enormously helpful in understanding how people work under the surface. Was there a single incident or maybe a couple in your childhood that inspired you to look closer at the workings of social dynamics?
Probably things from my childhood and the nature of my relationship to my parents. A lot of writers come from backgrounds in which they have to be super attentive to their parents, to please them in some way. Maybe it's a bit of a defense mechanism—I have some essential weaknesses and insecurities and being observant is my way of taking back some power. And then, in my 20s, I had the usual share of crappy interactions with narcissistic, power-hungry types and I wanted to learn from them. In general, I find power dynamics endlessly fascinating.
What's the secret to reaching one's full potential: mentally, physically and emotionally? Do you believe in the 10,000 hour rule?
The new book Mastery is really about the 10,000 hours and beyond. What's so brilliant about that study is that it quantifies something we all intuit: after a certain degree of practice and exposure to a field, our minds can shift to a higher gear. We know this if we play the piano or learn chess. Now, it is demonstrated in black and white, for chess players, composers, athletes. And it can be used to explain great feats of thinking and creativity. I tried to show in Mastery how you can use this as a template to explain Mozart and Einstein. And so, if putting in those hours, with much focus and intensity, is the key to mastery, how can you get yourself to travel that far? Well the answer is in chapter one of the book. You have to choose a career, a problem to solve, an art form that really connects with you personally and emotionally, so that in your work, you experience what is known as flow. You don't feel those hours as labor. You are not even aware of the passing time.
"If You Expect The World To Be Fair With You Because You Are Fair, It's Like Expecting The Lion Not To Eat You Because You Don't Eat Him..."
I have read your work and I find it extremely enlightening. However I do struggle with the morals behind using techniques and manipulations to manoeuvre others. While I understand that most others who find themselves in a more favorable position probably won't hesitate to manipulate me, I have a hard time doing it when its the other way around. What are you thoughts on the moral complexities of manipulating others for your own gains?
I have no problems with your dilemma and your personal qualms. I think the purpose of the book for you should be to simply make you aware of how others might behave or manipulate you and how you can protect yourself better. It's about strategy. If you want a raise for your job, you need to have leverage. What gives you that leverage? It depends on the situation. To think that way—about how to have this leverage, how to place yourself in a good negotiating position—is that immoral or ugly? Is it better to just accept what they offer on their terms? That's how I would frame the question.
How did Ryan get the intern gig?
He asked for it. He went on to quickly prove his worth.
I'm a big fan of yours. In one interview you mentioned your research method for your books (with index cards and shoe boxes). Could you provide some more detail on the process of your method?
I read a book, very carefully, writing on the margins with all kinds of notes. A few weeks later I return to the book, and transfer my scribbles on to note cards each card representing an important theme in the book. For instance, in Mastery, the theme of mirror neurons. After going through several dozen books, I might have three hundred cards, and from those cards I see patterns and themes that coalesce into hardcore chapters. I can then thumb through the cards and move them around at will. For many reasons I find this an incredible way to shape a book.
Ah--found it! Still curious about the colors, but I guess the obvious answer is that they would represent categories, topics, and the like. :)
The colors represent categories, you are correct. So, for instance, with the War book, blue cards would be about politics, yellow strictly war, green the arts and entertainment, pink cards on strategy, etc. I could use this in several ways. I could glance at the cards for one chapter and see no blue or green cards and realize a problem. I could also take out all the cards of one color to see which story I liked best, etc. It also made the shoebox look pretty cool.
How do you respond to critics that say The 48 Laws of Power in essence teaches you how to be a snake?
Learn how to work with enemies. Never Outshine the Master. Plan all the way to the end. Create compelling spectacles. Win their hearts and minds. In victory know when to stop. Disdain things you cannot have. I could go on. Well over half the laws are basic common sense and wisdom and have nothing snakey about them. So is there something manipulative and snakish on the part of those who only hone in on the laws that stand out? They read into the book and see what they want to see. The snakes of the world don't need The 48 Laws. They're naturally good at being assholes. The 48 Laws is mostly for those of us who are somewhat naive.
Robert Greene AMA I only recently started reading your work (actually, it was after I saw your last AMA) and since then have read your entire work. I can't count how many times it's helped me recognize power moves (which are especially prominent in high school) and the like and be able to react appropriately. I do have a few questions having read all of your books:
You've covered most of the realm of social dynamics with your books on power, seduction, war, and mastery. Do you have any idea what your next project(s) will be? Where do you go from here?
It seems that there are contradictory strategies in your work. Do you feel that all of your strategies work together as a social machine per se, or do you feel they are applicable at different times?
Do you see the decline of the PUA movement as an affirmation in your principles and a rejection of theirs as a fad, or do you see their techniques as one, single-minded use of your advice, which is becoming less effective with repetition, which goes against your advice of treating each target as unique?
Do you have any advice for someone in my position, as a high school student at a select-admissions high school, which means I am daily in an environment with other very intelligent, ambitious, egotistical, and, to various degrees, megalomaniacal hormonal teenagers? Are there different laws for those thrust into a position like this at an early, inexperienced age? Which laws should I pay most attention to? What books would you suggest for someone of my age/environment?
Thanks for doing another AMA.
I believe I already answered number 1 (see above somewhere). They are not contradictory but situational. (#2 here). Sometimes you are in a position in which you need to court attention at all cost, and at other moments you need to Use Absence. No single law could possibly cover all of the circumstances we humans face. I hope this isn't a cop out on my part. I try to make these laws nuanced and lifelike. As for #3, I don't really know enough to answer. I do know one thing: here in Los Angeles, so many women have had PUA tactics used on them, that these tactics are not only useless but counterproductive. It's like fighting an enemy that already knows your plans. These women tell me they can detect PUA stuff within minutes. I find it amusing. As for #4, try to resist the conformist dynamic, particularly when it comes to choosing a career. Be comfortable with whatever makes you unique and even weird. In this instance, I would read Mastery and chapter one. It's great to be ambitious, but be ambitious towards something that suits and excites you.
Huge fan of yours. I actually wrote my senior thesis in philosophy on Nietzsche in the business world and how I believe it is inherent in humanity to appeal to self interest and power hunger in order to accomplish self established goals. Anyway my question is simple; as a 23 year old in a sales position in a new city (Boston) and with a small nest egg at the moment how do I go about joining the power ranks of my local society? Do I join a fraternal group such as the masons? Just try and socialize more with powerful people? I'm interested in the overall accumulation of power/status to achieve wealth and success. Any tips you can give to a young man like myself would be great.
At your young age, I would take it a little slowly. Consolidate a reputation as someone who has skills and knowledge, a serious person to be reckoned with. Not a clownish charmer. I would then identify a possible mentor or mentors to ally yourself with and to really impress this small group of people. You want them to see you as a man (?) with a future, someone to watch in the coming years. Give them space to see this and have them spread the word about your incredible potential.
Is your cat really that good of a hunter?
He used to be Kobe Bryant in his prime, but now he is more like Kobe in the latter stages of his career.
How will you make your social intelligence book different from David Brook's Social Animal or Daniel Goleman's Social Intelligence?
It will be inherently different, because I am different. I have a very definite perspective that I do not believe is shared by those authors. And my research will be much different. There might be some convergence. About 10% of the time I actually find myself agreeing with David Brooks's columns for the NYT.
Hi Mr Greene, first of all. Your books have been a life changer for me, thanks to your books (especially the 50th law) I undertook a "bold action" and ran 1,300 miles from Canterbury to Rome in 58 days for Charity!
My question to you is this, what are your opinions today towards the "self help" culture? I find your books refreshing and inspiring, but realistic towards the modern, competitive world we live in. Some authors have made millions from giving, quite frankly bad advice based on a utopian view of human nature
My philosophy on this front is whatever works is okay. So if there is a book out there that really helps you, but its advice is not what I give, then I have no problem with people going with what works. I just feel that many of these books have a snappy title, a smooth cover, an interesting idea that is front loaded in chapter one, and very little else to it. They are written quickly, to make a buck. They are not thinking deeply about the subject at hand. And so you fork out 10 to $20 for these books and it doesn't alter your life one bit. And many of these books are needlessly pollyanish because they think that's what people want to hear. They want to hear about cooperation and respecting everyone, and being positive. That's not the reality of the work world. Please, at least describe the world we all live in, before you try to tell me what to do.
Hi Robert, was wondering which of the 48 Laws you feel you have mastered best.
It fades in and out, depending on the period in my life. I like to think I plan all the way to the end. I usually have an endgame in sight. I try to be as formless as possible. I generally despise the free lunch. And I disdain the things I cannot have. Those are the laws that come immediately to mind.
Hello Mr. Greene. I have read your Laws of Power as part of my studies at Full Sail University (Masters Business Entertainment). I am creating a new company where I am attempting to cultivate new clients in regards to my various services and products. What I have discovered is that the first level of commitment is possible. What I am also discovering is that the actual actions taken by these perspective clients sometimes wanes. I can't help but think that I am missing something in my reading of your text. Can you advise?
Look deeply at the chapters on making people dependent on you and the other one on appealing to people's self interest. I would also recommend looking at the new book. Something about your pitch or idea is not resonating, is not hooking people. You have surface interest, but no one feels the deep need for what you are offering. This is possibly a reflection of your own approach and personality. You have to think it through more fully. They are not wrong, the public; you are. You need more feedback from them, and a better sense of why this is happening. Are you getting such feedback? I would also advise The 50th Law, chapter 7 I believe.
Boris died in 2000. His successor, Brutus, is alive and well and hunting birds.
As both an avid reader and film fanatic I'm curious as to what your favorite movies are (perhaps even your favorite movies about Power). And are there any film directors that you particularly like?
I'm a little old school. I lately went on this kick of samurai movies. I love samurai movies. Kurosawa's are the best, the Musashi trilogy is excellent and there are other directors in that genre as well. I also like gangster films from the 50s and 60s. For power dynamics those are my favorites. I also really like David Mamet, and his film House of Cards is a favorite.
Thank you for this AMA. I've read "48 Laws of Power" countless times and it's my favorite book. I always considered it more of a book on reading people than a political book and it has helped me gain so much insight into small power plays people do every day. My question is:
If you could choose any 3 laws of power over the rest, which would you choose and why?
Learn to Keep People Dependent on You. Appeal to People's Self Interest. Plan All the Way to the End. Follow those three religiously and you cannot fail to succeed. (Somehow that sounds odd—you cannot fail to succeed?)
Great fan Mr. Greene!! I find its hard to detach oneself from emotions often. What would you tell such a person? I've implemented your strategies to great results but there's that one person now and then that I get hopelessly attached to.
It's a misunderstanding if you have the idea that I advocate an emotionless approach to power or the world. You need that fire from within to be great at your work and to seduce people. It's all about degree. For instance, let's quantify it. Let's say you have a disagreement with someone and it eats away at you, more than it should. Your tendency is to shoot off an angry/upset email or call them. I don't advocate stifling that emotion and never writing, but instead to wait 24 hours, and if that is not possible, then 12 hours. If you manage that, you feel a sense of control and power. You realize how the time passing altered your perspective. Now you can use this strategy more often. Baby steps towards a degree of self–control.
Are you testing any laws while doing this IAMA?
I'm always testing.
What was it like working with 50 Cent?
Pretty great. I saw a lot of interesting stuff—at his house, in Vegas, at work, on the phone seducing some actress, etc. He opened himself up and gave me full access. Most of all, I enjoyed our conversations which could be several hours long and quite philosophical.
Can u write a book on dating and relationships for men on figuring out women ??
It would take up the next 20 years of my life and even then I am not sure I would figure this out. I think to "figure out women" would ruin the whole dynamic anyway. I'm all for mystery.
What is the best way for a person to confront and move past his or her fear of failure?
I know that you have mentioned this in your work multiple times and for that, i'm sorry to ask you to repeat yourself. However, I'm still trying to learn your lessons and I think this is what I need to learn the most in order to put the rest into motion.
A good question. A lot of people have a great fear of failure and are not aware how this is affecting so many of their choices. Just as simply, they can also be afraid of success, and Freud had a lot of things to say on that score. Just like with any fear—the advanced thought is much greater than the reality. First, a little fear of failure, a manageable fear is fine. It can fuel you to make something better. I use such fear. The fear is crippling if it prevents you from actually trying out an idea, writing that book, starting that business. If you have this latter fear, you need to seriously overcome it by trying to do something on a small scale, and welcoming the criticism or any possible failure. You have to embrace the possibility of failure. Anybody who has succeeded at anything in this world has failed a number of times. That is how they learn. You want to fail, you need to fail. You've got to put yourself out there with that mindset, and it will change a lot of how you act in the world. Obviously there is much more to say on this subject.
Mr. Greene, first off, big fan. I got my best friend 48 Laws for his birthday, and get got me the 50th Law for my birthday. My question is about chapter 2 in the 50th Law. You and 50 emphasize self-reliance and are insistent on the need to ultimately work for yourself. How does that principle work for someone who works in the public sector (say military or diplomacy-both excellent paths to power)? By definition you're working for someone else and beholden to them. What would your advice be in that situation?
It's a delicate balance. On the one hand you can't seem to be all out for yourself and it's good to be a team player and for others to feel like they can trust you. On the other hand, the loyalty must go two ways, and for most companies or organizations it does not. So you have to be realistic. More likely, you are a cog in their machine in the long run. They will get rid of you when you are no longer such cheap labor, so young and enthusiastic. They will downsize you at a moment's notice or cut your health benefits. Be aware of this and plan ahead. Ultimately you cannot depend on the company to take care of you; you don't want to have such feelings of dependence. You play along, you work hard, you do your job, but in the back of your mind you're aware of the game and how you have to prepare for when the day you're on your own.
Mr Greene, I have read all of your book up to Mastery--which I am halfway through now. These are textbooks for the real world. I really appreciate the long hours and thought you put into each one.
What TV shows and movies do you feel offer good examples of the sorts of lessons that you've written about. For instance, House of Cards contains many elements of Power and War. Curious if you'd share your list of good media to use as case studies.
Thanks for doing this AMA!
I don't have a lot of time for watching television. I saw one episode of House of Cards and it seemed somewhat relevant to The 48 Laws, but a little facile. I have watched more of The Game of Thrones and that seems more clearly a reflection of what I write about. I'll have to give this more thought.
I am going to take an MBA course soon. Which book of yours should I read?
The 48 Laws, and Mastery, in whichever order you prefer.
Hey Robert. Big fan. I was wondering which of your books was the most fun for you to research and write?
The Art of Seduction.
I'm so excited and feel so enlightened thanks to your laws of power. It helped me a lot in my life. I always had one question in mind - sharing such sacramental knowledge and thoughts which, in right hands, can help someone do revolutionary reforms in society can be counted as bad step (according to your laws). Generally speaking, sharing your laws of power with public is already infraction of the law. How do you feel about that, what do you think of it Mr Greene?
I believe in the free sharing of ideas, with as little barriers as possible. I hate the old world with its tidy categories and its inherent elitism. I love the idea of sharing the dirty little secrets about power with the whole wide world. Perhaps I have violated my own laws, as you point out.
What is your opinion on Nassim Taleb. His philosophical treatises Anti-fragile, Black Swan and Fooled by randomness have Montaigne, Seneca and Nietzche written all over them.
I need to read Nassim Taleb. Sad to say I have not read anything yet. I hear great things about his work.
I skimmed Laws of Power and know a few who read it.
I'm no psychology buff, but I can't help wondering if most of the people who read that book are aggressive narcissist control-freaks who intend to use the information to live out some grandiose fantasy of malevolently manipulating other people. 1 Would you say that some of, or even a majority of, Laws of Power's readers are like this? 2 If so, would reading the book be good for their psyche and 3 would you say that Laws of Power had a net positive or net negative effect on the world in terms of morality?
I don't mean to be rude. This kind of thing bothers me. Is that normal or am I crazy?
With over 14 years of anecdotal evidence I would say most readers do not fit your categorization of them. They are mostly the more naive types who want to understand power better. They write to tell me how the book has helped them deal with tyrannical bosses, scheming colleagues, impossible partners, etc. Of course, as I mentioned, this is anecdotal.
Facebook seems to me to be rather irrelevant to Law #18. In fact, burying yourself too deeply into social media can actually become a kind of fortress. You need real life interactions (non virtual) with as many people as possible, with all of the connections that will lead to. Facebook is a false world, a false reality. The point of Law #18 is to connect as deeply as possible to what is happening on the streets. There could be some value to what you glean from social media, but we are human animals that actually thrive on face to face encounters. Too many shy people are using Facebook as a screen to avoid the trickier aspects of social life. If you had a choice, I would always opt for spending the time meeting with people face to face, even if it narrows the numbers.
I greatly enjoy your books, especially the fact that you draw on such a variety of historical sources. Do you make a conscious effort to use Chinese and eastern histories, or is this simply a product of your own interests?
I find myself, in many ways, closer in spirit to the Asian way of thinking when it comes to strategy, or even in just life philosophy. So I am drawn to the classics on the subject, etc. I wish I could read some of these books in their original language. When I worked on my WAR book, I relied heavily on Sun–tzu, and I went deeply into a version of a book that explained as many of the Chinese characters as possible and I realized that our knowledge of Sun–tzu here in the west is very superficial and highly dependent on one–dimensional translations.
Hey Mr. Greene, I'm a huge fan of your books!
Is there a particular law, or laws, in the 48 Laws of Power that you choose to not abide by?
Thanks for choosing to do this AMA on my bday!!
Happy Birthday!!!! I don't crush my enemies totally. I don't really have any overt enemies, but I would not crush them. That would probably be the one law I don't abide by, but that law is not really for individuals. Also, I don't practice law #7, because I had that done to me too many times and it doesn't appeal to me, for whatever reason.
Hey Robert, you're books have helped me in so many ways. I've had alot of success in my field at such a young age, and recently decided to go off on my own and seek out a new mentor. I guess my question is, at what point is it ok to move on to the next mentor. Or better yet, is it better to diversify with many mentors for specific or to just have one solid mentor that can cover many areas? And what did you do in the beginning of your career as far as initiative, what was motivating you to just get started?
In Mastery I describe this in detail. You know, you have a sense of having reached the point where you have learned as much as you can from this person. Perhaps this goes with a little less respect of him or her. Then it is time to move on. But you must also be careful: having mentors can become a crutch. At some point you want to surpass your masters. You are ready to step out of their shadow. If you're afraid of this, you will unconsciously hold on to the Mentor relationship. Having a group of mentors can be good early on in your career, if you cannot find that one perfect mentor. (One is always better than a group.) But you should be thinking more about asserting yourself. Perhaps you have reached that point. As for me, I always wanted to be a writer, so I tried my hand at various forms of writing (journalism, screenplays), but never finding the right fit. The important thing is that during those wandering years I developed skills and discipline in both writing and research, so that when I had the chance to write books, I could pull it off. I was frustrated and my frustration fueled me to keep searching.
Thank you so much for doing this AMA, I really enjoyed your books, particularly the stories in the margins. In my work I have taken the role of the Natural and adapted it a bit but once in a while I get blind-sided by different coworkers who are more manipulative than me. That sort of thing doesn’t come easily to me and I was wondering what your advice would be?
The best overall strategy is to gain some detachment. To not get embroiled in the emotional back and forth, so that you can observe their moves, maybe even anticipate them. By not getting upset or entangled, you will be able to think straight. Nine times out of ten you will probably decide to ignore what they're up to—not worth the bother. Pick your battles carefully.
You've tackled power relations, conflict strategies, relational influences, and the honing of skills.
What are you planning to tackle next? Hopefully, you won't be giving up the pen anytime soon.
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