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48 LAWS OF POWER - Summary from book of ethical manipulation

Robert Greene is a highly successful American author. His books primarily focus on strategy, power, and seduction.

Many of his ideas are supported by Zen Buddhist principles, as he is a student of Zen Buddhism. He is currently the author of six international bestsellers.

Greene attended the University of California, Berkeley after growing up in Los Angeles. He then earned a B.A. in ancient studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison to finish his education.

Greene claims that he held 80 jobs before becoming a novelist, including those of a construction worker, translator, magazine editor, and Hollywood screenwriter. Greene met book packager Joost Elffers while working as a writer at Fabrica, an art and media school in Italy, in 1995.

Greene prepared a script for "The 48 Laws of Power," a book about power that he pitched to Elffers.

Some of the world’s most powerful individuals have praised Robert Greene’s The 48 Laws of Power. This article gives optimal techniques for establishing power and influence in any situation. It shows you how to gain this power ethically.

Many of Greene’s readers and critics agree that Machiavelli’s laws resemble Greene’s. Except that the latter uses real-life examples to demonstrate the laws. In addition, he employs philosophical quotations to elucidate his ideas.

Let's read the 48 laws of power summary below which has all key ideas from books.

48 laws of power
48 laws of power

48 Laws of Power Summary

Key Idea 1 Get people to rely on

Many people think that building relationships with strong supervisors is essential to having an impact at work. Greene suggests that you avoid it.

The ruthless employer will simply fire you and hire a replacement if you make a mistake. Instead, he proposes a novel notion. Select a weak boss, then make them depend on you until you are their only source of support. Make him so entangled in your destiny that he finds it difficult to get away of you. Be the sole person capable of doing what you do to accomplish this.

Many of the great condottiere of Renaissance Italy fought valiantly for their lords in the 14th century only to be exiled, imprisoned, or dead.

Not being appreciative was not the problem. It was the reality that there were so many people who were equally capable and brave. They are easily replaceable. Nothing was lost by killing them.

When you get people to rely on you, you completely control the circumstance.

Controlling others is easier when they are entirely dependent on you. Hence, never, ever educate your subordinates so much that they become self-sufficient.

Key Idea 2 With so much at stake in your reputation, it’s worth protecting it with your life

A person's reputation is crucial for authority. You can intimidate someone and prevail only on the strength of your reputation.

Possessing a positive reputation may increase your power and prevent prospective adversaries from learning your true identity. Without expending much energy, it increases your presence and your strengths.

But if you damage that reputation, you'll be vulnerable to attacks from all directions.

Build a solid reputation for yourself. Keep an eye out for potential hazards and neutralize them before they materialize, the author suggests.

You have to build your reputation as an authority figure from scratch as a young professional. You have the opportunity to prove that you are dependable, well-organized, and diligent.

However, a single error could damage your reputation.

If you drink too much, you could seem foolish on just one night out. Your reputation could suffer if you arrive at an important meeting unprepared or late.

What you want to be recognized for and how you want to safeguard that image are two different things.

Key Idea 3 Always keep your intentions a secret

Disclosing your real intent is rarely advantageous. Others may disagree with you or, even worse, believe that your aims are contrary to their own, resulting in a severe confrontation.

Make use of the tendency for people to believe what they see. To mislead your intended audience, utilize red herrings and decoys. By isolating oneself from the outside world, you cannot conceal your genuine motives. Instead, go on and on about them—just not the ones you want to go after. Since you come out as amiable, approachable, and trustworthy, it will be tough for your enemies to pin you down.

Use smoke screens to mask your actions. One thing at a time is all anyone can concentrate on. They are unable to tell that the person they are speaking to is developing a different plan of action.

People will think you are nice and honest if you keep your motivations a secret. They will be misled by it. When they discover what you're doing, it'll be too late. Furthermore, people are more likely to trust you if you are unassuming and bland since they believe the predictable.

Key Idea 4 Don’t appear to be without flaws

Being perceived as superior to others is never safe. To appear overly perfect, though, is the most dangerous of all. Only the dead and gods are flawlessly perfect.

One becomes more scrutinized the more they try to "appear" perfect. Disappointment and pressure could follow. In a job interview, it's most probable that you'll be questioned about your shortcomings. The response "none" is untrue. The best course of action is to openly admit your flaws in minor areas.

As you develop power, you will unavoidably come into the spotlight. You shouldn't take credit for everything, according to the book. Act instead in a way that makes your success seem "attainable" to your "audience."

Envy produces insidious foes.Others will become excessively praiseworthy or hypocritical as a result of this envy, which are both warning indications of oncoming doom.It's a good idea to occasionally show your weaknesses and confess to harmless vices.You can claim that luck or other factors played a part in your success.This avoids jealousy and gives you a more friendly and human appearance.

The biblical character Joseph serves as an illustration of someone to whom this idea might apply. Jealousy was aroused when he revealed his fantasy to his brothers. Not quite a "accomplishment," it wasn't yet. Thoughts of achievement nearly cost him his life, though, as his siblings were already jealous of him.

Key Idea 5 Don’t commit to anyone

Never pledge allegiance to a cause or side other than your own. By maintaining your independence, you maintain control since other people will vie for your attention. Alternatively, you may pit the opposing factions against one another.

You lose all control over people if you allow them to believe they possess you in any way. In contrast, they will strive even harder to win you over if you do not commit your feelings. Keep your distance, and you’ll acquire the power that comes with their undivided focus and unsatisfied need. Not scaring them off or giving the impression that you can't commit is the goal. You need to get people talking, grab their attention, and intrigue them with the idea of possessing you.

Moreover, stay away from pointless disputes. Show some curiosity while letting others battle as you stand by and take it all in. Starting a conflict between two organizations in order to gain power by mediating it is a popular tactic.

Key Idea 6 It’s better to speak less than you need to

Don't try to impress others with your words. Your appearance of familiarity and lack of control increase as you speak more. Make your statement ambiguous, open-ended, and sphinx-like even if it is dull.

By talking less, powerful individuals impress and terrify others. The more you speak, the more susceptible you are to making a mistake.

  • People are irritated by silence and will jump in to fill it anxiously.

  • Saying less helps you look more sophisticated and mysterious in general.

  • Never use sarcasm; it rarely serves a purpose.

  • By staying mute, you risk arousing suspicion or anxiety. At times, blending in could be aided by playing the jester.

Key Idea 7 Associating with sad and unlucky individuals is one of the simplest ways to destroy oneself

It may sound harsh, but that's the reality. As much as they would like you to believe so, such people are generally not random victims. Instead, they are actively (and often subtly) seeking to bring disaster onto themselves and others.

Remember that even if someone doesn’t mean to drag others into the muck with them, their emotions, mindsets, and beliefs are contagious. The more you are exposed to such people, the more likely you will become collateral damage.

Don't try to explain yourself, aid them, or argue with them. Don’t even pass them off to pals if you feel you’re related to an “infector,” as Greene puts them. Immediately cut your connections and get out of there. Anything less puts you in serious danger of becoming caught up in their problems.

There’s also an apparent corollary here. Spend as much time as possible with people who make you happy with their wit, achievement, and knowledge. Allow their positive traits to "infect" you and improve your mood.

Key Idea 8 Always appeal to people’s self-interest rather than their mercy or appreciation.

Asking for aid is an art that requires you to understand the other person and not mistake your requirements with theirs. Even the most prominent figure has desires, and that if you don’t appeal to them, he will dismiss you as pathetic or a waste of time.

Nobody will hear your cries for help while you plead and scream. They are just disinterested in supporting you due to their own issues and interests.

If you desire anything from someone, appeal to their self-interest. Think on what people actually desire. Know what will satisfy their needs or achieve their goals. If you can provide it to them, they will do whatever you wish as long as the carrot is dangled. Attempting to evoke emotions of guilt in them by bringing up the past is a strategy that will always backfire.

Greene, meanwhile, cautions that in some instances, appealing to someone’s feeling of generosity instead of their greed is preferable. Hence, you must determine the kind of individual you are interacting with. You should not appeal to their avarice if they wish to be kind and like assisting you for whatever reason (pride or vanity). If they don’t care about seeming charitable and simply care about themselves, you must play to their avarice rather than their generosity.

Key Idea 9 When trying to outsmart your opponents, gather as much information as you can

To outsmart your adversary, you’ll need to befriend them. You may learn about their weaknesses, aspirations, and desires while affecting their decisions.

While recruiting informants is one method of gathering information, it is perilous. How do you know whether they are a double agent and the information is reliable? As a result, being your own spy is preferable. By acting unexpectedly, you can get an advantage over your rival. It will leave them puzzled and trailing behind while they try to figure out your plan.

Key Idea 10 Isolation is harmful, so don’t create fortresses to protect oneself

Don’t venture inside your thoughts alone; it’s a scary area.

Whether introverted or not, isolation will cause you to create a blurry vision on your own. We all need other people’s viewpoints, even if they are erroneous. Other points of view will aid in developing your own vision.

WARNING! A pressure to remove friends and relatives from your life is an attempt to get greater influence over you.

A trustworthy community can keep you sane during the grind. It also serves as a helpful sounding board.

It’s unusual, if not impossible, for someone striving to do something to get everything perfect on the first try. Mistakes will inevitably occur. But having confidantes may assist you in getting out of your thoughts and back into action. It is a virtue to be resilient.

The 48 Laws of Power Summary Quotes

Law 1: Never Outshine the Master

Always make those above you feel comfortably superior. In your desire to please or impress them, do not go too far in displaying your talents. If you do, you might accomplish the opposite – inspire fear and insecurity. Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are, and you will attain the heights of power.

Law 2: Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends; Learn How to Use Enemies

Be wary of your friends. Friends will often betray you more quickly, for they are more easily aroused by envy. Friends can also become spoiled and tyrannical. Therefore, hire a former enemy This former enemy will be more loyal than a friend because he has more to prove. In fact, you have more to fear from friends than from enemies. If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

Law 3: Conceal Your Intentions

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them far enough down the wrong path, envelop them in enough smoke. Then, by the time they realize your intentions, it will be too late.

Law 4: Always Say Less Than Necessary

When you are trying to impress people with words you should limit your words. The more you say, the less you seem in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will appear original if you make it vague and open-ended. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say, the more likely you are to say something foolish.

Law 5: So Much Depends on Reputation – Guard it With Your Life

Reputation is the cornerstone of power. Through reputation alone, you can intimidate and win. Despite this, once you slip you are vulnerable and will be attacked on all sides. Make your reputation unassailable. Always be alert to potential attacks and thwart them before they happen. Meanwhile, learn to destroy your enemies by opening holes in their own reputations. Then, stand aside and let public opinion hang them.

Law 6: Court Attention at All Costs

Everything is judged by its appearance; what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd or buried in oblivion. Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all costs. Make yourself a magnet of attention by appearing larger, more colorful, and more mysterious.

Law 7: Get Others to Do the Work For You, But Always Take the Credit

Use the wisdom, knowledge, and legwork of other people to further your own cause. Not only will such assistance save you valuable time and energy, but it will also give you a godlike aura of efficiency and speed. In the end, your helpers will be forgotten, and you will be remembered. Never do yourself what others can do for you.

Law 8: Make Other People Come to You – Use Bait if Necessary

When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. It is always better to make your opponent come to you, abandoning his own plans in the process. Lure him with remarkable gains – then attack. You hold the cards.

Law 9: Win Through Your Actions, Never Through Argument

Any momentary triumph you think is gained through argument is not worthwhile. The resentment and ill will you stir up is stronger and lasts longer than any momentary opinion change. It is much more powerful to get others to agree with you through your actions without saying a word. Demonstrate, do not explicate.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the Unhappy and Unlucky

You can die from someone else’s misery – emotional states are as infectious as disease. You may feel you are helping the drowning man, but you are only precipitating your own disaster. The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves; they will also draw it on you—associate with the happy and fortunate instead.

Law 11: Learn to Keep People Dependent on You

To maintain your independence, you must always be needed and wanted. The more you are relied on, the more freedom you have. Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity, and you have nothing to fear. Never teach them enough so that they can do without you.

Law 12: Use Selective Honesty and Generosity to Disarm Your Victim

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones. Open-hearted gestures of honesty and generosity bring down the guard of even the most suspicious people. Once your selective honesty opens a hole in their armor, you can deceive and manipulate them at will. A timely gift – a Trojan horse – will serve the same purpose.

Law 13: When Asking for Help, Appeal to People’s Self-Interest, Never to Their Mercy or Gratitude

If you need to turn to an ally for help, do not bother reminding them of your past assistance and good deeds. They will find a way to ignore you. Instead, uncover something in your request, or in your alliance, that will benefit them. Emphasize it out of all proportion. They will respond enthusiastically when they see something to be gained for themselves.

Law 14: Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy

Knowing about your rival is critical. Use spies to gather valuable information that will keep you a step ahead. Better still: Play the spy yourself. In polite social encounters, learn to probe. Ask indirect questions to get people to reveal their weaknesses and intentions. There is no occasion that is not an opportunity for artful spying.

Law 15: Crush Your Enemy Totally

All great leaders since Moses have known that a feared enemy must be crushed completely. If one ember is left alight, no matter how dimly it smolders, a fire will eventually break out. More is lost by stopping halfway than through total annihilation: The enemy will recover and seek revenge. Crush him, not only in body but in spirit.

Law 16: Use Absence to Increase Respect and Honor

Too much circulation makes the price go down: The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear. If you are already established in a group, temporary withdrawal from it will make you more talked about and more admired. You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

Law 17: Keep Others in Suspended Terror: Cultivate an Air of Unpredictability

Humans are creatures of habit with an insatiable need to see familiarity in other people’s actions. Your predictability gives them a sense of control. Turn the tables: Be deliberately unpredictable. Behavior that seems to have no consistency or purpose will keep them off-balance, and they will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves. Taken to an extreme, this strategy can intimidate and terrorize.

Law 18: Do Not Build Fortresses to Protect Yourself – Isolation Is Dangerous

The world is dangerous, and enemies are everywhere – everyone must protect themselves. A fortress seems the safest. However, isolation exposes you to more dangers than it protects you from. Fortresses cut you off from valuable information, make you conspicuous, and are an easy target. It is better to circulate among people, find allies, and mingle. You are shielded from your enemies by the crowd.

Law 19: Know Who You’re Dealing With – Do Not Offend the Wrong Person

“Never assume that the person you are dealing with is weaker or less important than you are. Some people are slow to take offense, which may make you misjudge the thickness of their skin, and fail to worry about insulting them. But should you offend their honor and their pride, they will overwhelm you with a violence that seems sudden and extreme given their slowness to anger. If you want to turn people down, it is best to do so politely and respectfully, even if you feel their request is impudent or their offer ridiculous.” – Robert Greene

There are many kinds of people globally, and you can never assume everyone will react to your strategies in the same way. Deceive or outmaneuver some people, and they will spend the rest of their lives seeking revenge. They are wolves in lambs’ clothing. Choose your victims and opponents carefully – never offend or deceive the wrong person.

Law 20: Do Not Commit to Anyone

It is the fool who always rushes to take sides. Do not commit to any side or cause but yourself. By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others. Play people against one another and make them pursue you.

Law 21: Play a Sucker to Catch a Sucker – Seem Dumber Than Your Mark

No one likes feeling less intelligent than the next person. The trick, then, is to make your victims feel smart – and not just smart, but smarter than you are. Once convinced of this, they will never suspect you may have ulterior motives.

Law 22: Use the Surrender Tactic: Transform Weakness Into Power

When you are weaker, never fight for honor’s sake; choose surrender instead. Surrender gives you time to recover, time to torment and irritate your conqueror, and time to wait for his power to wane. Do not give him the satisfaction of fighting and defeating you – surrender first. By turning the other cheek, you infuriate and unsettle him. Make surrender a tool of power.

Law 23: Concentrate Your Forces

Conserve your forces and energies by keeping them concentrated at their strongest point. You gain more by finding a rich mine and mining it deeper than by flitting from one shallow mine to another. Intensity defeats extensity every time. When looking for power sources to elevate you, find the one key patron. Find the fat cow who will give you milk for a long time to come.

Law 24: Play the Perfect Courtier

The perfect courtier thrives in a world where everything revolves around power and political dexterity. He has mastered the art of indirection. He flatters, yields to superiors, and asserts power over others in the most oblique and graceful manner. Learn and apply the laws of courtiership, and there will be no limit to how far you can rise in the court.

Law 25: Recreate 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 letting others define it for you. Incorporate dramatic devices into your public gestures and actions – your power will be enhanced, and your character will appear larger than life.

Law 26: Keep Your Hands Clean

You must seem a paragon of civility and efficiency. Your hands should never be soiled by mistakes and nasty deeds. Maintain this spotless appearance by using others as scapegoats and cat’s-paws to disguise your involvement.

Law 27: Play on People’s Need 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 and a new faith to follow. Keep your words vague but full of promise. Emphasize enthusiasm over rationality and clear thinking. Give your new disciples rituals to perform and ask them to make sacrifices on your behalf. Your new belief system will bring you untold power in the absence of organized religion and grand causes.

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 your execution. Timidity is dangerous: Better to enter with boldness. Any mistakes you commit through audacity are easily corrected with more audacity. Everyone admires the bold; no one honors the timid.” – Robert Greene

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

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 fortune. 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.

Law 30: Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless

“When you show yourself to the world and display your talents, you naturally stir all kinds of resentment, envy, and other manifestations of insecurity… you cannot spend your life worrying about the petty feelings of others” – Robert Greene

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

Law 31: Control the Options: Get Others to Play With the Cards You Deal With

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 two evils, both of which serve your purpose.

Law 32: Play to People’s Fantasies

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 are like oases in the desert: Everyone flocks to them. There is tremendous power in tapping into the fantasies of the masses.

Law 33: Discover Each Man’s Thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness. Greene calls this a gap in the castle wall. That weakness is usually an insecurity or an uncontrollable emotion or need. Additionally, it can also be a small secret pleasure. Either way, once found, it is a thumbscrew you can turn to your advantage.

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. 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.

Law 35: Master the Art of Timing

Never appear in a hurry – hurrying betrays insufficient control over yourself, and over time. Always seem patient, as if you know that everything will come to you eventually. Become a detective of the right moment. Sniff out the spirit of the times and the trends that will carry you to power. Learn to stand back when the time is not yet ripe and to strike fiercely when it has reached fruition.

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. A minor mistake is often made worse and more 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.

Law 37: Create Compelling Spectacles

Striking imagery and grand symbolic gestures create the aura of power – everyone responds to them. Stage spectacles for those around you, full of arresting visuals and radiant symbols that heighten your presence. Dazzled by appearances, no one will notice what you are really doing.

Law 38: Think as You Like but Behave Like Others

Make a show of going against the times. Flaunt 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. Only share your originality with tolerant friends and those who are sure to appreciate your uniqueness.

Law 39: Stir Up Waters to Catch Fish

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

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 a magnet for power.

Law 41: Avoid Stepping into a Great Man’s Shoes

What happens first always appears more original than what comes after. If you succeed a great man or have a 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.

Law 42: Strike the Shepherd and the Sheep Will Scatter

Trouble can often be traced to a single strong individual – the stirrer, the arrogant underling, the poisoned of goodwill. If you allow such people room to operate, others will succumb to their influence. Do not wait for the troubles to multiply. Do not try to negotiate with them – they are irredeemable. Neutralize their influence by isolating or banishing them. Strike at the source of trouble, and the sheep will scatter.

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 have seduced becomes your loyal pawn. The way to seduce others is to operate on their individual psychologies and weaknesses. Soften up the resistant by working on their emotions. Play on what they hold dear and what they fear. Ignore the hearts and minds of others, and they will grow to hate 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 them, 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.

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

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

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 admit to harmless vices, to deflect envy and appear more human and approachable. Only gods and the dead can seem perfect with impunity.

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. By going too far, you produce 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.

Law 48: Assume Formlessness

By taking a shape and 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 is 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.


Robert Greene’s book, “The 48 Laws of Power,” is a self-help guide that draws on metaphors and the lives of historical leaders. It teaches us how to obtain and sustain power.

There are many ways in which power plays a role in society and our lives. The author distilled three centuries of history to educate us about this concept.

The key ideas mentioned above can be summed up into the following main points:

To wield power, first build trust with the people you are trying to influence.

Adaptability and timing are essential to retaining power.

Create spectacles and feed the audience’s belief in the impossible to establish a relationship with the powerful.

Mirroring and dominating the opposition’s options for action are just two of the many ways to gain power.

To obtain a tactical advantage, use selective honesty, diversion, and a surplus of secrecy.

To win respect and dispel any remaining doubts about your abilities, cultivate the images of powerful people.

No one enjoys being weak. But our modern values of fairness and equity make it difficult to accept people who crave power. You need to understand that power is neither good nor bad. Choosing how to apply power is up to you, but it would be naive to dismiss it as bad or insignificant.

Those who can lie, mislead, and dominate others without their knowledge can rise to power without opposition. This is a lesson we can draw from the elite courts of the past.

Think of power play as a game, says Greene. The book teaches us to think deeply about power to better understand ourselves, our friends, and the world.

To be a master of the power game, you must practice the following:

  • Accept masquerades and deceptions as a normal element of human engagement.

  • To detect problems, examine the past and future.

  • Learn and practice new abilities, including mastering your emotions.

  • Adjust your perspective.

  • Don’t judge people based on their stated goals, but rather on their actual results. Many people who claim they don’t want power are either naive or manipulative.

The 48 Laws of Power is the definitive guide to help readers achieve for themselves what Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, Louis XIV and Machiavelli learned the hard way. Based on the history of power, Robert Greene offers a guide of how you can effectively lead and utilize power. If you follow these 48 laws, you can harness the knowledge that powerful people of the past learned first-hand through personal mistakes.

Thanks for reading


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