48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene

Date reviewed: Sep 01 2020
How strongly I recommend it: 7.5 / 10
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Overall Thoughts

48 Laws of Power is a collection of tactics for attaining power in various domains in life. It may come off as amoral, and some of the tricks outlined in the book are shady to say the least. It is a tough pill to swallow. But it is an informative and engaging book, if you read it without value judgement. Less of a wholesome guide on how to live life, more of a disappassionate analysis of ways to obtain power. And here's the way the author Robert Greene himself puts it: "I'm not evil. I'm a realist."


Below is the the list of the 48 laws detailed in the book, along with any important notes.

Law 1: Never outshine the master

Make your masters appear more brilliant than they are and you will attain the heights of power.

As you try to impress your masters, do not go too far in displaying your talents. Otherwise, you will inspire fear and insecurity.

Law 2: Never put too much trust in friends, learn how to use enemies

Be wary of friends. You have more to fear from friends than from enemies . If you have no enemies, find a way to make them.

Friends will betray you more quickly, as envy makes things tricky. But hire a former enemy and he will be more loyal than a friend, because he has more to prove.

Law 3: Conceal your intentions

Keep people off-balance and in the dark. Never reveal the purpose behind your actions.

Hide your intentions not by closing up but  by talking endlessly about your desires and goals (just not your real ones) . These are smoke screens that can disguise your actions.

If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense.

Law 4: Always say less than necessary

The more you say, the more common you appear , and the less in control. Even if you are saying something banal, it will seem original if you make it vague, open-ended, and sphinxlike.

You can't take back words once they are out. Keep them under control. 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

Through reputation alone you can intimidate and win . It is the foundation of power.

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. Doubt is a powerful weapon.

Law 6: Court attention at all cost

Stand out. Be conspicuous, at all cost . It is better to be attacked than be ignored, for what is unseen counts for nothing. Never let yourself get lost in the crowd or buried in oblivion. Attach your name and reputation to an image larger, more colorful, and mysterious than other people.

Law 7: Get others to do the work for you, but always take the credit

Use other people to further your own cause . It saves you valuable time and resources. Never do yourself what others can do for you. Your helpers wil lbe forgotten, and you will be remembered.

Law 8: Make other people come to you. Use bait if necessary

It is always wise to make your opponent come to you , and have them abandon their own plans in the process. Fight the battle on your turf. When you force the other person to act, you are the one in control. Lure them into your territory with a potential victory, then attack.

Law 9: Win through your actions, never through an argument

Any short-lived victory you think you gain through argument is an illusion, as resentment builds up. It is more powerful to get other people to agree with you through your actions, instead of your words.

Show, don't tell.

Law 10: Infection: Avoid the unhappy and unlucky

The unfortunate sometimes draw misfortune on themselves. They will also draw it on you. Don't try to help an infector, or you will pay the price. Helping the drowning man only sets you up for a disaster. You can die from someone else’s misery.

Law 11: Learn to keep people dependent on you

Make people depend on you for their happiness and prosperity. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for his life time. Don't. To maintain your independence you must always be needed and wanted.

Law 12: Use selective honesty and generosity to disarm your victim

One sincere and honest move will cover over dozens of dishonest ones . Even the most suspicious people can be disarmed with gestures of generosity and honesty. Once they let their guard down, you can manipulate them at will.

Law 13: When asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest, never to their mercy or gratitude

No notes.

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

Know your enemies. Learn to probe for other people's weaknesses and intentions. Every occasion is an opoprtunity to spy.

Law 15: Crush your enemy totally

No notes.

Law 16: Use absence to increase respect and honor

The more you are seen and heard from, the more common you appear . You must learn when to leave. Create value through scarcity.

Law 17: Keep others in suspended terror: Cultivate an air of unpredictability

Be deliberately unpredictable . Patterns are powerful, and you can keep others off-balance by disrupting the predictability. They will wear themselves out trying to explain your moves.

Law 18: Do not build fortresses to protect yourself. Isolation is dangerous

No notes.

Law 19: Know who you’re dealing with. Do not offend the wrong person

Not everyone will react to your actions the same way. There are so many different kinds of people after all. Pick your battles, choose your rivals carefully.

Law 20: Do not commit to anyone

No notes.

Law 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker. Seem dumber than your mark

Make your victims feel smart. Make them feel smarter than you are. Once they believe this is true, they will not be able to detect your ulterior motives.

Law 22: Use the surrender tactic: transform weakness into power

Surrender first . Turn the other cheek. Resist the temptation to fight back for honor's sake. That will throw off the aggressor.

Law 23: Concentrate your forces

Focus. Intensity is the name of the game. Don't spread your energy too thin.

Law 24: Play the perfect courtier

Practice flattery and nonchalance. Yield to those who are more powerful. Assert power over others in the most graceful manner. Master your emotions. Never be the bearer of bad news.

Law 25: Recreate yourself

Take control over your own image, or others will. Forge a new identity that commands attention.

Law 26: Keep your hands clean

Hide your mistakes, or use a scapegoat to conceal your involvement. You must maintain a flawless appearance.

Law 27: Play on people’s need to believe to create a cultlike following

Keep it vague, but full of promise. Promote passion over rationality.

Law 28: Enter action with boldness

Timidity is dangerous . People admire the bold.

Law 29: Plan all the way to the end

No notes.

Law 30: Make your accomplishments seem effortless

Act effortlessly, as if you could do much more .

Law 31: Control the options. Get others to play with the cards you deal

Rig the game. Change the playing field in your favour. Your opponents will get a false sense of control, but you will come out on top regardless of which option they choose.

Law 32: Play to people’s fantasies

Life is tough. People want to believe there is something or someone to blame. Give them what they want.

Law 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew

Everyone has a weakness, a gap in the castle wall . Once you find it, you can turn it to your advantage. What other people can't control, you control for them.

Law 34: Be royal in your own fashion: Act like a king to be treated like one

No notes.

Law 35: Master the art of timing

Always appear patient and in control. You never want to be seen to be in a hurry.

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

No notes.

Law 37: Create compelling spectacles

Create spectacles for the people around you. This creates the aura of power around you.

Law 38: Think as you like but behave like others

No notes.

Law 39: Stir up waters to catch fish

Never be angry or emotionally stirred, for they are counter-productive. However, if you can make your rivals angry while remaining calm yourself, it is a huge advantage.

Law 40: Despise the free lunch

Pay the full price, as there is no cutting corners with excellence.

Law 41: Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes

Getting lost in a great man's shadow is a dangerous trap. Build a name for yourself, on your terms. Tread your own path.

Law 42: Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter

Trouble can usually be traced to a single source. If you let them be, they will infect the group with their ill will. Get rid of them before giving them the chance to do so.

Law 43: Work on the hearts and minds of others

Play on what people fear, and dropping their guards by playing on what they hold dear. Don't coerce. Go along with what others' emotions.

Law 44: Disarm and infuriate with the mirror effect

The mirror effect: By holding up a mirror to their psyches, you seduce them with the illusion that you share their values . This is powerful, and few can resist it.

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

No notes.

Law 46: Never appear too perfect

Envy is dangerous. One way to to eliminate envy is to appear human and relatable . It is wise to appear vulnerable and admit to defects occasionally.

Law 47: Do not go past the mark you aimed for. In victory, learn when to stop

Leave on a high note. Don't let hubris blind you and trap you into pushing past what you had aimed for. When you reach a goal, stop. "Stop gain" is just as important as "stop loss".

Law 48: Assume formlessness

By taking a shape, you open yourself to attack . Instead, remain adaptable, remain on your toes. Accept that change is the only constant. Be like water.

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