The 48 Laws Of Power — Book Review
The 48 law of power drawn from 3,000 years of the history of power, this is the definitive guide to help readers achieve for themselves what Queen Elizabeth I, Henry Kissinger, Louis XIV and Machiavelli learnt the hard way.
Great read, albeit a little bit “dark” for my comfort. Nonetheless, a great insight into power and influence. I would rate the book at 4.50/5.00 while the book rating on Goodreads is strong at 4.17/5.00.The 48 Laws of Power by Robert Greene
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Great read, albeit a little bit “dark” for my comfort. Nonetheless, a great insight into power and influence. I would rate the book at 4.50/5.00
View all my reviews
The 48 Laws Of Power — Book Summary
The 48 Laws of Power by American author Robert Greene published in 1998. The book is one of the all-time bestsellers, selling over 1.2 million copies in the US alone and equally popular on Amazon website.
Law of Power 1: Never outshine the master
- Always prioritize your superiors. Don’t exhibit your talent in front of them to make them feel inferior.
- Always make your master appear brilliant than yourself. Show them respect.
This simply means NEVER ECLIPSE YOUR SUPERIORS. This is also applicable even if you’re much better than your superiors at his or her job. Always reinforce their sense of superiority since threats from below are always unwelcome, unwanted.
Hence, remember to never make them look bad, they will, without doubt, crush you — they have the power to do so. Your life might be miserable if you make them looks bad.
Focus on trying to prove your usefulness to them and never outshine them. NEVER.
Law of Power 2: Never blindly trust your friends
- Never blindly trust your friends.
- Friends can betray you when they get a chance.
- Make ways with your old enemies.
Never trust anyone 100%. But at the same time, you need to understand the utility of enemies. Try reading collaborating with enemies, this might give you an invaluable insight into the 2nd laws of power.
Remember, a friend might betray you out of envy — or maybe they may expect too much of you because of their friendship and might become demanding nuisances.
Hence, don’t hire or appoint your close friends. Performance review might be an unmitigated nightmare. Robert Greene suggests hiring your enemies. I might not be too keen on that. But his specify that the enemy should be the one who you forgive will always feel that he has to prove his loyalty.
Robert Greene if you have no enemies, consider making a few good ones.
Law of Power 3: Conceal your intentions
- Guide competitors the wrong path, conceal your intentions in order to maintain the first competitive advantage in your work.
Don’t tip your hand. If people don’t know what your goal is, they can’t defend against you.
Hence, keep your intentions secret. Move behind a smokescreen.
Law of Power 4: Say less than necessary
- When trying to impress, don’t talk too much, maintains quality over quantity in the conversations.
- Powerful people make an impression by saying less.
Don’t go around running your mouth. Remember that the powerful seldom speak. The more you talk, the more you expose yourself, the more you become familiar.
And the more familiar you become the less awesome you’ll be.
So, speak less.
Law of Power 5: Reputation is everything
- Reputation should be maintained at all cost.
- Your good reputation can make you a winner alone.
- Destroy your enemies with your good reputation and their bad reputation.
Reputation is important — very important. Reputation can defend you in any attack but will be useless once damaged. Hence, pay attention to anything that might blemish your reputation.
Law of Power 6: Don’t get lost in a crowd
- Appearance is everything, you are what you look.
- Be mysterious, outshine others with your colourful appearance.
- Be bright than the rest.
Make yourself the centre of attention. Remember that people always judge what they can see and speculate on those details that they can’t. Don’t toil in obscurity. Make a spectacle of yourself.
Law of Power 7: Let others do the work for you
- Use the skills of others to do the work for you, let them do the hard work for you.
- Take credit of others hard work, you paid them.
- Be efficient in using people’s power to your advantage.
It’s not nice to take all the credit for the work of others. But it is very effective and you would be a fool to do otherwise. You will seem like a miracle of speed and competence, and no one will remember those who made your success possible, so they can’t threaten you.
Law of Power 8: Get in Control
- Force others to act, get in charge of things.
- Make your opponents come to you by using the power of impression, efficiency and your people.
- Take full control, best or nothing.
When you make other people move first, you are in control. That’s the definition of power — being in control. Lure them to you — never act first. Bait them, draw them to you. Stay in control.
Law of Power 9: Let your actions speak, not your argument
- You can never win through argument.
- Show them the way, be the leader.
- Action is louder than words.
Try not to argue —this only lead to grudges. But if you have a grudge, please learn to manage and control them effectively. Read How to Hold a Grudge: From Resentment to Contentment – the Power of Grudges to Transform Your Life by Sophie Hannah. Instead of arguing, prove that you’re right by deeds, let your action speaks.
Law of Power 10: Infection: Avoid miserable, unhappy people
- Unlucky people bring their bad fate with them, avoid them.
- Sit with winners, you become a winner.
- Associate with happy people and avoid unhappy people.
- Unhappy people are like infections, they take away your good health.
- People bring in their luck when they associate with you, keep your eyes open.
An interesting point that Robert Greene made is that unhappiness and bad luck are contagious. So, avoid losers and hang with winners.
Law of Power 11: Make them dependent on your all the time
- Make yourself highly needed.
- Let them depend on you all the time.
- Don’t teach them everything so they can do it without you.
It is good to have people depend on you. Keep them dependent. Then, you are in control. Never teach them so much that they can get by without you or compete with you.
Remember to keep a secret or two to maintains your power.
Law of Power 12: Use honesty and generosity to disarm your victim
- One sincere, loyal move could cover a dozen dishonest ones.
- be upfront, honest and generous.
Tell partial truth and be tactically generous. This will encourage others to relax and trust you. Hence, making them vulnerable. Give people gifts.
Remember how effective this can be from the story of the Trojan Horse.
Law of Power 13: When you are asking for help, appeal to people’s self-interest
- Don’t remind people of past deeds.
- Tell them why you need their help and why it is in their interest as well.
Do not expect altruism. When people are altruistic (rare), you are in their debt. Usually, people will not want to help you for your sake. Hence, in order to get their support, appeal to their self-interest. If something will benefit them, exaggerate shamelessly; they will hasten to your aid.
That’s practical wisdom.
Law of Power 14: Pose as a friend but work as a spy
- Ask indirect, important questions.
- Act like a spy.
Disarm your rivals by being a friend.
Law of Power 15: Crush your enemy totally
- Don’t stop halfway, go all the way till the end in your work, business or a relationship to make your mission successful.
- Crush your enemy in body and spirit.
The Prince by Machiavelli also makes a similar suggestion. Remember that when you fight, don’t leave your enemy to fight another day.
Law of Power 16: Use absence to increase respect, honour
- Don’t be available all the time.
- Too much circulation makes the price go down.
- Create value by maintaining scarcity.
When people see you too much, they do not respect you. Stay out of sight to inspire awe and perhaps fear. Scarcity often makes things more valuable.
Law of Power 17: Keep others in suspended terror, be unpredictable
- If you are predictable, it gives control to others.
- When used all the way to the extreme, you’ll intimidate.
- Always be unpredictable, never let your actions reveal your plans.
If you are unpredictable, people will exhaust themselves trying to figure you out. In extreme cases, volatile changes of mood, temper or plan can empower you as a tyrant, allowing you to terrorize underlings.
Law of Power 18: Do not build fortresses to protect yourself
- Isolation cuts you off from gathering valuable information.
- The gel in with people to get the 1st hand news
- Don’t overprotect yourself.
Do not withdraw totally because isolation has its perils. It is one thing to make yourself scarce, another to hide behind the castle walls. You cannot trust anyone to bring you accurate information, so you cannot stay completely out of sight.
Be out and about enough to know what is up.
Law of Power 19: Know who you’re dealing with
- Know that not everyone reacts the same way.
- Choose your victims and enemies carefully.
- Do not offend the wrong person.
Learn to read people. Know what power and what friends your antagonist has. Make no assumptions.
Law of Power 20: Don’t commit to anyone
- Never take someone’s side. Stay neutral.
- Wait and Watch.
- Maintain independence.
You are your only commitment. Avoid inseparable allies.
Law of Power 21: Play a sucker to catch a sucker
- Don’t be stupid, but make your opponent appear clever and smarter than you, sooner or later then will show weakness.
- Making them appear smarter hides your motives as you act clever.
There’s no point looking smarter than people when it puts them on their guard. Disarm your victims by making them feel smartest. They like it, and it makes them shed all suspicion and fear, so you can manipulate them as you please.
Law of Power 22: Transform weakness into power
- Use the surrender tactic.
- When you’re weaker, never fight just for honour but surrender and save your life.
Surrender to gain power, especially when you are weaker than your opponent, forget staging a good fight for glory. Surrender on terms that let you keep as much power as possible. Wait for your opponent to make a false step, and strike from the dark, when it is least expected.
Law of Power 23: Concentrate on your forces
- Intensity defeats extensity every time.
- Find a hen that’ll give your eggs for a long time.
Focus your strength. Pick one point and bring all your forces to bear on it. Do not disperse your energy or power. Cultivate one powerful mentor or patron with great care and perseverance.
Law of Power 24: Play the perfect courtier
- Master the art of indirection.
- Be graceful in power assertion.
The courtier is adept at intrigue, manipulation, image, flattery, flirtation and conversation. The perfect courtier looks good and manages to assemble power without seeming to grasp power. To control even the king, be the perfect courtier. And more often than not, those whom we least expected are the one who wields the most power.
Law of Power 25: Re-create yourself
- Revamp yourself, create an identity that commands attention.
- The first impression is the last impression.
Don’t be what other people try to compel you to be. Carve out your own attention-getting identity. Be interesting, be dramatic. As much as possible have signature gestures, deeds, even costumes, so people always know who you are.
Law of Power 26: Keep your hands clean
- Never appear soiled by mistakes, learn and move on.
- Make others as scapegoats to disguise your involvement.
Use someone else to do any dirty work. Then, find someone else to take the blame. Scapegoats and cats’-paws have their uses. And beware not be another’s scapegoat.
Law of Power 27: Play on people’s needs
- People want to believe in something all the time, cash on that.
- Become the pivotal point of attraction, offer them a cause, a new faith.
- Keep your words selection vague but full of promise.
People want to believe — which is one of our basic human needs. It hardly matters what or whom they believe. Hence, offer them something to trust, someone to follow.
Try to speak inspiringly and imply great promises, but spare the specifics so no one can charge you with not performing. Have your disciples sacrifice for you. They will empower you.
Law of Power 28: Enter action with boldness
- Not sure?. Don’t do it!
- Timidity is dangerous.
Never be timid. Take bold, decisive action. Any doubt on your part will impede you and increase the probability of failure.
Never fail in public. The missteps of the bold are forgiven; the stumbles of the timid are not.
Law of Power 29: Plan all the way to the end
- The ending is everything, don’t give up.
- Take into account of scenario.
- Plan, you won’t be overwhelmed.
- Think far ahead.
Leave nothing to chance. You need to plan every step, including the last step, and the one after that. Many have lost the fruit of their scheming by neglecting to plan the conclusion. As a result, the credit, money or power went to someone else.
Law of Power 30: Make your accomplishments seem effortless
- Work smarter, not harder.
- Make your success look natural.
- Do not reveal how hard you work, make it look easy.
- Don’t Teach anyone your tricks.
Just like Messi. Never show effort. Never break a sweat. Magicians conceal their stage apparatus and so should you. Amaze others with the ease of your accomplishment.
Especially when you have run as far as you possibly can and are about to faint, seem to be full of energy and ready for another course.
Law of Power 31: Control the opinions
- Get in charge.
- Always Voice your opinions with your actions, make them follow.
- Give options so no matter their choice, you win.
You must seem to allow others some freedom of choice, but always invisibly control the boundaries of their choices. Give them choices that make you better off no matter which alternative they pick. Give them options, but you need to control the options.
Law of Power 32: Play to people’s fantasies
- The truth is unpleasant, better avoid it.
- There’s always great power in tapping into people’s fantasies.
Seem to offer what people have dreamed of and longed for. But never make people face the ugly truth. Give them the dreams they want and they will give you power. People love to dream but only a few want to put in the required effort. Hence, let them dream.
Law of Power 33: Discover each man’s thumbscrew
- Always work on finding other’s weaknesses.
- Once busted, make them work the way you want.
Learn what hurts and use them. Some might call this LEVERAGE. Everyone has a weakness, vulnerability, insecurity, need or sensitivity. Learn it and exploit it. Inflict or relieve pain as serves your purpose.
Law of Power 34: Be royal
- Stay Royal with your command and actions.
- Act like a king.
- Expect and demand to be treated like a king.
- Appearing vulgar or common will make people disrespect you.
Carry yourself like a king. Respect and value yourself. Other people will regard you as you regard yourself.
Law of Power 35: Master the art of timing
- Don’t rush things.
- Show patience.
- Timing is the key.
- Hit when it matters the most, they say hit when the iron is hot.
Timing is everything. The right action at the wrong time is the wrong act. The wrong action at the right time is the right act. Timing is everything. Part of appearing confident is the virtue of patience. Never seem hurried, harried or at loose ends. Behave as if everything is going your way and will work out in your favour.
For further insight read — The Power of When
Law of Power 36: Show less interest, act superior
- Acknowledging petty problems gives them existence.
- The less interest you reveal, the more superior you seem.
Despise what is beyond your reach. Like Aesop’s fox and the sour grapes, if you cannot reach a coveted prize, despise it. If you acknowledge a problem or a problem person, you empower the problem or the troublemaker. If you seem to ignore and disdain what others covet or fear, you will seem superior, and they will be in awe.
Law of Power 37: Create compelling spectacles
- Imagery and symbolic gestures create the aura of power.
- Dazzle by appearance.
Remember The Great Gatsby? Be like that. Do not hide your light. Use symbols, grand gestures, dramatic words and staging to highlight yourself and draw attention.
Law of Power 38: Think as you like but Behave like others
- Don’t seek attention, demand respect with your actions.
- Blend in.
There is no advantage in playing the eccentric or the fool. If you seem to run too much against the current of the times and against the customary practice, people will distrust and despise you. Show your inventiveness and originality only to those with whom you are intimate.
Law of Power 39: Stir up waters to catch fish
- Anger and emotion are counterproductive.
- Stay calm and objective.
- Make enemies emotional while you stay calm and collected.
- Make your enemies spin all the time, master the craft.
Never get angry. Never give vent to strong emotions. Make your enemies do that. When they strike in anger, they will strike inaccurately, opening themselves to your patient, well-planned counter-attack.
Law of Power 40: Despise the free lunch
- There are no free lunches.
- Everything has a price, don’t be available all the time.
- Price yourself.
Anything that seems free is not. Something worth having is worth the price. Pay your own way; carry your own weight. Owe nothing. Do not rely on the generosity of others; make others rely on yours.
Law of Power 41: Avoid stepping into a great man’s shoes
- Follow other great people but act in your own way.
- Create your own class.
- Gain power by shining in your own way.
If the shoes don’t fit you, you’ll stumble and look like a presumptuous fool. If the one who preceded you in a post was great, you will work in a shadow. Strikeout on your own; show movement in a new direction.
Law of Power 42: Strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter
- Trouble can be traced all the way to a single individual.
- These people will always influence others.
- Identify the source of the trouble and then strike.
If the group is restive or truculent, look for the troublemaker. Often, a single malcontent can poison a whole community. Strike that one person and you will destroy an entire movement.
Law of Power 43: Work on the hearts and minds of others
- Seduce others into wanting to move in your direction.
- Seduce others by operating on their individual psychologies, weaknesses.
Win hearts and minds. Do not force people to do your will. They resent force and nurture dreams of revenge. Win them by guile, flattery and craft. Let them think they are following their own will and hearts. Then they will serve you out of love and hope only to serve you more.
Law of Power 44: Disarm with the mirror effect
- When you mirror exactly what your enemies do, they cannot figure out your strategy.
- When humiliated, your enemy will panic.
Enrage people by mirroring them. Do what your enemies do. Force them to face themselves. They will see themselves and they will not see you. You will enrage them, disarm them and defeat them.
Law of Power 45: Preach the need for change
- Everyone wants change but too much change is at times unacceptable and uncalled for.
- Change is always good, ensure moderate quantity though.
Talk about reform but make changes slowly. People love to talk about change, but they hate to change. If you come to power, do not make big changes quickly. Talk up reform, inspire dreams of change, but make only small changes and work patiently.
Law of Power 46: Never appear too perfect
- It’s dangerous to appear like you have no thoughts.
- Sometimes, it is fine to admit to small defects but doesn’t reveal much.
If you look too good, people will try to destroy you out of envy. Claim some fault so slight it is almost a virtue, but acknowledge it as a fault.
Law of Power 47: Know when to stop
- Set a goal, achieve it, then stop.
When you reach your goal, stop. Many have lost the prize by being too greedy or arrogant. Don’t overreach. When you achieve your victory, you have reached the end of your plan. Stop. Do not go farther until you have made a new plan.
Law of Power 48: Stay Adaptable, things change
- Stay adaptable and on the move.
- Everything changes and never bet on it.
If you have no shape, people cannot find your centre and cannot attack you. Be fluid. Adjust to every circumstance. Like water, adapt to every vessel.
The Law of Power, not necessarily dark.
The need for power is fundamental, if we were to feel powerless we might end-up depressed. Hence, beware of those who pretend to have no aspirations for power, since they are either deceiving themselves or worse, deceiving you. The truth is simple — everyone wants power. And it is highly addictive — the more they get, the more they crave it.
“The moment of victory is often the moment of greatest peril.”
It’s considered inappropriate to display the wants for power publicly, hence those who seek power should seem to have no interest in it. Often, those who best projects the image of no interest in power will become the most powerful.
This, however, doesn’t mean lying. It is wrong to lie since power depends on trust. The known liars lose trust and therefore loses power.
Although the book seems a bit dark, controversial, there’s an awful lot of good you can learn. Just pick and choose which law to follow and don’t follow them blindly. Keep true to your moral compass, or you might not be able to sleep at night.