Robert Greene draws on a multitude of different resources to highlight the laws of human nature. The examples are timeless, universal, and profound. By acknowledging these human universals, to what extent they impact you, and how they are prevalent in others, you will become more aware and better able to mitigate and control them in yourself and others. “Human nature is deeply ingrained within our genes, within our brain’s structure, and has evolved over millions of years. It is partly responsible for how we make decisions, how we manage our emotions, and it controls, unknown to us, the vast majority of what we do and think. Human nature has helped us survive and determines much of our emotions and how we think and behave. Understanding how we are wired will help us better deal with others and better see through when they’re trying to manipulate us, take advantage of us, charm us, or otherwise. We developed extreme sensitivity so that we could better read and judge others and to this day, although we don’t realize it, we are finely tuned to register how others react, to their voice, their body language, and more. This book is an attempt to draw together the vast store house of knowledge from many different fields to describe and give examples of some laws of human nature. They are laws in the sense that people tend to react quite consistently in similar situations. Becoming aware of these laws will make you a calmer and better observer of human nature, more able to notice and decipher the subtle cues everyone emits, and become a greater judge of character.”
It is important to realize that these laws of human nature impact, affect, and influence you as much as other people and by truly understanding them, they will help build your empathy, allowing you to simply see other points of view better and more clearly, giving you the opportunity to focus on what’s important – helping others and having having an impact. You will be able to train yourself to be present, to let go of preconceived notions, and to continually adapt your understanding of the people around you. This understanding will help you become more empathetic and more effective in everything that you do
The Law of Irrationality – Master Your Emotional Self
Realize that people often act the opposite of how they feel – someone loud and obnoxious is often insecure
Emotions taint our thinking and behaviors, not allowing us to see and act in accordance with reality, leading to bad decisions, pain, and stress. By admitting and embracing this rationality we can slowly tame our emotions, become more rational, thereby making us more effective and insightful as we can align with reality, to see things as they really are and not as we wish they were
The first step to tame your rationality is to admit that you are irrational. As you become more introspective, the calm inner voice will grow more confident and louder, allowing you to see things more clearly and accurately. You first recognize the biases in yourself and work towards giving yourself the space and time to think and act how you want, and not simply react emotionally
The goal of rationality is not to eliminate emotion, but to channel it in order to become aware of why you are feeling what you are feeling – to take advantage of it and use it to further what you want to do
You can become more rational by becoming more aware of low grade irrationality or what happens in the subconscious, and high-grade rationality (what happens in your conscious). Over time, you will be able to train your emotions so that you become be less reactive over time. You improve your rationality by first knowing yourself thoroughly – knowing your strengths and weaknesses, how you react under pressure, and when you’re flattered. Next, you must improve your reaction time giving yourself space to think and not just react instinctively. Then you must accept people as facts and not try to change them but just accept who they are, understand them, and how you have to deal with them
We must learn from our mistakes. The point of memory is to not repeat mistakes but so few people take the time and energy to really dive into what caused him to err. We have to become aware in the moment of things that make us react and dive into why we feel that way – is it a childhood trauma, something our parents told us, or why do we just react emotionally?
People‘s true character and ability shine through under stress. You have to find time, space, and quiet in order to be able to think and gain perspective. Don’t think you are above stress and that it doesn’t impact you – it does!
Be weary of groups as it doesn’t stimulate rationality and independent thought but rather the much deeper and more ingrained part of us that wishes to belong – leading to herd behavior
Don’t think that we are in a steady path towards rationality as a species. The pendulum swings back and forth between rationality and irrationality. It is part of the cycle of human nature. Irrationality won’t always look the same but it will always come back. Improving rationality is something to be done at an individual level and not at a species level
The Law of Narcissism – Transform Self-Love into Empathy
We must be honest with ourselves and grow and come to love a cohesive self or risk falling into narcissism
Turning your attention outwards to others rather than inwards like most people do will help you grow your empathy muscle and give others the attention they so gravely seek
Shackleton in the toughest of times drew out very specific daily tasks to give everyone meaning and focus. In addition, he understood each man so well that he knew what to talk to them about, when, and how to keep them happy, their morale high and content. This empathy was literally life and death as it is for us, although it’s not as clear
The Law of Role-Playing – See Through People’s Masks
People hide their true feelings and intentions so you must become an expert reader in other people and at the same time learn how to play your role as convincingly and consistently as possible
Milton Erickson was diagnosed with polio at a young age and to occupy his mind he observed others extremely closely and through this knowledge and pattern recognition came to see an incredible world of nonverbal cues, motions, gestures, the importance of tone of voice, and everything beyond what is simply said. Observe, observe, observe. People tell you so much with their walk, tone of voice, how they sit, their micro expressions, and more.
Negative emotions leak out through body language and they must be observed and weighed more than whatever mask people put on
Be authentic, humble, open minded and generous – “saintly” and above reproach
The Law of Compulsive Behavior – Determine the Strength of People’s Character
Gravitate to those who display strength. One best reads people’s character in stressful and difficult times
Character comes from the Greek word meaning “stamped upon”. Our character is ingrained in us and is composed of our genetics, our earliest relationships and quality of attachments, and from habits and experiences. We can learn to compensate any harmful traits but for the most part they’re hard to rid
People are quite bad at judging character but the most reliable way to assess someone is through their actions (people never do anything just once, actions are truer and can’t be rationalized by words), how people handle small and simple affairs, how people handle power and responsibility. Try to only work with people of strong character for those with weak character will negate all their other good qualities and will cause more headache than you want. People who are strong of character are as rare as gold and you should hold onto them is if you found treasure
It is impossible to change one’s or others’ character but you can mitigate them by going deep within yourself, admitting your flaws and weaknesses, and doing all you can to strengthen them up and act in such away to emphasize your strengths and downplay your weaknesses. The goal is not to become someone else but to be thoroughly and authentically the best version of yourself
The Law of Covetousness – Become an Elusive Object of Desire
Realize that most people, no matter how often it is said, don’t really want truth and facts, they want their imagination lifted and their ego boosted
Realize that the grass is rarely greener on the other side
Learn when and how to remove yourself. You also want to be a little cold and ambiguous so people can’t get a great feel for you
It is not possession but desire that drives people. By becoming a scarce commodity and playing on other’s covetousness, you can become highly desirable
In the end, what you must covet is a closer relationship to reality, bringing calmness, knowledge about yourself, an understanding of what you can change and what you can’t, and being OK with both
The Law of Shortsightedness – Elevate Your Perspective
Learn to judge people by the breadth or narrowness of their vision and seek to surround yourself with those who can understand the consequences of their actions and have a bold vision
With an elevated perspective, you will have the patience and clarity to achieve almost any goal
When people’s horizon shrink to days or weeks, they lose the ability to see the consequences of their actions and they become manic
4 signs of shortsightedness:
Unintended consequences (have at least one person focus solely on consequences)
Tactical hell happens when you can’t back out of everyday battles to get detachment, perspective and the long-term view (strategists will always beat tacticians)
Ticker tape syndrome (need to know instantly drives short-termism, avoid the noise as much as possible)
Lost in trivia (know what’s most important and spend most of your time on that)
The Law of Defensiveness – Soften People’s Resistance by Confirming Their Self-Opinion
Learn to tame your stubbornly held positions and come to see other’s points of views and beliefs. This will open them up, making them more open to your suggestions
It’s hard to ignore a man who makes you feel good. When you have valuable information and can get things done on top of it, you’re a force
LBJ knew he had to rein in his more aggressive and bullying qualities in order to win over key allies and learn from them. Having one key ally near the top of the mountain can make a lot of things happen. He never asked for favors but did others favors, if his allies had any interests he would cultivate an interest in that too, he was always willing to help and work hard, knew what others wanted and needed and figured out how to make himself the gate between those things, he made it in other’s interest to hand over power to him
Influence over people is often gained in the opposite way than we imagine. Put the focus on others and make them the stars of the show. Always step back and assume a subtle inferior position. Then do some small favors for them and they’ll begin helping you, expanding your influence. Bring out the cleverness of others and make them feel good when they leave you
People have a self opinion and it doesn’t matter if it’s accurate. 3 universal traits: I’m autonomous, intelligent, good and decent. These affect everyone’s self opinion and playing into these and validate them make them feel good. Avoid confronting people’s self opinion.
5 strategies of master persuaders
Be a deep listener and be aware of subtle nonverbal cues
Infect people with the proper mood (acceptance of others unconditionally, calm, enthusiastic)
Confirm their self opinion (people choose to help you)
Know what people are insecure about and compliment that
Use people’s resistance and stubbornness against them (channel their aggressive energy in order to make them fall on their own – use their emotions, their language, their rigidity)
Praise people for their effort and not their talent
The Law of Self-Sabotage – Change Your Circumstances by Changing Your Attitude
Our attitudes are self fulfilling and paint everything we see, experience, learn and do
See yourself as an explorer – always curious, open to new things, having weakly held convictions, you are always trying new things and want to learn
See adversity as opportunities to improve and to get better, not something to be avoided. Understand that you can’t change people – embrace and enjoy who those people are and make the most of it. When you do this people, come to love you, accept you, and see you as a leader
The Law of Repression – Confront Your Dark Side
Embrace your dark side and integrate it into your personality. You’ll become a more complete and authentic person and radiate that to others – attracting them into your circle and influence
Depression and anxiety comes from not being aware of your dark side and not letting it shine through in a positive way. By denying that side and repressing it, it only becomes stronger and comes out stronger in ways that you will come to regret
Most hatred stems from envy and is a way for the subconscious to release some energy
Steps to bring about and integrate the shadow:
Become self aware and see the shadow (others can often see your shadow better than you can so ask them for their opinion)
Embrace your shadow
Show the shadow
The Law of Envy – Beware the Fragile Ego
You must become a master decoder of envy and those who are predisposed to being envious.
People are status-seeking animals and constantly monitor their relative position in the hierarchy. People must have an adequate position to be comfortable and happy
Always emphasize the role of luck in your life. Enhance your flaws in order to make yourself more relatable and to mitigate envy. As you gain power, keep humbling yourself and asking for the opinion of those below you
Be wary of mass – spread the love, the relationships, and the wealth and you’ll have people pushing for you to rise rather than trying to put you down
The Law of Grandiosity – Know Your Limits
You must be aware of your tendencies towards grandiosity and how important that is for you. If you feel the temptation, you must mitigate this by realizing your weaknesses and how big a role luck has played, becoming more realistic and grounded
Be aware of your grandiosity needs, concentrate that energy on a particular task or goal, create a dialog with reality and be open to the flaws in your plan, find appropriate challenges which test you but aren’t too much, occasionally let yourself take on huge challenges
The Law of Gender Rigidity – Reconnect to the Masculine or Feminine Within You
By blending in the opposite side, what you’re most lacking, you’ll become more complete, fluid, whole, and authentic, drawing other people to you as you merge the different sides of your personality.
This is a far more effective tactic than trying to become a purer version of what you already have
The Law of Aimlessness – Advance with a Sense of Purpose
We must be open to our internal, primal traits that make us unique. They not only help set us apart and get us on a path towards mastery but also helps the community at large as it fosters diversity and helps spur creativity and innovation in others
Operating with a high sense of purpose which aligns with who you are and what you want is the force multiplier – allowing you to achieve more and have a more meaningful and impactful life. Discover this sense of purpose and find as many ways to connect with it as possible – this will draw others towards you and open up opportunities that you would have thought impossible
Discover your calling by going back to your roots, your childhood, the primal inclinations which set you on fire – the things which you got very enthusiastic about and couldn’t stop thinking about. Things which are so fun or easy for you are good signs.
Surround yourself with as many people as possible with the deep and true sense of purpose. They will help teach you, guide you, energize you, and motivate you
Have a long term goal but also build in small, shorter term goals which build up to the ultimate goal. This will keep you moving in the right direction and mitigate anxiety
You must get into deep flow as often as possible in order to progress quickly and in the right direction. It takes a lot of work and is difficult as it takes sacrifice and dedication but is the only way to get there
The Law of Conformity – Resist the Downward Pull of the Group
Develop self awareness and the changes that occur to yourself and others when in a group. One of the greatest threats to our survival thousands of years ago was being ostracized so today fitting in and being accepted in the group is one of our greatest concerns. We fit in by accepting the norm and imitating and following the group. The danger is that we stop thinking for ourselves and simply imitate the group and lose what makes us unique and gives us power
All people have evolved to see hierarchies and this gets exaggerated in groups. We lose our rationality and go with the herd, often leading to dangerous or poor outcomes
You must be aware of the effect that groups have on people as individuals and the broader group dynamics – hierarchies can lead to cliques, factions, and power mongering
In any group you have to understand the culture and the fact that an older company and a bigger group will likely control you rather than you control it. You also have to understand the group dynamic and the hierarchy – who is moving up and down relatively
You can make factions and cliques less attractive by creating a positive, unifying, and uplifting culture that people can go all in on
You must understand and be really realistic with yourself and how big of an influence the group has on you. You’re not as much of an individual thinker as you think you are. You must be able to detach yourself from the group and be a realist – this is more important today than ever
Bad culture drags everyone down. You can’t focus I’m trying to improve individuals – you have to fix the dynamic. Improving the culture this will lift everyone up. When the group can face reality head on and kick-ass, that is when you have a great culture. Instill a collective sense of purpose (no matter what field, quality and excellence are key factors – money and success are byproducts). This higher purpose is rare to come by so people will go all-in and police themselves when they find it. Assemble the right team of lieutenants (avoid the petty details which cause confusion, competence and character are vital, know their roles and make sure they have complimentary skills, you must treat people equally, get rid of those who don’t fit the mold, and lead from the front), let information and ideas flow freely (frank and diversified information, open communication, transparency on how decisions were made), infect the group with productive emotions (lack of fear, courage, calm, openness to new ideas), forge a battle-tested group (group who rises in tough times and doesn’t wilt)
A group willing to face reality with a great culture help rise people up, it is one of people’s most memorable experiences to be part of a group like this. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process
The Law of Fickleness – Make Them Want to Follow You (an amazing chapter on leadership)
People are always ambivalent about powers and leaders. Authority is the delicate art of wielding power while making people feel like you are working for them
As the leader you have to embody and practice all the traits that you would want in a leader. You must work hard, lead from the front, be fair, be consistent, courageous, wise, and calm and difficult situations
As a leader be very aware of how fickle people are and how history is riddled with examples of great leaders who start showing some signs of weakness, arrogance, or whatever else which leads their people to turn on them and sometimes put them to death or ostracize them
The fundamental role of the leader is to provide a far reaching vision to unite the group. We must avoid seeming petty and our focus needs to be on others, on the culture, and the vision.
Toughness and empathy are the twins pillars of leadership. They are not mutually exclusive but inextricably bound. You must have both or people will begin to lose faith in you as a leader
You must be a consummate observer of people and these traits of leadership and hierarchy, coming to embody and practice them consistently in all situations
Most people run away from the dangers and responsibilities of leadership but you must embrace it. This skill is increasingly rare in today’s world so the more you can run towards it, the more you’ll stand out. The essence of leadership is that when people willingly follow, you will not need force, rah rah speeches or to punish people. Your leadership style most authentically arise out of your personality and character you can be authentic, a founder, the deliverer, a visionary artist, healer, pragmatist, etc – but it must be natural for you
Turn your focus outwards so that you’re always looking to help others and then you work to earn people’s respect – never assuming it will be given to you. What drives you is bringing the greatest meaning and utility to the largest group – never on your ego or selfish desires.
Having a vision allows you to work backwards from the future to the present and determine the steps that you need to take in order to get there.
You have to lead from the front and show early that you’re tough. Have high standards for your own work and if there are sacrifices to be made, you have to be the first to make them, and they can’t simply be symbolic. If you take things away, make it known that it is only temporary. Be in a position where you can be generous
Finally, we like to focus on the psychological health of individuals, and how perhaps a therapist could fix any problems they might have. What we don’t consider, however, is that being in a dysfunctional group can actually make individuals unstable and neurotic. The opposite is true as well: by participating in a high-functioning reality group, we can make ourselves healthy and whole. Such experiences are memorable and life-changing. We learn the value of cooperating on a higher level, of seeing our fate as intertwined with those around us. We develop greater empathy. We gain confidence in our own abilities, which such a group rewards. We feel connected to reality. We are brought into the upward pull of the group, realizing our social nature on the high level it was intended for. It is our duty as enlightened humans to create as many such groups as possible, making society healthier in the process.
The Law of Aggression – See the Hostility Behind the Friendly Facade
John D Rockefeller is the role model and story for this. He would use his will to outdo, outthink and outwork his opponents. Hostility is within every human and don’t be fooled to think anyone is too nice. Rid yourself of the denial that this doesn’t exist in people.
The Law of Generational Myopia – Seize the Historical Moment
Transitions can be seen over decades and seem to be universal across time and indicate that they are bigger than any one generation. It is part of human nature the pendulum swings in the trends follow
We must develop generational awareness understanding how our own generation impact our thinking in view of the world and have generations overall impact people across time
You must understand and honor how much the time period and generation you were born into affects you. For example, millennials care more about teamwork than individualism, and security rather than risk because of the financial crisis. If you can define the zeitgeist for each generation, you will better understand the people within it and how to work and get along with them. Taking different perspectives will help your creativity and calm you. Once you have a sense for the zeitgeist, look back in history and find a parallel. Associate yourself with heroes of the past
Always work with the spirit and don’t critique or try to change it. Always evolve and adapt, don’t become a caricature of the past. Modernize your spirit, adopting your experience and perspective with some of the traits of the younger you agree with
You must develop deep relationships with people from various generations
The Law of Death Denial – Meditate on our Common Mortality
Realize that life is short, that most people are terrified of death and have not confronted that within themselves.
If you live everyday, there is more than enough time
What I got out of it
Deep self-awareness is the cornerstone. Once you can face reality and admit your flaws and weaknesses, you can address them and mitigate them. As much as you can, put others before yourself, put your energy and attention on them rather than yourself
This book “is a distillation of timeless wisdom contained in the lessons and principles of warfare. The book is designed to arm you with practical knowledge that will give you endless options and advantages in dealing with the elusive warriors that attack you in daily battle.” Divided into five parts, this book will teach you different strategies related to self-directed war, organizational war, defensive war, offensive war and unconventional (dirty) war
Look at things as they are, not as your emotions color them
Judge people by their actions
Depend on your own arms
Worship Athena, not Ares (avoid direct confrontation – blend philosophy and war, wisdom and battle)
Elevate yourself above the battlefield (plan, respond and think long-term rather than being reactive)
Spiritualize your warfare
Declare war on your enemies: the polarity strategy – Life is endless battle and conflict, and you cannot fight effectively unless you can identify your enemies. Learn to smoke out your enemies, to spot them them by the signs and patterns that reveal hostility. Then, once you have them in your sights, inwardly declare war. Your enemies can fill you with purpose and direction
Do not fight the last war: the guerrilla war of the mind strategy – what most often weighs you down and brings you misery is the past. You must consciously wage war against the past and force yourself to react to the present moment. Be ruthless on yourself; do not repeat the same tired methods. Wage guerrilla war on your mind, allowing no static lines of defense – make everything fluid and mobile
Amidst the turmoil of events, do not lose your presence of mind: the counterbalance strategy – In the heat of battle, the mind tends to lose its balance. It is vital to keep you presence of mind, maintaining your mental powers, whatever the circumstances. Make the mind tougher by exposing it to adversity. Learn to detach yourself form the chaos of the battlefield
Create a sense of urgency and desperation: the death-ground strategy – you are your own worst enemy. You waste precious time dreaming of the future instead of engaging in the present. Cut your ties to the past; enter unknown territory. Place yourself on “death ground,” where your back is against the wall and you have to fight like hell to get out alive
Organizational (Team) Warfare
Avoid the snares of groupthink: the command and control strategy – The problem in leading any group is that people inevitably have their own agendas. You have to create a chain of command in which they do not feel constrained by your influence yet follow your lead. Create a sense of participation, but do not fall into groupthink – the irrationality of collective decision making
Segment your forces: the controlled-chaos strategy – the critical elements in war are speed and adaptability – the ability to move and make decisions faster than the enemy. Break your forces into independent groups that can operate on their own. Make your forces elusive and unstoppable by infusing them with the spirit of the campaign, giving them a mission to accomplish, and then letting them run
Transform your war into a crusade: moral strategies – the secret to motivating people and maintaining their moral is to get them to think less about themselves and more about the group. Involve them in a cause, a crusade against a hated enemy. Make them see their survival as tied to the success of the army as a whole
To build morale – unite your troops around a cause, make them fight for an idea; keep their bellies full; lead from the front; concentrate their ch’i (energy), play to their emotions; mix harshness and kindness; build the group myth; be ruthless with grumblers
Pick your battles carefully: the perfect-economy strategy – We all have limitations – our energies and skills will take us only so far. You must know your limits and pick your battles carefully. Consider the hidden costs of war: time lost, political goodwill squandered, an embittered enemy bent on revenge. Sometimes it is better to wait, to undermine your enemies covertly rather than hitting them straight on
Turn the tables: the counterattack strategy – Moving first – initiating the attack – will often put you at a disadvantage: you are exposing your strategy and limiting your options. Instead, discover the power of holding back and letting the other side move first, giving you the flexibility to counterattack from any angle. If your opponents are aggressive, bait them into a rash attack that will leave them in a weak position.
Create a threatening presence: deterrence strategies – the best way to fight off aggressors is to keep them from attacking you in the first place. Build a reputation: you’re a little crazy. Fighting you is not worth it. Uncertainty is sometimes better than overt threat: if your opponents are never sure what messing with you will cost, they will not want to find out
Methods of deterrence – surprise with a bold maneuver; reverse the threat; seem unpredictable and irrational; play on people’s natural paranoia; establish a frightening reputation
Trade space for time: the nonengagement strategy – retreat in the face of a strong enemy is not a sign of weakness but of strength. By resisting the temptation to respond to an aggressor, you buy yourself valuable time – time to recover, to think, to gain perspective. Sometimes you can accomplish most by doing nothing.
Sometimes you accomplish most by doing nothing
Lose battles but win the war: grand strategy – Grand strategy is the art of looking beyond the battle and calculating ahead. It requires that you focus on your ultimate goal and plot to reach it. Let others get caught up in the twists and turns of the battle, relishing their little victories. Grand strategy will bring you the ultimate reward: the last laugh
Grand strategy has 4 main pillars – Focus on your greater goal, your destiny; widen your perspective (see things for what they are, not for how you wish them to be); sever the roots (what motivates the enemy, what is the source of their power); take the indirect route to your goal
Know your enemy: the intelligence strategy – the target of your strategies should be less the army you face than the mind of the man or woman who runs it. If you understand how that mind works, you have the key to deceiving and controlling it. Train yourself to read people, picking up the signals they unconsciously send about their innermost thoughts and intentions
Overwhelm resistance with speed and suddenness: the blitzkrieg strategy – In a world in which many people are indecisive and overly cautious, the use of speed will bring you untold power. Striking first, before your opponents have time to think or prepare, will make them emotional, unbalanced and prone to error
Control the dynamic: forcing strategies – People are constantly struggling to control you. The only way to get the upper hand is to make your play for control more intelligent and insidious. Instead of trying to dominate the other side’s move, work to define the nature of the relationship itself. Maneuver to control your opponent’s minds, pushing their emotional buttons and compelling them to make mistakes.
Dynamic strategies – keep your enemies on their heels; shift the battlefield; compel mistakes; assume passive control
Hit them where it hurts: the center of gravity strategy – Everyone has a source of power on which he or she depends. When you look at your rivals, search below the surface for that source, the center of gravity that holds the entire structure together. Hitting them there will inflict disproportionate pain. Found what the other side most cherishes and protects – that is where you must strike
Defeat them in detail: the divide and conquer strategy – never be intimidated by your enemy’s appearance. Instead, look at the parts that make up the whole. By separating the parts, sowing division, you can bring down even the most formidable fore. When you are facing troubles or enemies, turn a large problem into small, eminently defeatable parts.
Expose and attack your opponent’s soft flank: the turning strategy – When you attack people directly, you stiffen their resistance and make your task that much harder. There is a better way: distract your opponents’ attention to the front, then attack them from the side, where they least expect it. Bait people into going out on a limb, exposing their weakness, then rake them with fire from the side
Envelop the enemy: the annihilation strategy – people will use any kind of gap in your defense to attack you. So offer no gaps. The secret is to envelop your opponents – create relentless pressure on them from all sides and close off their access to the outside world. As you sense their weakening resolve, crush their willpower by tightening the noose
Maneuver them into weakness: the ripening for the sickle strategy – No matter how strong you are, fighting endless battles with people is exhausting, costly, and unimaginative. Wise strategists prefer the art of maneuver: before the battle even begins, they find ways to put their opponents in positions of such weakness that victory is easy and quick. Create dilemmas: devise maneuvers that give them a choice of ways to respond – all of them bad
Four main principles of maneuver warfare – craft a plan with branches; give yourself room to maneuver; give your enemy dilemmas, not problems; create maximum disorder
Negotiate while advancing: the diplomatic war strategy – Before and during negotiations, you must keep advancing, creating relentless pressure and compelling the other side to settle on your terms. The more you take, the more you can give back in meaningless concessions. Create a reputation for being tough and uncompromising, so that people are back on their heels before they even meet you
Know how to end things: the exit strategy – You are judged in this world by how well you bring things to an end. A messy or incomplete conclusion can reverberate for years to come. The art of ending things well is knowing when to stop. The height of strategic wisdom is to avoid all conflicts and entanglements from which there are no realistic exists
Leave people always wanting more
Victory and defeat are what you make of them; it is how you deal with them that matters. Since defeat is inevitable in life, you must master the art of losing well and strategically
See defeat as a temporary setback, something to wake you up and teach you a lesson
See any defeat as a way to demonstrate something positive about yourself and your character to other people
If you see that defeat is inevitable, it is often best to go down swinging
Unconventional (Dirty) Warfare
Weave a seamless blend of fact and fiction: misperception strategies – Since no creature can survive without the ability to see or sense what is going on around it, make it hard for your enemies to know what is going on around them, including what you are doing. Feed their expectations, manufacture a reality to match their desires, and they will fool themselves. Control people’s perceptions of reality and you control them
Take the line of least expectation: the ordinary-extraordinary strategy – people expect your behavior to confirm to known patterns and conventions. Your task as a strategist is to upset their expectations. First do something ordinary and conventional to fix their image of you, then hit them with the extraordinary. The terror is greater for being so sudden. Sometimes the ordinary is extraordinary because it is unexpected
Four main principles of unconventional warfare – work outside the enemy’s experience; unfold the extraordinary out of the ordinary; act crazy like a fox; keep the wheels in constant motion
Occupy the moral high ground: the righteous strategy – In a political world, the cause you are fighting for must seem more just than the enemy’s. By questioning your opponent’s motives and making them appear evil, you can narrow their base of support and room to maneuver. When you yourself come under moral attack from a clever enemy, do not whine or get angry; fight fire with fire
Deny them targets: the strategy of the void – the feeling of emptiness or void – silence, isolation, nonengagement with others – is for most people intolerable. Give your enemies no target to attack, be dangerous but elusive, then watch as they chase you into the void. Instead of frontal battles, deliver irritating but damaging die attacks and pinprick bites
Seem to work for the interests of others while furthering your own: the alliance strategy – The best way to advance your cause with the minimum of effort and bloodshed is to create a constantly shifting network of alliances, getting others to compensate for your deficiencies, do your dirty work, fight your wars. At the same time, you must work to sow dissension in the alliances of others, weakening your enemies by isolating them.
Give your rivals enough rope to hang themselves: the one-upmanship strategy – life’s greatest dangers often come not from external enemies but from our supposed colleagues and friends who pretend to work for the common cause while scheming to sabotage us. Work to instill doubts and insecurities in such rivals, getting them to think too much and act defensively. Make them hang themselves through their own self-destructive tendencies, leaving you blameless and clean
Take small bites: the fait accompli strategy – over power grabs and sharp rises to the top are dangerous, creating envy, distrust, and suspicion. Often the best solution is to take small bites, swallow little territories, playing upon people’s relatively short attention spans. Before people realize it, you have accumulated an empire
Penetrate their minds: communication strategies – communication is a kind of war, its field of battle the resistant and defensive minds of the people you want to influence. The goal is to penetrate their defenses and occupy their minds. Learn to infiltrate your ideas behind enemy lines, sending messages through little details, luring people into coming to the conclusions you desire and into thinking they’ve gotten there by themselves.
Destroy from within: the inner-front strategy – by infiltrating your opponents’ ranks, working from within to bring them down, you give them nothing to see or react against – the ultimate advantage. To take something you want, do not fight those who have it, but rather join them – then either slowly make it your own or wait for the moment to stage a coup d’etat
Dominate while seeming to submit: the passive-aggression strategy – In a world where political considerations are paramount, the most effective form of aggression is the best hidden one: aggression behind a compliant, even loving exterior. To follow the passive-aggression strategy you must seem to go along with people, offering no resistance. But actually you dominate the situation. Just make sure you have disguised your aggression enough that you can deny it exists.
Sow uncertainty and panic through acts of terror: the chain reaction strategy – Terror is the ultimate way to paralyze a people’s will to resist and destroy their ability to plan a strategic response. The goal in a terror campaign is not battlefield victory but causing maximum chaos and provoking the other side into desperate overreaction. To plot the most effective counter-strategy, victims of terror must stay balanced. One’s rationality is the last line of defense.
What I got out of it
Very interesting and compelling read on different strategies related to war. Some of them are not directly or at least easily implementable into daily life but many of them are. Even if you don’t put them into use often, knowing they exist can make you aware of when they are being used against you.
Robert Greene lays out 48 laws which will help you in you the mastery and conquest of your given field. He draws on historical examples of people who have observed or transgressed these laws as well as portions of fables and other short stories to help illustrate each law. A bit Machiavellian but better to be aware and not use than be taken advantage of due to ignorance
A must read. Robert Greene details masters of the past and present – people who are exceptional at what they do, what their processes are and what they have in common
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Mozart who was forced to play certain types of music by his father because the music would sell and they could make money. Mozart was very frustrated with this and eventually split from his father. When he did this it was as if all those years of tinkering and making every song he played “his” seeped into him and within a couple years wrote some of the classical songs that are still popular today. He had an explosion of creativity.
Benjamin Franklin – Very interesting to learn about. I think Green described him sort of like a chameleon. Ben Franklin was so good at reading people and knowing what they were like and expected out of him that he would change how he acted around different people. I think I do this quite well too. For example, when Franklin went to France in order to gain support and funding for the American Revolution, he pissed off a lot of Americans because he was partying a lot and drinking a lot of wine, sort of being a playboy and living the high life. However, he did this with a purpose. He was loved by the French and he ended up getting huge support from France which otherwise the US would never have gotten. He played his audience! “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes, become them, to see things from their point of view and what their intentions may be.” – Ben Franklin
Albert Einstein – Worked at the patent office so that he could get paid a decent amount but still have sufficient time to work on his theories. He was speaking to a friend about giving up on what later became known as his Theory of Relativity and it suddenly clicked. Einstein always thought in terms of images and came up with many different thought experiments which helped him answer questions that changed the face of physics forever.
Charles Darwin – Exceptional in his attention to detail and dedication. He spent 8 years studying barnacles to prove evolution. He went against what his dad wanted him to do and found his own path doing a combination of things he was very good and passionate about.
Paul Graham – Founder of Y Combinator, hadn’t achieved much until his early 30’s and then created a company that he sold to Yahoo for tens of millions of dollars. He then though about a new concept to help startups acquire capital and this led to the birth of Y Combinator.
Freddie Roach – Was a good boxer in his own right who worked with legendary boxing coach Eddie Futch. Futch’s style was a little impersonal and Roach improved on that by actually stepping into the ring and sparring with his boxers. This way he was able to feel his boxers, how hard they punched, their speed, etc. and could work on things in real time. Through this technique he took on Manny Pacquaio when many wouldn’t
Santiago Calatrava – An architect who also went to engineering school and has designed some of the most famous buildings to date. Many of his buildings resemble animals
Temple Grandin – Was born with autism but found a way to overcome it enough to go to school and graduate. She always felt a connection with animals and ended up designing more humane feed lots and slaughterhouses which make the cattle more comfortable and relaxed. She always enjoyed being squeezed and a she ended up designing a similar technique for cattle. She improved on this design and adjusted lighting and everything the cows saw so they would not get spooked. Her design is used in the majority of slaughterhouses today.
Yoky Matsuoka – A Japanese engineer who created the industry standard for robotic hands. She trained for a while to be a professional tennis player. She specialized in creating more realistic prosthetics.
VS Ramachandran – A neurobiologist who uses relatively simple experiments to measure and learn about the brain. He was able to help people with phantom limb syndrome, found mirror neurons and much else.
Teresita Fernandez – A sculptor who became famous for her art made of metal (which when she started was not ever someone thought a woman could do) and now sits on the board of the Commission of Fine Arts). She worked through the night so that others would not distract her and people thought that her art just came so easily because they would show up the next day and this masterpiece would just appear. She first went with it but then thought that this carefree attitude could hurt her, especially because she is a woman. So, she took a much more intellectual and serious tone with her art and people realized how talented and dedicated she is.
Cesar Rodriguez – Considered one of the best US Air Force pilots and came closer to becoming an ace than any other pilot since the Vietnam War. He was never as talented as the “Golden Boys” of the Air Force but he was so passionate and dedicated that he spent hours in the simulation machine and studying all he could that he eventually surpassed the Golden Boys. At one point he was able to watch a film of some maneuvers he had done to avoid being shot down and killed and had no idea where those thoughts came to him from. He dumped some fuel and flew high and barrel rolled and did all these thing subconsciously, but only because of the thousands of hours of training and thoughtful mastery.
Daniel Everett – A missionary who went to Brazil to try to convert the Piraha people. Many others had tried but the Piraha’s language seemed incomprehensible. It did not follow typical language patterns and they thought it could not be cracked. Everett was quite close to giving up as well, feeling that they did not want him or his wife in their tribe anymore and one day the tribe actually looking for him to try to kill him. But, things turned when he actually went with the men on a hunt one day. The men communicated with each other through a series of whistles and clicks and other noises so that they could communicate seemlessly without scaring off animals or making other humans aware of their presence. Life for the Piraha was so fleeting, so dangerous, that their language did not incorporate any words for past or future events. Everything was in the now.
What I got out of it:
A must read for anybody who is interested in reaching mastery in any given field. Greene uses such diverse examples that there is something to be gained regardless of your talents or goals. A good takeaway is that while there are certain steps that must be taken to reach mastery, each person can mold it to fit their talents, temperament and goals.